Thursday, December 06, 2007

A trip down under

Thanks to the guys at Full Tilt Poker for giving us a chance to win a trip to the Aussie Millions. I hope everyone enjoys my tale.

I stood at the rail and let out a big sigh. Though I was a bit disappointed, I was also extremely happy. It was just over 3 years ago that I had downloaded Full Tilt Poker and won $100 in their Beta Freeroll tournaments. Now, here I was making the money in the Aussie Millions. Sure it was only $24k for 72nd place, not the $1.75 million first prize. But I made it through 2 full days of poker in my first major poker tournament. Not bad for a trip that was won on Full Tilt.

I knew things would be unique about the trip from the beginning. Having arrived in LAX, I was able to navigate my way to the correct gate in no time. I passed some of the Full Tilt guys along the way. Since we had time, I decided to get a beer to relax myself for the flight. It didn’t seem like to much of a surprise to run into Gavin Smith in the bar. I had met him at Al’s Bash at the Boathouse in 2006 and he was a good guy. As I mentioned meeting him before at the Bash, a big smile came across his face and he began saying what a great time it was. Hey, he was preaching to the choir as I am a veteran of Al’s parties. We kept on talking and before we knew it, the plane was boarding. We finished our beers and parted ways.

As I waited at the gate to get on the plane, I ran into Hoy and Lucko. Hoy won his way to Australia in the 25 seat giveaway while Lucko won the Battle of the Bloggers Tournament of Champions. Hanging with these guys over the next couple of days was great, especially when I was able to get some advice about playing such a big tournament. The advice they gave me helped settle me down and focus. Thanks again guys.

I mentioned that this trip would be unique. It started at the airport. The airline lost my luggage. Somehow they made a mistake and my clothes were headed off to Kuala Lumpur. Great! I may be stuck wearing the same underwear for the next week. Do they have Target stores in Australia?

But that wouldn’t be the end of it. Because I had to argue with the airline, I missed the limo rides to the casino that FTP had provided. The FTP assured me they would send a car back but I told them I could cab it. I just wanted to get settled in and take a shower.

Things seemed better as the cab soon pulled up in front of the Crown Casino. I paid the driver and stepped out of the car. As I did, I made sure not to smash my finger in the door like Dr. Pauly had. By doing so, I forgot my travel bag in the cab and didn’t realize it until after he started driving away. I panicked for a second until I saw he had to stop at a light. I then sprinted down the roadway after him, waving my hands like a lunatic. Just before the light turned green, I was able to slam my hand into the trunk and get his attention. He got out of the car and looked rather agitated for me hitting his car. I quickly told him my bag was in the back seat. He apologized, handed me the bag, and told me to get back in as he would drive me back that way. Nice guy. Hope the rest of these people are as well.

Next thing I knew, I was waking up wondering where the heck I was. Apparently I had checked in, found my room and crashed. It was now 3 in the afternoon and I hadn’t a clue what was going on. I showered and went down to the casino to see what was happening. Along the way, I kept hoping my luck would change. I figured the worst had to be behind me.

Nuh uh. Things would be rough as I played some limit poker just to ease into the scene. Nothing went right. I couldn’t win a hand to save my life. You name the suckout, it happened. How I walked away with just a small loss, I don’t know. Tried some blackjack and had the same result. It seemed a night in the sportsbook was the best solution. If I can’t win at the tables, maybe some Australian basketball would help. Well, many beers and bets later, I was still down. Maybe tomorrow would be better.

The next morning I woke up feeling much better. I had an itinerary for the day’s events waiting for me. A trip to the zoo, eh? What the heck, let’s check it out. As the bus headed to the zoo, I got to know some other qualifiers. Bill from Missouri was a good guy as was Mike from Seattle. We kinda wandered around the zoo together. Some interesting native species were seen. All was good until I was attacked by a rampaging kangaroo. Seriously. We were walking down a path when we heard some commotion from behind. Just as I turned around, I saw a kangaroo coming right at me. Bill and Mike moved just before it was on top of us. I froze. And caught a nice jab to the jaw and went down. Kinda like this except without the boxing ring:

I was stunned. I was sitting on my butt wondering if what happened had just happened. I got knocked out by a kangaroo? Wow. Can this get any worse? I guess it could because I didn’t soil my only pair of drawers. I would later choose to spend the golf outing in the club house at the bar. I had heard there were kangaroos on the course and I wasn't going to take any chances.

Back at the casino, I finally had some good luck winning $460 at the NL tables. Maybe I had some ‘roo luck going for me now. What I thought was bad luck was actually good. Hopefully things would continue

And they did. I won’t bore you with the details but I was up a nice sum for the trip. I gave the credit to my 5 day old underwear and the kangaroo punch. Thus, I had a good feeling going into the main event of the Aussie Millions. I had done well in the Full Tilt tournament the day before, just missing out on a final table. But I did get a bounty for knocking out Mike the Mouth Matusow. With the Hammer nonetheless! Setting him on major tilt is something I won’t ever forget.

