So it’s a Thursday morning and I’ve been in Tunica, MS for about two weeks now. Fellow crewmember Joey Bartholdi and I flew out here on the 5th. We had an early morning flight at 9am from Vegas to Memphis… where we’d have to catch a ride down to Tunica. I had gotten up really early (around 5am) to pack up my two monitors and my computer as well as a duffel bag full of clothes and books. I planned on getting to the airport by seven to have plenty of time to check in the baggage and make the flight.
I started getting worried at around 7:30. The cab I had called to pick me up was still on its way. They had told me it’d be 15 – 40 minutes… and now it was pushing an hour since I had called for the pickup. To make matters worse, Joey wasn’t answering his phone. It was looking like we’d be missing our flight and I hated it. I’d have to call the airline to push the flight back, which is never a picnic, and I’d also miss the PL Omaha event. I was already kind of pissed at myself for missing the opening event at the Grand, but I had procrastinated booking the ticket and to get out on time for it would have cost an extra couple hundred. So that was how the day started… me chilling on my front porch with a bunch of check-in luggage waiting for a cab (that wasn’t going to show up) to take me to Joeys place (who’s chances of being packed and ready were about as good as hitting the badbeat jackpot on Party) and then take me to the airport to catch my flight (which there was no way I was going to make with check-ins).
If you are ever on the tournament trail, here are two tips you’d be wise to take. They should be in every poker book out there, but I haven’t ever seen them written.
#1 – Always wash your hands like you have OCD. Travelling lowers your immune system to begin with. And when you factor in the grimy chips which are hardly ever cleaned, the cards you’re constantly touching, the felt, the cushion, the poor air circulation in a hotel room without a window, the piss poor vitamin-deficient meals you eat, the hands you shake… goed, your probably going to get sick a lot. A lot. There’s nothing worse then coming down with a killer flu right before the fourth day of a major event. Goed, maybe one thing is worse : being on break and standing at the urinal next to another guy at your table, watching as he shakes, zips, and walks right past the sink on his way back to shuffle the chips that you hope to take after the break. Cleanliness is godliness… so wash your hands.
#2 – If you’re sitting in the 10 seat, right next to the dealer, be really careful not to jack up your left knee on the tip/rake box. Whoever designed those things was an evil man… would it be so hard to put cushions around those hard metal edges? Eerlijk gezegd.
I decided to reschedule the flught when the taxi didn’t show up and I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to check-in my baggage in time. If I drove there and only had a carryon, it’d be close. But then I changed my mind. I’m going for POY… I can’t afford to screw around. I had made a resolution to get serious about the tournaments, and I wasn’t going to let a late taxi or a sleeping crewmate stand in the way. So I threw all the check-in luggage back inside the house and hopped in the car. I sped to Joey’s, walked in and yelled for him upstairs. He was in bed asleep with the phone up to his ear. “I was just trying to call you, man… when’s our flight?” I had been calling him since I woke up trying to get him to be ready. I wasn’t happy. The conversation went something like this.
“Dude! The flight’s in an hour. I just stopped by to wake you up so you could call and change your flight before it takes off… so hopefully you won’t get charged a lot more.”
“Goed, hold on for a minute… let me get ready and I’ll just go with you.”
“Blah! WTF, yo! Are you even packed?”
“No man… but it won’t take me too long. How many check-ins are we allowed?”
“Ok dude… our flight is an hour. There are no check-ins on this one. So get a backpack and a few clothes. We’ll resupply when we get to Tunica. You’ve got three minutes to get ready… I’ll be out in the car and after three minutes I’m driving. So pack your shit, skippy! Let’s go.”
I went out to the car and waited five minutes before he finally opened the door and jogged to the car. The only thing I could think of was “I bet he didn’t jog down his stairs”.
I was playing a little headsup poker with Darryl Dicken (aka “Gigabet”) last night in my room. We were talking about poker theory and NL tournaments. Gigabet is easily the smartest poker player I know. Besides being one of the most successful online players, he thinks and talks about the game like nobody else. Anytime I talk to him about poker, I can actually feel my hourly EV increase. In case you’re wondering what that feels like, it’s similar to that little game we used to play as kids where we’d stand in a doorway and press our hands against the frame for a minute… and then step out of the doorway and feel them float up.
He said something pretty interesting which I thought was solid. The basic strategy of most players in NL Holdem tournaments focuses on hand selection to dictate play. But the real focus should be on what I’ll call “tournament variables” such are stack sizes, players remaining in the tournament, and the blind levels. Think about it.
We talked about a lot of things like : Is it is possible to win a NL Holdem tournament without ever looking at your cards? (we both agreed that it was) How big of a hand you should call with in the BB on the first hand of a major deepstack tournament if you KNOW the guy who just pushed allin has QJo? (he said he’d call with TT… I like folding it) And who is the sexiest girl in poker? (I used to think it was an easy Erin Ness… but now I’m kind of thinking it’s a tie between Ness and Shannon Elizabeth, who just recently took down a big event at Ceasars Palace… before that win, I didn’t realize she had enough game to qualify).
Gigabet ended up taking me down (after about 30 hands played over about two hours) when he came over my big raise with his nines and had me covered by about 20 chips (started with 100). I had KQo… my favorite hand. It didn’t hit. What a donkey!!!
