I had a tough choice entering this past weekend. I could drive up to the old stomping grounds in central Wisconsin and play a weekend-long cribbage tourney, or I could head over to the Horseshoe Chicagoland in Hammond, IN for one of the preliminary events in that venue's second annual WSOP Circuit series.
I opted for the poker, in good part because it's likely the only opportunity I'll have to see my friends among the WSOP tourney staff for the foreseeable future. This poker job market doesn't look good at all, and as I need to pay the bills, I'm beginning to look elsewhere. Still, it was good to see Nolan and Steve and Amy and Charlie and Doug and Troy and Jolyn and Thomas and several others. Even Pokerworks Aaron was there, as a dealer, fresh from a brief training session by Linda G.
It was a 3pm start for Event #4 on Sunday, the $235 ladies tourney. I'd just barely cashed in this last year and was happy enough to give it another go. This year's 183-player turnout was slightly lower than last year's 200-plus runners, though turnouts overall at the Chicagoland stop remain very high by Circuit standards.
My opening table had one decent player I remembered from last year, but overall it was very soft and passive, and since we had a ridiculously flat and generous blinds structure, I decided I needed to try to snag chips. I was fortunate to catch some good hands along the way, but if it happened once, it happened eight times -- I'd sneak into a pot from late position when it was limped five or six ways, then take it down after the flop with a single bet, whether I had anything or not. Usually not. No one at this table wanted to bet unless they made a big hand or had a monster pre-flop, so I helped myself to the leftovers. I went from the starting stack of 10,000 to north of 17,000 without a single big pot, but our table was going nowhere. We were well into the fourth 45-minute level before we lost a single player, meaning that we had to be losing ground to other tables around us. Still, one can only play the hands one is dealt.
I took a big hit doubling up a short stack -- my QQ versus her KK pre-flop -- to drop back down to about 11,000, so I went back to the smallball grind and tried again. By this time my secret was out, as my first two dealers knew me and several of the TDs stopped by for a brief hello, Eric from Image Masters took my photo and so on. So, whoever I was, whether I could play or not, I wasn't going to get much action from this squeaky tight table. I slowly chipped back up to about 23,000, then was plunked back down to about 14,000 just before the dinner break, again doubling up a shorty. This time my JJ went in bad against QQ. No suckout for me!
Post-dinner, we'd finally lost a couple of players, and they were replaced by looser, more aggressive types. Key for me was when the five seat was filled by a younger girl from Milwaukee, and she brought about 45,000 with her when she sat down. It turned out I had her number, and by night's end, her chips.
First, though, she took a tiny pot off me with what might as well have been a bluff, but I didn't have a good read and let my middle pair or something similar go. I wanted to watch her fire at pots and suspect opponents and as we looked to be a pack of middle-aged nits, I wanted to make a good score when I finally mixed it up.
Fortune soon smiled upon me. I'd had lots of pocket pairs on this Day 1, but never flopped a single set. This time I was in the big blind, having just taken down a decent pot the hand before and busting another short stack. She made a standard raise from the hijack, and everyone else folded. I had pocket fives and just called.
The flop: 3-5-5 with two diamonds, giving me quads. Woo-hoo!
I checked, figuring she'd bet. She did, about 4,200. I knew I had the fives but hadn't even secured them yet with my card cap, so I frowned a bit (putting on the hard sell this one hand), grabbed a few more of the 100's I was stacking, then set them back down, looked at her like I thought she might be swiping from me again, and hesitatingly called. I knew she'd either go for it hook, line and sinker, or smell a rat, but I passed the rat detector this time, or so it turned out.
The turn brought a ten. I checked. She checked behind after a moment's thought, but almost too quick. Tthe river was another mid-deck junk card, maybe an eight, one that couldn't have completed any draws, so I figured my best chance for a big pot was to bet out and make it look like a stupidly executed river bluff. I glanced at her with my best fake-defiant look, grabbed at two or three different chip amounts, then set out 7,800.
She snap-called, saying, "Pair of tens!"
I just flipped over my hand and quietly said, "Quad fives." Gasps from the table. The girl had a couple of rail fans who were patrolling the area, and when one stopped by a few minutes later, she remarked that I'd put a "soul beat" on her, though none of were in a bad mood at this table. I never did hear what the soon-to-come second hand was, but it had to hurt just as bad.
In this later hand, our table positions were reversed, and she had recovered in chips after getting down to about 11,000 and managing a longshot triple-up with dominated pocket fours. She was loose-aggressive and her chips went up and down like the proverbial yo-yo. I had pocket deuces from middle position and open-raised with them for three times the big blind. Most of the remaining passive players were to my left and they weren't giving me any action at all, so I wasn't surprised when it folded back to the back blind. She called, then checked the 3-7-7, two-diamond flop. I bet 3,800, about two-thirds the pot. She snap-called again, making me think she had two diamonds or a couple of overs and wanted to take a shot at me. The turn was a black ten, no diamond; she checked and I checked behind. The river brought a third seven, putting trips on the board, but no possible straight or flush, just quads and full houses and nasty things like that. I had the worst possible boat.
She gave me a quick, direct look and bet 7,800. I thought about it. Were my measly deuces good here? I thought so. I didn't think that she could have been helped by any card except that ten, and I think she would have bet it if it had helped on the turn, since she sure didn't think I had the case seven. Plus, I think she wanted some revenge.
I called, and she said, "You got me! King high."
I turned over my pocket deuces, to another round of gasps from the table. Yay me for the correct hero call. I busted her half a lap later when she jammed pre-flop with Q-9 and I found A-Q.
I was at about 70,000 at my highest point, then dropped back down to 50,000 after losing to another shortstack with KK against AA. I made it back up to 60,800 when play was halted for the night, at about 2:30am. Due to the flat structure, we had 30 players left, still well short of the 18-player money bubble. My stack was just about average for those that remained, though it was second at my table. I would have loved to play to the money, because I was playing well and loved my table draw, but that was not to be, so I bagged up and made the drive back across the Chicago area to try to get a few hours sleep.