....and you can stop reading now if you like happy endings....
Talking Stick is about a two hour drive from my house, and on the last Saturday of every month they hold a pretty decent tournament with a good structure. Including add-ons, the buy-in is $160 and starts you at T7500 in chips. The blind structure is also pretty good, with a relatively high Patience Factor of around 9, which according to Snyder's method, means the tourney puts a premium on skill over luck. Sounds good, right? Uh, huh. Let me explain.
Given that the casino is 2 full hours away by car, I left 3 hours early to drive up. There was some unusually heavy traffic, but I still made it to the cashier's cage a full 45 minutes ahead of time... but they said I didn't have a Players Card, so would have to go to another part of the casino to sign up first, which I dutifully did, and which only took twenty minutes or so, but by the time I got back, the line at the cashiers cage now extended a full hundred people deep...
To make a long story short, they had a record turn out, and I ended up getting on the alternate list with about two hundred other wannabes. The tournament then started, and we all stood around the periphery, waiting for already seated players to die off. I was semi-fortunate in that I only missed the first three blind levels, but even that took a serious bite out of my playing power. By the time I sat down, the blinds were wrapping up the 100/200 level, and my once potent T7500 stack meant that I now had an M of just 25 or so. Not terrible, but certainly not as good as I wanted for the big buy-in price. In other words, because of my inability to arrive 2+ hours ahead of time, the tournament went from a PF of 9 to the functional equivalent of 3 or 4. Suddenly luck was a much bigger factor than skill....
...and worse, the players at the table I'd sat at had all been there since the start, feasting on the dead money that was leaving open seats. In other words, not only did I start a small M, but my opponents all essentially had double-up sized stacks by now. They'd also been reading each other for three previous blind levels, and were definitely in the groove. Meanwhile, I'm pissed at myself, tilty, frazzled, and am at a significant chip disadvantage from the start. Sigh. Anyway, here's the few high (low?) lights of the experience:
- One orbit of folding crap hands and I finally pick up a playable pair of tens UTG+2. I open for 3x, action folds around, but the SB shoves over the top on me. It folds to me. I ask for a count, but the reality is there is no way I can call for my tournament life on, at best, a coinflip. I fold.
- More folding cheese for two orbits, then I pick up 88 in the big blind. An UTG player opens for 4x, the UTG+1 min-raises, and then the button shoves again. I sigh and fold again... and then wince when the flop comes AA8.
- Two hand later, I get AJ on the button. Action fold to me, I open for 3x and get two folds out of the blinds.
- Blinds are now 150/300 and I'm down to T6500. Two new players arrive at the table and are super aggro. Table is 10-handed, and I fold KQs UTG. Flop of course comes KXX with two to my suit and I wince again. I try to remind myself that it was a good fold given the table dynamics, but it still hurts as I focus on the results. Argh.
- Few hands later I'm on the button with KJ suited. Action folds to the short stack CO who open shoves. I contemplate iso-raising, as this guy's been pretty loose and his range is quite wide, but of the corner of my eye I see the BB counting his chips out getting ready to call. I fold. CO turns over KK and BB turns over AA. Board runs out A-Q-T-X-X. Wince again.
- Blinds are now 200/400 and I'm in the BB with A9o. Action folds to a new player who'd just sat down in the SB. He open raises to T1K, and I insta-re-shove back over the top on him. He tanks for five full minutes, trying to get me to say something. Someone calls the clock. Finally he folds 88 face-up and goes on an all-in shovefest as he melts down. Alas, I get dealt nothing but rags while he tilts away his stack in about five minutes flat.
- I steal. I bob. I weave. I am treading water.
- My M is now something like 9 or 10 when I pick up AQo in the HJ seat. Folds to me, I raise to 3x and get everyone to fold.
- I'm back to treading water, trying to get some kind of purchase on the shifting sandy bottom, but all I'm doing is slowly watching the tide come in deeper and deeper. I'm getting blinded away, tiny bit by tiny bit.
- Finally a twelve minute break occurs. I'm at the back of the poker room, so by the time I get to the men's restroom there's huge line. I manage to use the facilities, step outside for quick 30-seconds of fresh air, and then back to the table. I last two hands and then get moved to a new table...
- ...which is a table of snoozing old men. Okay, may I can make something happen here....
- ...ah, but these are hyper aggressive snoozing old men. Tide is coming in quicker now, and the blinds go up again. We're at 300/600 and I've got just T8K....
- Then a weird thing happens. The guy directly across from me has the big blind and is texting someone on his phone. There are three limps. I have 44 and consider squeezing, but the wimp in me convinces my hand to overlimp. Action folds to the guy in the blind, who starts reaching for chips, but the dealer reaches out and physically takes his cards out of his hand and pulls his blinds in. He says to the astonished player, "You're using a cell phone, sir, so your hand is dead." "WHAT THE FUCK!?!", the guy yells. Long story short, a fist fight almost starts, the floor was brought over and rules were explained to this guy, who is, to use a polite term, absolutely fucking incensed... and then he gets a time out on top of it for using inappropriate language. Meanwhile the tournament clock is ticking away and every other table in the room is playing poker except us. I make an entry in my little notebook not to check text messages at the table or drop the f-bomb. Then I fold my 44 on an A-T-9 monotone flop when there's a raise and RR in front of me.
- Rags, rags, and more rags, facing raises, raises, and more raises. I blink and I'm down to T4500 or so and blinds are going up in a few minutes again. I can no longer feel the bottom with my toes and I start swallowing water.
- Finally. I pick up AKo UTG+1 and think for about twenty-two micro seconds before I open shove. Action folds to button, who tanks, asks for a count three separate times, and then the clock gets called on him. Finally he says, "What the fuck?" and calls with a pair of threes. Board bricks out and I'm sent a'packin'. The guy who won meanwhile gets a one-orbit timeout for using the f-word. Crazy. I think he's more pissed than I am.
- Drive home on the highway was just as much fun, as I literally got shoved off the road when a big yellow renta-truck doesn't see me and basically changes lanes directly into me. I'm on the shoulder for a few seconds, doing 75mph, watching my life of folding rags at poker tables pass before my eyes, before I can get back on the tarmac. I gun it and pull up beside the knucklehead and proceed to vent ugly through the glass at this clueless preppy dude who clearly has no idea how to drive this monster truck he's just rented. He blows me a kiss. Wince.
- The tide is now fully in and over my head. I make peace with the deep blue sea and drive the rest of the way home, listening to right-wing-whacko talk radio and trying not to get run over.
The Talking Stick tournament is actually a pretty good one. The facilities are nice, the dealers friendly, the competition pretty decent.... ah, but this is all fine if you get there on time and are deep enough to play some poker. Otherwise, it's frustrating and tilt-inducing. I'm definitely going back again, but this time I'm leaving earlier. Much, much earlier. Maybe there will be fewer winces that way.
All-in for now...