Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hot as a firecracker

Yesterday was a holiday, the 4th of July. That's a good day to play poker!

Goldstrike Casino at Tunica MS

I slept late, then headed over to the Goldstrike Casino. I play at all the places in Tunica that have poker rooms, but "The Strike" is pretty much my favorite. I got on the list for the $1/2 NL Hold 'em game. It didn't take long. They were starting a new table every few minutes as the tourists arrived for the holiday weekend.

I played conservatively and yet built my stack. Here's an example. There were some limpers to me and I peeked at my cards and saw: Q Q. I raised to $20 and everyone folded around to the guy on my right who called. The flop was 10 7 4. Righty was first to act. He had $75 left in his stack and he moved all in. Had he flopped a set? What is going on? It was suspicious that he didn't check to the raiser (me). I called and he turned over 10 9! He didn't have to turn his hand over (like you do in a tournament), but he did and so did I. Two more cards were dealt that were no help to either of us -- KA-CHING! This and a few hands like it allowed me to triple my buy-in. What's that idiom? Easy as pie.

I had intended to go to Harrah's to try their "Grand Stacks" tournament again, but in the middle of play, I looked at my watch and it was 5:55 p.m., and the tournament started at 6, so I decided to stay and enter the one at the Goldstrike instead.

I am not sure how many players entered, but I think it was around 40. The buyin was $100 for T3000 and for another $10 and you could get an extra T2000 in chips (the 10 bucks went to tip the dealers). You had to do the extra chips to have any chance to win, and they were a bargain at $10.

Early on I had pocket kings and won some money. The blinds were 100/200. One guy limped and another raised to T400 (I'm not making this up). I raised to T1,000 and the raiser called. The flop was A K 7. I remember thinking, "Oh, boy." If this guy had an ace, he was unlikely to fold and I would clean up. He checked and I made a a small bet of T1000, hoping to string him along. He folded and claimed he had a small pair -- probably he did.

Then disaster. I had presto: 5 5 and limped in. The flop was J 5 3. It was checked to me and I bet T600, one player called. The turn was the 2. I bet T1200 (probably should have bet more) and was called. The river was the 4!. What a terrible card. The guy now bet T1200 into me!. An ace gives him a straight and he didn't look like he was capable of a bluff, so I folded. He showed: K 6. He had hit a gutshot straight.

By the way, what do you think of playing K6 off, let alone calling a raise out of position? But that's exactly why I enter these things. The house can take their cut, and it's still +EV for me. I'm just sayin'.

There were two key hands of the night -- one was very good and one very bad.

By Level 4, I was able to chip back up to around T12,000. The blinds were 150/300 with a 25 ante. An early guy limped in, another guy raised to T1200. I checked my hold cards to see 10 10. There are different ways to play this, but I elected to simply call. I would have position on the guy and could judge what to do after I saw a flop.

The flop was wonderful: K 10 4. I flopped middle set!

The raiser bet T2000 and I raised to T4000. When it came back to him, he moved all in. He had started with ~T10,000, so he can't knock me out, but I'll be crippled. Anyway, I called and he turned over: K K for top set, aargh. The fourth-street card was the 10! I hit my one-outer!! Quads, baby! Hey, it's the fourth of July -- we are supposed to see some fireworks.

That was the key hand that was good for me.

The next few levels were fairly uneventful. I stayed out of trouble, stole when I could and chipped up nicely. When I got to the final table, my stack was okay, but not great. It was then I went on a heater. I had AK twice, QQ once and 88 once. I won all four of these hands and with two of them I eliminated two short stacks. Then I limped in with 10 8, flopped two pair and eliminated a third player. I was on fire and was now the chip leader.

When we were down to five players the other key hand played out. The betting folded to me in the cutoff seat. I had A K. The blinds were 1000/2000/200. I raised to T7000. The button folded, and the small blind went into the tank. He counted his chips, thought about it, and finally called. The big blind folded. The flop was great for me: K 7 4. The other guy pushed all in for T16,000 more. I called and he showed A J. S-w-e-e-t.

Not so fast. The Card Player odds calculator says that after the flop, I'm a 98.18% favorite to win the pot. It's never easy though, is it? The turn was the Q and the river was the 10. He hit runner, runner to make a Broadway straight. My first thought, after reality set in, was that he tried a Stop and Go play. Really though, he was an older guy and I doubt he had ever heard of such a move; he was likely just shrewd enough to figure out it was his best chance to win the hand. There was more than T62,000 in this pot. Instead of my being the commanding chip leader (I would have had more than half the chips in play with T130K), I had dropped to second with T68,000.

After this hand, there was a break. We all stretched our legs. When we returned to play, the new chip leader proposed a chop of the prize money and we all agreed. The fifth-place lady got a reduced amount (but more than fifth place paid), the chip leader got a little more than the other three of us, and the middle players shared the rest. Chopping (dividing) the prize money is common. At some point, it's not about the poker -- it's who gets lucky at the right time.

Anyway, it was not a great deal, but a fair deal, and a nice way to start the holiday weekend off with a (firecracker) bang.

I exited the Goldstrike, took the photo you see above and headed for home, having had a good day. It was 10:45 p.m.