Day 4. Saturday. The last day of consequence for me. The biggest of 'em too. This will be a long one.
First though - the view from my room as I returned the first night/morning
Up for the Bellagio buffet breakfast, I roped Kat, Lightning36, JJOK, and OhCaptain into it with myself and E (N & M off golfing in the cold rain). It just doesn't feel right to do Vegas without at least one buffet.
We talked, we ate, we talked, and then went off to prepare for the tournament in our own way. For me, E, and JJ, that meant walking from the buffet to Caesars.
The tournament kicked off, and I was 100% zen. I had no expectations, and just wanted to have fun. In fact, I knew I wouldn't mind busting out early because it would mean more time hanging with the other bloggers who were done.
That didn't quite happen.
Here's a quick hand recap from the beginning of the tourney to the final table:
crap, crap, more crap, crap, not quite crap so I'll raise, oh re-raise? fold, crap, crap, KK - raise and win blinds, crap, crap, nada, nothing, zip, zilch, crap, crap, 1-gapper raise, called, get bet out on broadway flop, crap, crap, shit, crap, more crap, what the hell is this crap? AQ - raise, get blinds, crap, crap, where are my chips? AJ raise, get re-raised, fuck it, all-in over the top for less than the re-raise, you folded? Sweet. Crap, crap, crap, crap, table change, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, garbage, small pair all-in with the short stack, double up and survive, crap, crap.... etc...
You get the picture. It was a game of pushing with an M of 3 and whatever I had holding up to keep me alive a bit longer. Any strong hands tended to win the blinds alone, and I caught nothing on the board. The first hour was so useless to me that I tore up my Bellagio buffet receipt and folded some origami card cappers (a crane and frog). I commented that I needed 999 more cranes to win the damned thing.
N went out somewhere in the 60's (69th according to him, 60th according to CJ), which pretty much kiboshed hopes of winning the last longer. Nobody could beat Team Roach (congrats guys!). E went out 12th with KJ losing to Alceste's aces or something, just before Change100 bubbled the final table.
And just before E and Change went down to put us at a final 10, I managed to double through AlCantHang (his second double up for me in the game). Q6s or something similar against AJs or something similar from him. I caught a card and it held. It's one of the few hands I remember, along with presto catching a set on the flop earlier to save my ass, and pocket 3's making it through an all-in on the flop from me and scaring off people who should have called.
No aces so far, by the way.
The highlight to this point was my second table. Pauly, Iggy, Garth, Maigrey, Obie, Smokkee, Blinders, Bayne... and someone else I can't recall. Blinders went out and was replaced with AlCantHang. Talk about the TV table! I figured that table was as good as any to double up at. I did a couple times, but only to survive.
Leading to the final table, I was barely above water. 40k in chips was not nearly enough at 4000/8000/1000. But we made that final 10 and the blinds were rolled back to 1500/3000/400 for some serious breathing room added. From here I had one goal - build a big stack. I knew I could take this down if I could get enough chips to take some risks and push the table around at the right times.
The bubble was tight, but it was quickly decided that we'd all chip in $10 for the bubble. Chilly got $90 to nearly break even when he went out in 10th.
Once we were in the money, my game shifted a bit. I could now take those risks without necessarily having a monster stack. It wasn't that I thought the $200 for 9th was big money, but that I'd just beat my bubble-boy performance of the previous year. 10th sucks.
So I stole some blinds, took some shots at flops, and kept ahead of the blinds as much as anyone could with the insane "get the hell out" structure that we'd hit at this point.
What was most surprising was how long the final 9 held out. Nobody was going out. Nobody was risking a significant portion of their stack to call a short all-in, because you just couldn't afford it with those levels.
I can't remember how everyone went out, but we lost Elissa, by far the best looking one at the table, in 9th. That was a loss for everyone. I blame The Rooster for distracting her with his manly charms.
Anyway, eventually people started dropping out. It was just a matter of time. Somewhere in there I knocked out someone, took some bigger pots with the right moves at the right time, and found myself as chipleader with 8 to go, then again with 5 to go, and I generally stayed up there.
