At the World Series of Poker

by Lou on June 6, 2005

This is the first in a series of periodic reports from the World Series of Poker. I’m here from June 6 through June 9, and then I’ll be back for the main event, the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit hold’em tournament. That one is poker’s big Kahuna, with 6,600 anticipated entrants and a prize pool of $66 million.

I arrived anticipating long lines. More than a few posts on the Internet Newsgroup, Rec.Gambling.Poker mentioned five-hour lines to register for the series. And that was just the first step. Registration is a two-step process, at least initially. First you need to stand in line to get a player’s card, which is then shown each time you register for a specific World Series event.

With the three-hour and forty-five minute drive from Palm Springs to Las Vegas, and the long lines I was anticipating, I planned on leaving home about 6:00 AM, arriving at the Rio at 10:00 to first get my player’s card and then sign up for the tournament that was scheduled to start at noon. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized the day’s event was a limit hold’em tournament. With 1,000 or so expected to play, I knew it would go way longer than my stamina would carry me because I was already tired from getting up at such an ungodly hour. So I opted for cash games and set my sights on playing tomorrow, in the Omaha/8 event, when presumably I’d be fresher from a good night’s sleep.

Sunday is a great day to drive to Las Vegas and the road was clear all the way. I drove straight to the Rio’s convention center and looked for the registration line. Those five-hour long waits were long gone. I realize registration is always longest on the Series’ first day, because that event is immensely popular, and besides, once you get your registration card it’s good for the entire series. Once in hand, you only have to go to the poker cage to pay the entry fee for any of the events you intend to enter, and you can do this twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

Only twenty people were in line when I arrived, and with three attendants to process them, it wasn’t any worse than a line to buy movie tickets, and I was through in a jiffy. Comparing the facilities at Binion’s to those at the Rio was a night-and-day analogy. The Rio’s convention center is very big, and the Series was set up in the biggest of the center’s rooms. Two hundred poker tables easily housed the thousand or so players in today’s event, as well as players from the previous day’s tournament (most are two-day affairs, with new tournaments beginning at noon, and second-day carryovers commencing at 2:00 PM). Even with two tournaments running simultaneously, there was room for satellites and for cash games too.

A $20-$40 hold’em came was starting up when I walked into the card room and I was able to get a seat in it. I figured the game would go for about two hours, at least until the tournament began. I was lucky from the get-go when I flopped two pair with A-9 from the big blind and then flopped two pair with A-J a few hands later. Both held up and I won. I was ahead from the first or second hand I played and never fell behind the entire session.

Some interesting hands came up in what I expected to be a game of relatively short duration, although we continued short-handed even after the limit hold’em tournament began. I received a free play in the big blind with 7-4 offsuit. The flop was 8-6-2, giving me an inside straight draw and two opponents. One of them showed no energy whatsoever, and didn’t appear to be the kind of player who would like that flop. The other player was quite erratic, raising far too frequently, and then throwing his hands away when the flop didn’t help him. He kept buying in for $300 at a clip, which is far too little for this game, but he apparently liked to play that way and no one else seemed to mind. I checked. So did the straightforward player. The erratic guy came out betting and I figured he had nothing at all and was only betting because both of us checked before it was his turn to act. It was a pretty easy read. This guy was very animated when he bet his bluffs, but sat stone-faced and quiet — which was unusual demeanor for him — whenever he held a good hand. I flopped a gutshot and knew I could checkraise him easily if I hit it. I also planned to bet out on the turn if it wasn’t a card that figured to help him and he might fold. So I called his bet. The turn was a nine. I bet. He folded. My read was good!

Another interesting hand involved a clueless player to my right (CPMR) and a guy who called too much (GWCTM) seated to his immediate right. Once again I received a free play in the big blind with Jh-7h and was lucky enough to see a Kh-Qh-7c flop. I had a flush draw along with a pair, and although I did not figure to be in the lead now, I liked my draw and knew that if I got lucky I could count on calls from the CPMR and GWCTM. The turn was another seven. I check. GWCTM bets, CPMR calls and I raise. They both call. The river is even better for me; it’s a jack. I come out betting my full house. GWCTM folds but CPMR calls and mucks when I show down my hand.

Another big pot occurred when I raised before the flop with A-Q, got a few callers and saw A-Q-6 flop. I bet and was called by a good player to my immediate left who had a few bad beats and was stuck a few stacks. Two more players daisy chained in, and the turn was a blank. I bet, the player to my left called, and so did another player. The river was another blank. I bet and the player to my immediate left raised, which caused the third player to fold. I though he made two pair on the river and reraised. Because I raised before the flop, he probably figured that I had a set of aces or queens and just called, but turned over a pocket pair of sixes and his set took a nice chunk of change from me.

Two hand later I’m in the small blind and call with a pocket pair of jacks. There are five of us in the hand, including the big blind, who then raises. Everyone calls. I’m thinking that although I may have the best hand right now, I will be out of position for the remainder of this pot. Even if I do have the best hand now, it’s about even money that at least one card bigger than my jacks will flop. If it does, I figure to lose my lead at that point. I might even be behind right now, if the raiser held pocket queens, kings, or aces he’d be a big favorite in this pot. If that were the case I’d be drawing slim.

I was very fortunate and flopped top set with a flop of J-7-4. There was no flush draw either, only a back door straight draw that looks unlikely at this juncture. I have the best hand and check, knowing that the guy to my left will bet. He doesn’t disappoint me and everyone calls him.

I decide to raise right now. I realize I could have waited until the cost of poker doubled on the turn, but I have the best hand and I want to tie as many players to this pot as I possibly can and since they are in for one bet already, I know they’ll call my raise, and they do.

The turn card is not to my liking at all. It’s a five, so a straight is now a possibility, though unlikely. What is probable, however, is that one of my opponents turned a straight draw, so now I have to worry about surviving the river. Everyone checks around to me and I bet. The original raiser who is seated to my immediate left calls me. To my relief, everyone else folds and I have no more worries about a straight. I’m sure the original raise has either big cards like A-K or A-Q or an overpair and did not raise from the big blind with any combination that could have made a straight on the turn or provided a draw to one. He called my bet on the river and mucked when I showed him my set of jacks. From the expression on his face, I’m sure he started off with a bigger pair than I did and was unwilling to release it, even when I showed strength by checkraising and then betting the e
ntire way. I’m guessing he had kings or aces, though I’ll never know.

The only frustration of the day occurred when I was dealt a pocket pair of aces, the only pocket pair bigger than jacks I was dealt all day, but the cards came back on a misdeal. When the cards came back again, I found myself peeking at 4-2, poetic justice for something, I suppose. Oh well, perhaps I’m paying off my karmic debt hand by hand, but at least this one didn’t cost me anything. In fact, I came away nearly $700 ahead, and that’s not bad considering I probably would have fallen asleep at the table and bled off all my chips if I decided to play that limit hold’em event.

Tomorrow’s another day, and another report will follow. Stay tuned, and keep flopping aces.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: