This was a really fun event, and what a time for it too. My girlfriend is coming down here for the next 10 weeks or so, and I likely won't be playing a lot of poker while she's here, so this was one more chance to spend some time at the tables. It was also a great opportunity to see some of my good friends that I only see a couple times a year at poker events. All in all, it was just a really good time.
The event started for me on Wednesday night, when PokerStars threw their pre-event party. I thought it was just going to be a little gathering with finger foods and an open bar, but it turned out to be pretty crazy. I went to dinner at an Argentinian steak house with my friend Frank (gator93 online) before the party, so I ended up not having a lot of room for food or drink, but I still got to take in all the scenery....was a lot of fun.
After the party, there was a $200 super-satellite for the main event. I had already won a seat a few weeks earlier in a live satellite, but I decided to play for the cash, and I ended up at a table with some friends--most notably Felipe (Improved on Stars), who I've hung out with a few times here in Costa Rica. I didn't end up winning the seat....tripled my stack early, but the structure was insane, and I was already down to 8 BB's after only an hour and a half or so. I went home for the night to get some rest.
Showed up the next day for the noon start, and I quickly realized that pretty much everyone I knew from the Costa Rica poker community had turned out to play. I also saw a couple familiars at my table. I was standing outside talking to Cmoney3 a few mins before, and we discovered we would be at the same table, and WSOP bracelet winner Maria Stern was there as well. The kid sitting on my right was also a P5er, so I ended up chatting with him a fair amount.
The other noteworthy player at the table was a European player--I didn't catch his name, as he was sitting pretty far away. He quickly became the target player at the table, though, as he was involved in almost every hand early on, doing a lot of betting and raising, both before and after the flop. He'd already had some pretty significant stack swings in both directions by the end of the first level (levels lasted an hour in this event).
I wasn't really doing all that well at that point. I'd been mostly folding, but I'd tried betting at a couple pots, getting raised by the action player both times and having to fold--just wasn't worth getting into a battle at that point. I got down below 7,000 chips early in the 2nd level--we had started with 10,000. I picked up a pot when a guy who had been playing pretty Taggy raised UTG to 300, and I was the 3rd caller with 6 7 of clubs on the button. The guy made the same continuation bet of 600 that he'd made every time he raised preflop on a Q 7 3 rainbow board, and the others folded. I didn't think he was particularly strong, and I raised to 2,000. He folded, and I was back up to around 8,500. I went into the first break of the day with that stack, with that having been the only pot I'd won other than one or two blind steals.
I met Hixx and Assassinato at the first break, which was cool. I always like to relax during the breaks and just chat about whatever, but it always ends up being about hands played in the last couple hours. Cmoney and I got to discussing the action player, and since cmoney was sitting 2 to his left, he was planning to start 3-betting him preflop, since the guy was raising so much.
Sure enough, twice in the first 15 minutes of the next hour, Cmoney reraised the European player, both times having his reraise called and both times ultimately winning the pot. A little bit of trash talk started going back and forth between the two. Soon after, the same action player was picked off on a bluff by a guy two to my left, who was basically just a calling station. That was the point where I realized that he (the action player) wasn't very good, as he had no business trying to bluff this guy. He'd made a lot of mistakes by this point, and it was becoming apparent that he was unlikely to last long.
The same player went back up and down for another 15 mins or so, getting as low as 5,000 and back up to about 10,000. Then he raised to 600 on a hand and was once again reraised by Cmoney to 1800. I was in the small blind this hand and thought about pulling an "Ari" and shoving for 8,500 with 5 2 but refrained. The European player pushed all in for about 10k, and Cmoney insta-called with KK. Glad I stayed out of that one... The other guy actually had A Q this hand, but he didn't get any help, and Cmoney had pulled off a nice big pot and was up to close to 25k in chips.
I got my stack back up above 10k in the following couple of hours, mostly through reraising in position and taking advantage of the generally tight play at the table. The player on my right was playing particularly tight, and he really didn't want to bust out of the tournament. We were chatting a lot, and I kind of felt bad doing it, but I reraised him several times and called in position to later bet him out on the flop a couple times as well. I shouldn't feel bad--it's a competitive game for a lot of money....still felt at least a little bad...
I picked up 9 9 at one point and raised to 800 (blinds 150-300/25 ante), only to be reraised by an Argentinian player on my left who only had about 6,000 chips. He reraised me to 3,000, and my initial reaction had been to put him all in, but I thought about it some and decided to fold. He'd been playing very tight, and this was the first reraise I'd seen from him all day. He proceeded to win 3 more pots like this in the next two rounds, so maybe I was wrong :).