I was playing in the first flight. I liked it as I was on a bit of a roll. Only problem was that I was quite nervous and I think it showed. Though I got lucky by having no big name pros at my table, the players there did notice how tight I was playing. For the first 3 hours it seemed like all I did was fold or play from the blinds. The one time I did raise, a couple of the guys joked about how I must have had a monster. Guess the K K showed in my eyes. Thus during the break, I called up the Hoy for some advice on how to calm down. He kept it simple. Relax and play. Act like you have been there before.

I did better after the break. I loosened up to take advantage of my new table image. It worked well. No one wanted to mix up with me at first. But then they began to doubt what I was playing. Thankfully they started calling and re-raising me when I had some big hands. A K suited twice got me some good pots. Catching a set with Q Q busted a short stack’s K K and I was just over double my starting stack with a couple hours left in the day. To make it to the second day was a nice accomplishment I thought.

Thankfully, I didn’t screw up and go broke. On the second to last hand of the day, I made a raise from MP with J J and got called by the button and BB. Uh oh. The button was a sneaky kid from Florida. He loved to play a lot of suited connectors no matter what the raise was. It worked well for him as he had over 40k in front of him. The BB was a rock. The flop came 9 10 3, two clubs. BB checked. I made a continuation bet of 2/3 the pot. Just the kid called. The turn was a rough one. J of clubs. Sure I had a set but now the flush and straight possibilities were there. I bet out ¾ of the pot this time. The kid thought and sneered “all in!”.

My stomach sank. How do I fold top set here? How do I call when I could easily be way behind? Moments ago I was just happy to be making the second day and now I was on the brink of destruction. I must have thought about it for 10 minutes. The table was quite patient with me taking so much time. Finally, I folded those knaves face up. I heard a “wow!” from the rock followed by a “huh?”. The kid showed A 5. A total bluff. Suddenly I was back below the starting stack of 10k and was feeling miserable. I folded the next two orbits, just happy to make it to the next day.

On the second day one flight, I spent some time watching Hoy and Lucko. I tried to study how they acted and reacted to the various bets, hoping to pick up some tips. When I got tired of standing, I would spend some time back in the sportsbook or playing a bit of limit. I wanted to keep my mind on poker but not have it immersed. I think I found a nice balance.

When it was turn to play on Day 2, I was ready. My new friends Bill and Mike had both been knocked out but were there to follow my play. It helped. I started out by being a bit too aggressive. I was getting froggy with A J and A 10, friendly or aggravating hands for bloggers depending on who you talk to. They worked well for me early as I scooped a couple decent pots to double up. I got a bit ahead of myself later with A J when I pushed on an OESD and was called down by bottom two pair.

That would be the only setback on Day 2. I changed gears to a conservative mode and it paid off when I went on a mini rush with Q Q, then K K, and then A K. I guess my opponents kept thinking I was playing any big Ace. I took advantage of a tight table after a change and began my process all over again. At the end of Day 2 I was solid in the middle of the pack, but more importantly, brimming with confidence. I felt like I could actually get lucky and take this tournament down.

But it was not to be. I sludged my way through the field and felt relieve when the call when out that the bubble had burst. I was happy that I was going to take some money home but had to make sure I didn't get stupid.

One strange that occurred during the tournament was that I wasn't at the same table as any of the top pros. That changed on Day 3. I found myself seated two spots to the right of Andy Bloch. As if that is bad enough, he had a monster stack and appeared to be controlling the table. I decided I wasn't going to tangle with him unless I had a monster hand.

I avoided Bloch for hours but didn't really collect any chips. I could steal the blinds here and there but Bloch kept coming over the top and forcing me to fold. I guess it is much easier when you don't play against the best.

Then I would find A K suited on the button. I figured I would pounce on Bloch and make it look like a steal. I raised it up 3xs the blinds to make it look like another steal. I was waiting for him to re-steal but he just called. Huh? No re-raise? What was he up to? The flop seemed great for me. A K 10, two of my suit. Top two pair with the nut flush draw. I decided to take it easy and bet half the pot when Bloch checked to me. He smooth called the bet. Uh...ok. The turn was a harmless 7. Nothing had changed for me. Bloch checked and I checked behind. Maybe he was chasing the flush draw as well. River was a final blank. But now Bloch bet out. My initial reaction was simple. He was going to bully me out of the pot. I wasn't going to allow that and quickly announced "All in!".

I stood by the rail and let out a big sigh. I was out. Hadn't taken the time to fully think about what my opponent might have. I was right about one thing. He was on a flush draw. Only problem was he had flopped a straight. If the turn or river had been a diamond, I would have doubled up and still been going. Instead I was out.

But I still had a smile on my face. It amazes me how this blog has opened up so many opportunities to meet some great people around this world. The number of new friends made from playing this game of poker has been stupendous. Quality people and quality memories that will last forever. Thanks again to the fine people at Full Tilt Poker for bringing a beer city guy to the land down under.


jjok said...

very nice man....good luck

bodie25 said...

Good read, I enjoyed it. But I think you should have called the floor on the final hand b/c if you flopped top two and the nut flush draw there must have been two Ad or Kd in the deck... just saying.

Had to give you shit since I'm assuming your a Packer fan and I'm a Viking's fan to the bone...

StB said...

Sorry bodie, not a Packers fan. Better. Diehard Cowboys fan!

Guin said...

Great trip and post...