Just what poker needs … another podcast! Yep, I know … but this one is different, it’s special … Vegas Grinders we’re calling it — featuring yours truly @Pokerati with @AndrewNeeme and @RandomPoker …just a few dudes grinding out a life in poker, telling you what’s going on at the local tables.
This week we talk about Michael Phelps’ residence in Vegas and his play at Aria and the Palms; and we compare and contrast the WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Palace and the Venetian Deep Stacks, both of which were playing at the same time in February. Andrew, as it turns out, may or may not be on tilt after bubbling the $365 WSOP-Caesars PLO. We also take a look at the recently released 2013 WSOP schedule, and question the hairiness factor in the new variable buy-in “ladies” event. All that, plus the Millionaire Maker and LOL the tag-team charity tourney this weekend at Binion’s. We wanna know, will Dave ever get there on his heart draw?
Ah, the Las Vegas fall. It’s that time of year when the high temperatures finally drop into the 90s, pool season ends, barbecues begin and we enjoy a brief respite from the melting cars.
But the live poker scene around Las Vegas is starting to heat up again, after the summer break from the WSOP. Three of the big four rooms — Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars — are hosting fall tournaments. And the WSOP Main Event final table returns to the Rio later this month.
Even Howard Lederer made a ballyhooed return to high stakes cash games at Aria and Bellagio this week. He played in Bobby’s Room on Monday, the Ivey Room on Tuesday, and found his way back to Bellagio on Wednesday with a nosebleed crew that included Doyle Brunson, Eli Elezra, Chau Giang, and Nick Schulman. Lederer’s given no indication where he’s headed next, but I imagine he’s a little more than a DOJ seizure away from the .50/$1 game at Bill’s.
I wanted to snap a picture of Lederer when I saw him at Aria, but security threatened to ban anyone who did, and Dan’s not paying me enough to risk arrest or deportation, so … this twitpic posted to 2+2 will have to be good enough.
Let’s hope it’s an omen. I picked up pocket Aces on my first hand in the new-and-improved Venetian poker room. My good friend and fellow Pokeratier Andrew raised into me, then called my three-bet “just in case” before check-folding the flop.
$10 Million Rebuy: The Venetian poker room has expanded to add 50 percent more tables and hopefully 50 percent more donkey tourists.
The new digs reopened at 5 am Wednesday; I arrived around 4:30 pm, or what Vegas grinders call morning. I wanted to see what a month-long renovation and supposedly $10 million could do for a major poker room. And I can tell you, this is now the fanciest poker joint in Vegas — if only for the giant, shimmering chandeliers hanging under a Renaissance ceiling mural at the front of the room.
Here’s some of what I couldn’t help but notice upon re-entering this previously familiar poker space:
The long-awaited redesign of the Venetian Poker Room is in full gear, creating a major, albeit temporary, shift in big-room action on the Vegas Strip.
In a couple weeks, the renovated room will have 59 tables with bigger and better TVs — mounted on the walls and in pillars — and cushier chairs. The newly remodeled room is slated to open Sept. 1, according to the Venetian’s facebook page.
The old 52-table room quickly grew favor among regulars and tourists alike after it opened in 2006, particularly for its Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament series. But the Venetian’s prestige as the Best Poker Room in Vegas slipped with some poker enthusiasts as Aria opened 3 years later.
The renovated room supposedly will extend across floor space previously used for overflow tournaments and slots, abutting the new Cantor Gaming Sportsbook and Noodle Asia.
In the midst of a so-far unprofitable weeklong stretch of daily tournaments around Las Vegas, I decided to try my luck+skill next at the Orleans (a grizzled locals favorite), the Golden Nugget (for a tourist-packed short-stack event), and the Venetian for a little Deep Stacks Extravaganza with hoodie-and-headphones set. Each tournament has its own appeal, and gave me quite a taste of the broad range of game selection across town.
Friday night’s 12,500-chip starting stack at The Orleans.
Ragin’ Cajun: Friday Nights at the Orleans
Those on the lower-stakes Vegas grind often rave about Friday night at The Orleans. Large field, good structure, big prize pool. A friend advised that I arrive early because the event fills up so quickly. I parked around back almost an hour before the 7pm start time, and after securing my $125 entry, sat at a bar near the food court with T.G.I. Fridays, Fuddruckers, Baskin Robbins, Sbarro, Subway — yeah, real Cajun cuisine.
On this night there would be 270 players, with first place paying about $8,000. The floor supervisor said re-entries were possible but improbable because of a long list of alternates. As we got underway, two locals spoke conspicuously about a mutual friend who was playing a $250k buy-in event in Australia (the Aussie Millions high-roller event, won by Phil Ivey).
Of The Orleans’s comparably tiny entry fee, $100 goes to the prize pool, $2 goes to tournament “players of the month,” $13 goes to the house and $10 goes to staff. The tournament can often last until mid morning, but my run in the event would be a quick one, as I never dragged a pot and busted 5 minutes before the first break.