I was sitting at a little over 11k when the following hand happened: The Argentinian raised UTG to 1,200 (blinds now 200-400/50), and a pretty weak player on the button reraised to 2,500. I looked down in the big blind and saw AK....great time for my first AK of the day. This was definitely a "lol donkaments" moment. The reraiser only had 7,500 or so total, so I figured he was going to call, but I thought he might be getting a little fed up with UTG's raising and reraising over the last few rounds. UTG wasn't going to call me if I shoved unless he had QQ+, so I wasn't too worried about him. I finally decided to shove, and after thinking for a few minutes, UTG folded. The guy on the button thought for a couple minutes and folded too, much to my surprise. He later said he folded 9 9. Bad idea...
In general, playing a hand like this doesn't make any sense--and if you're reading my blog, you probably know this anyway. He committed 1/3 of his stack to a reraise with a hand he didn't want to play. It was essentially a bluff, for all intents and purposes, because his hand has no showdown value if he has no intention of playing it to showdown. What is he planning to do if I fold and UTG shoves? Fold in that spot too? He should have either flatted, folded, or pushed in that spot....probably pushed. A reraise with the plan to fold to a shove is....well....very bad.
I was up to over 15k, and right as I got the button, they broke our table. Fantastic. A quick note: at this point, I had yet to show down a hand all day. I was very happy about this. I'd been put at a tight table and managed to build some chips without really assuming much risk up to that point. My new table wouldn't be so friendly...
I got to the new table, and the makeup was entirely different. Among other things, at least half the players had stacks of 30,000 or more. They were at one of the lower numbered tables, so players from other tables that were breaking had been constantly coming to their table all day, and they'd been busting them and taking their chips... I'd been at a tight table all day and hadn't seen a lot of big pots at all, so this was going to require a change of plans. Within the first round I was there, I saw multiple hands where someone moved all in for over 20k, including one that was called. These guys weren't doing it with premium hands either. This was a table where people were moving 50+ BB stacks all over the place, and I needed to be ready to gamble.
Among others at the table, there was a Hungarian player on my right. He was a real nice guy and was telling me about a cash game he played all the time back in Hungary. The small blind is 5 euros, and the big blind is whatever the player in that spot wants to put in! He said that a lot the time someone would put like 1,000 euros in, and it just became a game of waiting for a big hand and shoving. Sounds like a great game! This player turned out to be a P5er as well--you can see his profile here: http://www.pocketfives.com/profiles/luigi%20babyface. The reason I'm spending so much time talking about him, is that besides him being a real nice kid and a P5er with some solid online results, he went on to win this event for nearly $300k. Congrats!
A local player I play with regularly named Abraham was at the table as well, and he looked like he had at least 40k in chips. He was getting involved in some very big pots immediately after I arrived. Abraham is a decent player, and he's got a lot of experience under his belt. I wasn't sure how he was in tournaments or sober, as he's usually downing glass after glass of red wine and playing a bit on the looser side in the cash games we play. He definitely has a pretty good idea what he's doing, regardless.
We were about 20 minutes from the dinner break, and the blinds were still at 200-400/50 ante. I'd been at this table for a couple rounds and had picked up the blinds once, so my stack was down to just under 15k. I had the button, and amazingly everyone folded to me. When I looked down, I saw a pair of 8's, so naturally I raised it up to 1,100. The small blind shoved all in after only a few seconds of thought. He had about 9k in chips, and I thought it was a pretty easy call at this table, so I made the call. He didn't look happy to see that, and he tabled KJ. The flop was K J T, turn 9, river J. Not good...
I had KQ suited on the next hand and shoved for just under 6k from the cutoff....nobody called. Two hands later, Abraham raised to 1,400 in early position, and I looked down at jacks....insta-shove. I had about 7,000 total at this point, so winning this hand could have gotten me back up to around 15k. I was really happy about my chances here, as Abraham is a pretty loose raiser and had a lot of chips, so he was highly likely to call as an underdog, and I'd have a good shot to get back to a decent stack. He ended up having AK, though, which was a lot better than I'd hoped. The flop came 7 high, but a king on the turn was not what I wanted to see. GG.
Since it was only 10 minutes until dinner, I stuck around and ate with some of the players. I was a little disappointed, but in general very happy with my play.
The next night, a bunch of people came up to the White House, which is my casino of choice in Costa Rica. We had some beers and played some pai gow and hung out there for a few hours before heading down to the bars. I ended up at La Cantina (a local bar here in Escazu) with gator93 and his wife, cmoney, haligon, bforrest, a guy named Jerry, and a few others. We actually ran into some other P5ers I hadn't met before at the same place, and it turned out to be a real good time. I ended up taking a cab home at 4 a.m. and crashing, though everyone else was carrying on.
Due to a semi-immense hangover, I didn't make it out the rest of the weekend, but overall the event was a really great time, and I'm really hoping that the Latin America Poker Tour sticks--it'd be awesome to have at least one event here every year. I don't have a ton of time to travel or play satellites, so something like this works out great for me....looking forward to the next one, and to the next time I see everyone.