I got to the Rio around 1 p.m. yesterday, just in time to see the main event players reach the money. They were dealing all 57 tables hand for hand, and it took a while to drop from 567 to 560 players. In fact, it took nearly 30 minutes for the bubble finisher #561 to bust out. Harrah's graciously awarded him a free seat in next year's main event. There was, of course, thunderous applause from the players and spectators when tournament director Johnny Grooms, standing on a makeshift podium in the center of the room, announced that they had all reached the money. He told the players to come to the podium when they busted out.
"Do not pass go, but do come to the podium to collect $12,500," Grooms quipped.
I walked over to check out how Clonie Gowen was faring on table 124 since I have a stake in her. I finished seventh in one of those Pieces of the Pros tournaments on FTP and I get a 1 percent match of her winnings. She won $14,500 so I get $145. I won't complain about free money.
I headed back toward the hotel as I wanted to watch the home run derby, especially since Brave Andruw Jones was in it. He failed to make the second round so I flipped off the tube and headed to Binion's to play in their nightly 8 p.m. tourney.
With all of the busted main event players in town, the poker rooms are filling up and Binion's was no exception. The 8 p.m. had more than 160 players, the largest field in the tournament's short history. I didn't expect much when I folded hand after hand. In the first three hours, I caught not a single premium hand and was able to hang on with a timely check raise bluff against a pre-flop button raiser who missed and a lucky catch with a small blind all in raise against a bunch of limpers. I held the 5-6 of hearts, a guy gave a loose call with a J-Q offsuit that just happened to be best, but a caught a 5 and he caught nothing.
I managed to catch just enough at the right time. A man put me all in with K-J and I called blind and turned over A-5 and won with two pair. Another time the small blind put me all in with K-4 and I picked up A-10 and pushed in and won the race.
I managed to reach the final table, it positioned on a raised platform and with the Binion's logo on blue felt with the phrase, "The place that made poker famous."
I folded a couple of hands early that I predicted I would regret. A guy made it 16,000 to go with blinds at 4K and 8K and I folded 99. I figured I would have to go all in with my 50,000 if I wanted to play and if called was at best a coin flip. I decided not to take the gamble, but I would have flopped a set and won the hand against an all in A-5 that made two pair.
Shortly after that I had K-10 under the gun and folded and the flop brought two tens.
The blinds passed me and I got short stacked again. Meanwhile a few players busted, leaving us with six. I had 8,000 in the BB with 10,000 behind me when all folded to the SB. He looked at my chips.
"If you raise I will call," I told him, thought he undoubtedly knew that anyway. It was an automatic play in that situation. He put me all in and flipped over 7-10 of diamonds. I turned over J-4 and I won with a pair of 4s.
That's when I caught fire, finding A-10 vs. A-5, A-K vs. A-9, K-Q vs. K-10. I put out three players in three hands, leaving me heads up with a Brit who I had played with at four different tables. The first hand heads up I pick up 10-10 and push all in. He calls with K-Q. The board comes J-J-J-2-K and he doubles up. I still have a small chip lead, but we decide to chop, each getting $3,300 and change. I agree, but told him I get the winner's T-shirt that says, "I won a Texas Hold'em tournament at Binion's," drawing laughs from the crowd of two dozen that has gathered to watch the final.
So after three weeks of struggle, I now show a modest profit from my time in Vegas. Hopefully the run will continue for my last few days here.