Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Poker Jams!

So I went today to the Poker Jams tournament out on Long Island. The tournament is sponsored by Inside Connection magazine, a local music magazin on the Island. The aim of the tournament is to have music executives and industry people mingling with musicians. First, I have to tell you about the transportation issue. The event was held in Wantagh, which is an old Indian name that means "In the middle of freakin' nowhere". That's not really true. I grew up on Long Island and Wantagh isn't terribly far, it just feels like it. The tournament advertised itself as starting at 1PM, so I got up early knowing I would have to take the Long Island Rail Road out there. I checked the schedules and there is an 11:04 AM train out of Penn Station which puts me in Wantagh by 12PM. Plenty of time to get a cab to the bar where the tournament is being held and be in my seat by 1PM. So I hop on the train going uptown at about 10:35 AM, which is cutting it close but it's not that far to Penn and I've never missed a train yet. Except for one small thing which I forgot. The 2/3 runs LOCAL on the weekends. All of a sudden, I had visions of my getting there late and not being able to play at all! Amazingly though, the train got into Penn Station at 11:00AM on the button, leaving me four minutes to catch my train. That is actually plenty of time. I rushed into the main terminal, saw that my train was on track 19, and proceeded to look for a ticket machine. I've mastered the LIRR ticket machines to the point where I can get a ticket in 40 seconds flat. Then I would have just enough time to sprint to the track and make it onto my train. The first ticket machine had a huge line, and so did the second and the third and the fourth... What the hell was happening? I had no time to think so I ran to the train with the intention of buying the ticket on the train itself. It's much more expensive this way ($12.00 as opposed to $6.75), but I wouldn't miss the train at least. Once I got on the train, I discovered why the lines were so long. Everyone is heading out to the beach! There were at least 10 beautiful girls in bikinis all traveling to Freeport to catch the bus to Jones Beach. It made my ride very pleasant indeed. :-0

I read my Sklansky book on No Limit play and got to Wantagh at 12PM. I got out and started to look for a cab but there was only one at the station. I started to gesture to it but it found another couple on the sidewalk and drove over to pick them up. Darn it! I was going to have to find another way to get there. I knew the bar wasn't more than a mile and a half away, but it was 90+ degrees out and the concrete on the road made it feel even hotter. I spotted a bus stop and decided to wait for the bus. I had an hour to get there so it wouldn't be an issue. 10 minutes passed, then 20, then 25. I was getting nervous. If the bus didn't get here in 5 minutes, I would have to start walking to ensure I made it. Well, the bus never came, so I started walking. I got tired and sweaty instantly, but somehow managed to make it to the bar at 12:57PM. And, by the way, in all the time I was walking (like Moses in the desert), the damn bus never passed me! I thought I would have just enough time to register, wash my face and take my seat. But when I walked in, there were.....8 people there. That's right, 8. Over 65 people had registered, but in true musician fashion, there were ALL late! As it turns out, they didn't get the cards in the air until 2:25PM!!!! I was livid, but that stopped quickly when we started playing. As I was waiting to play, drinking my Diet Coke, a group of kids next to me were having an interesting conversation. It seems they had brought in a "ringer", or someone who fancies himself a ringer, and were negotiating how much he should get. The band who had bought the buyin didn't have any players amongst them so they "hired" a friend of theirs who thought he could win. This friend wanted half the winning proceeds while the band only wanted to give him one quarter. The friend told them that the standard "stakehorse" deal was 50%. He's right, or course, if you believe the movies! The funniest part of all this was that there were no cash prizes being given out (that would be illegal). It was all gift certificates and recording equipment and the like. How do you split 50% of a trip to Atlantic City? It pissed me off, though, that this kind of cloak and dagger shit should be taking place. But I filed the guy's face away and put it out of my mind.

