October 15, 2007

A (Long) Poker Story

Wil Wheaton, I want my seven hours back :)

Yeah, Wil. I'm talkin' to you. I read your
blog regularly, and thus it was that I found out about the PokerStars Bloggers Online Tourney this past Sunday. Normally, I wouldn't have been able to play, as (1) I only have $3.47 left in my PokerStars account, and (2) ever since the Idiot^^^^^ Internet Gambling Law went into effect earlier this year, I haven't been able to play any online poker. However, this tourney was within my price range, as it was FREE. Plus, I happened to have that Sunday afternoon open, so sign me up!

Since it was a freeroll tourney, there were no cash prizes, per se. Instead, anyone who made it to the final 81 players would win "stuff", ranging from duffel bags, to iPods, to paid entries to bigger and badder future tournaments. You can check out the entire prize payouts
here, if interested. I looked over the list, and decided that due to recent incessant whining from The Daughter about her ancient 8GB iPod Mini, I would attempt to appease her by winning either the 80GB or 160GB iPod. And, of course, that XBOX 360 was lookin' pretty sweet as well. Just about the only prize I couldn't care less about was the 10th place bubble "gag" prize of all 33 poker books that PokerStars has on their site. And during the course of the game, it appeared that I wasn't the only one who wondered whose bright idea it was to have that as the consolation prize for just missing the final table.

Anyway, I wasn't sure how many blogging poker players there were out there in the world, so I had no idea whether I'd be playing against a field of hundreds or thousands. Turns out at showtime, 1337 card gamblers showed up at the field of honor -- a number I found
humorously appropriate.

Needless to say, with that many entrants, I figured that (a) I probably didn't stand a chance of getting to the prize level, and (b) even if I did, this tourney was going to last at least over eight hours. However, I was determined to play my best, and take it as far as I could go. And if I got lucky, maybe I'd even get seated at the same table as Mr. Wheaton.

Well, the game started, and I played reasonably well for a few hours. After a bit, I checked the stats and noticed that (a) I had a decent size stack, (b) we were down to just 367 players, and (c) Wil had been knocked out of the tourney already. At that point, my goal was to at least make it to the top 81 (although I wasn't too keen about winning a duffle bag and deck of cards). From there on, I kept track of my position in the leader board. That's one great thing about online poker: you have instant information on your stack size relative to all other players. So here's the play by play. Each line will be how many hours into the tourney we are, my chip position, and any comments about the previous hand. The times are approximate.

3:00 36 out of 367
3:10 62 out of 238
3:20 50 out of 201 (my AK beats 99 on an all-in)
3:30 56 out of 188 (break #3)
3:50 38 out of 174
4:00 9 out of 154

Notice that big jump. I had K9 suited, somebody gave a semi-raise, and I called. The flop came AK6, so I was worried about my opponent having an Ace. But he checked, so I checked as well. Maybe he is slowplaying his Ace, I think. Anyway, the turn brings a 9, giving me two pair. He bets a hunk, and I go all-in. He has more chips than me, and goes in the tank. After about a minute, he finally calls with... 22! Huh!? Not what I expected at all. The river is a blank, so double me up, baby!! And now, I'm one of the big stacks in this tourney. Maybe I have a shot at making the prize level after all!

4:10 17 out of 127
4:30 21 out of 117
4:50 36 out of 109
5:10 28 out of 99 (almost there!)

Overall, I'm very happy with my play in this tourney. Every time that I've gone all-in against another player, I've always been ahead preflop. Sure, suckouts will occur. They're part of the game. But even if I lose to a suckout, I can at least take consolation in the fact that I went all-in with the better hand.

5:30 35 out of 91 (break #4)
6:00 33 out of 83 (we're about to go hand-to-hand as we reach the prize level)
6:20 33 out of 75 (yay!! I'm assured of a duffle bag!)
6:50 37 out of 67

Sometime during this point, I send an email out to my fellow poker buddies, telling them if they wanted to, they could come cheer me on from the rail. Shortly thereafter, both 8-2 Mike and 8-2 MathMan show up online, and give me some encouragement within the chat window.

7:20 14 out of 55
7:22 8 out of 53

Two monster hands back to back put me in the drivers seat. Somebody goes all-in with KJo, and I call and win holding AQo. On the very next hand, I call another all-in bet of KQs holding A9o, and my Ace holds up again. Woot!

7:30 12 out of 48

I lose a painful hand that shows why poker is a cruel, cruel game. I call an all-in bet, hoping once again that the power of the Ace will assure me victory. I hold A8. My opponent show TT. Well, the flop comes xx8, and I get a little excited with my extra outs that just materialized. The turn brings a glorious Ace, giving me two pair and a near lock on this hand. In fact, just as I say to myself that the only way I can lose is if another Ten hits on the river, the fickle poker gods naturally deliver one of the two remaining Tens, giving him Trips and leaving me shaking my head in disgust.

7:40 14 out of 46 (hand-to-hand play to see who gets the last duffle bag)
7:45 13 out of 42 (no duffle bag for me! iPod Nanos, baby!)
8:00 14 out of 38
8:20 26 out of 34 (80GB iPod territory!)

I take a big hit and lose a bunch of chips. Some guy raised a bit, I reraise a sizeable amount holding AJs, but he calls. Hmmmmm. Flop comes low-low-low rainbow. I check, and he bets a huge hunk o' chips. I go in the tank, but eventually force myself to fold.

