It’s been twenty-two days since my last trip to Vegas and this time I’m visiting for a very special reason: to the play the $400 Wynn Signature Series event. Yes, I’m being serious, and I have a good reason. You see, I won a seat to the 2023 WSOP Main Event through a freeroll, where I manhandled the field and I need to get in some reps before the big day. I’ve never been interested much in tournaments, but I’m looking to duplicate Moneymaker’s efforts from 2003.
I won my Main Event seat on WSOP.com in Michigan. The deal was this: first, make a deposit on the site and second, choose the winner between Joe Cada and Vince Vaughn in a heads-up match. If you guess right, you were invited to a freeroll where first place is a Main Event seat, valued at $10,000. Second place: absolutely nothing. I’m not sure if everyone picked Vince to win the match, but the event only captured 100 entrants. I played this event alongside some cash games, and basically paid little attention to it. That is, until I realized that I was running deep. I arrived at the final table, dead last in chips, in need of a miracle. I won several flips, eliminating everyone, and made it to heads-up with a 10:1 chip lead. My opponent doubled on the first hand, but on the second hand my 88 held vs their 66, and I had my seat!
I head to Vegas very early on Sunday morning. I have my usual duties to handle before, including my stop to MGM to transfer money. On my last trip, I was a bit disappointed as nothing interesting happened, which is unusual, especially early morning in a casino. Well, I wasn’t let down today. As I was standing in line, the guy in front of me was at the window and was saying that the cashier shorted him $100. The cashier calls in a manager, and while they wait for her to arrive, the man figures out that he had simply miscounted the money. However, he still wants to talk to the manager. He lets the manager know that the cashier didn’t count the money out to him, and that she had slid the money to him aggressively. Maybe because this guy looks like a clown, but my money is on him being full of shit. I can tell he’s frustrated, perhaps out of embarrassment or protecting his ego. He says, “Maybe this is okay in her country, but it isn’t okay here.” What a jackass, and yes, he looks like someone who would lose his shit if someone made similar comment to him. Oh, well, I handle my transaction with only moderate complications and I’m on my way.
Once again, I arrive to the airport early. I rarely sit at my gate as I prefer a less crowed area and walk down to a vacant gate to wait. I browse the net and drink some coffee and head over to my gate about fifteen minutes prior to boarding. As I approach the gate, I notice that it’s completely empty. Luckily the door is still open and the attendant tells me that the door was closing in less than thirty seconds. It would have been mildly embarrassing to miss my flight despite being to the airport one and a half hours before departure. My mistake was mixing up the boarding and departure times. At least I’m running good early!
I’m flying Spirit on this trip because the price difference between Delta and Spirit was about $700. Back in my corporate travel days, I would just pick Delta. But, I’m paying now, and I’ll suffer for four hours for $700. Everything is smaller on this Spirit flight. The seat is small, the tray table is very small, and even the armrests are small for some reason. There is no TV on the seat back, there will be no food & beverage service. You will get nothing and be happy about it. Really the only thing Spirit offers that other airlines offer is the same stupid safety instructions. I couldn’t help but notice that they actually mention “Be sure to remove your face mask before putting on the oxygen mask.” I say at a minimum we skip that part and see who survives.
The flight felt unusually long, probably because Spirit has small, slower planes too. However, they got me to Vegas in one piece and I made my way to my hotel at Caesars Palace. I’ve stayed here many times, but this is the first time since I’ve made Diamond Status. If you’re unfamiliar with what this means, basically I don’t have to pay resort fees, can skip many lines, don’t even have to pay for my room at all this trip, and can walk with a certain arrogance.
I head over to Rani’s World Foods to have lunch with Persuadeo, SDJen, and Fernando. This will be one of those places where I’ll be relying on Persuadeo on pick something out for me as I don’t recognize a single item on the menu. He’s never let me down, and today is no different. I have no idea what he ordered, but it was delicious.
I’m very tired from traveling all day, but I also can’t go to bed at seven pm. I decide that I will watch the Detroit Lions, who are playing the Green Bay Packers tonight, and put in a short session at Bellagio. I bet $100 on the Lions to win and quickly get a seat at Bellagio 5/10. I play for about two hours, booking a small win at poker, and nearly tripling my money on the Lion’s bet. Still running good!
The tourney begins at noon, and I plan on playing the whole way. I’m seated at a pretty fun table. I have David Peterson’s girlfriend, Haley, on my left, and a friend of the guy who won the six million dollar Pai Gow jackpot, Josh, on my right. Haley dusts off a stack pretty quick, and Josh puts a player on mega tilt. I don’t recall the preflop action exactly, but on A45r, Josh put in a hefty raise over the PFR’s cbet in thirty people, gets the fold and tables 82cc. The PFR proceeded to go all in blind for a while before finally tiring himself out. I mostly fold, but catch a few punts: someone open jammed and I had AA and held vs their QQ, and then again having KK vs another jam from A4o.
After several hours of play, I learn that on Day 1, you play down to eleven percent of the entrants (which will be thirty-two players today) and also should you do that, you’ll be here until around 2 a.m. I had no idea we would be playing this long, but I’m here for it. After what felt like a week, we’re finally down to thirty-five people, and I’m still in. I don’t have a lot of chips, but have enough to basically be ensured of making Day Two given some of the very short stacks. Finally, we’re down to thirty-two, it’s close to 2 a.m., and I’m bagging up the chips. As they say in tourney world “I bagged Day One.” Better yet, I’m also in the money!
