Make no mistake about it; Poker can be a ruthless game and considering you have to bluff, steal blinds and make plays at the odd pot, the underhanded nature in us all is bound to come out on the felt.
Still, I believe it is a gentleman's game (sorry ladies) and the rules of fair play should be adhered to.
This is why I feel compelled to write about my experiences yesterday, because what happened offended my sense of fair play and I'm sure it will yours.
The cheap buy-in tournaments that dominate many of the card rooms across this city can be tough. The typical $65 buy-in will get you $2,000 in starting chips and the blinds start at 25-50, doubling every 15-minutes.
This means by about the fourth or fifth level it's a shove fest. But I still like my chances against the weaker fields in most of these tourneys. Players push often with weak Aces or hands like Q-Jo, K-Jo and Q-10o.
When I see this type of play developing, I don't mind watching my stack dwindle a little waiting for a hand to pick them off and as long as I win a few races along the way, I'll do OK. The key is you have to win those races.
Playing in the 11 am $65 buy-in at Bally's Thursday was one such tournament. I picked up some big hands in the early levels and built a stack. By the time we got 13-handed two short stacked players pushed all in ahead of me with Q-K and Q-10 respectively and I instacalled after looking down at pocket rockets. The hand held and I floated into the final table with only two players ahead of me.
I picked up another big pot and knocked two players to the rail when my own K-Q held against two short stacks all in with Q-10 and J-Q.
I watched as others fell by the wayside and played only premium hands until it got heads up. Unfortunately my stack was so short compared to the chip boss, he defeated me in only three hands when 7-3o, 9-3o and 10-4o failed to help double me up.
Cashing $714 for second was a great start to the day off so after some tennis in the afternoon I headed over to Planet Hollywood. It's the old Aladdin, but they have a brand new card room downstairs and a 7 pm $60 buy in tournament with a bit better structure.
You get $4,000 in chips and the blinds double every 20 minutes, leaving a little more room for maneuvering in the early going and some more chips to play with as the blinds go up.
Unfortunately, this is where I ran into some trouble. Feeling like I was freerolling anyway after the cash at Bally's, I played pretty loose in the early levels and drank a few Coronas along the way. I figured if I made it through the first couple of hours I could easily drink $60 worth of beer, then bust out and head into Vegas night.
I was short stacked the whole tournament, but kept doubling up when the need was there. I had no business there, but I made the final table and doubled up immediately when my A-K crushed the chip leader's 8-10o spiking an Ace on the turn. Next thing I knew I was in the money.
Again I was short stacked and with a few beers in me I was more than just a little talkative at the table.
If I'm being honest I was a little obnoxious. No hand went by without a comment from Marty.
The bigger stacks seemed intent on bullying the table and the dealer began to shuffle up and throw as I was in mid-sentence.
"Hey guys, if this keeps up I may just have to go all in on the next hand," I said.
The player to my left looks down at his cards and says to the dealer, "Verbal is binding right?"
The dealer said yes.
"So he's all in then?" he asked.
The dealer said yes. Now I'm not a mean drunk, but I got upset. My comments were not after the hand was dealt, they were during the hand and they were conversational, not an announcement of my intentions. Plus, I said I "may" have to go all in. I never said I would.
I put up a fuss and before I had a chance to call the floor, the dealer said if everyone at the table agrees they will not hold me to the statement.
I told the other players that if they wanted to take my chips in this fashion they should go ahead, but it certainly offended my sense of fair play. While the player to my left was clearly unhappy about it, all agreed to allow me to act and I folded.
It turned out he had A♥ J♥ in the hand and it really smelled like he was trying to take advantage of my loose mouth to steal my chips and move up in the money.
A few hands later this player busted out fifth and continued to moan about the situation. I defended myself, then defended my blind with A♦ 9♦ and got beat by Q-10o when the turn brought a Q.
I was out fourth and was cashing out at the same time as him.
"In any major poker tournament they would have taken your chips, given them to me and sent you home," he said.
"No sir," I said. "I cover a major poker tournament for a very popular website and I can guarantee you they wouldn't do it there."
"What major poker tournament?" he asked.
"The World Series of Poker," I replied. "Ever heard of it?"
I took my fourth place money and walked feeling upset at the underhanded way this player had tried to steal my chips and win what would amount to about $60 more. In fact, first was only a few hundred more.
When I got to the WSOP Friday, I took a straw pole of tournament directors and floor supervisors all across the Amazon Room and found only one answer. Verbal intentions are binding, but only when it is your turn to act and it is clear you are speaking of your intentions.
In this case, everyone agreed that my comments and the conversational manner in which they were spoken meant I could not be held to them.
Sorry Pal, try stealing someone else's chips; I have big plans for mine!