Friday, October 08, 2004

Success in Aruba

The following is an account of the Classic in Aruba from Denver resident Arthur Kane, a regular Joe like you and me who qualified online and fared quite well in the tournament:

I started playing poker seriously about a year ago. I had played with friends once or twice before but really didn't understand the game. Last year, I was trolling around the TV channels and noticed poker games on a few networks. At first I thought it was a joke, but I was really drawn in. I watched some guy who won a trip online to Aruba won about $23,000 on the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour. About the same time, I heard about Chris Moneymaker winning $2.5 million at the World Series. I decided it might be a good way to get some free travel. I didn't seriously think I could compete with the pros.

A friend gave me a copy of Positively Fifth Street and he also recommended several books so I bought those. T.J's book, Sklansky and Doyle's. I reread them several times and started playing online whenever I had a chance. I was playing $10 and $14 tournaments that would get me an
entry into the larger games that gave away the trips. At first, I was bumped out first or second almost every time, but eventually I started winning my way into those larger tournaments.

I was concentrating on because that was the Aruba trip. By early spring, I had collected half a dozen entries into the big tournaments and started playing them. I was getting pretty far but usually you had to come in first or second to win the trip. In May, I played a tournament and won after a great rush of hands. I knocked out four of the 10 people at the final table and ended up with like 70,000 in chips versus about 7,000, heads up. That when I knew we would be headed to Aruba in September. It had cost about $2,000 in online play.

The trip was really first class. It was free and they were giving out the entry free to the main event so they didn't have to really class it up. But they did. They gave us the flight times we wanted, the resort was first-class, and they had two really top-end banquets at the beginning and end of the trip. They gave us two bags of trinkets and UB clothing. On top of that, they had
held some gold bracelet tournaments online with the final table being played in Aruba. I made it to the final table of the Pot-limit hold'em tournament and ended up winning it. The prize was $600 and gold bracelet.

The first thing you noticed was that everyone at the resort and on the plane was a poker player. It's low season in Aruba so Ultimatebet pretty much bought out the whole resort and three others on the beach. There were 647 players and most won their trips online. There were also top pros everywhere you went. The Devilfish at the pool, the Unabomber at the casino. I was watching Phil Laak play a cash game at the Radisson's casino, and he wasn't even bothering with chips. He had like $20,000 in $100 bills and was just betting with that.

The main event had three days of qualifying rounds with each player getting a day. If he or she survived, the main event started on Wednesday. My qualifier was Sunday so I had a couple of days on the beach on either side. That first day I was really nervous. I had received a list that showed all the pros playing in my "flight" and I didn't know what to expect. But the first table I was at had two pros and both busted out early. They were trying to bluff too much and people at the table either didn't know or didn't care who they were and called them. The first three or four hours I wasn't going anywhere. We started with 12,000 in chips and I was going up and down though I never went below my 12,000. I wanted to come out of the first day with at least 30,000 in chips because the blinds were pretty aggressive on the first full day.

Ace King was a key hand for me in this tournament. The first key play was against this kid from Chicago. I had AK and raised to about 2,000. The blinds were about 150-300. I had about 15,000 and he about 7,000. He looked at his cards, hesitated and then went all in. With hesitation, I put him on a mid pair and called. He turned over queens so it was 50-50 and I caught an Ace and a King. That brought me over 20,000 and the table broke up soon after. The next table I had a couple good pots, bringing me to around 30,000. Then I was moved to a table with Thomas Keller to the right of me. He won a gold bracelet in a side event in this year's World Series, but we had about the same stacks and were the table's chip leaders. So I started raising anytime he passed. One time he raised 2,000 and I had AK again and raised to 10,000 because I wanted to end it there. I ended up stealing about 12,000 in that last hour bringing me to 14th place the first day with 41,200. I was so burned out that first day that one of the staffers had to help me count my chips at the end of the day because I kept getting different counts. Much vodka was consumed afterwards since I didn't have to play for another two days.

On Wednesday, I was put at this table with this annoying woman who wouldn't shut up. She kept telling the dealers how to deal and talking about all the tournaments she had been in and complaining about internet players. My only complaint with the tournament is that it was structured strangely. It paid 200 places with places 100-200 getting $7,000. By the first full day there were like 280 people so I was playing extremely tight to get into the cash. Once the 80 people got bumped, I loosened up and played my regular game, but I couldn't get much past 40,000 in chips early on. And this woman was really pissing me off.

Finally our table broke up and low and behold she's put at the same table as I was so I started to bluff her. I had her covered by about 5,000 chips and ended up stealing a couple of pots from her in a row. The third time I look at AK and make it about 5,000 to go with 200-400 blinds. She pushes in another 20,000 or so. I figure her on middle pair and think she was just pissed off
at all the stealing I've doing so I push all in. She turns over KK. It was the only time I got really lucky in the tournament, catching an ace on the turn. She was so pissed and it felt particularly good to get rid of her.

The hard part about day two is that I always had a big stack to the left of me. But once I doubled through her I went on a rush. John Juanda and Chris Bigler were at the table. Bigler was short stacked (about 30,000) and he came in for about 3,000. I had nearly 150,000 at the time and I called with AJ. A king and two blanks flop. He pushes in another 20,000 and I go all in. He waits, and stares and waits and throws it away. My first big bluff against a pro.

That day was a massacre. We went from 280 to about 30 players. It was the last round of the day and I had somehow frittered away most of my stack. I was down to 60,000 and it cost about 10,000 to play 10 hands. I was in the big blind with K9 of spades and the small blind who had about 55,000 called. The flop came K, spade, spade. The small blind put in about 30,000
and I moved all in. He turns over K8 so I am a huge favorite. He catches an 8 - and not the 8 of spades - on the river and I have 5,000 left which goes all in the next hand of 68 of diamonds. I had outlasted 601 players and made $9,000. Had the tournament been structured properly I probably would have come out with more than $20,000, but I was happy with my first tournament.

Now I'm gearing up for next year. I hope to play the World Series, the
Aviation Club in Paris, Aruba and anything else I can get my hands on.
Basically, I'm hooked.

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