I’ve been in Vegas just over two weeks now, and though I’m staying for another month, I’ve played almost half the schedule of events I drew up before leaving Blighty.
In true Kimber style, I’ve bricked all but one events, but the one I did manage to get in the money in, I took down, leaving me a few thousand up on the trip to date.
Along with the eight Grosvenor qualifiers, the first event played was the Colossus. What an awesome event, where you can win $1million for a $565 entry fee. It’s also testament to the organisation of the World Series of Poker and the staff at the Rio that they seat well over 20,000 players without any hitches.
I made it as far as level eight, but to no avail, shoving T8 from the button, getting called by the small blind, who called again when the big blind reshoved. I was in pretty decent shape, against KJ and KQ, but wouldn’t find any help.
We had great fun with the qualifiers, enjoying nights out Down Town and around the Strip, and other fun stuff, like a visit to Top Golf, the new Driving Range behind MGM.
Three days later I was back at the Rio for more punishment in event 6, a $1500 NLHE events.
I spun my starting 7500 up 18k when the wheels fell off.
At 200/400 I was chip leader on the table when I 3bet the small blind with 99 after a button raise. The button didn’t believe me, and shoved for 8500 total with 55 and made a wheel. I should have had 30k and be flying, instead I was back to starting stack, running QQ into KK when my UTG open was called and then squeezed to finish me off!
The $565 PLO was the same tournament as Colossus, just with four cards! I made it through the re-entry period but still only had my starting 5,000 chips when I found AAK4 with nut diamonds on the button. The chip leader limp-called my pot bet and set me in on a 10-high flop, his AJT4 with three hearts flopping a pair and flush draw and making two pairs on the jack river.
Next up was the Millionaire Maker, a $1500 tournament that awards $1million to both first and second!
I got a good start in this one, and as the 10th one-hour level started I looked likely to make it to my first day two.
However, after blinding down on a super-tough table, I open-shoved 13bb with AK and was looked up by the big blind, who called off 90% of his stack with 88 and held….gutted!
Event 17 was a $1000 NLHe event, and my 5000 starting stack was down to 4000 when I raised with 77 and bet the 233 flop. The most active player on the table check-raised from the big blind, and though I called on the flop, I have up when the third heart hit the turn and he kept firing.
Down to 2500, I find AQ and when an early position player opened to 400 at 50/100 and a guy calling every raise called again, I squeezed all-in. Both of those players passed…but only after the guy to my direct left had cold called, showing two kings, which held up.
Next day it was the same comp and starting stack but PLO.
I doubled up early to 9k, but lost a decent pot with AK32 v A933 all in on the turn of a AA48 board, my opponent finding one of three nines for the win.
I got it in in the last hand of level four with AQT3 double suited, repotting a raise and call. The original raiser just called, allowing the third guy in, and while I beat the first guy, the second, and his AK72 double suited flopped a better ace with a better flush draw to knock me out.
After six bagels, Vegas can start to get to you, but I was positive I was playing okay and just needed to get going.
These short-stacked WSOP events are pretty high variance, so maybe it was no surprise that my first return came away from the Rio, at Planet Hollywood, in my first ever Big O tournament, a $240 buy-in affair!
Big O? Roy Orbison? To NBA fans, Oscar Robertson? What is Big O?
Big O is five card pot limit Omaha hi-lo. I’ve no idea why Americans call this game Big O, why it’s five card, not four or six, why it’s hi-lo and not hi, but they seem to love this game, and after my first dalliance, they’re not wrong!
I thought I’d start quietly, and just sit and watch for a while til I got the hang of it….then on hand one I ended up with more than half my 15k starting stack in the middle!
I was dealt A223K, a premium if ever there was one. The flop came J87, giving me the nut low draw, and I c-bet 500, hoping that my oppo would just fold without the straight. Instead he called.
The turn was gin, a deuce, giving me three deuces as the high hand and the nut low.
I bet the pot and he called again.
The river paired the jack, giving me deuces full and the nut low, so I potted again. He quickly called and showed jacks full. He’d flopped top two with the nut low draw, the turn had killed his A2 low but he’d called again with three pairs and got there to get half the pot on the river.
I loved the game already, and gradually picked up some decent pots to get going. It soon became evident that the way to increase your stack in this game is to get people to chase half a pot, and to get people to fold before the river and give you uncontested chips.
As the blinds got bigger, as with all Omaha tournaments, the game became more about tournament savvy and less about skills in this particular form of poker.
As the bubble came and went I finally was in the money, along with fellow Brits Tony ‘Tikay’Kendall and JJ Hazan. But with 18 players still left, my eyes were on the first prize of $10.3k.
With two tables left I was absolutely stuck for cards and situations, with a big stack playing lots or hands and dominating the table, I decided just to keep out of trouble and maintain my stack and wait for the final.
