18/06/2007

Through the Round Window

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

It's Friday so that means move day. In 2005 I lived for 16 weeks in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Much as I love the place, I could do with a change. Thanks to contacts, (cheers Nardya), and Harrahs purchase of London Clubs, I manage to get myself a nice room in Caesar's Palace. This moving is all quite similar to my situation at home, except the walk from my front door to the Bellagio card room only takes fourteen minutes, and the people of MGM Mirage are not trying to hold on to my deposit money three months later.

If Peter Stringfellow was presented with my room at Caesar's he'd probably say:

"It's a little over the top. Do you have anything just slightly less garish?"

I love it though. The seventies was one of my favourite decades and I never think you can have too many mirrors. As well as the ubiquitous one over the bed, they have a few surrounding the enormous bathtub. This is on a raised platform, surrounded by marble and complete with gold handrails, and is in the bedroom. It doesn't take me long to discover that this bath is also a jacuzzi. Wow.

All that can wait though as I must head off for my most eagerly awaited tournament of the trip. The $5000 PLH gives you 10,000 starting chips. At last I'll have a chance to play really deep stacked pot-limit hold 'em, with its implied odds and mass of decision making, without any moron announcing all-in before we've had a chance to subtlety play through the streets.

The one downside is that a lot of the all-in brigade who make up the dead-money in the NLH tournaments are giving this one a miss. The $5000 entry is a real barrier, and the words "pot-limit" are enough to send most people to the Venetian for their NLH competition. Out of the 398 players there are an enormous number of bracelets and very few non-pros. This is really a poker player’s tournament and is going to be so tough. My table consists of eight people I've played with before and one stranger. All of them seem to know poker and I'd guess they are almost all professionals although there are no really top "star" names. Chad Brown reminds me that we played together at the EPT in London, had a lot of fun, and that I took my two bad beats very well.; just when I'd almost forgotten.

While I was trying to remember the name of the guy next to me he introduced himself as Lance. He's a professional who specialises in high-limit mixed games. We've played several times in tournaments, including on this trip, and I like his dry, sardonic style. He is keen to tell me how he's glad I'm not on his left today - I must have been doing something right. We chat a bit and he suddenly, from nowhere, declares:

"You look like an educated guy. Do you know what the word defenestrate means?"

I think for a while and pass. Eventually he tells me and we move on. It's been a valuable learning experience.

He then goes on to tell the table about a Hollywood home game he sometimes plays in. It is just $5/$10 nlh and involves a barbecue and drinking. A recent development seems to be the introduction of "some girls" (I think we can assume a euphemism here). During the last game three masked people rushed in with guns and the players were forced to hand over their cash. One of the villains fired his gun into the table and the ricochet caught Lance in the leg and arm. He has a bit of a scar.

He was mostly concerned with whether they would search him for the $5000 "pull-up money" he had in his pocket. One of the other players seemed horrified at how unprofessional these guys were. They left everyone's jewellery and didn't cut the 'phone wires. He was disgusted and declared them to be total amateurs.

The other players universally blamed "the girls". It was obviously an inside job.

Lance went on to mention the bad beat of the night. The hand in progress at the time was declared void as the contents of the pot had now gone. One guy was all-in with the nut straight, which he'd just made on the turn, against a guy who flopped top set. A third guy was pondering his odds with the nut flush draw. They never saw the river card, so nobody knows the outcome.

My chance to use my experience of deep-stacked plh, playing a variety of hands, seeing some flops and working out the intricacies of betting patterns through the streets, lasted for one hour and came down to two hands. I had aces in both of them, and the same guy seemed determined to shove as much as he could in when behind both times. I was happy to let him do so, and left just after the second one.

On the way out I stopped to check on my old pal Willie Tann. This was the day after his sixty-sixth birthday but he had a definite twinkle in his eye. The guy next to him asked me if Willie just knew EVERYONE. Apparently a lot of people, from all around the world, had been stopping by to pay their respects to The Master and check on his progress. I told the man that when you get to WT's age you DO just know everyone. Cyndy Violette was smiling away. She revealed to me that Willie had not stopped flirting with every female dealer, cocktail waitress, female player, female railbird, wife or girlfriend within a fifty yard radius. Willie just grinned.

The next WSOP tournament for me would be the $1500 shootout. This is a nice format, where the tables aren't balanced and you must beat off the people you're drawn against. With 900 players, you had to basically win three sit 'n' goes to win a bracelet. How hard could that be?

My table was made up of total strangers, some of whom were quite poor players and some of whom fell into an obvious trap for this tournament. Most one-table satellites and sit 'n' go tournaments have a very fast structure, low numbers of chips to start, and a need to gamble. This event however has a one hour clock, with three thousand starting chips and therefore, lots of play. I think people tend to overplay their hands in the early stages because they have not adjusted to this. The guy with the 4,4 certainly did on the 6,2,2 flop. Either that or he knew a four was coming to beat my miserable jacks.

Steaming a little from that one I rushed straight to the Bellagio Cup event. This is a series of nlh tournies held in the beautiful Fontana Room, overlooking the fountains, and tucked away from the noise of the casino. These events have been a bit quiet this year, but it was nice to dream of beating just 103 players for a $100k first prize so I paid up my $2620. JJ Liu has knocked me out of more poker tournaments than anyone else on the planet. She reminded me of this fact when, with 23 players left, her QQ turned into a set against the AJ I re-raised with. How we laughed.

I was so fed up with tournaments that I took a couple of days off. I did play a little cash at the office (in the Bellagio $10/$20 nlh game), but I didn't win enough to cheer myself up. It was two more days before I dared try another tournament. I chose the evening $1080 nlh "Second Chance" event at Bellagio. Just 55 players showed up to scrap for a $25k first prize and the three consolation spots. I picked up AhKh on the first hand and, after a bit of pre-flop fiddling about, got it in on a safe looking K,7,2 flop. His set of sevens held-up.

After two more days I found that there's a limited amount of fun that one person can have in a jacuzzi.

Neil Channing will be staggering through the next week, hoping to finally win a showdown, with the assistance of PokerVerdict.com.