Three big events, three big weekends

By Randall Rapp

Some months your humble Ambassador barely has a thing going on and is searching for an excuse to find a poker game somewhere. Then there are stretches like Sept. 29 to Oct. 28 when there’s a special event every other weekend. All I can do is soldier on and do what has to be done.

First there was Lacey Jones at Colusa Casino, then Michael Mizrachi at the Turlock Poker Room, followed by our Player of the Year, Rellie Sigua, at Lucky Chances Casino. It’s always nice to have some special folks coming to Northern California, but can’t they spread it out a little? Seriously though, it was great to have all these things going on and I felt fortunate they were spread out enough that I could make it to all three.

Capitol Casino

Because we were in the area and hadn’t been to the Capitol Casino for a while, Mrs. A and I stopped in to play their Saturday morning tournament. The buy-in was $60 + $5 for 5,000 chips with one optional $50 add-on for 5,000 chips. You could take advantage of it when going broke or at any time up to the first break.

There were 40 players and 23 took the add-on. I was one of them as a cooler and a bad beat had left me down to next to nothing. Things turned around after that and I managed to make it to the final table and an eventual sixth place finish for $172.

Mrs. A was tearing it up. She skipped the add-on, made the final table, and with a great combination of quality cards and play, chipped her way to an eventual three-way chop for $602. It was certainly a nice way to start the excursion.

Colusa Casino

From there we were off to the Lacey Jones event at Colusa. Upon arrival we checked into one of their nicely renovated hotel rooms. Apparently the hotel was closed for quite a while and just officially re-opening, so we were among the first to stay in the new rooms. Our room was pleasing to the eye and very comfortable—definitely a great place to stay if you’re in the area.

Unfortunately Mrs. A had work to do as she set up her computer and took advantage of their free wi-fi connection. I headed downstairs to check on how the first day of the event was going plus meet Lacey and the folks running the show.

Lacey was both professional and outgoing, talking with patrons, signing autographs, and taking souvenir photos (how could I refuse?). Things seemed to be going smoothly as they played toward determining the four who would make tomorrow night’s final table.

I wasn’t playing the tournament until the next day, so I got a seat in their $1/2 no-limit game. That turned out to be quite an adventure as my stack took several ups and downs. Eventually down won out and I decided to call it a night in preparation for the tournament.

The next day not much was going right either. Much as I wanted to be one of the four to make that night’s final table I just couldn’t gain any traction. I lost a big pot with pocket jacks, then later lost another with the same hand and was down to about 12 big blinds. With the big blind coming I shoved with a suited ace only to be called by, what else, pocket jacks. A perfect illustration of why my good friend Lon McEachern hates them so much!

With not much else to do but wait to watch the final table I took a seat in their $3/6 limit game. At least this session went my way and by the time I was done I had recovered what was lost the previous night.

Congratulations to Colusa Casino for a great event. Everyone seemed to have a great time, Lacey was nothing but aces, and the final table was enjoyable to watch as they played under theater lighting in Jack’s Lounge, the restaurant and bar on the main casino floor.

Turlock Poker Room

I made it to Turlock in plenty of time to meet Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and say hello again to Chris Torina from DeepStacks as well as the staff at TPR—despite a traffic jam on Highway 99 that had me worried.

This tournament also went pretty well for me with several big hands that got paid off early, leading to a fairly comfortable chip stack. When we got down to two tables (we started off with nine) I found myself seated two to the left of Grinder who had accumulated a mountain of chips.

Taking advantage of his image, he was clearly pushing people around, raising with all kinds of hands, but always coming away smelling like a rose. I had nothing followed by nothing so I couldn’t do anything about it.

When we got down to 13 players we were on the money bubble and Grinder made it clear he planned to take advantage of it. Sure enough he kept raising just about every hand, often showing down hands that most of us would muck as a matter of course.

So when he raised again in front of me and I looked down at K-Q suited I shoved with a pretty good sized stack. Sure, I could have called or even folded, but I wasn’t going to let him push me around. Besides I should be way ahead if he calls.

Sure enough he calls and turns over pocket queens. The one time he actually has a hand and it’s now! In fact, he said later it was the only big pair he had the whole tournament.

So that’s my tale of being bubbled by one of the best there is. In hindsight, I would have rather made the money!

Kudos to owner Joe Fernandez and operations manager John Silveira on putting on a stellar event.