By far my best played hand was against Gnome. He'd been using some timely aggression preflop to take blinds and antes, and had c-bet with some success when he actually saw a flop. He'd chased me off at least one hand earlier, and ran some air into a decent Al hand to reveal his range.
He raised preflop from the button, around 2.5x the BB, and I looked down to T8d in the BB. I called. Flop came J87 with two spades. I was pretty sure I was ahead here, and was sure he'd bet into a check from me. So I checked. He thought for a second and checked behind.
Hrmm... turn brought Qs, and I thought briefly about him having hit. I opted to check with every ounce of body language that said *I* had hit it. He started debating. I started wondering how I'd deal with a bet here. He reached for some chips and counted out a few, running them through his fingers. I put him on air, and knew he wasn't sure about me either. He put down the chips and checked.
River was a T. I didn't like this one. It gave me two pair, but also put the straight out there if he had a 9, or AK, along with the three spades on the board. But I had played this whole way with the intent of checkraising his action into me, and still had a hard time accepting he had anything. If he had hit the Q on the turn, it wasn't enough to keep him in, and he knew it. He was short enough that he could risk a bet, but not a call of a re-raise if he wasn't positive he had this. No, he had air... I checked.
And he bet 40k.
I paused, counted out the 40 while debating on the size of my raise. I wanted enough to get him out, but also wanted to leave enough behind that I could fold if he came over the top himself. 50k on top seemed like a good number. It was too much for him to just call, enough for me to leave on the table, but also enough that it looked like I was committed if he did raise. It said "I've got this and want you to call this bet..." It wasn't quite a value bet, and it was a semi-bluff even though I was almost positive he didn't have anything.
And he folded. There were plenty of mumblings around the table of what I had, if I'd just pulled off a monster bluff, or if I had the stone cold nuts there. That might have been almost as good a feeling as winning the whole thing. Especially since I have a ton of respect for Gnome's game. It was easily my favourite hand of the tournament.
Eventually, we got to 3-handed between myself, JoeSpeaker, and AlCantHang. Two guys proclaiming their drunkenness, one making sure we knew he was colour blind, and me. Both these guys were dangerous though. Speaker had been hanging back and using his whole stack strategically. Strong preflop raises and re-raises, and pushes for c-bets that were working. Al was happily shoving and raising seemingly at random, but he had enough chips to make it work.
And I realized exactly what I had to do.
Play them against each other.
But first, we had a chop discussion. With $4800 in the pot for top 3, and 7 1/2 hours of play behind us, it wasn't a bad idea. Joe and I were good with a straight up split, as only 10k separated us, and we'd even toss Al a premium as he had about 1/3rd more chips than us. But Al wanted the trophy too, and that was non-negotiable. We were playing for the trophy, not just giving it up. Al refused to chop without the Golden Hammer in the deal, and I decided it was time to start talking.
"No worries, that sounds like the kind of thing someone who doesn't think they can win it on their own would say."
That got Al ready to rumble. There was laughter and "ooooos" from the rail. Someone asked if we're going to go Canada vs America, to which I had only one response - "Find five more Americans to sit at the table and we'll call it an even match."
The three of us passed around chips. There were walks, position raises, and some legitimate hands that got bet and shown. Al and I were pretty evenly matched stack-wise and I wasn't getting much I wanted to tangle with him with. But I also happened to be sitting directly across from him, and could tell when he was planning on pushing his stack in the middle. I avoided at least two bluffs and bet with a small pair from the button by reading his intentions. Twice Speaker bet into him only to have to fold to Al's push, and the third time Al grumbled about getting a walk and flipped over an ace.
The downside of this is that I wasn't winning more than I was losing, and my stack was shrinking. I needed something that could stand up to an Al all-in (a regular occurrence by now). This is the time when you learn who your real friends are.
And they came to my defense in a BIG way. I was in the BB, looked down, and saw my old buddies A and A looking right back at me. I'm pretty sure they winked too. They'd been holding out the whole game so they could show up when it counted the most. Al pushed from the SB and I instacalled, flipping over my rockets to a round of "oh BIG surprise! Astin has Aces." from the peanut gallery.
They held... they more than held, they brought along another of their ilk on the flop, killing all drama for the hand and announcing to the world that they had my back.
