Saturday, October 22, 2005

No Way!

Last night I headed out to the JPPA poker room to play in the Everest Cup. Since they're all freerolls, sponsored by our good friends at Everest Poker (hey, just doing my part), it's a no brainer. Free poker on Friday nights with real prizes, like iPods and PSPs? Gimme a reason to say no to that.

Last night we had 24 entrants, which is a pretty good turnout for a Friday night. The Saturday games get the biggest number of players, but 24 is not bad at all. The first time I came to the JPPA was a Friday night and I think there were 7 to 8 players there.

I've been looking forward to this game for the last week, mostly because I've been reading Harrington on Holdem Volume 1 and it has made so many things so much clearer to me. I'll save the fanboy gushing about this book for another post (or maybe think better of it and leave it out altogether) but right now I have to say I haven't been so affected by a book since... say... Steppenwulf.

I would love to say that with my third eye opened, I sat down and dominated the game, bringing hitherton unseen levels of depth, skill, and subtlety to the JPPA game and trounced them all. Gosh, that would have been nice. But these guys are good players, and they've been doing this a lot longer than I have - many years, most of them. Many can rattle off lists of the casinos they've visited throughout the world to play poker, blackjack, and other games, and they compare notes and stories about the Vegas casinos with the ease and familiarity of Los Angeles locals. Once I asked a couple of them where the nearest casino to Japan that had poker, and they looked at me like I just asked what year it was.

So it wasn't that easy. I did feel a lot more comfortable with my play and my decisions, but some of them still could pick up when I was weak and betting at a pot anyhow, and reraise strongly to put me on the horns. It was no cake walk, and I didn't put the fear of God into them.

Which is not to say that I didn't win.

No one was more surprised than me at my eventual triumph. I was playing a short stack almost the entire game. I played reasonably tight, but took stabs at pots where it looked like no one had hit the board (including me) when my position was right. This worked a few times, and lost me my bets to strong reraises a few times, putting me behind. After that, I backed off and waited for good situations. After that, my playbook simplified to the All-In.

I got real lucky, in other words.

I wasn't getting too much in the way of good cards. Most of my all-ins were with Ace or King plus a medium card, suited if I could manage it. Sometimes I would just get the blinds and the first raise if there was one, other times I would get a call from a similar hand and I won the race. I hung in there, and players kept get knocked out around me. When we got down to 12 players left, I started to feel good. I've been knocked out pretty quickly in the tourney's so far, so I was happy with the top half. Then we got to 8 players, and consolidated to the final table - my first final table in a long, long time. Again, my all-ins saved me. My stack was second-smallest at the table, but I knocked out the other small stack, then took a chunk of the chip leader's stack with another all-in win. I waited... took a shot... survived... waited... took a shot... survived.

Eventually it got down to four players, all with fairly similar stacks although it turned out I was slightly ahead. Most of the players who had been knocked out had started a side game, but the remainder hung out to watch our table finish up. This was a weird feeling to have spectators, since I had never made it this far before.

The clincher was when the guy ahead of me went all-in, and I checked my cards and found K-K. I had him covered, so I raised all-in to cover the guy behind me as well. He thought.... thought.... counted his chips..... thought.... thought.... then called. First guy flipped over Q-T, I think it was, and the guy behind me had A-Q. No ace fell, so my Kings held up and I knocked out two of the remaining players and took a massive chip lead.

The only player left was Otonn, a very solid player - in fact, I played heads-up against Otonn to win the first game I ever played at the JPPA room, months ago. But his stack had already been crippled by an earlier run-in with one of the other players, and after my triple-up, I must have had 20 or 30 times the chips he had. He only had enough for a half-dozen orbits' blinds, so I just kept the pressure up and blinded him out. Suddenly it was over and I had won.

It felt pretty good. It would have felt better if I had won through solid, skillful play instead of a long series of lucky all-ins, but I'll take it for now.

I had a choice of prizes to select from - Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, a new digital camera, a Japanese beef gift set, etc. I was leaning towards the PSP for a bit, then decided on the iPod 4gig nano. I wanted one, but couldn't justify buying one when my 3rd generation iPod is still running fine, so put it off. But if I win it for free, I don't have to justify it! Perfect!

I have weekend maintenance to go to this afternoon and evening - I'm actually looking forward to it now. One of my coworkers was dying for a 4gig black iPod nano and had to wait several weeks for the stores to get them into stock. He loves it, and he hated waiting for it.

At work today, I'm sure he'll ask, "Hey James, how'd the poker game go last night?"

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