Wine & Whine O' the Week (v. 1.15)—
Cowboys Riding Ostriches on the Isle of Misfit Poker Bloggers (WPBT Tournament Report)
December 16, 2010
[Note: This is the first of two posts about my recent Festivus / WPBT trip to Degenerate Mecca (a/k/a Vegas). This post will cover the WPBT poker tournament held Saturday at Aria. A later post will hopefully encompass all the hilarity and hijinks of the remainder of my sojourn.]
Who doesn't love the classic children's Christmas show, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? One of my favorite parts of the show is the Isle of Misfit Toys, which has among its residents this Cowboy who is inexplicably riding an ostrich:
Now, it's pretty obvious the Cowboy is a degenerate poker player who lost a prop bet and wound up straddling an ostrich on a glacier. But really, who of us hasn't been on the wrong end of a similar bet? Anyway, the WPBT Winter Classic tournament for poker (and quasi-poker) bloggers this weekend had me thinking about the Isle of Misfit Toys, not because most poker bloggers are social misfits ... well, yeah, actually that's pretty much it. But they are misfits in a hilariously fun way!
Anyway, the tournament was hosted by the Aria poker room, using its excellent daily tournament structure, with 8K in starting chips, and 30 minute levels. The Ironmen played this tourney last spring, highlighted by my trapping of buddy Sahara for most of his stack with my skillfully disguised almost-trips (Sahara: "Five-deuce? What are you doing? Seriously, five-deuce? That's terrible!"). It's a great room with a great tourney—clearly doing some holiday charity by accommodating a bunch of poker degenerates!
The poker tournament was made even sweeter by the good folks at PokerStars and Full Tilt, who combined chipped in 15 player bounties, 10 "Hammer" bounties, bonuses for the final table luckboxes, a bubble-boy save, and a partridge in a pear tree (later deep-fried into beignets and served with a Southern Comfort-roasted chili dip at the Lagasse's Stadium football party). Also, in keeping with WPBT tradition, most of the players brought along personal bounties to award to the player lucky enough to knock them out of the tourney.
With 97 runners and a nice Tilt/Stars overlay, the tourney was a veritable poker treasure chest. Of course, I suck at tournaments, but I'm an SVB, so I had a fighting chance. Now the tourney started at high noon, which is the equivalent of a 7:00 a.m. breakfast meeting. In other words, I might have been a wee bit sleepy. Bring on the unlimited free hot green tea with honey (without tequila)! Thankfully I had the uber-organized Poker Grump as one of my teammates (along with the delightful card assassin, CaityCaity), so he had handled getting the "Knights Who Say 'Nit'!" registered for the last longer challenge. So, my only real responsibility was to arrive prior to noon, jump into the mass picture, and head to my table.
Where I was promptly confronted with one of my nemeses, the sneaky Katkin. Katkin is a fascinating guy who has traveled an interesting path from the media industry to the poker industry. I first met him a year or so ago after being introduced to him by poker socialite CK-BWoP. He's one of those "quiet but witty" types who enjoys a little verbal jousting at the tables. So, we promptly agreed to a heads up last longer bet for a round of drinks.
I played rather tight at the first table, just getting into proper tournament rhythm—open-fold, check-fold, limp-fold, order drink, joke with table, lather, rinse, repeat. There were two hands of note. In the first, I was on the button with A9 soooted. There was a limper to me, so I decided to put in a small raise, hoping to take down a small pot. Unfortunately, the guy in the big blind (whose name, like many others I met this weekend, escapes me) put in a decent raise. Now, this guy handled himself like a solid player, and had been in a few skirmishes already. I thought it entirely likely he was making a move of some sort, testing me (let's face it, I'm not exactly the most intimidating tourney player). So, I called and decided to see how he acted postflop, maybe looking to steal on a scary board.
