1 PM Oct 28 2012, Aria, 22nd (130 entries)

With just a few days left on my apartment lease in Las Vegas and this being the last feasible day to play one more tournament before moving back down to Laughlin, I chose the deep-stacked, 30-minute levels, rebuys available through four levels, $125 buy-in Aria 1 PM tournament. This is my favorite tournament in Las Vegas, with the noon $150 buy-in at the Venetian ranking a close second.

This tournament started out well for me. For one thing I won the first two (small) pots. By sometime in the second level I had more than tripled my starting stack of 10K to 36K, mainly due to two hands. In the first big hand, I was in the small blind holding

Everyone folded to the button, who limped in for 100 chips. I raised 2.5x to 250. The big blind folded and the button called. The flop came

Not too bad a flop for me. I put out a continuation bet of 450. The button called. The turn came good:

I put out something like 850 chips. To my delight, the button raised to 2200. After deliberating for a bit I raised to 4600. The button, now uneasy, took awhile to make her decision. She called. The river came

I put in the rest of my chips, a little over 5000. After some deliberation again, the button called and turned over

She had me covered (barely), so I doubled up. (She busted a few hands later.)

The next big hand came a few rounds later. It involved one of the idyllic, made-to-order scenarios all players hope come their way. I was in the big blind holding

A couple players limped early, there was a middle-position raise, everyone folded to the small blind, who three bet. I went all-in. Everyone folded except the small blind, who reluctantly called and turned over

No king fell, so the small blind wished everyone good luck and took his leave.

This gave me a solid chip lead at the table, but my cards dried up for the next few rounds. I won an occasional pot, but my stack dropped down to 30K. Then a hand came along in the fourth level that I clearly misplayed.

With the antes and blinds at 25-100-200, in the big blind I held

Everyone folded to the button, who raised 3.5x to 700. The small blind folded. The button had been fairly active, so his range here was fairly large. Also, having folded away my big blind repeatedly for the last several rounds, it felt like a good time to defend, so I called. The flop came

Given that (a) I could easily now have the lead, (b) my stack was more than double what the button had, and (c) there was a strong chance the button had two overcards to the board, with hindsight I think the best play here is for me to check-shove. The second-best play, which is almost as good, is to just open-shove.

The worst plays are to check and call, or check and fold. I went with the next-worst option: I opened with a standard bet of roughly 2/3 the pot, 1200 chips. The button took a little time and then called.

The turn came bad:

At this point I should probably just check and fold. Instead, I put out a sizeable bet of 2200 chips. The button took some time to decide, then called. The river was also not very good for me:

At this point I really need to just check, but I held out hope the button wouldn't be willing to stake his tournament life on his hand, so I essentially put him all-in by betting 5000. After much deliberation, the button finally went all-in. Though I knew my hand could not possibly win, I still called the extra 2200 or so chips. The button turned over

for the double up. With hindsight, if I had shoved on the flop, there is almost no way the button calls with just two overcards.

Suddenly my stack was almost back down to an average size. Not very many hands later, after flopping a gutshot straight draw in late position and everyone checked including me, when the turn converted my draw into an open-ended one, I opened the betting for 1600 chips and got check-raised all-in by a player with about 7000 chips left. I called and missed on the river.

Suddenly my stack was back to its starting size. Our table got broken up shortly thereafter.

At the next table I won an occasional pot and managed to stay afloat as the blinds and antes increased, but my stack was now very small for this late into the tournament. With the antes and blinds at 75-300-600 and my stack at 12K, when I caught

in early position I went all-in. The second player to my left then shoved all-in with a fairly large stack. Another two players to his left, a player with a small stack of about 7000 chips also went all-in. When everyone else folded, the big-stacked player turned over

and the short-stacked player turned over

With my tournament life about to end, the flop came

The four was the first card visible as the dealer turned over the flop cards, so it was instant jubilation for me. But then the turn came

It could have been worse, but it was still a major disappointment. The river came blank, so the short-stacked player tripled up and I just lost 2000 chips instead of my tournament life.

Not very long afterward our table got broken up. At the next table my stack dwindled to a dangerously low 7000 chips, so when I caught

in early position, it was a fairly obvious time to shove and hope. It got folded to the big blind. After giving it a little thought, he decided to call and turned over

The flop missed both of us, then running aces came on the turn and river, so I doubled up.

As things turned out, this hand marked the beginning of a climb back to normalcy and contention in this tournament for me. Fortunately many of the stacks at this table were not very large, and most of the players were playing very tight. Occasionally getting halfway decent cards, this enabled me to repeatedly either take down the antes and blinds, or win contested pots. Basically I had a nice long string of hands where almost every time I voluntarily entered a pot, I ended up taking down that pot.

When this table got broken up, the tournament was down to 40 players left. At the next table I managed to continue slowly increasing my stack while other players were getting knocked out. When it got down to just 22 players left, things were continuing to go fine. I was winning scattered pots here and there, occasionally taking down the antes and blinds by opening with a 2.5x or 3x raise. With the top 12 finishers getting paid, this was starting to really feel like a cash for me.

Under the gun I caught

With the antes and blinds at 400-1500-3000, I chose to min-raise to 6000. It got folded around to the blinds, who each called. The flop came

The small blind no doubt held an ace, as he opened the betting for 8000. Without taking any time at all, the big blind (who had a large stack) called. With about 40K left, I pushed all-in. The small blind immediately folded, but the big blind asked for a chip count, then deliberated for a little while before ultimately making the call. He turned over

The turn came

and then the river came

so I was out in 22nd place. If no heart falls in that situation then I suddenly become one of the tournament chip leaders, almost certain to at least cash. Maybe if I had raised 3x to 9000 neither of the blinds would have called, but with the set possibility, I sort of wanted callers.

All in all this was an enjoyable tournament with lots of ups and downs. It was a fun and mostly relaxing way to spend six hours on a Sunday afternoon.