Bay 101 Casino
San Jose

A few weeks later I was on my way up to Colma for the POY tournament at Lucky Chances and decided to leave home early to play the Saturday morning tournament at Bay 101 Casino. I’ve had plenty of chances to play at Bay 101, but only once before was I there at a time to play one of their tournaments. They run good ones, so I was more than willing to go out of my way a little to take advantage of the opportunity.

The buy-in was $200 and they attracted 210 players, so the total prize pool must have been close to $38,000. Levels were 20 minutes long and you start with 10,000 chips. The other thing I like is they don’t scrimp on the levels. There was virtually no doubling of blinds, so between that, the starting stack, and 20 minute levels there should be plenty of play before any desperation sinks in.

It was a good thing too. After starting off strong I went through several periods of being card dead, but then I’d pick up a pot and all would be fine. After about six levels I had close to 20,000 when they closed our table and I got moved. That’s when “card dead” took on a whole new meaning.

I didn’t have a hand worth playing for two full levels. I couldn’t even effectively go for a steal with my rags as there was too much action in front of me. As my stack started to shrink I finally picked up pocket fives and they looked like aces. I called the all-in of a shorter stack who had two overcards. He didn’t hit so I got all of his chips and was feeling better about myself.

Then it was back to a whole lot of nothing and the stack started to shrink again. I remember having a conversation with my neighbor about not pointing out your opponents outs because then they have a tendency to show up. This became meaningful when, during level nine I found myself with pocket jacks (I know, Lon, throw them away!). With a raise in front of me I decided to just call from late position and see what the flop would be. An 8 was the biggest card of the three and my opponent bet out. Stack and pot sizes at this point indicated shove or fold. I shoved and he called, tabling pocket 9s. He groaned when he saw my jacks, but after the turn my neighbor pointed out that the guy had picked up a straight draw. Thanks a lot! Sure enough he hits his gutshot on the river and I’m a goner.

As we all know, sometimes you do things right and the result still turns out wrong. That’s the game. All you can do is move on the next time.

Casino M8trix
San Jose

Since I hadn’t yet visited the new Casino M8trix I thought I should drop by and play for a while. They do have a spacious new facility with oodles of floor space, with much of it dedicated to table games other than poker—Blackjack, Pai Gow, Three-Card Poker, etc.

They were spreading $3/6, $6/12, and $8/16 limit as well as no-limit games of $1/2/3 and $2/3/5. I opted for the $6/12 and went to work. It was a fairly good table with players both strong and weak. One of them, Vahakan from San Jose, had decided he was the table captain and raised almost every hand. Thing was, his crappy hands still seemed to win more often than not, and when he had a good hand no one believed him. It’s a strategy that does well as long as the cards are cooperating and they certainly were for him. His stack would go two steps up, one step down, two steps up.

My stack had done some seesawing of its own, but in the end I was up a rack—good enough to cover my tournament entry at Bay 101 and call it even with San Jose. It was time to pick up my chips and head over to Colma.

Lucky Chances Casino

Because the POY tournament wouldn’t start until the next morning I decided I might as well spend a few hours at Lucky Chances that night getting my feet wet. I took a seat in their $1/1/2 ($4-to-go) no-limit game and right away things were going my way. Before too long I was up about $200 (having started with half that).

If only it was easy to know exactly when to pick up and go. I had planned to stick around there for another hour or two, so I did—and the cards stopped coming. After several second-bests my stack was getting dangerously close to where it began. I stubbornly stuck around intending to get it back where it had been, but it just wasn’t happening. Eventually I got back to $60 in the plus column and called it a night in anticipation of the tournament the next day.

It was great seeing our POY, Rellie Sigua, and tournament director Bob Bloom again. They’re great guys and a lot of fun to hang around. The tournament didn’t start off so well for me though. Nothing was going right and sure enough, before long my chips were gone. Since I had to stick around anyway I went for the re-entry at $245, hoping that with a new seat and table things might be different.

They were. I started winning a few pots and chipping up. Things were looking good. We were down to about five tables and suddenly things took a turn. In a blind vs. blind hand I ran into a flopped set when all I had was a pair (which is good most of the time in this situation). A few other miscues, like raising with hands that called for it, but weren’t good enough to call the following three-bet. I felt like a stick being whittled away.

I don’t even remember the hand I went out on. I think I must be blocking it. The tournament was a big success though and, as always, very well run. The one consolation I had was outlasting Rellie!