The WCOOP (which my sister has kindly referred to as the world chicken coop competition) kicked off today with a $215 buy-in razz tournament that drew 1297 entrants. First place was $58,365, 8th was $5,706 and 136th paid $259.40.
With 30 minute limits and 2500 starting chips this tournament stood to be a long one by online standards. You can check out this link to learn more about razz if you've never heard about it or don't know the basics. http://www.fulltiltpoker.net/razz.php (it's just 7-card stud where the worst hand wins).
Razz is famous for being fairly boring and notorious for being insanely frustrating. In hold 'em (and many other forms of poker) if you start with a strong hand (like a big pair) you're hand is frequently strong enough to win the pot on it's own, unimproved. In razz, on the other hand, no matter how good your first three cards are you have to catch TWO MORE good cards to make a good hand. I'm not as used to recounting razz hands so I'm not sure there is going to be the level of detail and flavor that you can expect when I'm talking about hold 'em.
In a typical no limit hold 'em tournament online, about half of the field is usually eliminated in the first hour of play. In today's razz event it took 49 minutes for the first player to be eliminated. With limits starting at 10/20 with a whopping 2 chip ante it's not surprising that things started off slowly.
I struggled early on and never had more than 2600 chips at any point. After playing almost no hands in the first level I played a few in the second level and made a few second best hands. First I lost with 87523 to 8652A and then I lost a more disappointing 7532A to 7432A. There was no way I could get off either hand and by the first break (after level 2) I found myself with 1800 chips. You'll notice that even though I lost a few hands I still had 72% of my chips. This is contrary to NL hold 'em where if you make a strong second best hand you'll be on fumes or on the phone telling your friends what happened.
At the beginning of the third level I got a taste of the famous razz frustration when I had two very strong starting hands turn into garbage. In the first hand I started with 235, came in raising and got one caller. On 4th street I caught a 9 and then on fifth street a K fell like a big fat turd. I was forced to fold when my opponent, who had called my raise with an 8 showing, caught a 3 and an A and bet into me.
The next hand was worse. This time I started with A 3 5 and was up against the same guy who was a total whack job. Again I came in raising and he called me with an 8. On 4th street he caught a 9 and I caught a 2. Sweet! I've got this guy right where I want him now. On 5th street I caught a K and he caught a 7. There was heavy betting and raising at this point. Even though it would appear that he has the best hand at that point, I was still the favorite to make the best hand by the time all 7 cards were out. All I needed to do was catch a 4,6,7, 8, or 9 sometime in the next two cards. Factoring in the cards I'd seen in the form of other players up cards and my own cards I had 17 cards left in the deck out of the remaining 38 that would make me the best hand (Of course he could have a pair already which would mean I was in even better shape or he could catch two great cards and improve - these thing balance each other out to some extent). Sadly I paired my 5 on 6th street and my A on the river (the last card is called the river in stud games too) making my best hand K532A. Yuck!
I did have one good hand along the way. During the 4th level I started with A 3 5 and of course came in raising. I got heavy action the whole way from a player who started with 752 and improved to 75432 by 6th street. After my strong start I caught an ugly Q on 4th street and a beautiful 4 on 5th street. 6th street brought an even uglier K and I knew I was in big trouble. On the river, however, I caught the perfect card - the 2! I made a wheel (5432A), which is the best possible hand in razz, and took down a nice pot.
After 2 hours we'd only lost 70 of the starting 1297, but I was in the bottom 20% of the remaining players. During the next 2 levels I hovered right around 1,200 chips. I won a few small pots here and there, but never got much above 1500.
When the 7th level started with a 30 chip ante and limits of 150/300 I knew if I played a hand I'd pretty much be committed to going to the end. When I was down to just over 1,000 chips I picked up a strong hand in the form of A46 and got action from another player showing a 4. On 4th street I caught a J and he caught a 2. I decided to take a stand since the pot already had a significant number of chips in it and I didn't have many left. All of the money went in on 4th street and when the cards got flipped over my opponent showed me 642A. Yikes! He paired on A the 5th street and the 2 on 6th street and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly he caught a 7 on the river and the best hand I could muster was a lowly 10 9 6 4 A. I finished in 857th place. :(
Luckily, like I mentioned before, this event was sort of a warm up, and while I liked my chances against the nut balls I found myself playing against today, razz isn't exactly my best game. While it would have been nice to get off to a strong start the $215 is only about 3.5% of the total that I'll be using for buy-ins so I'm not worried about the loss.