Thanks, readers, for your patience these last few days as I went off on my MansionPoker Poker Dome Challenge experience, which I combined with a few other possibilities to create what was intended to be a five-day trip. But plans have a way of changing, and I'm writing this from the auxiliary media pavilion at the WSOP, where I'll be for the next several days. It's been a whirlwind, and it will continue to be that way for at least another week. Expect a ton of stories here in the days and weeks ahead, including WSOP and Poker Dome anecdotes you'll hear nowhere else. I have memo books crammed with notes and several hundred photos --- although the photos will be delayed a bit until I can get them processed properly.
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But let's start this one of with a bang. I took a crummy 5th of 6th in my Poker Dome experience, but I can still hold my head up with pride. I caught card death through the few dozen hands I held, and never really had a chance to make a play until that last one, which didn't work out. If it wasn't me that won it, I'm glad it was Rodel, and I wish him the very best in his upcoming challenge(s).
I haven't seen the episode yet (and may not watch it for quite some time), but I'll share with you what were for me the few key hands of the episode. You can judge "yes" or "no" or "get that stupid donkey off the set," but the format was strange, quite a bit different than what we were expecting. Nonetheless:
I saw nothing the first few hands, and Cory (in Seat 1) came out guns-a-blazin'. Cory was our aggro player, full of smack talk at the press conferences and the dinner (and even more so on the shuttle rides and interminable waits), and he was looking to put a notch in his belt. It looked like he might succeed, but as you know from my interview, I expected a matchup between Tony G and whichever one of the other players tried for glowering machismo, and that turned out to be Cory.
So I loved my position, to the right of the two of them, and I was hoping for that big opportunity that never came, the one where I could slide in behind and snap over the top.
The first hand I voluntarily came into the action with was that pair of pocket deuces, and little did I suspect it would be the only pair I'd see. But as it was formatted, any pair in the game or any strong ace demanded an open, so I came in for the pot, which was 4,000... or four chips. Nathan came in behind me for the two-way flop, which I believe was 10-high garbage. I figured him for overcards, so I hit it for another four chios, figuring he'd give it up if he missed... and he did. Score one for me.
But the card death continued. I missed one shot at a steal with an offsuited K-9, but Rodel was checking his cards early, there were two other players still to go, and it was early in the proceedings. I made a tight non-play there.
The hand with Cory's pocket 9-9. I had the suited J-10 (hearts), and I would have been most happy to call behind and see that flop. Except for Cory's tell. When he made that bet his hand quivered like there was no tomorrow. While I think we were all quivering to a certain extent, I read that one as genuine eagerness, and 9-9 was at the bottom end of the range I could put him on with that tell. Against a likely pair or A-K or A-Q that J-10 didn't look so good. A tight fold to be sure, but I assure you it was made in the knowledge of a very solid read. Yes, I would have taken down the pot if I'd been in when the K-10-x hit, but with the K overcard, I couldn't have attacked it either.
Me taking a playful little bluff shot at Tony G with that 6-3 in the big blind. He had rags, I had rags, and we both knew it. But Tony was having a good old time showboating with us amateurs, and you certainly saw and heard the "Lets be friends" talk when he checked into the flop. He'd gotten into that with Cory twice before, so I expected the same. Rest assured that you only saw a small bit of Tony's having fun and grandstanding with the whole experience.
So when the flop came and Tony still wanted to be friends, I gave it that little 4-chip pop, and he read me easy and called in to see the turn. But when the 8 came on the turn, Tony's attention level picked up, and he can deny it or disclaim it or whatever, but I picked it up. God in Heaven was not going to make fire a second bullet there, because he had me read... but I knew he'd caught that turn as well. So it was an easy four-chip give-up for me.
Somewhere in the middle part of the show I took down a pot with a suited A. Almost desperation at that point, but no one challenged it.
The last hand, and my most debatable strategic play. Five players remained, and I had that suited K-6 on the button. The blinds were 3/6 and I had something like 37 chips remaining. With a maximum pre-flop raise to 21 chips.
A devil's choice.
I need to steal there, but the hand is so weak it can't stand a reraise. And if I come in for the pot, I leave myself with so few chips that I am automatically pot-committed. So instead I tried for the "fake monster on the button" play, knowing full well that Rodel would have the odds to call, but hoping that he would have a weak hand and give it up, or would have a strong enough hand to come over the top, because at that moment he had barely more chips than I. Besides, I knew that I could get away from anything except a K or two diamonds on the flop.
Of course, he had the K-J, and when the K flopped it was a pathetically easy trap. I knew Rodel caught the flop --- I could see he liked it --- but I had to hope he had a hand like A-J, Q-J or J-10... even Q-10 for the OESD draw. But I was in no position to do anything but push, there, and I wasn't a bit surprised by the two pairs he showed. The Q on the river would have saved me with a chop (and Tony G wanted me to hang around, for entertainment value), but the Q wasn't coming. As for Tony, he's got his rough edges, but he was a nice enough guy in his own way... and there will be an counterpoint story here to a recent piece here that mentioned Tony in a questionable way. There's another version of that story, and I have it.
There are layers and layers to this tale, and many if them you'll hear in the weeks ahead, interspersed with all sorts of pokery goodness. In the meantime, I'd like to send out my sincere thanks to Pokermagazine.com editor Mickey Wilson and poker author Gary Carson for taking some extreme measures this morning to help me gain access to the web. Poker has its rough edges, but there are some wonderful people in it, too.
And my thanks to Mansion Poker as well. With a few (to be expected) glitches and oversights, this turned out to be a first-class production, and let me tell you that I was duly impressed when Matt Savage himself turned out to be running the show. That's a big name, kiddies.
A wonderful experience. No cards and no money, but a great, great time. Maybe next year, I can win another trip...?