Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My First Casino Poker Tournament

I had joined the High Heels Poker Tour - a series of Ladies Only tournaments on the East Coast of the U.S. - as a member months ago, to support the efforts of the woman who is organizing this new tour. Got a great shirt from her. She had organized the first ever tournament in the NE\ and I had briefly thought of playing in the poker tournament at Turning Stone Casino , about 2 hours away, but had decided not to spend the money.

Then I got a phone call from the HHPT organizer that a local newspaper wanted to interview a woman poker player, and evidently I was the only member in the area. Would I talk to them? Sure, why not? So I did and it was fun. Here's the URL to the story on the tournament. He used some good quotes from me.

So then I thought, heck, maybe I should play in it. I have on my "next 25 years to do list", play in a women's only poker tournament. And it's my birthday. Rooms at the Casino are very expensive, but for the heck of it I called to ask about the "poker rate" and was quoted a really cheap rate so I thought "what the heck, I'm all in!"

I took off around 1 p.m. on Friday, arriving at Turning Stone at 3. I checked in, got situated, then went down to the casino.

They were having sit-n-gos to win a seat to the tournament. Whenever 10 women expressed interest, they'd seat us and we'd play. I'd never played in a poker room before and I didn't know how to get listed. Do I need cash or chips? So I made myself ask - I hate to ask! - got on the list, found out I needed cash to buy chips so scurried off to a cashier on the casino floor and cashed in the money I'd put on my TS Diamond Card, and waited.

They seated 10 of us and we began. This is only my second live tournament, and many of these women know each other. They play at TS all the time, or at other casinos, home games, and tournaments. A bunch of women came form the "Albany Poker League" - they had matching jackets! They were eyeing me, trying to read me - something I am not used to - and I had to do the same to them. Look for cues and clues. Fascinating...

I ended up going out 3rd, so I outlasted 7 other women, but I didn't win my way in. At 8 p.m. they were doing a super satellite where they were giving out a lot of seats so I decided I'd play my first super-sat. Off to my room for dinner, relaxing, then back to the poker room to learn how to sign up at the tournament desk rather than the poker desk. This time I didn't need to buy chips before I sat down. We get those at the table.

There were 47 women in the super-sat. We played for 3.5 hours and got down to 17 people before I busted out. The blinds and antes were really high, so we'd reached the all in or fold stage of the tournament. I was short-stacked (not many chips left) and in the small blind. I had an Ace/7. I called the rest of the blind, and an Ace came on the flop so I pushed all in. I wanted everyone to fold, but I got called by an Ace/King so I was out. It wasn't a bad play and 9 times out of 10 it would work.

Friday night I debated whether to play in the official tournament. The buy-in was high. I'd already had the experience of playing in women's only mini-tournaments. I could skip it and get a massage and facial at the spa. I decided to sleep on it. When I woke up I said screw it, I'm playing!

There were 40 of us in the tournament. We were upstairs in a convention room, so quiet and away from the rest of the casino noise. We started at 10 and it took an hour to lose our first person! Women don't have testosterone poisoning, so we don't play for revenge or push with marginal hands as much as men. The dealers said they'd never heard anyone in a tournament apologize for beating someone like we do! And many women will show their hands because they don't like someone to feel bad for folding to a raise or reraise.

We played for 8 hours, with a few breaks. I had played with many of these women then night before, so I knew how they played, and they knew how I played. One woman said she and her friend noticed that I didn't show hands and had wanted to call my raises just to see what I had. Another said I was very hard to read. Other than the owner of the tour, I was the only one with a HHPT shirt on!

We played for hours. Dealers changed. We were moved a few times to different tables. One woman got busted out by another who called with a weak hand but got lucky and drew out on her. She got so mad that she threw a cup holder at her and swore at her. Security pulled her off and dragged her out. Otherwise, no problems. No other yelling of throwing things.

We finally got down to the final 20 around 5 p.m.. It took that long to halve the field. Meanwhile, the casino ran a 180 person tournament in another room during the time it took us to get down to 20. The bad news - blinds and antes way high and we are back to big raises to discourage callers, and all in or fold playing. I really tried to hang on, because they only paid out down to 8 places. But I wasn't catching cards. They put the chip leader at our table, and she kept making big raises so if you didn't have a good hand you didn't dare to call her and lose all those chips if you missed on the flop, which 2 out of 3 times you will miss. So she'd rob our blinds and antes.

I had a few hands in the final hour, but the blinds and antes were eating into my stack. I finally got all in with Ace/King against pocket 9s, and her 9s held up. I was done, after 8 hours of playing.

I was very disappointed so I went outside and walked around in the sun and fresh air. I realized I could feel bad about it and ruin the rest of my time, or I could be proud of how well I played, how long I lasted, how much I learned and experienced, and go enjoy the rest of my time. I chose the latter.

Had room service in my room. A bubble bath. Watched old movies. Talked on the phone to a friend. Had quiet and just let the experience sink it - but only the parts that felt good. The rest I just kept dismissing. I played well. I made great decisions. My skill brought me very deep in everything I played. But there is a luck factor in poker that, eventually, can bring things to an end.

I drove home on Sunday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, meditation, and reflection time. Sunday I relaxed, worked outside (it is finally spring here) and enjoyed myself. I played slots for about 2 minutes my first day then never went near them again. I spent a grand total of $20 on food the whole weekend.

Those women have made me a better player and I don't regret doing it at all. In fact, I am quite pleased that I said what the heck and went for it. So I had a birthday adventure and can cross the ladies tournament off my "to do" list!


Taexalia said...

heh you rock - I have often eyed the tables and thought "what if..." but stuck with the slots. Perhaps next time I will channel Willow ;)

Anonymous said...

Well done pokering! I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes, let alone 8 hours.
Oh, and a belated birthday too.
Mr Taexalia xxx