Talk of PLO on Poker After Dark comes as I personally have been jonesin’ for mo-bigger low-stakes PLO … and based on emails, tweets, and Facebook, a stream of Vegas visitors and locals seem to be, too. Interest in PLO may be growing, but players in Las Vegas looking for starter stakes can’t always be sure where to find reliable action.
Word from the Strip is that a rather strong 1/2 PLO game has been running lately at the Venetian, apparently fueled by the November Deep Stacks. But one-bullet buyers beware, a $5 bring-in at the V makes the game kinda steep … especially for those with a strategy of pushing with weak two-pairs, calling with non-nut draws, and relying on run-it-twice to stick around long enough for a meal comp. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
And Aria Poker spreads a vibrant 1/2 NLH/PLO that occasionally makes. Their game plays most similarly to the Pokerati Game of old — and though it runs only sporadically, Aria often has the game posted on the board with a list of mostly 1/3 and 2/5 no-limit regulars ready to take a seat against any and all PLO tourists.
We all know there’s lots of chit-chat on blind structures, always, and there should be. They are important. In the early days of the poker boom, a lot of tourney directors didn’t really know what they were doing and surely didn’t understand the nuances of stack sizes deep into tournaments with bigger-than-expected fields. Then the Venetian came along with their Deep Stack concept, kinda-sorta revolutionizing the way smaller-stakes tournaments were played … at which point everyone started copying it and multiplying … and eventually trying to apply a bajillion starting chips concept to higher buy-in, big-time poker.
That’s when TDA honcho Matt Savage stepped up to say, wait a minute, let’s take a look beyond the first few levels, maybe these perceived Deep Stacks in a lot of instances aren’t all everyone says they’re supposed to be. Just about any educated “outsider” I’ve talked to who has taken a close look at the prevalent blind structures of the day contend that, indeed, while the non-bastardized Venetian Deep Stacks set-up is good, Savage’s not-so-deep-stacks structure as seen at the LAPC are indeed some of the best in the business — a model for other tourney directors to emulate.
The North American Poker Tour at the Venetian is coming to its inevitable conclusion with the $5,000 main event final table, scheduled to start at 2pm PT today, with live streaming available at www.napt.com/tv. Here’s how the final table of 8 will look when play resumes:
On Thursday, the final table of the $25,000 High Roller Bounty Invitational Shootout will play out, also scheduled to start at 2pm PT. Here’s the final table, with the number of $5,000 bounties each collected:
Each player earned $75,000 for winning their table, with the last man standing on Thursday pocketing $455,000 in the winner-take-all format. All seven players are also eligible to win an additional $100,000 from PokerStars.net for having the most bounties.
The field in the $5,000 buy-in NAPT Main Event at the Venetian is down to their final 24 players, with a few recognizable names remaining as they play down to the final table of 8 today. Today is also the first day of the $25,000 buy-in Invitational Bounty Shootout. 7 tables, each seating 7 players, will play down to a winner. If you knock out a player at your table, you pick up a $5,000 bounty, with PokerStars.net giving the player collecting the most bounties an additional $100,000. The winner of each table is guaranteed $50,000 $75,000, with the 7 winners returning on Thursday. The winner takes home the remaining prize pool – $630,000 $455,000.
For those Pokerati readers who missed out on what’s going on, here’s some stuff that’s happened over the past few days:
The first PokerStars.net NAPT event in the US got off to a roaring start on Saturday, with 872 players putting up $5,000 at the Venetian as part of their Deep Stack Extravaganza. 149 players started day 3 a few minutes ago, with 128 making the money. Hand for hand play has just begun, and the tournament staff is hoping to play down to 24. You can follow the action over at PokerNews, PokerStarsblog.com, or PokerListings. The winner when play ends on Thursday will collect $827,648.
Reality show star Trishelle Canatella made the final table of the WPT Celebrity Invitational, part of the LA Poker Classic currently running at the Commerce Casino. The final table will resume on March 3rd with this lineup:
In other LAPC news, Al “Sugar Bear” Barbieri took down his 3rd preliminary event of this year’s LAPC, winning the $2,100 Ironman event, a tournament with no scheduled breaks. Barbieri pocketed almost $60,000 for the win, plus a seat to the $10,000 Main Event, which starts February 26th.
The NBC National Heads-Up Championship is just a few days away, with the draw party on March 4th at Pure at Caesars’ Palace, followed by the tournament from March 5-7. The full list of 64 participants hasn’t been announced yet, but over 20 players already received their invite through a series of criteria, including last year’s winner, Huck Seed. Other automatic invites include: Phil Ivey, Joe Cada, Vanessa Rousso, Darvin Moon, Jason Mercier, Eric Baldwin, Sammy Farha, Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier, and Barry Shulman. One invitee who had to decline: Jeff Lisandro, who has a prior commitment in Australia which prevents him from attending.
