Pot of Gold Trip Report
What a fun trip! I just returned from the Reno Hilton's Pot of Gold tournament, and it was everything it was touted to be, and more.
First, let me spill out a few words about the Reno Hilton itself.
I have a lot of experience dealing with Nevada casinos, as both a contractor and consultant to many of them. I cannot think of a hotel/casino (my former partner used to call them "joints") which does more to try to satisfy their guests. Although the Reno Hilton is certainly not the newest nor the largest nor certainly the fanciest, it is in my judgment one of the friendliest. One caveat, however; their beds could use some improvement. I met a player at "Double Down Stud" who said she had a great bed and gave me the room number. (No, you do not get to learn what the room number is. LOL)
But, gad, for four nights, and several meals, my bill came to under $150!! I wish I could live that cheaply at home.
All the restaurants are organized around a food court, which include an Italian, an Asian with sushi bar, a Mexican (Chevy's), a deli, a steak house, and a buffet. They also have a coffee bar adjacent to the casino floor.
I had one meal at Chevy's, and I'd have to politely refuse an invitation to return if one were offered. Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing (chicken caesar salad). Likewise, the sushi bar. But, if you must have your sushi fix and aren't a Mr. Pickypicky like me, it is a great deal: an "all you can eat" lunch for $14.95, and the same for an under-$20 dinner.
I twice had the deli's clam chowder (served in a sourdough loaf bowl) and it was really tasty, and chock full o' clams. The bread, baked on site, was very good also.
The $21.95 Sunday brunch was outstanding - and free, too. At least it was gratis for those poker players who were lucky enough to have played against a guy who had a bunch of comps from the slot tourney. (Then, to get it back, the sonofagun took me down on the final hand of a satellite, my pocket 8's vs. his A-K. He flopped an A and it was ay-dee-ose and off to brunch for me).
I had to eat my brunch quickly, for I only had about thirty before the start of the final noon event. I loaded up on lotsa protein - cholesterol? - a heaping plate of delicious giant prawns and crab legs. Yum.
I never really had a chance to eat at the other restaurants, mainly because I played so many events, and there was always food available at ridiculously low prices in the poker area. The chef salad, and fresh turkey "san" were $1.75, and the sausage and peppers or knockwurst were each $2.25. And, in the morning, there were always free pastries. There was coffee and bottled water available all day long which were provided at no cost to the players.
So...the tournament. Again, IMHO it was run really well, with firm but polite floormen and good-natured, solid dealers. (A lot of the deckmen came up from Vegas to augment the local staff.)
Before I get into a few tourney details, let me briefly describe my own poker background. I've played poker off and on most of my life, but mostly HE for the past eight or nine years. I consider myself to be middle-skilled, and have mostly played low-limit, ring game. But, over the past year or so, I've started playing tournaments more often.
As a ring game player, I've had my moments, but I have developed less and less patience for them and the inevitable bad beats inescapable at the low limits. I do not consistently win at those games. And I just haven't felt comfortable playing above 6-12, and don't want to risk my entire entertainment BR playing 15/30 or 20/40. I'd played a few tournaments, all limit events. Again, the results there were inauspicious, to say the least.
I did play through - once - to a tie in a satellite. And usually I got knocked out of any main tournament early. I mean, like "early," early. (I have never gambled for money online).
I had been intrigued by live, no-limit tourneys, and played in one; but I was totally foxed by the action.
So, sometime in the spring, while surfing RGP, I read of the Poker Pages no-limit freerolls. I began to play a lot of them, and after a couple months actually placed a couple of times. Finally, I won one a few weeks ago. Ironically, two days later I also placed first in another online tournament.
Naturally, I was stoked, so when I read of the Reno tourney, I was eager to put all that practice to work. So, I hopped in the ol' ha-lop-ay and headed north up the 5 to Reno, NV.
After checking into the hotel in Reno, I scurried right down to the poker room and was pleased to discover that all the one-table satellite winners were paid in cash, not in "tournament" chips. With a $60 buy-in yielding $530 cash, I jumped right in.
Imagine my utter shock when an hour later when I walked off with a win from that satellite. To be precise, I chopped with another player. Still and all, that was a great result for me. (It seemed that many if not most of the satellites did tend to "chop" the winner share).
Overall, I achieved results I couldn't possibly have anticipated. I entered about ten or twelve satellites, and must have won five or six! All the wins were in NL HE, save one "limit" satellite.
