Poker Shootout

Chris Ferguson plays during the World Series of Poker at the Rio hotel and casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
AP Photo/Isaac Brekken
This report by Ken Adams is part of a series for CBSNews.com about his run at the 2006 World Series of Poker.

The next I played event was a bit different from all the other events I had played in one important respect. It was a "shootout" in which the winner at each of 90 tables moves forward to the next round. There are then nine tables, and those nine winners move to the final table and play for the bracelet. It's like playing three satellites in a row. I felt I had been doing well in satellite play, and I liked my chances to make my first World Series final table.

When I got to my assigned table, the only big name player I recognized was Barry Shulman, publisher of Card Player magazine and a very successful tournament pro.

Halfway through the first round I picked up 9-8 in the small blind. Shulman opened for 75 and I called. Ordinarily I would not call a raise in that situation. But we were playing with only 6 players per table, as the number of sign-ups had been fewer than expected. In a 6-handed game you have to play more hands, and it was only 75 to call at a time when we all had a lot of chips.

The flop came 8-6-5, which was about as good a flop as I could have asked for. I checked, he bet 75 and I called.

When a harmless looking 3 came on the turn I checked again, he bet 250 and I raised. To my surprise (and concern) he called. I had put him on two big cards, and thought he would fold to my check-raise if he did not catch a pair on the turn. On the other hand he did not re-raise, so I thought there was a reasonable chance I was still ahead. I figured that Shulman was a strong enough player that if he figured he had the best hand he would have moved all in to prevent me from drawing out on him on the river.

When the river brought a third 8, I knew I had the best hand. I moved all in. To my surprise, he called and turned over A-A. He paid the price for slow playing his hand. Had he played it strongly, I would probably have folded on the flop or the turn. Instead, I busted the best player at the table.


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Unfortunately from that point on I really struggled to win a pot. As my stack dwindled I made the mistake of tightening up instead of getting more aggressive. I played one pot especially weakly and my opponent ended up outdrawing me on the river. I made the same mistake Schulman had made. I should never have let him see the river card — had I bet the hand aggressively he would have folded before that.

That hand woke me up, and I started to play more aggressively. I was holding my own when I picked up 7-7. In a short-handed game (there were only 5 of us left) that is a strong starting hand, but it is unlikely to improve so you want to win the pot quickly if you can. Another player opened for a standard raise and I moved in. He called with A-Q. I was a slight favorite before the flop, but he caught an ace and I was eliminated.

I was disappointed. I had not played that badly, but I felt I had wasted a golden opportunity just as I did in the first event the previous Monday. After a short break, I went back to the regular satellite table line, determined to make up for blowing the opportunity in the tournament.

I ended up being seated in a $1,030 table. Again it was a strong field including three professionals. The best of the lot was Dan Alspach, a wealthy retired businessman best known for his collection of matching brightly colored floral shirts and visors. He is another one of those players who seems to be both lucky and very good. He plays a lot of hands, and often finds himself drawing slim against superior hands. But he seems to escape the trap often enough to do very well. I was glad he was on my right, giving me the option to stay out of pots he was in if I chose to do so.

I did not get many big hands, but I played position well and caught a few good flops. By the time we got down to 5 players I was the chip leader. Between us, Dan and I busted out the other three players, and got down to a heads up duel. In the end we made a deal and chopped the money roughly 60-40 my way as I had more chips. I booked a nice win of $6,100.

Heading into my final day of a 9-day orgy of all-poker all the time, I was showing a slight profit. I had played in 10 tournaments (including the second chance tournaments at the Rio and the afternoon tournament at Bellagio) and 24 single table satellites. I had spent $24,200 on entry fees, and had won $24,970 so I was showing a slight profit before expenses. The next day's event would determine whether I finished the trip in the black or in the red.
By Ken Adams