Discover more from Good Beat Poker (Bracelet Quest)
Back to The Bike
I flew to Irvine, CA for business last week. I testified at a hearing that went a day longer than expected, so I was on my last pair of underwear when my flight back to Las Vegas on Friday night got cancelled because of storms in Vegas. I tried changing flights, but every flight I got got postponed for hours and eventually cancelled. I figured I’d leave Saturday morning, but when I got up Saturday morning,…
All Saturday flights to Vegas were also cancelled. This was the same storm, and flooding, that made a mess of Burning Man. I had been looking forward to playing at a major tournament at the Wynn Casino that weekend, but that was no longer a possibility. I decided to search for tournaments in Southern California and, to my delight, there was a World Series of Poker Ring Championship at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, outside of Los Angeles.
So I took a Lyft to the Bicycle Casino, almost an hour away. Unfortunately, the casino hotel was full so I found one room in a pretty questionable motel called the Diamond Bell Inn & Suites, one of those places with an overly fancy name and underly fancy accommodations. I walked to the Marshalls across the street from the casino, where a few people even spoke English, and I bought myself underwear, undershirts, socks, pants, and shirts. I took a Lyft back to the motel where the manager wasn’t going to let me register for the room because the reservation was for Bob Zeidman but my driver’s license showed me as someone else—Robert Zeidman. It took me a while to convince him that “Bob” was short for “Robert.” I gained his trust when I could recite my phone number from memory.
The Lyft driver waited while I changed into clean clothes. I had been wearing gym shorts for underwear, which is really like boxer shorts, and I’ve never understood how those can be comfortable, given that everything is, you know, well… since I'm supposed to be commenting on poker, I'll diverge from discussing my undergarments, or lack thereof.
The Lyft driver took me back and I paid him in cash. He was a nice guy and needed the extra money. In fact, at first, he refused to take it and said he had to go that way anyway. But I insisted.
I entered the tournament and... made it into the money and onto Day 2 on Monday! The Bike, as the casino is affectionately called, has always been lucky for me. I had played my second major tournament there and done very well, being the tournament chip leader early on Day 2. I had knocked out a pro when he flopped a set of 4s and shoved, but I’d flopped a straight. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to play with such a big stack back then and spewed out chips by over-betting and eventually cashing but not getting as far as I’d hoped.
In the poker tournament room at The Bike, the wall is covered with banners of pictures of previous winners, and I knew three of them. Tuan Mai played in San Jose before moving to Vegas. He’s one of the young, “cool” players that don’t have much to do with me. Which is fine with me. Ari Engel is a rising young poker star whom I met at the Bay 101 card room in San Jose in my very first major tournament. He introduced himself. His dad is an orthodox rabbi and his mom is a Hebrew school teacher. I run into him now and then, but I’m never sure if he remembers me. And Phuoc “Paul” Nguyen lives in San Jose, but plays up and down California and Las Vegas. He’s always friendly and we wish each other luck. He always wants to borrow money, which is funny because he has lifetime winnings of over $2 million. I’m still looking forward to the day when my picture is up on the wall of some poker room.
On Friday, the highlights of the tournament included getting pocket aces three times and winning all three times. Twice, the other players folded pre-flop, so I only made a little, but the third time, I was in a good-sized 3-way pot all the way to the river and won it.
The highlight was toward the end of Day 1 on Friday when the blinds were $10K. I got KJ under the gun and raised to $35K. Everyone folded but the big blind who called. The flop was 4KK. I bet $50K and to my surprise, the other player called. Now I was worried that he had AK. However... the turn card was a K! I bet $35K and he called. I was hoping he had a pocket pair, preferably pocket As. The river card was another 4. I thought, if he had pocket 4s, I was really, really in luck. I bet $35K. I wanted it to look like I was bluffing and afraid to risk too much so late in the tournament. He thought about it for a while before folding. Another player yelled out, "Show the quads!" So I turned over my K. I always show quads since they're so rare. I also always show straight flushes, but I've only had one once, maybe twice, in my poker career.