The EPT Copenhagen event, which drew 423 entries, concluded Sunday evening with Sweden’s Anton Wigg outlasting Italy’s Francesco de Vivo in a four-hour heads-up duel to win 3,675,000 Danish kroner ($6782,918). Other notables who cashed: Roberto Romanello, Peter Eastgate, Juha Helppi, and Bertrand Grospellier.
Boycotting may be too strong a word … “avoiding” could work, as could “snubbing”, as could “pissing off its own players by telling them they can’t go.”
Supposedly, highly reliable sources are saying, Full Tilt brass in Ireland are telling Full Tilt-branded American (and non-American) pros that they are not allowed to play in the Venetian Deep Stacks main event … as it is part of the newly launched NAPT, presented by PokerStars.net. What, are you guys not buying their claim that Stars-dot-net is different than Stars-dot-com? Interesting …
We hinted that something was coming on The Poker Beat a couple weeks ago. Kudos to ESPN’s @GaryWise1 for digging up the confirmation on the above. Listen below to a 5-minute excerpt of the bubbling under. TPB2510-excerpt
Apparently, Howard Lederer really has stepped away from calling the operational shots at Tilt, and it’s totally news to Bitar & Co. that Full Tilt pros were ever stepping foot in non-Tilt branded events, such as the PCA (PokerStars) and Aruba (UB). Sure enough, the Hollywood snub at the Sharon Osborne Trash Talk Championship of the World (at the Hard Rock) charity tournament was a sign of more serious fissures in the poker world to come.
Kinda funny … because these sites have been so worried how a new Harrah’s-branded online gaming presence would negatively affect other online sites branding opportunities at the World Series of Poker, and now their reaction to the threat seems on track to becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Another good video from the LAPC … in this one Matt talks with Eric Baldwin (aka “Basebaldy), the 2009 CardPlayer Player of the Year. We, of course, got to know him as he was tearing through a Venetian Deep Stacks field prior to showing what he really was in town to do at the WSOP.
Anyhow, hate to make this all about the LAPC when tourneys are going on around the world — from Copenhagen to Tunica … but this gives a good glimpse at someone who is now a “big name” in poker though few have gotten to know him yet:
In the above video they talk about Baldwin’s efforts to snap his 0-fer history at the LAPC and where “taking it easy” fits in to the upcoming Ironman competition.
One other new not necessarily that new thing this go-round is the Best Overall Player Award. Details from The V:
BEST OVERALL PLAYER AWARD
The four players that accumulate the most player points throughout the entire event will be awarded Best Overall Player cash awards. One-half of one percent will be withheld from the prize pool of each daily tournament and added to the Best Overall Player total prize pool. The standings will be updated daily and posted in The Venetian Poker Room. Super Satellites, 7 pm second chance tournament and the $5,000 NAPT are not part of the overall pointâ€™s race.
Who says tournament poker is dying/hurting? It’s hard to go anywhere on the planet these days without finding a major soccer poker tournament. Lots of kids with disposable bankrolls, it seems … and lots of older folks trying to grab it.
At the EPT Deauville, which just wrapped up, all eyes were on Elky and Peter Eastgate to take down the biggest tournament ever in France. But out of 768 runners, they went out in 9th and 8th, respectively, with 21-year-old Brit Jake Cody winning the â‚¬847,000 top prize and presumably earning himself a spot on the PokerStars Kids Team.
Elky, meanwhile went pimptastic/not-gay in his homeland, sponsoring Team ElkyLady:
But let’s not forget Mississippi — which used to be the preferred place for poker players to kick off the new year. They only got 208 entries into the $10k WPT main event at Beau Rivage. The final table for the Southern Poker Championship is set:
Hoyt Corkins 2,069,000
Tyler Smith 1,169,000
Jerry Vanstrydonck 1,044,000
Jonathan Kantor 894,000
Jared Jaffee 762,000
James Reed 377,000
Halfway around the world, the Aussie Millions is into Day 2 of their main event. After a festive Australia Day celebration, things got underway for the big-daddy of this Southern Hemisphere main event:
Some other cool tourneys at the Crown Casino still going … It’s very 2 Months $2 Milliony In the Australian heads-up championship, they’re duking it out to see which four will advance to the money matches against Andrew Lichtenberger, Barry Woods, Vanessa Selbst, and Martin Gudvangen.
And action is just getting underway for the Team Event. Here’s how they play team poker down under:
How Does Team Poker Work
The game is No Limit Hold’em. Teams of two, only one member from each team is on the felt at a time.
The partner’s rotate whose turn it is to play the team’s stack each level. The first players in the game get half of the team’s start bank, if they bust in the first level the team mate comes in immediately and plays with the other half of the team’s starting bank.
That person will play the remainder of the first level, and the second, before the original partner resumes play in the third level.
From the second level onwards team will have their full stacks in play, and once it’s gone the team is eliminated.
And our new-good friends at the Heartland Poker Tour are in Quapah, Oklahoma — at the Downstream Casino in the far northeast end of the state, running qualifiers for their next televised main event, which gets underway this weekend. This one is good clean All-American fun for the kids, too, as you only need to be 18 to play.