As we came together at one table, I found the situations I needed.
With 2.7million chips in play, I was around average of 300k before I went to work. Having built up to 500k, I won (the majority of) a monster pot!
I held A2689 in the big blind, and called a raise. We went to the flop four-handed, one of the biggest community pots we’d had at the final.
A flop of 358 gave me the nut low with top pair, so when the small blind checked, I led out. Tikay called, another guy folded, and the small blind came along too.
The turn was a beautiful four, giving me the nut low and a six-high straight, playing 2-6 rather than A-2 for the wheel as a high. I bet again and Tikay called. The small blind reraised all-in, I moved all-in and Tikay called all-in!
Tikay had the nut low and nut flush draw.
The small blind had A26 as well. A monster pot was now in the middle, and a seven on the river gave me a nine-high straight to scoop the high, and all three of us held the nut lows!
From there, it was plain sailing, as I could do raise and take on short stacks who were trying to ladder.
I knocked out a 300k stack calling it off with top pair and the nut low draw and finding myself up against no high and just a nut low draw – two high cards giving me the scoop.
I then upset a good young player, though I still think my play was the right strategy tournament-wise.
The stacks were roughly 1.1million to me, 600k to a guy who became known as Chicago Joe, and this good young player was in third with 350k, with three short stacks all of 100-150k.
Blinds were 12k/24k, and next out got just over $1k, whereas if the medium stacks allowed the three shorties, all sitting with 6bb or under, to go first, they’d lock up over $3k.
I’d already made my mind up if this kid raised my blind I was potting it and getting it in. Hands run so close together that even if he called it off (so had a monster) I wouldn’t be in terrible shape, and anyway, who has a monster on the button?
Well, it turned out he did!
He raised to 55k, I potted it and he instantly got his stack in. Oops. I had a right back of spanners, something like JT763, but I found a friendly run out against his A2346, coming T3xTx to give me the scoop and a massive chip lead.
He was fuming, and maybe he would say he wouldn’t have put a chip in the pot if he didn’t have a monster and had recognised the tournament situation, but I would still be a decent chip leader even if my play went wrong, and fortunately it didn’t!
We’d started at 2pm, and it was now 5.45am. I felt great, maybe having all the chips helped, while others were struggling with the pace! However, I was mindful that the England v Wales Euro 2016 game was kicking off in 15 mins!
The others started talking about a deal. I said I’d take first place and they could argue about the rest. They offered me $9500, $800 less than first with five left, and I thought that was good enough for me. I went down as the winner and we agreed a chop. Lovely day’s work and off back to the hotel to sit in the bar and cheer on England!
After a couple of days off, I played twice in one day and couldn’t keep the run good going unfortunately.
WSOP event 29, another $1500 NLHE affair, went a familiar way. I was still around starting stack when I called a 500 raise on the button with 99. The aggressor bet 500 on the K52 flop, and 500 again on the king turn. The four on the river looked innocuous, so I called again, a 1000 bet, but it was far from innocuous, making his pocket 44 a full house!
Down to 5k and the blinds going up to 150/300 it was time to play tight and find a spot.
When a serial raiser made it 700 and an old boy called from the small blind, I found pocket sevens in the big blind and shoved. The original raiser had QQ and the ladies held.
I was still enjoying my poker, so headed over to the Wynn to late reg the $1100 $500k guarantee, which smashed its guarantee and already had over $1million in the prizepool.
I finally got a seat at 300/600, but with 20k in starting chips, I could still do some damage.
First hand I found TT and thought about shoving over a 1500 raise. Instead I called, bringing in the lady beside me. The flop came K52 with two hearts and I thought about calling the 2500 c-bet, but just folded, mindful that she was still to act. She raised and they got it in, AK for the raiser, A6 of hearts for her, and she rivered a flush. Felt like I dodged a bullet!
I made it to dinner break with an average stack of 32k, and while I lost half my stack with AK v 78 in the blinds on a 77Q flop, I soon doubled back up when I raised with the aces and was three-bet and got it in v 33.
With 30k at 800/1600 I was still comfortable when I lost another big flip for my tournament life.
The chip leader made it 4k, an Irish guy three-bet the button to 11k and I found AK in the small blind.
I shoved for 28k, the raiser passed and the Irish guy had pocket tens.
This was the flip I’d avoided first hand, and would have lost with TT, so I felt good about it, and getting to 65k-plus, but it wasn’t to be, the board bricked out and he just had me covered.
So there it is, a couple of weeks in and we’re just ahead of the game thanks to winning the Planet Hollywood Big O comp. Maybe I should play more of that and less WSOP NLHE and PLO, I don’t know. What I do know is if I’d won the odd flip at crucial times, and maybe outdrawn the odd opponent, I’d be flying…maybe that’s all to come!