My Tournament Tale

Event 7: $350 Buy-In Big Stack Black Chip Bounty NLH

Kaelaine Minton - SHRPO Blogger
Kaelaine Minton – SHRPO Blogger (photo courtesy IMPDI)

I’m not a professional poker player, I’m a professional poker writer.   I write about other people playing poker.  The last time I played a tournament was over 14 months ago.  I didn’t get up on Tuesday morning expecting to play a tournament.  I expected to donk around In a $1/$2 NLH cash game for a few hours before going to work on the late shift.

As I was having my breakfast at about 12:30pm, I was reading the blog about the tournament that just started at noon.  Freeze out, so no re entries, keeping the field small.  Bounty, so possibility of making money without making the money.  One day event, and it just got started.  $350 buy in, about what I was planning to use buying into the cash game.  Plus a $50,000 guarantee on the prize pool.  How could I not give it a try?

After registering about an hour late, I was seated and ready to go.  During the first hour, I could tell I was rusty.  I played a couple of hands well, but played a couple very badly.  I was down below the 15k starting stack and it was not looking good.

On the break, I gave myself a pep talk and reviewed my short-stack basics.  Tight and aggressive.  After the break, playing 100/200/25, I caught my first big hand. Pocket Queens in early position and I shoved. My short stack was called by both AT and AJ, who were hoping to collect my bounty.  The board rolled out ten high and I tripled up, while the AT caught a small side pot.  Up to 30k, but no bounties.

Then it was roller coaster time. I doubled up a short stack when my AK failed to outrun his pocket Tens.  This hand lost me some chips, but earned me some respect.  The short-stack had shoved and gotten called by the player on my right, who had more chips than I did.  I re-shoved, putting him to the test.  Luckily for me he folded, because after the hand he said he also had pocket Tens and would’ve busted me if he had called.  I got lots of “good move” and “well played” comments, even though I lost the hand.

Then I doubled up with pocket Jacks against AK.  Then I ship another double to the short stack when my AK again fails against his pocket sixes (flop an Ace, turn is a six).

By the second break, I was up to 38k, but still short and with no bounties. Playing 300/600/75, another attempt to collect a bounty failed when my pocket sevens fell to a shortie with AQ.  Things were looking grim as I saw big stacks growing all around me.

Another opportunity came when I found pocket Queens utg.  I opt to limp, hoping the aggros at my table raise if up, but another limper and both blinds come along for the flop of 7 5 2.  They check to me and I fire 3k.  The only stack shorter than mine shoves for 10k, both blinds fold, and I snap.  He’s got A4 (gutter and one over).  I fade his outs and collect my first bounty, chipping up to 50k.

By the third break, I’m up to 57k, feeling like I remember how to ride this bike.  We came back to 800/1,600/200.   The field had already dropped from 187 to 47 players and we knew 18 would make the money.

Wally Maddah, a guy who I see playing every day, opened and I looked down at pocket kings.  I shoved, he called with pocket Jacks, and I hold to collect bounty #2.  I’m up to 120k.

Just before the 4th break, we hit 27 players and a redraw.   I land at the same table with Miami John Cernuto, a three-time bracelet winning legend I’ve been reporting on for eight years.   He’s short stacked, but that means nothing to him.   I think to myself that I don’t want to tangle with him if I can avoid it, but I’m looking for any stacks shorter than mine for bounties.

Back from the break, we are at 2k/4k/500 and John raises.   I’ve got pocket Tens and shove.   He snaps me off with pocket Kings and I ship him 50k, dropping my stack to 65k.

As players continue to bust and the blinds continue to rise, John gets moved to another table, then I get moved to another table with none other than 2011 WSOP Ladies Champion Marsha Wolak two seats to my left.

Just a couple spots from the money and I’m down to 46k.  The big blind is the only player at the table shorter than me and I need to steal some chips, so I ship it with 96 offsuit from the hijack, expecting him to fold anything but a premium hand.   He finds AJ and calls.   I flop a 9, he whiffs, and I bust him for bounty #3.

We go hand for hand on the money bubble with 19 players remaining.  I had 90k with blinds at 2,500/5k/500 ante and the average stack was148k.  Suddenly a player is busted at another table and we’re in the money!

Marsha Wolak & Kaelaine Minton (photo courtesy IMPDI)
Marsha Wolak & Kaelaine Minton (photo courtesy IMPDI)

We redraw and move to the final two tables.  I land at the same table with Marsha again and this time she’s on my right.  With 18 players we’re all guaranteed $561 in prize money, but I want more.

I find AK offsuit in early position and raise it up.  This hand has done nothing for me all day, so I’m not happy about it.  I get two callers, then Dimas Martinez, another guy who is here playing every day, shoves from the big blind.  I’ve got him covered, but not by much,  and I don’t know what the two guys behind me are going to do and both of them have me covered.  I have to either re-shove or fold, so I flash my cards to Marsha and fold, deciding to wait for a better spot.   She’s stunned.

As it turned out, the other two folded and Dimas said he had pocket 8s, but I hadn’t won a flip with AK all day.   My better spot came along a couple of hands later.  Dimas shoved from the button and I had pocket 9s in the big blind.  I call, he has A4 offsuit, and misses.  He busts out in 18th place and I collect bounty #4.  He collected $561 in prize money and 13 bounties worth another $1,300!

I’m still short-stacked relative to the table and I’ve got a big stack on my left.   We’re playing blinds of 4k/8k/1k ante and action folded to me in the small blind.  I looked down at pocket fours and shipped 141k.  Without even waiting for a count of my chips, the big blind called, showing A9 offsuit.   My baby pair holds up and I double to over 300k!

When we got down to ten players, we moved to the final table.  I had 350k when the average was 311k and the blinds were 6k/12k/2k ante.  I remember raising AT and folding to an all-in.  I raised JT suited from the button and folded to a big stack shove from the blinds.  My chips were dwindling

Before I know it I’m down to 239k (12 big blinds).  We were down to the final seven players and I make a desperation shove with KT offsuit, hoping to pick up the blinds and antes.  Instead, I get a call by a shorter stack holding pocket Jacks and another call by a bigger stack holding AQ.  A Jack hit the board, the shortest stack tripled up, and the rest of my chips and my bounty went to the AQ.   My run was over and I was out in 7th place, earning $1,496 and my four bounties for $400.

Never flopped a set all day.  I had pocket Aces one time, raised it up, and everyone folded.  The rest of my big hands were the ones above.  I spent all day cultivating a tight image which allowed me to steal some pots here and there, but I just don’t have the aggro-gene that the really good players have.

I must complement the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood for running a superior tournament.  The most impressive thing is that the events run on time.  The 12pm tournament started at 12pm, not 12:07, 12:10, or 12:15.  The color-ups are done on time and accurately during the breaks and there is no holding the clock while they finish.

The dealers were very good to excellent, even the ones dealing in the wee hours of the morning when most other casinos put in their weaker staff.  The Ballroom is arranged with room to walk between the tables and easy access to food and beverages both table-side and outside.

I believe my experience paying this tournament makes me a better reporter because I was reminded of the details that matter in any given hand:  position, blinds, stack sizes, and stage of the tournament.  Since I work covering poker tournaments, I rarely have the opportunity to play them, so this was a special treat for me.  I’m back at work on the blog ( for the rest of the series.

Special thanks to my fellow bloggers Luccrazy and AlCantHang who covered for me during my deep run.  Couldn’t have done it without you guys!