the poker chronicles : president's day presents

so i decided to spend my president's day holiday this year playing in a NL texas hold'em tournament at lucky chances, a card room in nearby colma (right past daly city). capitalizing on the recent poker boom, lucky chances offers a variety of poker games including 7-card stud, omaha hi/lo (my favorite!!), and of course, texas hold'em. in addition, lucky chances conducts tournaments throughout the week, which are obviously very popular with all the tv coverage these days.

it had been over a year since i've played in a lucky chances tournament, and months since i've played in any land-based tournament (not since aruba), so needless to say, i was itching. it was president's day. i had no plans other than to clean my place. so i figured, "what the hell? let's play some poker!!" as it turned out, i wasn't the only poker-addict-who-had-the-day-off-with-no-plans-and-didn't-feel-like-cleaning. there were 154 players (with more being turned down due to capacity). it was a $50+15 buy-in, with an option of 1 rebuy for $50. every player started with $1000 in chips, and received an additional $1500 for the rebuy. the blinds started at $25-$25, and increased every 12 minutes. the top 12 places paid, with $180 going to 12th, and a cool $5000 for 1st.

the blind structure for these tournaments are somewhat strange in that they move up relatively slow in the beginning, but after the 6th round or so, the blinds become so large relative to your stack that it no longer becomes poker. it's either all-in or fold, which is unfortunate but understandable as these are small daily tournaments that aren't suppose to last 4-5 days.

i started off pretty well, and immediately doubled up when i let a player bluff off his stack by continuously checking my top pair. rebuy for him. my starting table was relatively solid. nobody was being overly aggressive. a couple of tight-wads, but in general, everyone played a tight-aggressive style. i was happy with my play, as i picked my spots and avoided trouble. my big move came at the end of the 8th round. the blinds were $400-$800 with an ante of $100. i had around $4000. as you can see, even as the #2 chip leader at my table, $4000 is only 5 times the big blind. i picked up AQ in early position. the blinds were right around the corner, and with $2100 already in the middle (blinds plus everyone's ante), i wanted to win the pot. i raised to $3000. it got folded around to the small-blind, who immediately said, "i'm all-in". the big blind, who was severely short-stacked, reluctantly went all-in as well given the pot odds. of course, i had to call. the small blind flipped over JJ, and the big blind had something crappy like 10-8 offsuit. not bad at all. the flop immediately hit me with a Q. nothing exciting on the turn, and an unnecessary ace on the river gave me top two pair, and the monster pot. sweet. i had about $9000 chips. the table was broken after the hand, and everyone moved to a new table.

there were about 50 players left at this point, and with the monster blinds, it became a battle of attrition. small stacks were holding on for their dear lives, and big stacks were taking advantage. i saw no cards, and just folded and folded, until a fortuitous table move changed everything. with about 25 players left and a medium-to-small stack, i was getting anxious. i needed a good hand to double up. i didn't think i had enough to just fold until there were 12 players left. then came my first president's day present. a hand ended, and i was going to put in my big blind, until the tournament director came by and said, "who's the big blind? you're moving." so i got up, moved to the new table, and i found myself seated right after the button!! so not only did i avoid paying the blinds on the previous table, i got to see several more hands on the new table before the blinds came around again. sweet!!

then came a flurry of presents as i went on a huge rush. i immediately doubled up with A-10 suited. i also picked up KK and AK twice to win huge pots, knocking out several players. during one stretch, i think i won 4 straight pots. i couldn't believe it. eventually, the 13th player was eliminated, and everyone was in the money at this point. celebration all around. then 12th was gone, and we needed just one more player to exit for the final table of 10.

i had a pretty big stack at this point, about $35K, good enough for the chip lead at my table. i was feeling comfortable because i was pretty much guaranteed the final table. and then a HUGE hand came up. i was on the button, and it was folded around to me. i looked down, and saw pocket kings. awesome. so i made a standard 3-times-the-big-blind raise. there was enough money in the pot so i didn't want to get creative by slowplaying my cowboys. i fully expected the small and big blinds to fold, as they each had a ton of chips (#2 and #3 at the table). they would be foolish to make any sort of move. then suddenly, the small blind looked at me, and pushed his entire stack in!!! wtf!!! normally this would be a no-brainer, but the small blind had over $30K, so if i lost, i would be dead last and probably not make the final table. in addition, haunting thoughts of pockets king from aruba were creeping into my head (which i still have to write about someday ...). did he think i was trying to make a button-steal of the blinds? ahhhhh. this sucked. but i had to call. i can't play scared. so i called. luckily, he flipped over pockets 7's. the board didn't bring any help, and that was it. we had the final table of 10!!!

winning that last pot gave me close to $70K in chips, and the honor of chip leader going into the final table. i was very excited and slightly giddy. no, there weren't any tv cameras, and no, this wasn't las vegas. but still, there was a good crowd surrounding the table, and i noticed a lot of people looking at me and my big stack. =) and that's when the excitement and presents ended. i didn't get any good cards during the final table except for pockets 9's which i lost to pocket aces, doubling up the player in the process. i just couldn't get anything going. luckily for me, i was the chip leader going in so i had plenty of chips to lose before getting desperate. that time eventually came after 5 players were eliminated, and i found myself as the low stack. i was in the big blind of $6K (yeah, tell me about it) with only another $15K left. one player raised enough to put me all-in. i had K-8 of spades. good enough. i called. the raiser turned over A-8 off. dominated. crap. the king never came, and i was eliminated in 5th place.

so get this: I DIDN'T WIN A SINGLE POT DURING THE FINAL TABLE. i went into the final table as the chip leader, and i couldn't even win a SINGLE POT. arrrrgh. considering that, i guess i should be pretty happy with 5th, and my final president's day present: $1000!!! my biggest tournament win ever (if you don't count the $9000 aruba prize package of course)!!!

go lincoln, it's your birthday!! go clinton, it's your birthday!! we're gonna party like it's your birthday!!

interested in playing? See the lucky chances tournament schedule on their website.