Instead, the flop came out T-9-9. Donkey Kong! Suddenly, I'm hoping he has a real hand, well, other than pocket Tens, natch. He bets, I call. Turn is a small card, nothing much changes. He bets again, I call again. Now in hindsight, I really should've put in a value raise on the flop and/or turn, in order to play for stacks if he had an overpair. The line I took looks too strong without many draws out there, plus not building the pot earlier makes it tougher to get him to feel pot-committed to a big river bet. Like I said, I suck at tourneys. Anyway, the river gave me a German Virgin fourgy. Galaga! My opponent thought and checked; about time he showed me some respect! I thought a bit, then value bet T3000, about half of my opponent's remaining stack, and a little over half the pot. He thought a while, then mucked his pocket Queens. Of course, despite having a good full house, about all he could beat was a hand like JT, JJ, or maybe 88/77. Dammit, I hate it when good players make disciplined laydowns!
The second noteworthy hand at my first table involved Katkin, who limp-reraised me from under the gun, with me on the button or in the cutoff. I called with AQ soooted (I think), and we saw a flop of 6-6-4. Katkin bet, and I thought for a moment of making a steal attempt, but then folded like a CyClown in a meaningful conference football game. Katkin started giggling like Allen Kessler at a hot video poker machine, then rolled over ... the Spanish Inquisition! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, including me! Thankfully my cat-like poker reflexes saved me from certain disaster, not to mention keeping our last longer bet alive.
With Hammer bounties being awarded like Hannukkah gifts—early and often—it was no surprise when our table broke and I was moved to a mostly new table. One tough player from my first table—who I learned later was Dominic, a/k/a "No Limit Doc"—moved with me, and continued to own my poker soul on the rare hands I played, typically 3 or 4-betting me off hands preflop, or forcing me to make laydowns on the flop. Since I respected his play a ton, I decided running away was the better part of valor.* Call it the "Sir Robin" strategy:
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!
My second table was full of celebrities, including CJ, a/k/a "The Luckbox", a WPBT founder and hilarious poker taunter, and Jessica Wellman, new managing editor of Bluff Magazine, and the lone voice of reason on the Poker Beat radio show (the one must-listen poker podcast on my Stitcher favorites). Jessica is a very attractive young woman, who came across as pleasant, down to earth, and intelligent during my time at her table, and during a brief chat during a break. Also during my time at the table, Dan Michalski, the big cheese at Pokerati.com, dropped by to chat poker legislation with me for a few minutes. I kept up my strong play by hitting quad Aces with my Ace-Yak, as well as bringing home a small pot with Yaks. I also managed to pick off one gal's attempted Hammer steal, and I later knocked out a short-stacked player (CaApril, I believe), who kindly gave me her bounty—a neat mechanical toy named "Cranky", which she claimed described herself, though she had been nothing but sunny and funny at the table. Cranky is now proudly displayed in my office window 37 floors up in the tallest building in Des Moines, with a wistful westward view toward Vegas ...
After break, I was moved to my third table, and finally shook free of the pitbull Dominic. Unfortunately, I found myself back at a table with archnemesis Katkin. Of course, the poker gods have a sick sense of humor, and my only hand of note at this table was heads up against Katkin. Katkin was in early position and limped, I raised in the cutoff or on the button with KhQh, and Katkin smooth-called. The flop was pretty good for me—Ace, Yak, Rag with two hearts—giving me the nut flush draw and a gutshot Broadway draw. Katkin checked, and I decided to bet as as semi-bluff. Katkin surprisingly pushed all-in. Hmmm, that's awkward. I finally decided I had enough outs to call, plus Katkin could be on a bluff. Or, he could be on Ace-Yak for altos dos pairs. Awkward! But a heart on the river gave me the win as well as a very close elimination of Katkin. I won our last longer wager, a $100 Full Tilt bounty, and Katkin's other bounty—a stylish Fremantle Australian Football scarf which he had won in a previous WPBT, and which is required to be passed along each year to a new bounty winner. Nothing like making myself a huge target for next year's WPBT!
