Intensity in tournaments at fever pitch

Mar 6, 2007 1:08 AM

It was nice to get back into tournament action last week as I played in the World Poker Tour’s L.A. Classic at the Commerce Casino in Southern California.

Most of the top poker professionals were there, and the field of 791 was the largest ever for a $10,000 buy-in WPT event.

I had a pretty good run, making it to the fourth day before being eliminated in 33rd place, which was worth about $35,000.

Before getting into some of the interesting hands that were played, I’d like to note that it seems the intensity and level of competition seems to have been turned up a notch since I last played.

Perhaps it’s the influx of poker players from the Internet, or just the heightened skill level of many new players.

But it certainly seemed like the focus of the players was sharper than I ever remember it.

In any case, the tournament started smoothly, though uneventful, for the first three days. I usually start out conservatively, and without suffering any bad beats or other calamities, was able to increase my chip stack by $10,000 or so every session.

When the fourth day arrived, we were down to 53 players, I was hopeful the cards would begin to land better for me, as I never really had any great hands over the previous three days.

But they actually got worse. I had to lay down several hands rather than risk potentially losing showdowns.

At some point, I finally decided I had to make a move. Playing to my left was Paul Wasicka, who finished second to Jamie Gold in last year’s World Series championship.

Paul hadn’t played a hand in about half an hour and seemed to be protecting his chips (about $600,000). I had about $135,000 and was dealt A-4 suited.

When everyone folded to me in the small blind, I pushed all-in, hoping to put enough pressure on Paul so he’d fold.

Paul thought for awhile before calling with A-jack. Well, the board was no help and I was eliminated in 33rd place.

The move reminded me of a similar situation in a tournament at the Bellagio, where I caught pocket queens in the small blind, pushed all-in, only to have the big blind wake up with pocket aces.

Sometimes you just can’t alter the luck of the draw.

To give you an idea of how intensive these tournaments have become, let me tell you how another player from Las Vegas, Steven, fared in the L.A. Classic.

Steven, who plays in a wheelchair, is an experienced and knowledgeable poker player. In a hand in which he was dealt pocket 10s, Steve bet $2,000 (the blinds were $400/$800), which was called by one player.

After the flop came 10, 6, 4, Steve’s opponent bet $40,000. With his set of 10s, Steve naturally called by pushing all his chips into the pot.

Steve turned over his two 10s and his opponent turned over A-jack, off-suit. At this point Steve was about a 3-1 favorite to win the hand.

Then a king came on the river and a queen landed on the turn, giving Steve’s opponent a winning straight.

At this point, the dealer counted down the chips, only to discover that Steve had $1,400 chips left — his opponent did not in fact have him covered as everyone thought.

This left the dealer in a quandary as what to do.

Now, and this underscores how intense, if not brutal, the game has become. Another player at the table called for a penalty on Steve because he revealed his hand!

In fact, the dealer was at fault for not counting down Steve’s chips when he pushed all-in as he called the bet.

But the floor supervisor decided to administer a 10-minute penalty on Steve, and, of course, he was blinded out since the blinds just happened to move to him after that hand.

I thought it was amazing that, not only did Steve catch a bad beat on the river, the players at his table leaped all over him because of an error that the dealer made.

Of course, the lesson is you have to be precise with your chips, whether calling or raising.

But it would help if the dealer would have done his part as well.