What a day! I head over to a taco place with Persuadeo to grab some dinner before hitting the hay.
Day 2 doesn’t start until Wednesday, so today is an off day if I want it to be. I head out to roam the town and grab some lunch. When I arrive back to the hotel, I see a few women walking towards a car in the parking garage. From just a glance, I can tell it isn’t worth waiting for them get into their car and leave: they just look slow. So, I drive around to find another spot, but end up stuck behind a SUV waiting for a car to leave, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re waiting on those women! I finally squeeze by and find a spot not too far up. As I walk by, the SUV is still waiting. I wave to the driver and he laughs, realizing that I made a better choice than him. For all I know, he’s still waiting.
When I get back to my room, I decide to fire up some online poker. Unfortunately, I receive a message saying that I’ve reached the two-device maximum and to connect, I’ll need to pay $14.99. Well, I can ensure you that I won’t be paying that and decide to not play. Maybe I should have flexed my Diamond Status. Instead, I take a nap and book a reservation at Old Homestead, a steakhouse in Caesars Palace. Another benefit of being a new Diamond Member is that I get a $100 Welcoming Dinner coupon to use. I scarf down $160 worth of seafood and head back to the hotel room. A lady gets on the elevator and she’s doing a scavenger hunt. She’s looking for a poker chip and asks if I have one. You’d think she be in luck having gotten on the elevator with a poker player, but she doesn’t run as good as me. I tell her to go down to the poker room and get one, and she tells me that she doesn’t want to buy one. I’m too tired to explain it to her but wish her luck in finding one on the floor.
Day 2 begins at 12 p.m. and I have twelve big blinds and a dream. Seventy-two remain. All the big names have returned for Day Two: Marle, Conrad, Kathy Liebert, and who knows who else. It’s not long before I’m all in with 99 vs 77. Obviously, I’m drawing damn near dead here, and the 7 in the window confirms it. The board runs out bricks and I’m out. Fuck tournaments. Yeah right. Like I can’t outdraw a set! I catch a running straight flush for a double and I’m back! The player next to me demands I take a picture, lol. I hang around with a short stack, playing very tight, making pay jump after pay jump.
I catch a nice double with KK vs AJs, and also win a few other small pots. Still short stacking. Thirty remain. I finally catch a little streak: TT vs AK, AQ vs AT, and AQ vs 88, and now I have a stack. The tourney guys would call this “piles”. I then open AA in the CO and face a 3b from the BB. I flat and see the KQ4r flop. I call a small c-bet. The turn brings a 6 with backdoor flush draw and my opponent checks. I check holding the Ace of the flush suit. The river brings an offsuit J, and my opponent makes a large bet, leaving himself only a few chips behind. I make the call and win vs J5o. The opponent says “I was owned”, and I don’t disagree. At this point, I’m probably near the chip lead! Twenty-five left.
I open AA from UTG and face a three-bet from another big stack in MP. This time, I decide to four-bet, and my opponent calls. The flop comes 642tt. I cbet and my opponent calls. The turn brings a K, creating a backdoor flushdraw. I check and my opponent jams for what amounts to just over half pot, putting me at risk of elimination. Surely, my hand is too strong to fold and make the call. My opponent has 44, flopping a set. You can tell by how he styles his hair that he probably flops a lot of sets. I don’t know much about tournament strategy, but his 3b and call with 44 doesn’t seem very good to me. My four-bet wasn’t overly small, but like I said, he’s probably good at flopping sets.
Anyway, I’m out in 22nd and cash for $1838. Not too bad for an inexperienced tournament player.
I learned a lot from playing this tournament and discovered many things I need to work on. First, since I play online, I found it very difficult to count the pot and track the stacks. I don’t have any trouble doing this in a cash game, probably because things remain relatively consistent in a cash game. In a tournament, the blinds and antes are changing frequently, which causes some difficulty. Second, I need to improve my stamina. My sessions are usually two to three hours, but in tournaments, it seems that eight-plus hours sessions are the norm. I’ve joked about tournament players in the past, but I have a new respect for them after playing this. It is incredibly difficult to remain sharp while putting in those hours, not to mention the stress of your tournament life constantly at risk. Third, I was in many preflop spots where I was completely unsure of what to do, particularly around the Day 1 bubble, and around various pay jumps on Day 2. I defaulted very tight, which maybe can’t be too bad. Fourth, I wasn’t sure of the best opening sizes to use with the ante in play. It seems that 2-3x was the popular choice in the early stages when stacks were deeper, and trended smaller as the blinds and antes increased.
Finally, I need to investigate the decision to enter on time or register late. My gut says that registering later is better, though I don’t really understand it fully. I understand the part about conserving your mental energy for more important parts of the tourney. What I don’t understand, and maybe I’m just wrong about this, is that tournament players are always talking about the structure, and I believe they are looking for structures with reasonably long levels and reasonably deep stacks. Registering late seems to counteract this a bit. Are tourney players really just looking for a short-stack turbo structure? I don’t know.
Anyway, I’ll investigate these things and play a few more before the Main Event in July.