WSOP-C Hammond, $345 H.O.R.S.E., Day 1, Part 1
Here's the short version: Two-for-two with another small cash in this event, following my one on Sunday. The (much) longer story, in several parts, has what I think will be a couple of very interesting digressions and some unusual tales from the floor. It's been a fun week so far, if a very long one.
In looking at the schedule of events for the Hammond Horseshoe stop, something I've personally had on my schedule for a couple of months, I targeted the $345 H.O.R.S.E. event (#8) that began play on Tuesday. I grew up playing stud-poker games and have always seemed to hold my own in mixed-games events. (Back in the WCOOP, I made the top 100 in the eight-game tourney -- with a couple of lucky breaks, admittedly -- and would likely have cashed in the H.O.R.S.E. as well except for the $@!@(%!% donkey who chased down my three kings on fourth street by connecting with his gutshot wheel draw on seventh, all this just outside the money. If we'd been playing hi/lo, fine, I get what I deserve for playing the kings, but this was in a high-only rotation. Ah, well, I wanted that idiot to chase; I just didn't want him to hit.)
169 players were in this one for its 3:00 pm start time, meaning it was for sure going to be a two-day event. We started promptly at 3:00, and my table was pretty tight early on, though we started with 6,000 in chips each and blinds were 50/75 to start the first rotation, hold'em. In this type of format one could sleep for the first hour or two and not lose more than a few hundred in chips, and at first it seemed that that might have been the better choice. I didn't see much for cards early on, the table was tight and seemed competent in at least seven of the eight seats, and I dropped down to about 4,800 early as we worked our way through the first complete rotation.
After eight hands of one game we'd move on to the next, ad infinitum. Our table was drifting behind nearby tables in terms of hands we played, however; we had a good, competent, but deliberate dealer, and because of the nature of the H.O.R.S.E. format and the oversized fields, the dealers weren't able to be pushed. This guy was friendly and talkative -- perhaps a hair too much so. We were in the middle of our second rotation of stud hi/lo, and after a string of hands with very little action, he drawls out, "Y'know, the 'book' on stud-8 says you're supposed to complete with an ace up, because it's such a big advantage...."
We drowned him out at that point with the "Shut up" chorus. While we had a couple of minor dealer mistakes throughout the day, including one where the dealer made me ante twice until I proved to him that there was one too many antes in the pot with my double donation, the skill level was pretty solid. Just be quits with the strategy pointers at the table, okay? (And if anyone is reading this and trying to figure out what dealer it was, let's just say that the dealer took the hint -- I don't think he'll do that again and it was minor and sort of funny in its own way.)
Oh, one other little oddity. Each table had its own set of stylin' 4" x 7" placards indicating which game was being dealt at any given moment. Except, oddly enough, the "O" card said "Omaha", not "Omaha-8" or "Omaha hi/lo". Therefore, the dealers had to check and clarify for themselves and to the players that it was indeed Omaha hi/lo being played, as it should be in H.O.R.S.E. Good idea, though, and these cards definitely helped during the play.
But in terms of me making chip headway early on, it wasn't happening. I made a real thin but correct value bet in an Omaha hi/lo that I'd raised from the button with A-A-2-x three-suited over a couple of early limits. The flop was K-J-3 or something, and I bet it once and got two calls, but after a nine on the turn I checked behind. There was something like a four on the river for a true garbage board, and it was checked to me again... and I realized my stupid pair of aces was probably somehow good. I bet it, got one call from a guy with a king and nothing else, and scooped the pot.
Only in Omaha.
The first break came, though, and I still only had 5,925 in chips -- a net loss of 75 from my starting point. I said hi to Kelley Kiser, a solid player who I had sat next to for a chunk of play in the women's event. She'd finished second in that one and was playing here as well, and was up to about 8,400 at the first break a few tables over.
During the second two hours, I chipped up a little bit, to perhaps 7,200, as the first of the players began to be eliminated. We lost one player to a different table, and I'd had that player perhaps pegged as the only real weak link; he'd been in the eight seat. The guy in the seven seat was a poker buddy of ex-NBA'er Ken Norman, who stopped by to chat after being bounced in that day's NL event, the four and five and two seats were all solid, and the three seat was a guy who knew how to play but wore his emotions on his sleeve as soon as his cards went dead. I was in the one seat.
The player in the six seat I thought was solid until he spewed a pile of chips to me in a razz hand at 200/400. And, boy, did he spew them. He had the bring-in with a king, and I completed with a deuce up and 6-3 underneath. One player with a baby up card came along, and amazingly, so did the king. Odds on him having something like A-2 or A-3 underneath are about 98%.
I caught an ace on fourth street so I'm a happy camper, with four cards to the six already. I bet it, the third player bricked out and gave it up, and the six-seat caught an eight. He called again. I liked it. I caught a seven on fifth street to complete my made 7-6, and he pulled a nine for a guaranteed dead hand. I paused just long enough to consider whether I should let him have a free card here in hopes that he improves to something better and pays me off on sixth and seventh, but then I figured that if he thinks that I'm just trying to show the table that I can indeed bluff, that he's going to call me down with crap so he can show me a lesson. So I bet... and he called. I paired up with another seven on sixth street, and it's the best card I could have hit. I bet again with what I hoped was just a touch of annoyance while he's hit a five or something and he almost beats me into the pot with his chips. Seventh street I squeezed hard, paused, and then made a bluffy, splashy bet of my 400. He tanked, then said, "You know, maybe I don't know how to play this game..." and trailed off. And called.
