Sunday, August 31, 2008

Doing the best you can

A holiday weekend is a good time for me to play poker. I have extra free time and the games are good. Yesterday I headed to the 6 p.m. tournament at the Goldstrike Casino in Tunica MS. It's a $110 buyin for T6000 in chips with 20-minute levels starting at T25/50.

The Goldstrike Casino at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday.

The car I rode in to go play poker yesterday, uh, NOT.

There were 54 runners who entered the tournament. This is down from their usual of 85 to 90. This was worrisome because on a long weekend you'd expect a good crowd. I wonder if it's the economy or maybe people are doing other things. Fifty-four players meant there were 324,000 chips in play and a nice prize pool -- first place paid $2160.

I had three good hands during the evening. Early I had pocket aces and made a normal raise and everyone folded. Forty minutes later when the blinds were 100/200, One player limped on the button to me in the small blind and I raised to T700 and again everyone folded! Rats.

The very next hand, I picked up Q Q. There were two limpers for T200 to the small blind who completed. The pot now had T800 and I raised to T1900 (costing the limpers another T1100), mostly expecting everyone to fold. Instead both limpers called and the small blind folded. The flop was bad for me: A 4 2. I'm not afraid to make a continuation bet into one player or if a king had come. An ace, however, is what many of these people play and there were two donkeys other players left and both had position on me. I made the weak play of checking and it checked around! The turn was the J. There was T3500 in the pot and I guess I should make a play for it, but I checked again. The next guy checked and the third guy thought for a while and bet T1000. This was confusing, but I decided to call. The river was a rag that I don't remember and everyone checked. I expected the guy who had bet T1000 to turn over a hand with a jack in it, but he showed A 7 to take the pot down. Arrgh.

Then this cute hand was played. With the blinds still at T100/200, the under-the-gun player raised to T600. I checked my hole cards to see 5 5, presto! I called and a player after me called. The flop was A Q J, not exactly the flop I was hoping for. It went check to me, I checked and so did the third player. The turn was 10, with all four suits now on the board. Again, it was checked around. The river was amazing: K, making a rainbow Broadway straight. The first guy checked, I moved all in and the next guy folded! I'm not making this stuff up. The first guy had enough sense to call and we split the pot. What the guy who folded was thinking is beyond me.

I managed to work my stack up to T8400 when I picked up K J in the big blind. With the blinds at T400/800/50 a lady from early position raised to T1600. Everyone else folded to me and I called. The flop was K 8 6. I checked and the lady moved all in. I had her covered, but only barely. My guess was she had a KQ type hand, but you never know with these people. Her initial min-raise could also have been AA that wants action. I finally called to see that I had out-flopped her when she showed: A J. My hand held up and I finally had some chips.

When we were down to two tables, the blinds were T800/16000/100. Suppose you are in the big blind with J 10 and it goes fold all around to the small blind who moves all in. You have T16,000 and the all-in guy has around T11,000. What would you do? Actually, I didn't hold this hand, I was the small blind and was surprised that he called, but he did. I turned over 7 2, the hammer! Never underestimate the hammer, baby. The flop contained a 7 and the river (not that it mattered) was a 2 to give me two pair to get back in contention.

Seven players were going to get paid. Most of the money is at the top, as usual. When we were down to nine players, someone suggested an interesting chop. He suggested we take $200 off or first place and $100 from second and give some money to 8th ($200) and 9th ($100) places. The table agreed. Nobody likes to play for three and one-half hours to end up with nothing.

Two hands later, I was in the big blind. The blinds were T2000/1000/100. The average chip stack was T36,000, and I only had around T23,000 after posting. Three players limped to me and I had J 6. Would you shove and try to pick up what is now a T9900 pot? I chickened out and decided to see the flop and go from there. The flop was amazing for me: 7 7 6! I moved all in. If someone has a 7, so be it, but I needed to win that pot. I got one caller, uh oh, who turned over 6 6 for a flopped full house! Ouch, but what can you do? You have to win pots like this to win the tournament. I'm not playing to move up to 6th or anything.

So I had played all night to get my money back, but I wasn't too discouraged. Mostly, I had done the best I could. I had played okay with basically no cards (other than three early hands when it didn't really matter) and enjoyed myself.

As I left, the Goldstrike looked a little different.

Today is a new day. There's another tournament at 1 p.m. and I intend to go kick some tourist bootie!

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