Plus, I'm getting hungry, as I haven't eaten since my 1pm lunch. I make some phone calls to neighbors, to see if they can bring me some food, since (a) my cubboards are bare, and (b) with five minute breaks, that's not much time to run to the nearby Subway to grab a sub. Nobody picks up their cell, so I play on. However, I'm very happy, because I succeeded in my mission to win The Daughter her much coveted iPod. Now, I'll try to get her the 160GB one instead!

8:30 27 out of 28 (break #4, and we're hand-to-hand again)
8:50 18 out of 27 (woo hoo! 160GB iPod is mine!)

At this point, several thoughts started growing in my mind. Part of my brain was telling me that I had succeeded in winning a nice iPod. Therefore, I should push all my stack in holding the
Hammer, lose, and go get a much-needed burger to celebrate. However, another part of my brain -- the ethical/competitive poker part -- was telling me that I should press on. Losing on purpose would give a random player a boatload of chips "for free". It would be like throwing a game. I thought of Bruce Willis' boxer character in Pulp Fiction, who even after taking money to throw a fight, his competitive nature took hold during the actual match, and he clobbered his unworthy opponent.

I decided that if I was going to lose, it was at least going to be on a marginal hand, not complete dreck. Something like a low pocket pair, or maybe QT suited. If I lost with such a hand, I could at least hold my head up high, and be happy with my iPod.

9:00 16 out of 25
9:10 17 out of 23
9:20 10 out of 21

That last hand should have put me out with my iPod. I held A9 suited in hearts, and called an all-in bet, who showed KT. I was ahead preflop, but the flop came KK6. I resigned myself that I fought the good fight, but the journey was indeed over. However, when the turn showed the 8 of hearts, it was then that I realized that one of the flopped Kings was also a heart. Hmmmm. If the river brings another heart that isn't the Six or Ten, I'll beat his trip Kings with a runner-runner Flush. And of course, the Four of hearts hits, knocking him out and putting me back in the pack.

I try to call The Daughter to see if she wants me to bail out to get the iPod, or press on to win the XBOX 360. She doesn't pick up (naturally, 'cause it's a school night and she's already getting ready for bed), so I have to figure out what to do. Being a gamer, I decide to go for the XBOX.

9:25 15 out of 19
9:30 14 out of 17 (XBOX 360, baby!)
9:35 13 out of 15
9:40 11 out of 14
9:50 12 out of 12

Okay. At this point, I realize that I must lose if I want to win the XBOX. I truly don't want to make the final table, and I definitely don't want to be bubble boy and win the set of 33 books. I decide to call an all-in bet with the truly horrible hand of J4 offsuit, which loses, as expected.

As soon as the hand is over, I am sent to the tournament leader board. I scan it for a second. I look at the name at 11th place. I don't see my name there. I get a horrible knot in my stomach. I look one line higher, and next to 10th place, I see the name "Kevicool".

I haven't won an iPod. I haven't won an XBOX.

I've won a set of 33 poker books.

Three of which I already own. Two more that I've borrowed from a friend and read.

I sit there in stunned silence for a minute or two, realizing that I've just spent seven hours playing poker, only to win the one prize I absolutely did not want to win. I head out to cool down and eat a much needed burger at a nearby Wendy's.

I'm still not sure what happened, exactly. I am 100% sure that I was the shortest stack of all remaining players. Obviously, another player at the other table also must have went all-in and lost at the same time I did. However, if I was indeed the shortest stack, I should have gotten 11th, and he should have received 10th. I've emailed PokerStars, requesting a play-by-play of those last few hands to sort things out. We'll see if they send me the hand results so I can figure out the events that transpired in that final moment.

This just in... Here's what Brad from PokerStars informed me recently regarding what exactly happened:

You, indeed, had the lowest chip stack but you didn't bust at the same time as ZeRat11. Your confusion is likely based on the fact the game didn't go hand for hand until ZeRat busted out. You got your chips in on the very next hand. There was never real hand-for-hand action. ZeRat11 busted and your chips went in on the very next hand. It all went very fast because there was only one hand played hand-for-hand and that was the one on which you went out.

So, thanks again, Wil! Seven hours work for 33 poker books. And I owe it all to you :)

Rest assured that when I receive them, I'll be sure to place "
Just A Geek proudly in the middle of the stack.

And yes, the next evening, I did go to the local Apple store to buy The Daughter her much deserved iPod.


After the fact update! Well, January rolled around and I had still not received my wonderful poker books. Not that I was complaining; but I had planned on trying to sell them or give them away as gifts/bustout prizes. After contacting PokerStars, and getting passed around to four different people, I finally had an email exchange where I subtlely (ok, not so subtlely) hinted that I'd much prefer an XBOX360 Elite over the books. And lo! much to my wonderous surprise, they were more than happy to oblige! Much rejoicing ensued! Five days later, a nice pitch black XBOX360 Elite gaming system arrived at my office, and I'm been enjoying such gaming gems as Bioshock, Assassin's Creed, and more recently, Tomb Raider: Underworld.

So thanks, Wil! Stop by anytime you're in the Maryland area if you wanna game on a platform you tangentially helped me to win!

October 13, 2007

Arrakis. Dune. Desert Planet.

During the great "Manly Men" vacation of 2007, not only did we participate in the awesomeness of indoor skydiving, we also journeyed to the barren wastelands of outer Vegas. No, not to find spice or the prophet Muad'Dib. We came to ride. And not a Shai-Hulud either. I'm talkin' dune buggies. Two hours of wild untamed 40mph racing in the Nellis Dunes area. Great fun! Here's a pic of me in my custom speed machine.

And here's the gang takin' a break to refuel (with water, that is)