Today's event was $1,500 limit hold 'em and featured what will almost certainly the weakest field of the entire WSOP. The reasoning behind this assertion has three parts. Weaker players play in lower buy-in events, limit hold 'em is less popular among the best players, and most importantly there was another event ($5,000 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo) that also took place today. For any of the top players in the world (even the one's who don't excel at Omaha) it's an easy decision to play for more money against a field of 200 than 700 for less. Winning a bracelet is paramount for the top players so getting a chance against a smaller field is the way to go for almost all of them. Sadly I was unable to capitalize on this situation.
Things started out fast and furious today. My first table had two insane players. One said he wanted to triple up or go broke as quickly as possible so he could play a $1,000 no limit tournament at the Bellagio that started at 2 p.m. Another said he told his friends he was going to play every hand until he went broke or had a big pile of chips. These guys were in almost every pot and their lose style encouraged other players (rightly so) to get involved in more pots. I found myself getting plenty of good cards early, but I kept alternating between winning a small pot and losing a big one. At the end of round 1 after playing what felt like a thousand hands I found myself staring at the exact same pile of 1500 chips that I started with.
At the beginning of round two with the limits at 50/100 things started to pick up for me. I raised to 100 with As Qs and got called by three players in the field plus the big blind. The flop was 2d 4s 7s. Even though I didn't have anything yet I had 9 spades, 3 Q's and 3 A's left in the deck that would probably make me a winner (8 of the spades would give me the best possible hand - the nuts) and with two cards to come I'd catch one of those 15 cards a shade over 50% of the time. I bet out 50 and got called by the button and the big blind. The turn was the 9h. The pot was already pretty big so I didn't think I could get rid of both of my opponents with a bet and there was a chance I might get a free look at the river if I passed on my chance to bet. I checked, the button bet 100, the big bind called and I called as well. The river was the 9s and after I bet out 100 the button quickly raised me. I watched the big blind fold and gave some thought to reraising, but thinking he might have 44 or 77 I just called. I showed my ace high flush and he showed me 5s 2s! This guy had called my preflop raise with 5 2 and he wasn't even one of the guys trying to go broke!
A little while later I caught another break. One player open called 50 from thirs position and I called behind him with Qs 9s. This is the kind of hand you'd never play in no limit, but in a limit game at a lose table, it can show some profit. We took the flop 5 way for one bet and I was happy to see a jack high flop with two spades. The small blind (mister 5 2) bet out 50 and I was the only one to call. The turn was a red K, he bet again and I raised him. Huh? What did you have again? Q 9? Ok just checking. Although this guy was playing super lose he was not an idiot (in fact I'd played against him in LA twice) and I figured if he didn't have anything I could get him to fold his hand. Plus if my bluff failed I still had a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw and if one of them hit, he would have a hard time putting me on Qs 9s since I raised him on the turn. He just called and the river was a small spade. Not thinking I'd made a flush, he fired out again and I quickly raised him. He called, showed me KJ (top two pair) and I took down the pot. My raise on the turn not only got another bet into the pot at that point, but also allowed me to earn another bet on the river that I might not have won otherwise (he almost certainly would have just check called the river fearing I'd been on a flush draw if I'd just called the turn). Every bet counts and missing out on an extra bet is the same as calling before the flop with 7 2 (actually worse because you could always hit a miracle flop with 7 2 and missing a extra bet is worth nothing).
I went on break with 3000 chips and when I came back things got even better. I won a nice pot when after making an unsuccessful bluff on the turn (the board was 4 5 6 7 and I had AQ) I rivered a pair of Q's and beat someone's 10 10. Shortly after that I won another pot which was apparently totally unmemorable, but none the less brought my stack up to 4,500 chips. Unfortunately after that the wheels came off the bus. I'd lost a fair amount of chips a little at a time and was down to about 3000 when I got a look at a flop for free in the big blind with 6 4. We took the flop 4 way and I was pleased to see 6d 4d 2h on the board. We were in round 4 with the limits at 150/300 and I bet out 150. My hand was almost certainly the best at this point, but it was very vulnerable and I needed to make anyone pay to out draw me. I got two callers and the turn was the Jd. I didn't like it. It was certainly possible that one of my callers had been on a flush draw and had made it so I checked. The player on the button bet out 300 and I was the only caller. The way he looked at the board when he J hit made me think he didn't have a flush and I hoped that he'd just hit a J. The river was a black 10 and I checked and called again. The button turned over 9d 7d and I sighed as I folded my hand.
