Picking Up, Dusting Off, and Rebuilding... My Bankroll

Lovingly borrowed from New Yorker magazineThis, my first full day back in Chicago after an enjoyable weekend in Las Vegas, is also the first day of Barack Obama's administration as the 44th president of the US of A. Being in Las Vegas is like being in Neverneverland - the outside world, news, politics, fades away, and the lights, sounds, and poker chips take focus.

For me, this trip to Las Vegas was a chance to pick myself up, dust off the bad poker decisions of November and December, and rebuild my poker bankroll. Returning to Chicago, and my reality, I got to observe Obama's first days away from Chicago, where he faces his new reality - a place where he intends to pick up, dust off, and rebuild a nation, indeed a world, in distress.

For dramatic purposes, I'd argue my poker bankroll was in distress in late 2008. I was playing poorly, making bad decisions, and to top it off, simply running bad. I can count the number of bad beats I applied on one hand, and for the bad beats laid on me, removing shoes and socks simply would not suffice.

Mr. F, Meester Dave (formerly Omaha Dave), and I headed out on Soutwest Airlines on Thursday night. A check in and a dinner at CraftSteak later, and we headed off to the biggest game running in the MGM Grand poker room, $2/5 NLHE. :) Several uneventful hours later, I headed off to bed, up less than a half buy-in in this game.

Friday morning Meester Dave and I decided to hit the best low-buy-in tournament in the city, the Venetian Daily. It is a $150 buy-in ($130 to prize pool, $15 vig, and $5 staff bonus). The tournament had 211 runners.

The beauty of the tournament is that the starting stacks are deep, T$7500, the levels are decent, 30 minutes, and the blind increases are reasonable - typically increasing by about 50%. In the first several button revolutions, I had already lost about a third of my starting stack, having flopped big draws, playing slow, and not hitting. But I understood, as many of the players did not, that the structure of the tournament allows its participants to play a little looser, a little more like a cash game, early on. After losing 1/3 of my chips, of course, I needed to tighten up a bit, conscious that as my stack shrank, the blinds increased, and I was looking at more tournament-type ratio of blinds to stack.

I was impressed by the general competition level, particularly in a $150 buy-in tournament. At my starting table six or seven of the players were reasonably cabable - three were regulars, one or two were full-time grinders, and a couple were recreational players from out of town.

After a few levels I managed to consume a little breakfast at the table, and pick up some additional chips. By the first break, I was back above the starting stack level and looking good for levels 4+. After the break, my table broke, the first of several times over the course of the day. Time to learn a bit about my new opponents.

The tournament itself was largely a blur to me. Looking back, I can find few memorable hands.

By the time we were down to 27 players, I was ready for a table massage, and for $2/minute, she didn't disappoint. I immediately felt more relaxed and tuned in to my opponents.

By the time we had made the money (top 18 participants), I was starving - I started to get the shakes from low blood sugar, and was again losing my focus. Fortunately, Mr. F had come over to The Venetian, and was kind enough to pick up a couple Balance Bars for me.

It was at this point that I was starting to recognize the fact that I had made the final two tables without picking up a single big hand. I hadn't had a pocket pair above 9s the entire tournament. I had AK once, and AQ never. I never flopped a set. I merely played solid hands, in position. I was never the first limper, and I never went crazy with my draws.

I really settled in as we approached the final table. The blinds and antes started to get fairly big, but I never felt short-stacked, and never was I all-in. Finally I started to pick up some pre-flop hands. When we were down to 14 players, I went on a tear, raising 2 out of 3 hands for a period of 10 or 11 hands. I picked up lots of antes, blinds, and several pre-flop calls. I didn't lose a hand.

When we got down to 9 players, and drew seats for the final table, I was the tournament chip leader by a small margin. I also had a great seat, immediately to the left two of the more talented and aggressive players. It took some time to get down to 6 players, but when we had, both of those dangerous opponents had been eliminated. Down to 6, we had many short stacked all-ins who refused to be eliminated. I faced a couple of losing coin-flips for about 8-12% of my stack each time. I continued to play aggressively, however, and stayed amongst the chip leaders.

When we finally lost player #6, i was second in chips by a close margin, and well ahead of #s 3 & $. Player #5 was very short stacked. It was #5, of course, who was strongly encouraging a chop. The other three players at the table agreed that a chop would be acceptable. Given the disparity in chips, I was really surprised by the chip leader's willingness, and also myself unwilling to agree. The chip leader confessed that he'd gotten "really lucky" and didn't care that he was giving up some value. Clearly he was a relative rookie.

We had the tournament director run a "chip chop", assigning the remaining prize pool to each chip stack size, based upon ratio of chips to total chips. I indicated that I'd be willing to give up a little bit of my equity to make the chip chop work, but not much. Since everyone seemed eager to make a deal, I was able to work out a fairly strong one, and we agreed to two tiers, with the chip leader and I taking the effective First Place prize, and the remaining three players splitting a smaller prize amount.

First big win of the trip.... more story to come.