MSOP and one to keep your eye on

Tonight sees Full Tilt’s Mini Series of Poker get under way with a $5.50 NLHE tournament and a guranteed prize pool of $40,000 — although it’ll almost certainly surpass that by the time registration closes. For those that don’t know, the MSOP mirrors poker’s marquee event: the World Series of Poker. But while you’ll need at least $1,000 to enter the cheapest WSOP event (unless you work for one of the Vegas casinos, in which case you’re eligible to play in a special $500 tournament to kick the series off), Full Tilt’s online version offers the same tournaments at 1/100th of the cost.

There’ll be 57 events in all and I plan to play a bunch of them. I’m not really good enough at any of the non-NLHE poker disciplines so that discounts about half of the events and I’m going to be away for some of the others but I’ve still earmarked 22 events that I’d like to play, starting tonight. I’m feeling good about my tournament game at the moment so fingers crossed for a decent score over the next month or so.

In other poker news, friend of trendthrift Poker Poet is back on the horse and blogging his latest assault on the tables. Highly recommended.


New US drama on the horizon

Man, there’s not much I like more than pilot season. A whole slew of new US television shows; some incredibly promising, many more terrible beyond words. I always enjoy reading the press releases from the various networks outlining their upcoming schedule, not least because some of the new show overviews are some of the most hilarious things you’re likely to read. I can’t help but feel that the executives at Fox, NBC et al will commission pretty much anything. Like this:

Jim Snatch has it all: a trophy wife, two adorable kids and an enviable job as VP of Ring Binding at Sacromento’s biggest lamp manufacturer. But one fateful day his world comes crumbling down around him. A routine operation to remove an ingrown toenail takes a turn for the bizarre as a mysterious figure forces the surgeon to instead insert a second shin into each of Jim’s legs at gunpoint. Now standing at over eight feet tall and unable to stand comfortably at work, Jim is fired for low productivity and when he gets home he finds there’s no shoulder to cry on; a note on the dining room table reveals that his wife has left him to be with a man with traditionally-proportioned limbs. This double blow leaves Jim to juggle the tasks of looking for new employment, taking care of his children and unraveling the consipracy behind his bodged operation — all while coming to terms with his massive legs. Every week we follow Jim as he interviews for a job where his new-found height may prove to be an advantage but his dedication to his kids ultimately gets in the way of being able to do the job properly:

Pilot episode – Basketball player
Episode 2 – Apple picker
Episode 3 – Taxi driver

Animated mid-season spin-off show “JIM’S LIMBS” will flesh out Jim Snatch’s backstory with vital clues to the identity of the shadowy cabal behind his leg lengthening ordeal.

Ah, what the hell. I’ll watch the pilot.

A battle of wits (and heavy eyelids)

Friday was a good night. After a long week at work I decided to wind down with a couple of online poker tournaments. As I had removed a large chunk of my bankroll from the two sites I mainly use I elected to play at a lower level than I otherwise would. Having spotted a $2.75 buy-in tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $12,000 over on PokerStars I thought I’d give it a whirl. Nearly 7,000 others had had the same idea by the end of the registration period, meaning that the prize fund was actually up near $17,500.

The tournament got underway at 10pm UK time and nine hours later I was still plugging away. The 7,000-strong field had been whittled down to a final table of nine — and I was sat with the sixth biggest stack. Not ideal but also not perilous. Given a little rush of good starting hands I was confident that I could take advantage of a couple of the weaker players at the table and bump myself up the pecking order. Unfortunately that rush of cards didn’t arrive so I was forced to duck and dive while hoping that one of the big stacks would pick off a couple of the others. One big stack in particular decided to exercise his right to bully the rest of the table and successfully knocked out two or three players by gambling with less than premium starting hands.

Once down to six players I felt I could open up my game a little and start making some more complex moves — I still had a relatively small stack but still enough to do some damage to the big stacks so I stepped it up a gear. As we entered hour ten I found myself as one of three remaining players and in a position where I fancied my chances of winning. One of my opponents was slightly too loose and the other was way too passive; I felt I was the best player remaining and that I could use these observations to kick on and take the tournament down.

Unfortunately, the $2,600 top prize turned out to be out of my grasp. I got involved in a pot with the tight guy and flopped a King-high flush. Confident that I had the winning hand, I moved all-in only to be called with the only hand that could beat me. I was out in 3rd and incredibly disappointed. In hindsight, though, my prize of $1,400 is a ridiculous return on an outlay of less than $3. Making it through a field of 7,000 to 3rd place is no mean feat. Don’t get me wrong; I was lucky in a couple of places — you have to be to successfully navigate a field of that size — but I also played incredibly well. My confidence is well and truly restored.

Pesky ash and lucky cash

So, I’m back from a trip to Las Vegas. I was away for a week, although it looked for a while there that I’d be stuck out there a lot longer. I flew out there the day before the eruption from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano caused havoc with European airspace. If my return flight had been cancelled initial estimates suggested I would be stuck out there for another three weeks or so. ‘Stuck in Vegas. Oh no, what a nightmare!’ a couple of friends mocked — but the fact was that I had left my wife and boy at home and as much as I love Vegas I didn’t really relish the prospect being apart from them for that long.

Thankfully, my scheduled flight back was the first to leave McCarran International Airport after the ash worry had subsided, so I got home as planned. I did, however, still manage to miss my boy’s first ‘proper’ steps while I was away. My initial reaction was one of frustration and regret but looking back now I guess I could just as easily have been at work when it happened.

The highlight of the Vegas trip, perversely, came once I had been knocked out of a big tournament. A couple of friends and I entered the first WSOP Circuit Event at Caesar’s Palace, which had a $230 buy-in and nearly 400 entrants. The top 36 got paid so when I found myself still battling away late on Day One I quite fancied my chances of making the money. Unfortunately, I got moved to my friend’s table and we ended up both getting our relatively short stacks into the middle pre-flop with 42 players remaining in the tournament. He table 77 and my AQ failed to catch up by the river, meaning I was eliminated agonisingly close to the money.

He, however, continued to duck and dive all the way to the final table. They returned the next day to battle it out for the WSOP ring and a top prize of $15,000. Long story short, he played very well and finished up in 3rd place for $7,000. Thankfully for me, we had agreed to swap 10% of any winnings so I made a tidy little profit from the tournament despite bowing out earlier than I would have liked.

But I’m back now, as I say. And I’ve finally got what I think might be a viable premise for a novel. Where to go from here, I have no idea.