Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pendleton Trip Report

Quote of the Day: "George from Washington, was a little nervous. We were chatting away and he was going to muck his hand after a bet on the flop. Rather, he mucked the chips that were in his hand. He tried to catch them but they landed on the table. The ruling; it was a raise ... and he won the pot!" -- from Susie Isaacs' Official Blog

Two-time Ladies World Champion Susie Isaacs is shown here in Seat 8 of our 9-handed Limit Hold'em tournament table (I was in Seat 2). Next to her, I assume, is George from Washington, who was mentioned in her blog.

Pendleton, Oregon, is noted for its annual Rodeo Round-Up. I spent the past weekend in Pendleton at a round-up. No, I haven't suddenly acquired a love for rodeo at this stage of my life. It was the 2007 Poker Round-Up held at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino that brought me there.

Still, to be honest, I went as a horse... a whole horse this time, not just the back end. A horse in poker is someone who is staked by one or more backers into a tournament in exchange for a percentage of the winnings. I have staked other players before, but this was my first time being a horse (or "hoss" as my friends back in Boston might say) in a live poker tournament. It was pretty exciting. The purpose of this week's blog is to share some of the details for the benefit of my backers and anyone else who may be interested.

I left on Thursday from Oregon City and covered about half of the 238-mile journey before stopping at the Shilo Inn in The Dalles. This picture shows my motel on the right, with 11,237-foot Mount Hood (about 40 miles away as the crow flies) looking majestic in the background.

First of all I should give credit where credit is due and acknowledge that I was staked by friends I met on a web site called, an online poker community that connects poker players who are looking to be staked with people who are looking to back them. The site hosts hundreds of staking offers every week, and their automated system makes the whole process fairly simple. In a sense, it's like fantasy baseball for poker, but with a lot more variety and fun.

I have been staking people and receiving stakes for about six months, and have had modest success in online poker tournaments at Poker Stars and Bugsy's Club. Getting staked for live casino tournaments is rare on NeverBeg because of the difficulty in monitoring such events. Fortunately, I have built up enough trust in the community that several players were willing to give me a shot. That trust, though, can be tenuous.

About two months ago, when Tash & I went on our honeymoon to San Diego, I almost lost all my support in one fell swoop. I started playing some stakes the night we returned, but I had problems connecting to the site. The next day we had numerous errands to take care of so I didn't update my stakes until the following day. By then, people were calling me a thief and posting nasty messages and cruelly negative comments on friends' blogs. It was a nightmare to clean up. I'm sure some of that crap is still out there. Like everything else dealing with people and their money, communication is essential to success on

In any case, it all got resolved and nobody was hurt (as far as I know). And all of my backers for Pendleton continued to support me. So, late last week, I packed my bags and headed east to play three consecutive daily tournaments beginning on Friday, November 9th.

I thought I was in a remote location when I won my first poker tournament in Tunica, Mississippi, in December 2004. The Wildhorse Casino (entrance pictured above) is even more remote. It is located on an Indian reservation in the foothills of eastern Oregon's Blue Mountains, an hour south of Walla Walla, Washington, and 4 hours west of Boise, Idaho. No offense to the locals but, for me, it defines the phrase "middle of nowhere".

The three tournaments that I played in averaged more than 500 entrants (or runners, as they are commonly called in the jargon of the poker world). Im sorry, but it's hard for me, an old marathoner, to refer to mostly overweight middle-aged men and women (myself included) as runners. In any case, I came close to the money on Day 1 and got unlucky thereafter. I'm sure I could've played better. But, except for the last hand of the last event, I'm not sure where.

Day 1, Event #3, $200 + $10 buy-in Limit Hold'em:

I lasted 7 hours but went out in 55th place of 397, which was 19 places short of the money. I played most of the day on a table with Susie Isaacs and for a short while with Chip Jett and Tom McAvoy. I went out with a straight, losing to a full house. I was pretty short stacked by the end, either way. I had QJo and two opponents were in the with pocket nines and the other with A-rag. The board was 8-T-7. A nine on the turn filled my gut shot and I thought I was going to triple up. But it made a set for one opponent. Another 7 on the river sent me home.

I am a collector of quips. Before this tournament, I knew Susie Isaacs only for her great quip: "Poker is Skill -- Life is the Gamble". It is from the title of one of her books. Susie Isaacs won the Ladies World Championship at the World Series of Poker in 1996 and 1997. The following year she finished 10th in the WSOP Main Event. She has written over 500 magazine colums and at least five books about poker and life.

Susie is a wonderful ambassador for poker, especially for women poker players. I bought one of her books for myself and another, Queens Can Beat Kings (subtitled: Broad-minded Poker for Winning Women), for my wife Tash.

Event #3 $200 + $10 Limit Hold'em (11/9/07) - Top results

Day 2, Event #4, $300 + $10 buy-in No Limit Hold'em:

There were 649 players entered in this event. I played well early but went out in brutal fashion with about 20 tables remaining. The big stack in the cutoff position raised my big blind three times in a row when no one had acted before him. The first time I folded A3. The second time I wanted to call but had 94. The third time I found Ac Qh in the hole and re-raised. He moved all in and I called. He had Queen-Ten of diamonds. The board was K4T with no diamonds. The turn was a Q so I needed any ace, any king or any jack to double up. No such luck...a three came and ended a long day. The player who moved into my seat from another table when I busted was Kenna James. Unfortunately, I never got to play a hand with him.

Event #4 $300 + $10 No Limit Hold'em (11/10/07) - Top Results

Karina Jett, shown above, finished fifth in Event #7, Ladies No-Limit. As can be seen in this photo (where she is scooping a monster pot), Karina is also a formidable cash game player.