A few minutes later a hand came up that I know I misplayed. I'd been getting really crappy cards for the past hour or so and had been doing little, but folding. Hoping that the other players would remember this and respect a raise coming from me, I made it 300 to go with Qd 10c two off the button. The player on the button made it 450 and even though I was certain I was behind, no matter what he had I only had to call 150 more with a chance to win the 975 already in the pot. The flop came down Qc 7c 3c. I had top pair and a 10 high flush draw and I decided to go for the check raise. I checked, he bet, I raised, and to my dismay he thought for a moment and reraised. I hoped he either had a flush draw or a pair, but not both. I called his reraise and the turn was a blank. I checked and called, and then did it again even though I got no help from the river. My opponent turned over two black aces and took the pot while I was left thinking "what the hell just happened." I lost 1500 chips on a hand that I easily could have thrown away before the flop. I won't go into all of the permutations of how I could have played this differently, but believe me there are a ton and just about all of them are better than how I played it. I suppose you could say it was unlucky that I ran into a such a good hand, but at the very least I'm supposed to recongnize when I'm so badly beaten. In fact if you'd stopped the hand in the middle and asked me if I thought this guy was bluffing or weak I would have said almost certainly not. So why did I keep putting more money into the pot? Instead of stopping to think things through at every juncture I just sort of went on auto pilot. I can justify every move I made, but I know I can play much better than I did on that hand. On a normal day playing online, I play somewhere between 300 and 400 hands an hour (4-6 games at a time) so I'm used to making split second decisions all day long. In live tournaments there's no need to rush and I try to remind myself to take my time, but sometimes it's hard to slow down.
I missed a few more flops, paid a few more blinds and found myself with only 475 chips. I picked up A 7 in the cutoff (one off the button) and raised to 300. The small blind thought for about 15 seconds looking like he wanted to reraise and then just called. The big blind, however made it 3 bets and I went all in for 475. The flop came down 2 3 7 and both players checked. Great! Maybe they both have big cards. The turn was an 8 and the first player bet and got raised. Uh oh, I need help. The river was an ace. Surely I have them beat now. Following some more fireworks on the river, the first player turned up A 8 for a bigger two pair and the other player turned up 77 and took the whole pot. I walked out to have an early dinner wondering how I could have blown through 4500 chips in the last hour playing limit.
Now to answer a few of Mike's questions and address one of Jakes comments. The reason why I'm not playing in any of the shoot out events, even though they should be my specialty, is a matter of scheduling. In a shoot out, each table starts with 10 players and they play down to 1 (sometimes it's more than one but in a true shoot out it's only one). The winners of each table are then combined into new tables where they do the same thing and this process continues until you're left with one table where they play for the title. My bread and butter is tournaments that start with 9 or 10 players and play down to 1 (only the ones I play pay 3 places). I've played over 5,000 of them and whenever other forms of poker turn a little sour I always go back to this format where I know I can kill the competition (it's tough for some players to shift gears as as players are eliminated -playing 9 handed is different than playing 8 handed which is different than 7 handed and so on). I'd like to play one of the shoot outs, but they are at wierd times and I chose the times of my trips to minimize down time and play the most events in the shortest amount of time.
As far as the house rake here at the WSOP goes they are taking 9% off the top of every prize pool (except the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event which is only 6%), but you pay in even numbers. For those of you who don't know most of the time a tournament which is nominally $1,000 will actually cost you something like $1,080 and the $80 will go to the house. For simplicity the same tournament here is $1,000 to enter but only $910 goes to the prize pool. In this case I think 9% is a little too much since the Rio and it's parent company Harrah's are making a fortune in advertising dollars, money from ESPN for the rights to air the WSOP and money earned in the super packed Casino during the 6 weeks of the WSOP (and even a splash in the restaurants and other services at the Rio). With that said, they are running a totally first class event and it takes a ton of people and resources to make that happen. The money they are taking from the prize pools isn't close to covering all of those costs, but they are still getting rich off the WSOP. Every person playing in these events has a roll of hundreds in their pocket that any normal person would be afraid to carry around. A lot of them carry around $1,000 and $5,000 chips, because $100 bills are too bulky and ALL of these people like to gamble! Shit, I bet 9% of every prize pool gets blown back the next day after every event when people are celebrating or trying to get even.
On another note Jake asked about people dressing up like fools and I saw a whole crew today. A few minutes after the tournament a half dozen guys in bright purple, electric yellow, and neon blue valure matching cowboy pimp suits walked into the room. They had on oversized hats made of the same material as their suits and wore big Elvis style sun glasses. Also all of their cuffs, collars and a rim around their hats was white and black leopard print. There were 3 purples and only 1 yellow so I suspect the rest of the crew might have been somewhere else. A few of the guys at my table made comments like "hey is there a new gay strip club that just opened around here?" Dressing up in Vegas is fun, but noon is a little early if you ask me.