I'd hit a four on seventh street, so now I had a 6-4 instead of a 7-6, not that he could touch the seven anyway. Thank you for the chips, kind sir. He's crippled, too, down to about 2,800. I'm up to around 9,600 and was suddenly table boss. Then, in the one seat, we got a new player, and he was very loose and very bad. I don't get any of his chips directly, but he loosened up the action sufficiently that I snared a couple of more decent pots and moved up to around 12,000. The six seat then busted out, as did the three seat, who stormed off after his last hand didn't hold up. We got one replacement, but then our table was broken.
I was moved to the very next table, which was in turn broken three hands later, and then I'm moved to a table that's only two more down in the breaking order. Finally, my fourth table in twenty minutes is the three seat at Table 5, which is one of the inner-core tables nearest the final-table stage, so I knew I'd be there for a while. It's where I was, with about the same chips, when the dinner break arrived. The WSOP gang was issuing generous comps to all the players during the early days. Higher buy-ins received buffet coupons, which were like $20-25 each, and even the lowly events got free $7 tickets for the concession stand, which were just fine for a turkey wrap or a cheeseburger and a bag of chips. Good stuff, and that buffet, just across from The Venue in the upper floor, is high-class fare. As a writer, I've been trained for decades in the fine art of "free"... and therefore know the difference.
Back to poker after dinner.
Table 5 was interesting. There was a decent enough player in seat two, two older and tighter players in seats three and four, a decent player in seat five who also had chips sitting over in that evening's 7:00 NLHE tourney that he'd bought into when he dipped under a thousand here, but he kept going all in and surviving while his chips were bled away across the hall. He was down to about 2,400 from his starting 4,000 over there two hours later and was back up over 8,000 here when he walked across the hall and jammed his K-Q, as he shared with us, and never caught up to another player's pocket sevens. He returned and said, "I am now officially focused on the H.O.R.S.E. tournament." He was out in 30 minutes. I helped.
Seat six was a guy named John Guarisco who turned out to be my personal nemesis as the night wore on. The seven seat was the deep stack when I arrived, at about 18,000, which he said was down slightly from over 20,000 a bit earlier. The eight seat was a somewhat older nice guy whose name I didn't get, though we ended up at tables together for much of the event and he cashed as well. He was either Jeffrey or Kurt and I can't for the life of me remember which.
I gained chips here, and I would have done really well except for two cooler hold'em hands. In one hand I raised from LP with A-Q soooted and was called by an UTG limper, the guy in the seven seat with the then-deepest stack. He checked the K-J-2 rainbow flop and I bet it, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Another jack came on the turn; he checked and I checked behind, because that's what I thought was his most likely holding (giving him three jacks). Then a ten came on the river to give me Broadway. He bet it but with an odd hesitation, so I figured him for A-J or Q-J and raised. He thought it about and just called me, then turned up 2-2 for deuces full. I think I'd have paid him off there, but I was pretty happy to have saved the bet. I was shocked, though, that he didn't three-bet it. Was I that tight?
Deuces full really sucked. Later on, after I'd built back up to 15,000 or so, Guarisco laid a beat on me, cracking my monster pair (aces or kings, I disremember which), again with a flopped set of deuces. Grumblegrumblegrumble. The hand immediately after that, though, I got those chips back and then some from the player who'd pushed that K-Q into nothingness across the hall. I flopped a set of eights, turned a boat, and he caught up a bit with a flush on the river. So I survived a rough stretch.
The one seat I hadn't mentioned yet. Our first player was there was simply a player with more aggression than card sense. He'd been down to 150 (!) in chips early on and had somehow built all the way back up over 20,000. In one hand, he raised from the button against my big blind. The small blind proved to me here he was only a good player, not a great one, because he just called. (He had 5-5, it turned out.) I held 9-7, and thanks to the small blind not three-betting, I had to call with that crap to see the flop, which came K-J-9. I hated that flop. It was checked around to the button, who raised, and it's just called again by the small blind. I'm confused. I made what I thought was a very loose call.
The turn brought a deuce. The small blind checked, I checked, and the button bet again. The small blind just called again. I figured that the button was quite possibly on a dumb bluff, but with the small blind smoothing it twice I had to give him credit for something that would beat my third pair, so I folded. The river brought another brick, the small blind checked and the button bet again, which was duly called.
Button: A-6. Small blind: 5-5. I'm right but wrong and have folded the winner. Grrr.
It's part of learning one's opponents at the table. Despite having won that pot, the two seat lost a couple of other large pots and bounced out around 10:00. The one seat kept spewing back the rest of his chips. We were all the way up to the 1,200/2,400 blinds level, starting hold'em play, by this time, and I had perhaps 18,000 in chips and was squarely in the middle of the pack for the remaining seven or eight tables. I'd made it up to about 24,000 at one point but had drifted down some. Anyhow, it was my small blind, and it was folded around to the one seat, who barely looked before announcing a raise, chewing up half his chips. I saw an ace and announced a three-bet, and pleasantly saw a jack to go along with the ace. The big blind folded but the button called, so I set him all in as the flop was being spread. He called and had K-6 and the board brought both a jack and a six but no king. So his chip parabola was complete.
On to part two of my Day 1 post in a short while. Trust me when I say this is just where it gets interesting.