Day 3, Event #5, $300 + $10 buy-in No Limit Hold'em:

661 players entered the Sunday tournament. I played seven rounds (more than 3 hours) but only entered the pot voluntarily on four occasions. The other hands I played were all blinds where I didn't call any raises and didn't bet after the flop. The four hands I played were KK, 77 (on the button in an unraised pot), AQ, and AK.

I knocked out two players in the process and managed to build a nice stack (5,500 chips from the starting 2,000) despite playing so tight. Eventually, though, I had to take a calculated gamble.

Early on, my KK won about 1,000 chips when a lady raised 3x BB (150) under the gun. I re-raised 450 to make it 600 to go and she called. Everyone else folded. The flop was all low cards. She checked. I bet 600 and she called again. Another low card came on the flop. She checked. I moved all-in and she folded.

I folded a lot of hands between then and the next playable hand. I got a pair of sevens on the button near the first break (end of round 3). Five players saw the flop for the minimum, including the blinds, so I was able to limp in cheaply with my medium pocket pair. With a set or no bet mentality, the flop came 4-6-7. The blinds each checked, the third player pushed all in for about 1,200 chips. I re-raised all-in and we were heads up. He showed pocket kings and I won a nice pot.

I had a brief reuinion at the break with "Oklahoma Johnny" Hale, pictured on this commemorative chip that he gave me when I scored in the money at the 2003 World Seniors Championship at Foxwoods (Connecticut). On Monday, he finished second in Event #6, the 7-Card Stud Eights or better tourney. Today he gave me a reality check when he invited me to the first Super-Seniors (60+) poker tournament to be held next spring in Reno. When I responded with the wrinkled forehead look he calmly said, "It's for anyone born in 1948 or later, so you qualify don't you?" Oh, right... thank you, Johnny, for reminding me.

A few hands later I got lucky when the player to my right made a big raise (5x BB) before I had a chance to bet my pocket fives. I was annoyed when the flop came T-5-2. But I breathed a sigh of relief when the orginal bettor's A-J of hearts hit the nut flush on the river on an unpaired board. Whew... I could've lost a lot of chips on that hand.

After the break I doubled up on the first hand I played in an hour. I had A-Q on the button and called what I thought was a streal-raise from the cut-off. I considered re-raising to force the blinds out but didn't want to commit any more chips to the pot in case I found myself against a big pp or AK. The blinds folded anyway, so we were heads up. The flop was K-J-9.

He bet half the pot and I raised the amount of his bet to define my hand and try to get a free card on the turn. Luckily the free card wasn't necessary. The turn was a ten and he pushed all his chips in the middle. I called and my straight was higher than his (K-Q). He had me covered, so he was still in the game.

After that, the same guy got really aggressive and started moving all-in on nearly every hand. I don't know his name but found out later that he cashed in this year's WSOP main event and has two bracelets from prior years. Eventually he built his stack up to 6,000 chips, a few hundred more than me. With about 325 of the original 661 players still alive, we both had more than the average stack (a little more than 4,000). No doubt, I should've stayed out of his way. I knew he was a ticking time bomb...

Here's where my discipline broke down. I was dealt AK in the big blind. Nobody bet until the small blind (still the same guy) raised 5 times the big blind. I saw him make the same raise with JJ and with the A-J of hearts that won with the flush that I mentioned earlier. I re-raised and he immediately pushed all-in. I thought for a very long time about folding but eventually talked myself out of it with the reasoning that I was getting 5 to 2 odds, that I could have him dominated if he was holding another AJ or something like it, and that a pocket pair would be a coin flip.

In my mind (and my heart), I dismissed the possiblility that he could be holding pocket aces or pocket kings because I had one of each in my hand. Nope, I thought, this was a small blind vs. big blind confrontation and I needed to stand my ground. Wrong! He turned over pocket aces and I was a dead duck. After Q-T-4 flop and a K on the turn, I had two outs to win and four more to chop. No such luck.

Event #5 $200 + $10 No Limit Hold'em (11/11/07) - Top Results

Among the well known poker players in Pendleton were Susie Isaacs, Chip & Karina Jett, Kenna James, Marsha Waggoner, Oklahoma Johnny Hale, former World Champion
Tom McAvoy, Barbara Enright, Vince Burgio, Chuck Thompson and Howard "Tahoe" Andrews. More pros are expected to arrive for the $1,000 buy-in main event on November 17.
The photos above show one of the three playing halls at Wildhorse Resort & Casino. The main room, pictured here, is most often used as a Bingo hall. Below are shots from my scenic trip home along the Oregon Trail.

The Columbia River forms much of the border between Washington and Oregon. Here, near the village of Umatilla, the river turns to the northeast and into Washington state.

The Columbia River Gorge in north central Oregon is nearly the same today as Lewis & Clark found it more than 200 years ago. This photo was taken near the Indian village of Celilo, which is one of the few places that has changed dramatically. It is a few miles from the site of the ancient waterfall and fishing grounds buried by the backwaters of a dam built in 1957 at The Dalles.

These giant wind turbines sit on top of a hill in Arlington, Oregon, overlooking a massive landfill where trash from metropolitan Seattle is shipped more than 200 miles by truck and train before being buried here.

Next blog: Easy Eddie is heading back to North Carolina this week with new teeth, new glasses and a new attitude. My blog dated Monday, November 19, 2007, will give an update, in his own words, on Eddie's year in the Great Northwest. Look for it this coming Monday.

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