The Tournament of Champions event at BARGE was held Thursday morning. This format, which Mike Sexton helped to create, features rotating games of Omaha Hi-Lo, Stud and Limit Hold’em, with the final table being played as No Limit Hold’em. There were about 160 participants and, as with all poker tournament at BARGE, players received hearty applause when they are eliminated. The first knockout stood on his chair to a rousing ovation. Greg Raymer was also among the first few to get put out.
I started out fairly well, building my 3,000 starting chip count to about 4,500 at one point, but I went cold about four hours in and was busted.
The BARGE “symposium” was held at 4 p.m. When I signed up for it online I assumed we were to listen to someone teach us how to play better poker. In fact, it’s a sneaky way of holding a Calcutta. Players bid on pairs of other players, with all of the auction money going into a pool that is paid to whoever owns a piece of the money finishers. If you own Greg Raymer and he takes first place, you get 25 percent of the Calcutta pool.
Jim Anderson said he shared my similar confusion as we walked over to the Las Vegas Club, where the Calcutta was being held in one of the ballrooms. I sat beside Jim Bullard of Plano, Texas, and he told me that the best players can fetch $100 or more while the unknowns will often go for about $25. He said these wild cards are the best value.
“I’ll take two unknowns for $50 anytime,” he said.
I just hoped I wouldn’t be the cheapest purchase.
BARGE organizer Peter Secor served as the auctioneer, going down the list as eager players upped the bidding. Several of the players pool their money into “syndicates” and buy shares of several players. I was taken for $60, along with Peter Canning, by one of these groups. Many pairs went for the same price, and a handful went for less, so I wasn’t ashamed. As a first time BARGEr I couldn’t expect much as an unknown. Among some of the notables, Andy Bloch and Ming Lee went for $200, Barry Tannenbaum and Sandra Terauds went for $120, Lou Krieger and Jen Creason went for $110, Lee Jones and Allan Jaffrey went for $120, Nolan Dalla and Bryan Juliano went for $100 and Raymer and Wil Wheaton went for $200.
“Next, we have Wil Wheaton and some other guy,” Peter said as he opened the bidding for pair 96.
Aaron “Gamble AB” Bartley and Rick “DaVoice” Charles went for only $70 because GambleAB hasn’t showed for any of the events he registered for, so far.
I purchased 25 percent of myself for $15 as is BARGE Calcutta tradition and I also bid and won on Dave “Raider Fan” Roberson and Claude “cockykuzy” Carlson. I wanted a piece of the action and Raider Fan is a frequent RGP poster so I bid on that pair for $70.
Before heading to bed Thursday night I played a few hours of CHOLE, a game featuring Crazy Pineapple, Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Lowball and Stud Eight or Better. Despite never having played pineapple or lowball before, I managed to win $180.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to the influence of being around people who gamble at all sorts of games, I’ve played as much blackjack, craps and the like on this trip as I have poker, so I’m down a few hundred dollars overall.
I was ready to show my stuff Friday morning and prove my worth in the final event. The winner gets about $5,000 and a trophy, but perhaps more importantly, the adoration of all of his fellow BARGErs.
In the first eight hands, I was dealt AA, AA, AK and AJ and managed to lose a quarter of my 2,000 starting stack. It was that kind of day. I hung around for a few hours but got busted with KK when the BB re-raised me all in with A4 and caught an ace on the river. One of my horses, Raider Fan, was still hanging on when I left, but just barely.
Tonight is the banquet, where Wil Wheaton will speak about who knows what, but I’ll take dictation and write a final trip report in a few days, after I get back to Tuscaloosa.
In the meantime, I may be up to co-write a book on the college poker craze with Lou Krieger, so cross your fingers for me!