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My 2015 Vegas Trip

by Bob Ciaffone |  Published: Sep 16, 2015

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Bob CiaffoneI was eagerly looking forward to the 2015 World Series of Poker. There were a couple of important changes this year that I felt affected me directly in a personal way.
First, the starting stacks in the smaller buy-in events had been increased. Instead of being given triple the buy-in amount in chips, we were all given at least 5,000 chips for a starting stack. This gave the players enough chips in the $1,000 entry fee events, so we did not face excessive money pressure in the early levels of the event. Every poker player who I talked to said the 5,000 in starting chips was a great idea.

Second, there was the addition of a new WSOP event, the Super-Senior Championship (age 65 or more). This was a product of Oklahoma Johnny Hale’s influence and vision. We have had a Super-Senior event before, but never in the WSOP lineup. I entered both the Senior and Super-Senior events. The play in the Super event was pretty much as I expected. There were a few people that seemed unfamiliar with poker. For example, we had a man at my table that played seven or eight hands every round. Every time he won a pot, the dealer had to ask him to turn his cards in. He was apologetic about erring this way, and explained it by saying, “I only come out here once a year.” I had to control myself into resisting the comment, “Sir, where are you from where you don’t have to turn your cards in when the deal is over?” The man quickly amassed a sizable stack, then just as quickly frittered away all his chips and exited the event.

The rest of the crew at my table were obviously experienced poker players who knew hand values well. However, the play was much less aggressive than in the open events. I also enjoyed the ambience of the play. We did not have any person at my table who was a slowpoke. I strongly feel that deliberately slow play is very harmful for poker and needs to be cracked down on more effectively.

I started the Super-Senior event with the best run of starting hands I had ever held in my life. On two of the first three hands, I held a K-Q. On one of them, I had to fold preflop. On the other, I hit a pair on the flop but decided to fold when three other players showed strength. As it turned out, two of the other players also had a K-Q, and wound up splitting the pot. A few hands later I picked up pocket aces in the big blind.

Two players limped in and I raised the pot. One of them called. The flop came 9Club Suit 8Diamond Suit 2Club Suit. I made a solid-size bet and my opponent folded quickly. The next hand, When I was in the smaal blind, I again picked up pocket aces. The field all folded to me and I raised to 100. The big blind called. The flop came a disgusting J-10-9. I checked and my opponent bet $100, so I called. On the turn, an ace came, giving me three aces. I bet 500, expecting to now be in front, and my opponent called. The river was an eight, putting a four-straight on the board. I now had no idea where I stood. I bet 500 again, trying to make some money if he had two pair or trips, and feeling that if he raised, I was beaten and could fold. My opponent just called, and showed me the QHeart Suit 8Heart Suit. He had flopped a straight and the eight on the end was a blessing in disguise, because it made me more cautious with a loser.

My next big starting hand came quickly; pocket kings in late position. I raised some limpers and got one caller. The flop was 9-7-3 with two hearts. My opponent checked, I bet 700, and he called. The next card put a third heart on board and my opponent checked. I thought he had been flushing and checked it back. A blank came on the end and he bet 1,000. I gave him a crying call and he showed me a flush. I was now down to under 1,500.

A few hands later, I picked up pocket aces. I raised the pot and got one caller. The flop came 9-7-6 with a flush draw. No dainty check by me this time when I had short money. I had to win this hand to have any reasonable chance in the event. I bet 300 and he called. The turn was an offsuit king. I bet 1,000 all-in and he called. It turned out that he held A-K, so I won.

After another button orbit, I picked up pocket deuces in the small blind. Someone in early position put in a modest-size raise to 100 and there were several callers. I hate deuces, but decided to call anyway. The flop came down A-K-2, giving me a set of deuces. Unfortunately, the board-cards were all clubs, so I checked. Someone bet 200 and the button raised to 600. I decided to call and the original bettor folded. The turn was another club, putting a fourflush on the board, and we both checked. The river was a blank and we checked again. My opponent showed top two pair, so I won. I now had close to my original starting amount of 5,000 after a run of cards that scarcely could be imagined.

I lasted until early in the second day. Here is a hand I held that I think presents a great poker problem for discussion. We were nine-handed, and I was on the button with pocket eights and 30,000 in chips. Everyone at the table had more money than I did except the small blind, who had about 15,000. The structure was 100 ante and blinds of 500-1,000. The first person to play called in early position. He was a loose player and had around 250,000 chips. He frequently called in early position, and had raised whenever having anything decent, so I was not afraid of a sandbag. Several other players also called. My options were to call, raise to about 6,000, or move all-in for my whole 30,000. What should I do?

My stack size had a lot to do with the choice I made. If I had upwards of 40,000, I would have rejected the all-in option. Here, I appeared to have a short enough stack to seriously consider an all-in move.

A friend of mine (who is a world-class player) told me he had a slight preference for just calling. I rejected the call for two reasons. First, I thought my stack size was low enough that I should give myself a chance to win the pot before the flop. Second, if I limped, the player in the small blind with 15,000 would be strongly tempted to push all in and pray.

I actually raised to 6,000, got called by the player on my right (who held JSpade Suit 10Spade Suit), and lost all my chips in the post-flop play. I now feel that all in would have been the best option. ♠

Bob Ciaffone’s new poker book, No-limit Holdem Poker, is now available. This is Bob’s fifth book on poker strategy. It can be ordered from Bob for $25 by emailing him at bobciaffone@gmail.com. Free shipping in the lower 48 states to Card Player readers. All books autographed. Bob Ciaffone is available for poker lessons.