Now on a near freeroll and with a large stack, I was moved yet again, this time to a table in the elevated area of the Aria poker room. Most of the table were players unknown to me, but I spotted one suspiciously familiar player—"Dawn Summers", author of a dozen blogs, at least a few of which touch on poker. Dawn's style of play would make "Action Dan" Harrington look like a Scandinavian maniac, basically consisting of folding every hand for three orbits, then randomly pushing her short stack all-in to either steal blinds and antes or double up. Laugh all you want, but the turtle strategy got her safely to the final table.
I managed to take down another Full Tilt bounty by eliminating a short-stacked Alex Outhred, a dang good player who is certifiably smarter than a 5th grader. I had Yaks against his AK or AQ, pretty standard race for the stacks at stake. If he hadn't been crippled before my arrival, I doubt I would've fared so well. My Fremantle scarf drew murmurs of respect, particularly from the scarf's original owner, Garth, a displaced Australian with a wicked sense of humor and a fellow Top Chef lover. I also later lost a race with Yaks which took me from a comfortable stack well-above average to a stack barely twice the starting chips, with an "M" of ... well, who knows. Blinds and antes were something like 800/1600/200, and my stack was under T20K, so do your own math (and show your work). Which brings us to the wine and whine portion of our show.
I had been card dead a couple of orbits, and with players dropping like drunks at the Geisha Bar, I was looking for places to steal—the blinds and antes alone were roughly 20%-25% of my stack. So when it folded to me on the button, I looked down and saw the beautiful 85 offsuit, a strong hand not easily dominated by the traditional "power" hands like AK, with two flush draws and two quad draws as backup if a "big" hand like King-Jack outflopped me. So, I pushed.
Action was then on the small blind, "Drizz", an accountant and a Vikings fan, so pretty much the scum of the earth. Now Drizz is a rather hilarious guy, as proven by what might be my favorite WPBT Tweet:
Reason #19 why Drizz needs to wear his hearing aids: Waitress "Hot Cakes?" Drizz "Bacon??" Waitress "Hot Cakes?" repeat 20x.
Drizz glanced at his cards, then pushed all-in. As far as omens go, this was not a good one. The big blind scowled at Drizz's evil play, then reluctantly folded. Time to see what Drizz had—pocket Kings? Seriously dude??!? I've shown down Aces three times, Yaks twice, and quads-top kicker twice. What part of that range is remotely touchable by Das Cowboys?? But, no worries at all! I can crAAKK Kings! I may even be a prohibitive favorite. I flopped the gutshot straight draw, but imagine my shock when the turn and river each failed to bring my straight card. Live poker is so rigged!
Despite the horrific suckout, Drizz deserved his bounty from me. So, I presented him with an inscribed bottle of 2001 Penfold's Grange. Now I chose this bounty for my first WPBT because my blogger nickname originated in the mists of internet antiquity when I first joined some random discussion board for something non-poker related, and needed a nickname. Grange is not only the premier Australian wine, but a tasting of Grange is what converted me to a hardcore wine snob. So, I went with Grange95 as my online nickname, as someone else had picked Grange (1995 being the year of the most dominant Husker football team ever). It seemed only fitting that my first WPBT bounty be a bottle of my all-time favorite wine.
* As I was doing some final editing of this post, I noticed that Dominic had posted his own report on the tournament. He also noted how he owned me at the table, but was kind enough to suggest that it was solely due to his having position on me most of the time. Although position may have played a small role in our clashes, I have no shame in honestly admitting Dominic simply outplayed me 98% of the time. There was one hand where Dom 3-bet me preflop, and I decided I needed to make a stand, and put in a stiff 4-bet with something like 87 soooted. Dom looked like he smelled a rat, but eventually made a very reluctant fold. After that, I steered clear of him like a nun offered a slot tourney junket.