I played in the next Day 1 of the tournament on Saturday. I had nothing to lose, except my entry fee, because I'd already made Day 2. If you made Day 2 twice, you got to keep your biggest stack from any of the Day 1s, and you pocketed $3500 in real cash, so there was incentive to keep buying back in every Day 1.
I got pocket 3s. I limped in, and so did three other players. The board ran out J974Q, but I actually won in a four-way hand with a pair of 3s! Very rare. I hoped my luck would continue like that for the rest of the day.
Then, I screwed up. Or just got unlucky. On the previous hand, one player had shoved and another player had called. The first player had pocket Js. The second player had pocket As. Let's call him Mr. Lucky. He doubled up and the first player busted out. On the next hand, I got AJ. Mr. Lucky did a min raise to $400. Another player reraised to $14K. I called and Mr. Lucky called. The flop was 8J4 rainbow. It looked good for me with top pair (Js), top kicker (A). I bet $2K. Both players called. The next card was 6. I bet $4K. Mr. Lucky raised to $9K. The third player folded. I called. The river was 2. I bet $5K. Mr. Lucky raised to $20K, my entire remaining stack. I thought he might have hit a set, but he also could have been bullying me out because he had so many chips. I called, but he had two pair, 8s and 6s. It was a big gamble on his part, but it paid off and I busted out.
I bought back in.
I got A♦K♦. One player raised from $200 to $500. Another player called. I reraised to $2200. The first player folded. Second player called. The flop was AA 10. I checked. The other player bet $3200. I reraised to $8K. He folded and showed me a 10. I told him, "good fold" but didn't show my cards.
I got 10 5 in the big blind. One player min raised. Two other players called. Pot odds were good for me (i.e., there was enough money in the pot for me to take a chance, and I’d already paid the big blind) so I called. I needed to get lucky... and I did. The flop was 525. I checked. The original raiser bet $2400. Everyone else folded. I called. The turn was K. I checked. He bet $3500. I raised to $10K. He folded.
Controversy at the table. Some of the players kept finding marks on the cards. They looked like someone was pressing his nail into them. We found four cards like this. Someone just pressing too hard or actually marking them? The floor manager said if it happened again, she'd check the camera recordings and kick out the player doing it. But I doubted it. They have to hold up the tournament to do that and it's hard to see anything so subtle from the overhead cameras. One player kept joking that it was him, and I finally snapped at him. I hate when players think cheating is funny. He had a short stack, so if it was him, it wasn't working. He busted out a couple hands after that.
I was at a very aggressive table and running card dead for three hours. I had 16 big blinds left. A shorter stack shoved. I got pocket 6s and called. He had AQ and got a Q. I was down to $6K—five big blinds. Very, very bad.
I got Q♣6♣ under the gun. I shoved and got two callers. The board ran out JJ526. Was it possible I won with my two pair, jacks and sixes? No. One player had pocket 5s for a set. I busted out.
I then entered a cheaper evening tournament. I started the tournament late, so my stack was already short. I got QJ and shoved. I got called by pocket 7s. The board ran out Q49J... 7. I busted out yet again. It was time to go to my room and watch TV. I was still going to be playing in Day 2 on Monday, and that's where the real money was.
Day 2 started. The blinds reverted to $3K (we ended Day 1 with blinds at $12K) so I had an unexpectedly comfortable stack of 45 big blinds.
After a couple hours, I had won a few decent hands, but kept losing the blinds, so my stack was staying steady unfortunately.
Then I got pocket 10s. One player raised from $4K to $8K. I reraised to $16K. He called. The flop was 347 rainbow. He checked. I bet $16K. He called. The turn was 5. He checked. I shoved. He called and showed A2 for a straight. To add insult to injury, the river card was 10. What was he even doing in that hand with a lousy A2? Well, I was going to lose all my chips in that hand no matter what. I busted out and rescheduled my flight home. I guess it will be a while before my picture joins the others on the wall of the poker room at The Bike.
Thanks for reading Good Beat Poker (Bracelet Quest)! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.