The WSOP is right around the corner, but first I'm off to Southern California for a week of tournaments at the Commerce Casino. These tournaments are part of the "California State Poker Championship," which actually started April 30th, and should attract fairly large fields (for in person tournaments).
The great thing about tournaments at the Commerce is they do them right. They give you long limits, slow blind increases and plenty of chips even in the small buy in tournaments.
For example my first tournament (on May 16th) is a $220 NL hold'em ($28 goes to the house instead of $15 like online - it costs A LOT more to run a tournament in person!) and we'll start with 2,500 chips, 40 minute limits and 25/25 blinds (that's not a typo - in order to avoid using chips with less than a 25 denomination in the first round the big blind and small blind are the same). (I love parentheses!)
My second tournament is $335 NLH and if I go broke in the first 3 hours in that one I'll play the $335 7-card stud that goes off - as you may have guessed - 3 hours later in the day.
The day after that is a $545 heads up matches tournament. I think that one would be very cool to play in but since they are limiting it to 128 players I suspect it might be sold out by the time I get to town.
The tournament that was the real inspiration for this trip in on May 19th. It's $1,065 HORSE! I have never played HORSE in person, but the evidence that I kick ass at it is overwhelming. I'm pretty excited about it.
The day after the HORSE is $2,085 no limit hold'em which is followied by "Super Satellite Day." The main event in this series is $5,100 no limit hold'em (15,000 chips and 60 minute limits in that one) and on super satellite day there will be three $540 qualifiers - one at 11 am, 3 pm and 7 pm. My plan is to play all three.
Of course if I go bananas in one of the earlier events or stomp the shit out of some people in the cash games I'll play the $5,100 event even if I don't win a satellite seat.
I'll be posting results daily so you can all read about my latest quest for glory.
This makes me think of a story!
It's been a little more than 5 years since my first trip to the Commerce. It was right about the time I first started playing online poker and I was still grinding it out at the Oaks club. The point of that trip was to go play a $1,500 no limit hold'em tournament. Before that the biggest tournament I'd ever played was $215, $500 was a big win for me and I still knew how many times I'd won over $1,000 in a day (it was about five at the time - now I'm not sure how many times I've won more than $10,000 in a day!).
I made the 6 hour drive with Matt Lessinger who also played the tournament. When I sat down I was crazy nervous. A few hands in I got dealt pocket kings and my heart rate shot up. It's not scary to get dealt bad cards and fold them, but I knew I had a hand I would almost certainly take to showdown and there was a chance I could go broke.
I made a standard raise and got called by one player on the button. I was terrified. I didn't want to come all that way for this one tournament and go broke in 10 minutes. "I don't know if I want to make a set. I could never get off a set and if I lose with a set it's going to take me a month to recover. GIVE ME QUADS!" I thought as the flop came out. I flopped a king and heart rate went up even more. I got hit with a gallon of adreneline and my hands were shaking as I put the chips in the pot to bet. I honestly think this might be the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life. Please God do not let me lose this hand. I am going to pass out if I lose this hand.
I got called and the turn came out. It was another f-ing king! I couldn't belive it! I had made quads in the biggest tournament of my life!
I checked and my opponent bet! "AH HA! PLEASE HAVE SOMETHING YOU BASTARD!" I thought as my heart contunied to pound at what felt like 200 beats per minute. "I'LL GET HIM ON THE END!" The voice screamed in my head. "THIS IS GOING TO BE SUCH A GREAT SLOW PLAY!" I just called and checked the end expecting a bet. But alas it got checked behind me and I took down the pot. A lowly pot. I'd taken my starting stack of 5,000 all the way up to about 5,700.
"How am I ever going to make it though this tournament?" I thought. "If I get another hand like that I'm going to be dead. Not from a heart attack, but from a f-ing heart explosion. They guys in the seats next to me will be lucky to survive the impact of the shock wave."
After a few hours I settled down. I'd budgeted for the $1,500 loss and won a few bucks in the cash games so it wasn't like I was in over my head. On my last hand I got it all in with 55 vs 99 and missed. I lasted about 8 hours and finished in 64th place out of 309.
I've come a long way since then. I've literally played millions of hands in that time and I've never been even close to that nervous again. It's not one of my favorite hands, but I know that hand with those kings is going to stick with me forever.
I can't wait to get down there and kick some ass!