On the following day, Thursday, I won one or two more satellites, and entered the 7 p.m., NL tourney ($225 buy-in; $200 rebuy). I did well for about an hour, but had to rebuy. Then I went on tilt and called an all-in with a J-8 suited. The "all-in" had A-A (duh!). Comes the flop and I have...two pair. Unfortunately, Mr. All-in flops a set! What else was there for me to say except "Goodnight, and good luck, players."
Man, that was embarrassing - and expensive. It was only 8 p.m. Okay, how much can I NOT lose in the table games?
The next day, Friday, I played in several satellites, and again won a couple. The noon event was a limit game, which I didn't enter. The evening tourney was a pot limit affair, and as I had only played in one pot limit satellite (locally), and had never entered a tournament, I debated with myself all day long whether or not to enter. But, as I would have only a limited exposure with a $110 buy-in and no rebuys, I plunked my money down and took the plunge.
With $500 in tourney chips, I got off to a slow start. I couldn't catch much, and also needed a bit of time to get oriented to the PL game. I would win a couple small hands and then would scrape up enough to get a little chip cushion back.
Then, I caught some cards, and for some reason, felt myself slip into a "zone." Zones are weird: out of nowhere you just become hyper-aware and the action seems so clear. Before I knew it, we were on our first break and I was chip leader...in the tournament!
When we returned from break, the tables got realigned, and at our table there was a new, very scary player, Tony from Great Britain. He was short-stacked, but he played very cleverly; i.e., gutsily playing rags alternately with solid hands. He really had the table guessing. Before long, with a couple of deceptively-played strong hands, he was the chip leader.
I was playing well, but I felt he had his sights set on me. I was right to think that as he got me to lay down a solid hand with what I believed - after he raked - to be a total bluff. I observed him intently, and a strange sort of pattern emerged. It wasn't a "tell" exactly, and I don't know what else to call it. Intuition? Gut? Quien sabe?
At a later point in the game, I was short stacked against Tony, and was dealt A-Q. I did not improve on the flop or turn, and I don't recall the board cards, but there was danger written all over them. Tony had pocket J's (or so he said later). I opened the betting on the turn, and Tony raised me substantially. I then pushed all in. He called "time," and after an interminable wait - several minutes, to be sure - he laid down. Make no mistake: I had wanted, and I had now gotten, my revenge. Not without, however, having sweated several rounds of .38 calibre.
Now, I was again the chip leader by a wide margin. Yet, for a long spell I could catch nothing. When I did manage to see the flop with a limp, or a raise, I couldn't make a hand. I had played tight, so my chip total was still cool. Tony had been playing well and had rebuilt his stack..
Then came the signature hand of the evening, for me at least. Unlike the latter hand I (tried to) describe, this one I remember exactly.
I was dealt Q-10 suited, and limped in, as did seat 7 and 9. Tony, seat 1 and in SB, raised $600. All folded to me and, after swallowing deeply, I called. All behind me folded, leaving me heads-up against Tony again.
We were flopped J-9-x. Tony bet $600, and I called. Another J fell on the turn and Tony, either setting a trap or sensing one, also checked. The river showed an 8, and Tony opened the betting with half of his stack - perhaps $1600 - and I pushed all-in. Tony's eyes go wide...as in big-time wide.
He then called "time," and began a self-dialog which was interminable.
Can I tell you how hard it was for me to try to mimic paralysis? I was so still, I could have been taken for roadkill. I was afraid my heart was either going to come bursting out of my chest, or, if I had opened my mouth, it would have plopped out onto the table.
For the first portion of the timeout, I prayed that he would lay down. Then for the balance of what seemed like suspended animation on a space journey, I prayed that he would call. I thought I knew to a dead certainty what he was holding.
While he dithered, he would move his chips into the pot to measure our respective stacks. Then he would for a time shuffle his chips - chattering all the while. He did everything but a half-gainer off the table. At a point when I felt my scalp was about to lift off my skull to allow the steam to escape, the moment arrived.
When he exposed his cards - you are expecting Q-10 aren't you? - he showed 7-10 offsuit. He very nearly pulled off a miracle hand, but ate a loss which crippled his chip count. A hand or two later I took him out with pocket Q's vs. his K-10 suited. I deserved a bounty. He was a menace to the entire frontier!
Hours and hours later - what a marathon! - I found myself heads-up on the final table. I was short-stacked $36,500 vs. $51,000. We agreed to a chop, and I settle for a piece of first place (actually a second in the record books), and $4,300 to split, I took home a bit less than 2 grand - which was more than the 2nd place money, but less than the first. A good day's work, if I do say so.
I don't know if I can expect the same results the next time, but I have every expectation that I will return to Reno for the Reno Hilton's January tournament.
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