Tag Archives: poker holiday

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 2

On Sunday I drove to the Rio hotel/casino to register for Monday’s $1500 tournament and play the afternoon “Rio $230 deepstack” to get a flavour for the venue and “feel the vibe” of the WSOP.


The above photo is from the entrance into the convention center at the Rio so you “know you have arrived” at the WSOP.  Originally the WSOP was held in Binion’s in downtown Vegas. As more events were added it moved to the Rio but they held the final table of the “Main Event” at Binion’s for a few years in a special room. But several years ago that too changed, and they moved the final table to the Penn and Teller Theatre in the Rio (in fact, although the 60+ WSOP events are held from June – July the final table of the main event is in November for additional publicity and suspense).

The first order of business was to take out the $1500 I had won in Orangeville and use it to buy into “Event # 6” the next day. And also bought into the $230 Rio Deepstack that started at 2:30 in the afternoon.


“Deepstack” means you start with more chips, usually at least 15,000 which is twice the 7,500 you get at many of the official events. The blinds are every 30 minutes so you can afford to wait for better hands. The Rio deepstack is a little deceptive because after 2 hours they ‘skip’ a couple of blind levels which means around hour 3 many people start shoving, or going “all in” quite frequently. A true one-day “Deepstack” should last 10+ hours so hour three is a little early for so many “all in” moves.

A big issue with playing poker in Las Vegas during the WSOP is the chronic lack of good dealers. The Rio Deepstack has about 1700 entries (which is around 170 tables to start, requiring 180 dealers to be ready) and there are many other tournaments running at the same time including satellites to events and cash games. And the $1500 tournaments have close to 2000 players. Here is my photo of the main Pavilion room at the Rio:


There are a couple of other ballrooms where they play poker but this is the largest. And all the poker I mentioned above is just at the Rio. Many other casinos (like Caesar’s, Wynn’s, The Venetian, The Golden Nugget etc.)  all have their own series to take advantage of people coming in for the WSOP. So many dealers are required for this 2.5 month “bubble”. And they are often not that great. I’ve been sitting at tables where an older dealer is trying to shuffle the cards and I’m thinking “just give the cards to me, I’ll shuffle them more quickly and efficiently and then you can deal”. Sometimes the pots get complicated with the chips and multiple bets and some dealers get overwhelmed. So the players wind up working out how the chips should be split! And some of the players are surprisingly slow to act as well so the advantage of the half hour blinds get eroded by slow dealing and playing. I would not expect that at the WSOP, but it happens!
The poker on Day 2 was not so great. I played in the $230 Deepstack from 2:30 to around 6:30 pm I think and never had very many good hands (meaning, none) and eventually got knocked out. I decided to play a cash game which means the blinds remain the same so there is no pressure to go all in. You can lose as much money as you wish! I chose the 1/2 No Limit game and bought in for $200. It was a fun table and we all joked about stuff, the drinks were free (I think) and you tipped the waitress $1. So it was a relaxing time. Here is a photo of my table.


I believe I was up over $100 and was preparing to leave soon (it was around 10 pm which would be 1 am Eastern time). Then I got into a hand with the young guy to my left (who had actually re-bought for $200 a couple of times!).


I was dealt KK and, rather unfortunately, he was dealt AA! I suppose I could have avoided losing all my chips on this hand, but it would have been tricky. I raised initially and he re-raised. Then the same thing happened on the flop, so a better player might have folded KK, but I did not and lost. So instead of leaving up $100 I was down $200. Some people would say, “hey, you sat at the table for a few hours and had a good time and did not lose that much in the bigger scheme of things”. But at the time I was frustrated that I’d played well and made some money and then lost it all on a freaky hand. But as they say, “That’s Poker”.

I drove back to my hotel to prepare myself for my “big day” playing the $1500 tournament.

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 1

My plane landed at 12:15 (Saturday, June 4th, 2016) and the first tournament I wanted to play was at Binion’s. I have a soft spot for that old hotel where the magic of the World Series started back in 1970. They have not held it there for many years, and overall it is a little run down. But the dealers are great and it has a kind of “history aura” around it.


On Saturday afternoons at 1:00 they have a $160 buy in tournament where you start with 20,000 in chips and have 30 minute blinds. It is a good structure and the dealers are very smooth so you don’t have to wait for cards.

<digression>During the World Series in Vegas it is difficult to supply enough dealers because of all the events at the WSOP at the Rio plus many of the other casinos have their own tournament series. So it can be very frustrating to be at a table where the dealer has trouble shuffling the cards and sorting out the chips with the betting, raising, etc. So I appreciate that Binion’s has their regular folks who do an excellent job, even if the tables have seen better days.</digression>

By the time I got my rental car, drove downtown and parked in Binion’s garage and walked to the poker room, the tournament had been running for over 1/2 hour. There was still plenty of time to get in because they allow entry at least until four rounds (or perhaps even six). You can even re-enter for another $160 if you get knocked out in that time.

So I gave them my money and was seated about half way through the second blind level. I wound up sitting next to a retired guy who was Canadian but lived in some warm place  (Mexico?). He had worked for a couple of hotel chains, I guess in some executive position and I had my Marriott Lifetime Platinum status, so we chatted about hotels, travel, Canada etc. This is another thing I like about poker: it’s a social game. At its most cutthroat you have to stop talking so you do not give away too much “information” but generally there is a good conversation somewhere at the table. It is a lot of fun because you are folding 95% of your hands, and other than observing people, there is not much to do. Throughout the week I wound up meeting him a few more times in other tournaments so that was fun.

In this tournament I never really saw many good cards. I think I played quite well and hung in there, but it is difficult when you are “card dead” for such a long time. I had been reading Kill Everyone, which has several great sections in it on different aspects of tournament poker. It is the “advanced” version of Kill Phil which is kind of a “cheater’s guide” to playing tournaments with professionals. They discuss a “shove” strategy: the general theory being that if you get a decent hand you should often shove (i.e. go “all in”) and pick up a pot rather than playing “post-flop” where the professionals have an advantage. Professionals generally like to play “small ball” where there is less room for variance (other word for “luck”) to mess things up. Kill Phil is ok, but I really preferred Kill Everyone with its more detailed strategy. There is a lot of good discussion in there about equity, bet/fold/shove ranges given your chip stack and general strategy around the “effective stack”. I should read it again because any decent poker book takes several readings before you really “get it”.

Anyway, I hung in with this tournament until around 6 pm and applied a few of the “Kill Everyone” strategies to keep me in. I believe in my last hand I went “all in” with something like pocket 9s, and the fellow who called was new at the table but he had a ton of chips and had been winning everything. I believe “steamrolling his previous table” would be the correct expression. I think I was ahead of him when he called, or perhaps he had pocket Jacks. In any event, by the river he’d made a full house so I was history. Sometimes poker is just like that, you play well, but someone comes along who just dominates.

So I went back to my car and drove to the Polo Towers where I was staying.

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It was on the strip next to the Hard Rock Cafe so quite central. It was a time share place that also rented hotel rooms so it had no casino and it was nice to get back to a quiet place each day. Aside from the guy who tried to sell me a time share right after I checked in (by offering me several 15th generation photo-copied sheets of “deals”) the stay was quite pleasant. Its main problem was driving there because it was a bit tricky to get into the parking, but the rooms had fridges and microwaves and were very comfortable. I’d stay there again, for sure.

OK, that is all the excitement for Saturday. Next up…..Sunday!