Joey and I didn’t make our flight… but we got on a flight to Atlanta an hour later then our original one… and we’d be getting into Memphis at exacty the same time as we would have on the first flight. We grabbed a taxi from the airport in Memphis to the Goldstrike and checked into our rooms. Tunica is such a dive, man… none of the hotel casinos out here have DSL. The bedspreads look like they’ve been here since the 70s. And the few decent looking girls you see wandering around the casinos are all either here with a poker player or working by the hour.
When we were standing in the registration line at the lobby, the first person I see walk out of the casino floor is Jay “Donkeybait” Yeager, my buddy from Columbia Missouri. I couldn’t believe it… I had just tried calling him from the plane after we landed to see if he was out here in Tunica. But I guess his phone stopped working when he crossed into Mississippi… cell phone reception, like DSL, seems to be science fiction out here. We got our room, threw our stuff in, and headed up to Memphis to chill out.
Another thing they don’t tell you in Sklansky. It’s important to get a safebox at the casino or hotel you’re staying at. Keep all your money in it. Don’t carry anything more than a couple hundred on you. Don’t let strange guys or girls in your room. Don’t tell strange guys or girls which room you’re in. And don’t get maid service. I had a sexy little laptop taken right out of my room once. Gigabet told me a story about these sunglasses that he splurged on (and we’re not talking $350 Guccis from the store in the mall) that disappeared.
The next day I played the PL Omaha event. I hadn’t played a lot of live PLOs, but I’ve played a few online and had some decent results and a few wins. In the end, a tournament is a tournament… PL Omaha tournaments are a lot closer to NL Holdem tournaments then they are PL Omaha ring games. I played hard. I played good. I made one big mistake right after the dinner break. I had about 50k in chips which was a HUGE stack (second or third in chips). I hadn’t taken a rebuy or an addon, which made the stack that much more impressive. I had AKQx against AQ5x against a guy named Roger, who had just gotten on a rush and built up to about 35k, which was also a HUGE stack. The flop came AQ5. We got a lot of chips in. The turn came a 4 which also brought a club draw. He checked and I bet the pot. He called. The river came another club. He bets 10000 of his 12000 left. I fold. He shows me AQ of clubs. Nice hand sir. He ended up coming in fourth. The wind was out of my sails after that one, but I kept playing hard and made it to the final table to come back the next day. I had the shortest stack, but stuck around a little while finished 8th. Captain Tom Franklin came in 2nd. I got to chill out with him a little bit, and his daughter Mandy… watched him play some drums over at a bar at the Sheraton next door to the Goldstrike.
During the $500 Limit event the first Sunday at the Grand, a guy died at the poker table. He was in the 1 seat. I was one table down in the 5 seat, so I had a perfect view of him the whole tournament. He was an older guy with a white beard… I’d guess in seventies. During one of the hands he just kind of slumped over. Someone said something like “Hey, is he all right!” The dealer yelled for a floorman. Hands kept playing, but things were getting a little bit busy.
There’s not a lot of love lost between Brett “Gank” Jungblut and I right now… our relationship reminds of something you’d watch on a VH1 special about how egos turn bandmembers who were best friends into bitter rivals. I’ll go into it one of these days. I will say this about Brett, Hoewel… he does have his moments where he shines. He was about two tables away from this guy, and when he saw something was wrong he jumped out of his chair and was the first one to check on him. He lifted his head up off the felt and checked for a pulse (I swear the guy’s tongue was hanging out). I could see on his face that it wasn’t good.
The floorman yelled “Is anybody here a doctor? Do we have a doctor in the house?!?” I was surprised that there wasn’t a doctor closer to the table where this was all going on. Some guy began making his way through briskly (“Excuse me… excuse me… coming through… excuse me…”). When he got there, his voice changed and you could tell he thought time was pretty critical. They put the old man down on the ground and started CPR. They clared the tournament area and one of the TAs ran to call an ambulance. They say the guy was dead for 12 minutes before they finally brought him back. They took him to the hospital in a stretcher. The next day they said he was alive and kicking and on his way towards recovery. I don’t know if the casino would have said otherwise even if it wasn’t true. But I hope it’s true.
If I could pick a way to go, that would be my second choice.
Now it’s about two hours before the main event… I’ve got eleven tournaments under my belt, and two final tables (8th and 9th). Helaas, one of the final tables probably isn’t going to count for Cardplayer POY since it was a $500 NL second chance event. It should, Geloof ik, because it had a huge prizepool with around 250 players. It was a lot bigger than some of the main events I’ve played out here. And one of the TDs assured me that it counted before I played it… but checking on CardPlayer I don’t see that I got any points for the final table.
Joey’s been on a better tear than me. He placed second in the first WPO NL event for around $55k, and also took down 9th in the second chance tournament the day before I final tabled mine. He’s starting off great, and I’m super stoked because i really need him to stay on the trail with me this year. One of the reasons I think the crew did so well in 2004 was because we were all playing side by side. The tournaments started seeming like a game of HORSE… Joey would shoot a long threepointer by placing third in a PL event…. then Scotty dunked from the freethrow line by winning two back to back. It’s good to have a crew.
I’ve taken some decent pictures and also got some other stories to share. I’ll try to fill out the trip report a little after this first main event.