Saturday, April 22, 2006

Snuffle up and deal....

I had a rather nasty cold the other week and spent Thursday and Friday home in bed. While I love sleeping in, I hate being in bed all day with nothing to do. TV gets old pretty quickly; the cold medicine means I can't hold focus long enough to read; bleah...

So at some point in the day, in my drug addled haze I decided it might be a good idea to try and play a little online poker. Fortunately, I had the presense of mind to realize that Nyquil and gambling don't make for a very good combination so I entered a freeroll tournament. Nothing risked but some time (which I had in great supply) and it would keep me entertained for awhile.

This particular tournament was a WSOP freeroll qualifier. 3500 entrants and the end result is that the top 50 finishers get the opportunity to play in yet another tournament later where the winners THERE get entry into the 2006 WSOP in Las Vegas.

As is pretty typical for this sort of tourney, the play was crazy-wild. With no money at stake, people are swinging for the fences from Hand One. I'm not sure if being sick kept my hubris in check or if I'm finally actually beginnng to see the light, but I kept to a pretty consistently tight aggressive game until, all-of-a-sudden, it dawned on me that there are only about 200 players left and I had a pretty healthy stack of chip in front of me. Hmmm, 3500 is a lottery long-shot but 200? That's something I can do. Sure enough, at the end of about seven hours of play, I finished in the top 50! The last few hands were a bit silly as there's no difference between 50th and 1st so, when player 51 drops off, it's all in baby!

Ok that was fun. Now what?

I turns out the the follow-on tournament was to be held that Saturday at 1:30 pm. I log on at the appointed time and find the right tournament. Great -- 3574 entrants -- yet another lottery. I'm thinking though that these people have all invested seven hours of time to get here and have beat their own set of 3450 players -- the play has got to be better, no?

Not really.

Again, the theme seemed to be crazy players swinging for the fences. Fortunately, I was on the back side of my cold by this time so I was able to concentrate and play my game my way. Unfortunately "my way" typically includes a few really blindingly stupid hands but, fortunately, today the stupid hands seemed to match up with the lucky ones and I managed to keep myself alive. Once again, I watched the field drop away and it started to become conceivable that I might actually place in this crazy event! Go figure.

Now, the pay-out on this event consisted of paid entry into various WSOP events and looked like this:
  • 1st place - $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. + hotel / airfare / spending money
  • 2nd through 10th - $10,000 NL Hold'em Main Event
  • 11th through 20th - any $2,000 WSOP event
The HORSE event is new to the WSOP this year. It seems that the poker pros have been getting a little annoyed that all the online posers (like me) have effectively turned the WSOP Main Event into a lottery. Sorry about that guys. Anyway, for those who have never heard of HORSE, it's a game that consists of rotating rounds of Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Eight or better. Combine this requirement to be good at this range of games with a crazy-high entry fee and you should pretty effectively screen out the kids.

Back to the game at hand...

To make a long (another seven hours) story slightly shorter, I managed to hold my chip position in the top five or so until we got down to that last 10 players. At that point we all started looking around at each other with the same thought. "Let's see... my odds of actually winning the WSOP Main Event at this point are 1 in 100,000. My odds of winning the HORSE event? Zero. Time to bail." So I finished sixth and I'm off to Vegas in July! It turns out that, in addition to the $10,000 entry fee, PartyPoker will pay for a room at the MGM Grand if you're willing "to exclusively wear branded apparel while playing". For a free room, I can be a clothes whore.

A special thanks to Dan Harrington and his great set of books, "Harrington on Hold'em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments" Volume I: Strategic Play, and Volume II: The Endgame. Highly recommended reading for anyone who is not planning on playing against me this summer at the WSOP. If you are going to be there, please don't read these or any other books. Just remember, you are invincible and yes, you will hit that inside straight on the river... trust me.

Addendum: I just looked at the PartyPoker freeroll page and it looks like they're no longer offering the entry into the HORSE event as the first prize. Now finishers 1 through 14 go the the Main Event and 15 through 24 get the $2,000 entry prize.

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