The tournament was very well run (other than the starting time) and there were 7 tables of 9 players each. $99 bought you $1500 in chips and you could get a one time add-on in the first hour of 500 more chips for $33. The add-on was ridiculous but I did it anyway. That story will come later. Immediately when the cards started flying, I knew this was going to be a soft group. One guy at my table had never played before and the rest were musicians, not card players. Here's what a typical player looked like:

I mean, was I supposed to be scared of this guy? The first hand of the tournament, I'm in the small blind with 99. This is a tough hand because I'm expecting a lot of people to be calling me with whatever I do. Blind are 25/50 and I decide to limp hoping to flop a set. There are 7 people in the pot when the flop comes all undercards with no flush possibilities. I decide to try to take down the pot by betting 250. The guy to my left, not a musician but an industry insider kid (about 28 years old and shlubby looking), calls. Everyone else folds. The next card comes an A. I fire out another 350 and he calls. Damn! He must have something. The next card is a K and I'm screwed. I check and he checks showing pocket Tens. One hand in and my stack is nearly hald it's size. Not a good start. Three hands later, though, I make it back and then some. I get AcQc and raise the pot to 150. I get 3 callers and the flop comes KJ9. A few people check around to me and I check. The turn is the most beautiful 10 you've ever seen. There are 2 diamonds aboard but I'm not worried about them. I'm hoping someone has a Queen when everyone checks to me. I bet 200 and get one caller. The river is a rag and he checks. I bet 250 and he calls, showing T8. I take it down and now I'm up a bit. For the next 15 minutes I fold because I don't have anything playable. Blinds go up to 50/100 and in the middle of the blind level, I'm in the small blind again with K10 off suit. 6 people limp in and I have to make the call for half price. There are now 7 bets in the pot and the flop comes KdTs5d. Wow, top two pair. But I'm in the small blind and I don't want anyone to chase me. So I move all in with 1525, trying to buy the pot right there. I figure if anyone decides to chase a flush draw, they're at least going to pay me as much as I can make them pay. This idiot at the end of the table does just that. He's shorter stacked than me and he shows down AdJd. He also says, "I have to call with that", like it's a given or something. Surprise surprise though, a diamond does NOT hit on the turn or river, nor does the Queen to give him a straight. But he still wins! How? The turn was an Ace and the river was an Ace! Ouch ouch ouch. I'm down to 600 in chips with blinds about to hit 200/400. So I added on for $33 for another 500 units to at least give myself a fighting chance. I figured I would just have to double up once or twice (should be easy at this table) and I would be golden. But for the next 20 minutes, my highest card was a J. I once had JT suited I was going to push with, but the guy to my right went all in. I folded and he took down a pot with AJ. Whew! Eventually though, I caught top pair on the flop in the big blind and pushed all in. The shlubby guy to my left called with top two pair and that was it for me. Oh well. I stuck around and watched "the ringer" He actually was doing well with a healthy chip stack and 15 players left. I sat behind him, rooting against him in my mind, when he got taken down to the felt. He made a strong move with pocket Ten's with J85 on the board and was called all in with AA. No help came for him and he had to split 50% of nothing. Sweet justice. Two hands later, at the same table, I witnessed one of the most rollercoaster hands I had ever seen. The lead changed with every card drawn. This poor guy raises preflop, gets reraised and he moves all in and is called. The "poor guy" shows AA and his opponent shows KJ, a dominated underdog. The flop comes KQJ, giving this opponent two pair. Yowtch! Then the turn is a 10, giving the AA a straight! Finally, to end this up and down ride, the river was a K, giving the opponent a full house and the pot. Yeesh. How awful is that?

But it wasn't over yet. I put my name on a list for a sidegame and then went to eat lunch in the bar area. As I was eating, the side game filled up and started without me! I tried to start a new side game, but there was only one person interested. So we played heads up for a consolation prize package that featured a box of guitar string, a box of bass string, a blues single coil pickup, $100 worth of CD duplicating services and The Indie Bible, which is a book detailing how small indie bands can get there songs recorded and on the radio. The heads up match was a $30 buyin for 800 units, 10 minute blinds and blinds starting at 25/25. I slipped behind a bit in the first blind level but took down a good pot at the start of the second when my K10 made a top pair of Tens vs. his JT. Now I was up a bit. I looked down in the big blind at pocket Aces and nearly drooled. It got even better when he raised the bet to 150. I came over the top for 250, hoping he had a hand. He pushed all-in and I called, crushing his A5 for the win! During the first round, he had advertised an all in by flashing me the Ace, so I knew he was prone to the all in when he had high cards. He just ran into a monster this time and I took down the prizes.

I dreaded the walk back to the train station, but a nice fellow (the "ringer"!) gave me a lift and I caught the LIRR back home. None of the prizes had been cash but I think I pulled out about even with the prize package. There's at least $200 worth of goods and services there and I spent $163 on buyins, so it was an afternoon well spent.

This is what the bar looked like with the tables:

And this is the coolest tatoo I saw (A Jack Daniels label!):

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