I was now the monster stack.
Al got pushy again, as Speaker picked his spots. Then Al says, "all-in in the dark" from the SB. I look down at K3o. Al starts with "instacall! You have a King? Insant!" I wait. Is he really in the dark? Is K3 worth it for 1/4 of my stack and a courtesy double-up for the biggest wildcard at the table? I'm leaning towards "no" when he peeks and says "Oh, I have an ace." I fold. He flips over AQ. In the dark my ass.
A few hands later, he tries again. "All-in in the dark." Sigh. I look down at A9o. Good enough, I call. "I have a pair." Pocket 4's from Al hold up and he's doubles while I drop 1/4. We're close again, and Speaker is letting us fight it out.
It goes between the 3 of us for a while, and Al and I are really close in chips, when I bet with A6o and he goes all-in. I think about it. I put him on nothing particularly good. In fact, I figure my ace is good. He isn't as strong as he was with his "in the dark" bets, and is hoping to get rid of me here.
Al flips over KJo, and we're away to the races. My ace hits the turn, and Al is livid. "CON-GRAT-ULATIONS! You just won the blogger tournament!" "Ace-six? Ace-six!" "What about me told you your ace-six was good?" Okay, livid isn't the right word. Tilted might be, and it wasn't even entirely from that hand. But my instincts told me I was good there, and I've lost more by ignoring those instincts than by following them.
Al is about to leave when I point out we're pretty close. Turns out Al had me beat by 4000 chips... or an ante.
Al's ante goes in, I call the BB, Speaker completes his SB. Al triples up.
Al ends up all-in with the SB, and I'm auto-in with my BB, Speaker folds. I had crap, and Al had better crap. Al doubles up.
Joe has the BB in, Al goes all-in, I look down at AKo. Speaker says he only has a few thousand behind, so I put him in, and he calls. Al has presto, Speaker has a dominated ace. Presto is gold and Al triples up, I get the remainder of Speaker's chips, and we're HU for the Golden Hammer. GG to JoeSpeaker.
We go back and forth a bit, but I have a huge chip lead, so I'm just waiting for the spot. It comes when Al goes all-in and I see AKs and insta-call. Al flips over AQh, and that's all she wrote.
Wait... what? I won? I WON? I WON! WOOOHOO!! Have I truly entered the illustrious guild of Golden Hammer winners? Is it sad that the $2600 prize is the biggest score I've taken down? Who cares! I have a hammer trophy that turns into a screwdriver (I think that may be ironic), and I went from sadly down on the trip to happily up! Up is good. Down is bad.
Now to find a place of honour for this trophy. Also, there's the parade planning. I wonder if I can catch up to the Olympic torch and help draw more crowds...
Anyway, I never thought it could happen to me, etc, etc.. Congrats to Al for taking 2nd and putting on a hell of a game. It could have gone either way a few times if not for my luckbox powers activating when needed. Thanks to April and F-Train for setting the whole thing up, CJ for the last-longer tourney, PokerStars for adding some gravy to that one, and everyone there for making the actual game a secondary concern to just having a good time and enjoying the company and competition amongst friends.
Post-game I chatted with Smokkee a bit before heading back to the room to drop off some of the winnings and meet up with E & N for dinner (having taken M back to the airport for the red-eye). Since it was after 10, most of the higher-end establishments were closing down. We opted for Burger Bar, where I had the Kobe burger on an onion bun with caramelized onions, aioli, dijon, peppered bacon, and something else I'm sure.
But that all took longer than I expected, and we didn't get back to the IP until 1am. There was a small group of bloggers at the Geisha Bar (Al, Iggy, OhCaptain, April, and a few others), Falstaff at the Pai Gow table, and a couple others scattered around, but no group... this saddened me, as I was hoping to see more people I hadn't had a chance to talk with at any length yet. I remember last year being crazy at the IP late into the night.
Regardless, I was there losing at Let it Ride and craps, and slots until 6am. The plan was to go until we needed to get to the airport, but once I started passing out at the the LiR table, I knew a power nap was needed. One hour later, we were up and out to catch the flight back home.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Day 4. Saturday. The last day of consequence for me. The biggest of 'em too. This will be a long one.