Friday, October 14, 2011

Cannes't think of a good pun - WSOPE prelims report

I've played five of the six WSOPE prelims, skipping only the €5000 pot-limit Omaha. Despite the lack of a big score, the events have been a lot of fun!  The tournament schedule is great. Seven events, and four of them (6-max NL, shootout, split format, and this one) involve shorthanded play in one way or another.

I continue to be extremely impressed by the level of service here. I've been critical of the WSOP (Las Vegas) in the past and have no problem calling them out when I think they're in the wrong or when they've treated non-A-list players poorly.  So since I've put them on blast, it's now time to give them credit where it is due. Here in Cannes, the WSOP team has left me virtually nothing to complain about.  They have definitely made me feel like they genuinely care about my experience here.  I think everyone -- or at least the better tournament organizers -- are slowly realizing that with the tough year that poker has had, that there is serious competition for the tournament player's dollar.  They're starting to figure out that things like word-of-mouth, blogs and Twitter are democratizing and influencing factors.  And the end result is that they're doing a better job taking care of us and it seems that all the circuit regulars I've been talking to have also come away impressed with the things they've done here.

As for the prelims, I'll talk about my series so far after the jump:

Event 1, €2500 6-max NL

I arrived just as the tournament was started and I was tired from the trip, but this was an event I was stoked to play. Skipping it wasn't an option.  But I never really got much going in this one.  I ended up getting short and tried to squeeze all-in from the SB with K8s over a Vanessa Selbst open and a Daniel Negreanu cold-call; the BB woke up with TT and I failed to improve.

Event 2, €1000 NL

The WSOPE's "donkament" lived up to expectations. My starting table was maybe one of the best starting tables I've ever had, including the WSOP 1k events in Vegas. In the first two hours, I witnessed the following: three different guys tossing in a 100 chip intending to raise but failing to vocalize it; a woman sitting down at 25-50 blinds and playing her first hand by opening to 650; and my favourite, a guy who was so excited to win the pot at showdown he reached all the way from the 3 seat to the middle of the table to scoop the pot. I saw two people raise, get re-raised and casually toss AK into the muck face-up. It was fantabulous.

At some point, I was moved off this brilliant table to a more sane one, won a flip with AK vs QQ and proceeded to steadily chip up. I took a bad beat from Devilfish (I've long forgotten the details but it was enough to make me do the angsty muck) to get short, but then I 5-bet someone with AK and he folded getting well over 3:1. I got moved again and didn't pick up chips fast enough to keep up with the blinds and ultimately was eliminated by Erik Cajelais in a pretty straightforward blind-vs-blind battle late on Day 1.

Event 4, €3000 shootout

Boy, do I love shootouts. If you can survive on your table, the play is almost always really deep when it gets to 4-, 3- and 2-handed. It's a lot of fun. Early on, you're basically hoping the other tough pros take bad beats or coolers and get eliminated, because the poor players just end up getting picked apart playing deep shorthanded NL. I ended up getting heads-up with a 3-2 disadvantage against a player whom I thought played fairly well most of the way through and through the first part of heads-up. He was coolering me pretty hard in the beginning of heads-up, repeatedly making flushes and straights against my two pairs and trips. Luckily we were both small-balling a lot so I hung around and my confidence never really wavered. A couple pots went in my favour (including one where his action is just so bizarre that I think he misread the board) and he just sort of gave up and started to play very passively, as though expecting to lose. I think this is a guy whose A-game beats me a significant percentage of the time, but once he faced a little adversity, it just went south for him very quickly.  I ended up eliminating him after 3 hours of heads-up play, and the only time we were ever all-in was the final hand.

So it was on to Round 2 for me.  A somewhat weird by-product of this shootout getting about 270 players was that most first tables were 8- or 9-handed, but the ten remaining tables were played 3-handed (leading to a 10-handed final table). I'm not really sure the best way to handle this, but it feels a bit odd. Maybe I'm just whining because I have to play 9-handed against softer opponents and 3-handed against super-tough ones (almost everyone who advances in a shootout is tough).

My 3-handed table was as tough as any, as I was seated between Vanessa Selbst and a young English pro named Max Silver. Vanessa's laurels are well-documented but I didn't know Max at all before this day. Max busted Vanessa almost immediately and he turned out to be an extremely tough and hard to read heads-up opponent. I made a couple of big laydowns against him which he told me were correct, but I was ultimately incapable of folding after I called a raise preflop with As4h and I check-called every street of a QsTs4s2cAd board. He had 5s3s and it was just not my day. Another 4-figure cash in a year that's just been full of frustrating blue-ball tournaments.

Event 5, $10000 split-format NL

I busted the shootout at about 5:30 PM, leaving me about four hours to decide whether I wanted to play this event. I knew it would be tough and that definitely the best 50 players in Cannes would certainly play; it was a question simply of how many of the poorer ones would. I definitely wasn't about to bracelet-chase in a tough 70-player field, but when I found out it was over 110 (and ultimately 125), I decided to sign up. My table was definitely very tough but looking around the room there definitely seemed to be some better spots. Scott Seiver (who certainly knows more about these things than me) felt, in fact, that "almost every other table" looked good other than ours. Nevertheless I felt comfortable at the table, but at 200-400/50 and 5k in the middle that feeling would go away as my 3k bet got check-raised to 8.5k on a T64 2-tone flop. My opponent who was a good Swedish player started the hand with about 27k and holding KK I didn't like any of my options.  So obviously, I just shipped it in the middle and was shown 44. All-in the very next hand, I see a Russian player get moved to my table, rack of chips in one hand -- glass of red wine in the other. Scott would later tell me he was "even worse than you would have guessed by looking at him." Insult to injury.

Event 6: €1500 6-handed PL Omaha

Going from Event 5 to Event 6 was going from a game that I play well but much of the field is better, to a game that I don't play that well but much of the field is much (much!) worse. My favourite story from this whole trip is that of my trip roommate, Dan Idema, playing 10-20 PLO the night before and witnessing a man get €2000 in the middle with (as he told it) "ace, jack, jack....jack." For 100 BB. I'd like one of those guys at my table, please?

Unfortunately, mine was a fairly nitty, and incredibly slow starting table. 6-max should never be slow, but we were getting under 30 hands per hour. There wasn't a lot of gamble going on. I crippled Jeff Lisandro after I got him potstuck with AAxx on a QJT flip, but the slow, nitty nature of the table meant I couldn't really build a stack. At dinner, I had about 60% of the average stack in the tournament but was well above average for my table, as we'd only busted two players. Eventually we got rid of the slow players and things got firing. But in a 6-max PLO tournament you have to fade a lot of stuff and it was my turn to get outflopped, as I raised utg with JT98ss and found two callers. The flop came 974 rainbow, and both me and my opponent in the BB holding J975 were both happy to pile our money in. He won the flip and I went home. [Edit: that *#&$ luckbox is now 3rd in chips at the final table.]

So now all that remains is the main event. It's gonna be a big one, and it's gonna be great value, so time to put the rest of the tournament year behind me and try to win all the money in this one.


  1. Did you intend to omit your holding in the split-format NL where your opponent flopped a set of 4s?

    Shall we guess?