I just checked my ranking on CardPlayer.com and noticed that my overall ranking was 126th in 2004. I feel privileged to be among the top-ranked players and hope to improve in 2005. My first tournament in 2005 was the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, Australia. There were 263 participants, an increase from 133 last year because more than 100 players won their seats through PartyPoker.com. First-place prize money was a guaranteed AUD $1 million, a first for Australian poker. I placed second in this event last year when my K-K lost to Tony Bloom’s K-3 when he flopped 9-3-3. I was looking forward to another chance to place in this event, but it was not to be.
We started with $5,000 in chips with a free rebuy of another $5,000 anytime during the first three levels. I never really got started with anything that took me anywhere. You know it’s going to be a tough day when you go all in with A-K and the other guy has A-K, too; or, when you get no action when you have A-A! Those were my two best Bola88 hands of the day.
I made it to the sixth level when I was in the big blind with K-7 and had $1,700 left in chips after posting the $500 big blind. Everyone passed to Billy “The Croc” Argyros on the button, who raised enough to put me all in. If I passed, I’d have to post $250 in the small blind the next hand, and if I passed on that, I would be left with $1,450, which was only three times the big blind. Billy could have been raising with anything here, and a king is a good overcard to have. I decided to take my stand here and call his raise. He turned over K-8! Uh-oh! The flop was K-9-2, not so good. The turn was a deuce. Now, we had a split pot, because the 9 played on the board. The river was another 9! Now, we both had kings and nines, but his 8 played and I was out. That’s about how it went for this tourney. In hindsight, I could have hoped for a better hand through one more round around the table, but believe it or not, K-7 was one of the better hands I had seen. The Australian hospitality of the Crown Casino and the friendliness of the local Australian players can’t be topped. I’ve already made my reservations to return in 2006. Well done, mates!
Another exciting event that took place at the Aussie Millions was the new game of Speed Poker, with the inaugural Speed Poker Championship and AUD $100,000 guaranteed. The buy-in was AUD $1,600 and play was limited to two heats of 102 players playing sixhanded tables. Speed Poker requires you to act on your hand within 15 seconds — thus, its name. Each table had a beautiful Aussie girl with a time clock to keep us all in check. Geez, how did they expect a guy to concentrate?! And they pumped up the volume on some electronic music with a ferocious beat, all the while announcing over the microphone the all ins and who beat whom with what. The final three tables of each heat made the money and were recorded for television. My key hands were A-8 vs. 3-3 with a board of 6-6-3-A-8. Another was my A-4 vs. A-Q all in and I hit a 4 on the turn, which was very lucky! The last one was my J-J vs. K-K with a flop of A-K-J. I think there’s a future for Speed Poker if some adjustments are made to some of the rules (but that’s for another column).
Lastly, I’d like to talk about the new game in town — what I call The New Poker. The New Poker is the style of play of the new player who has gotten his experience primarily online and wins a seat online to a major event like the Aussie Millions. This new player has taken many risks online and has been rewarded with his risky play, and this is the type of play he brings with him to a live tournament. In one of the no-limit hold’em events alone, I saw three different players call all-in raises before the flop with small to medium pairs early in the tournament against premium pairs; for example, 5-5, 8-8, 9-9 vs. A-A, K-K, and Q-Q. All three of the smaller hands won by hitting a set! Most experienced pros are not going to risk their entire stack of chips in the early stages of a tournament with small to medium pairs. In the middle or later stages, when the blinds are higher and the big blind to chip stack ratio is lower, you will see this type of action, but not usually in the early stages. This is the new game in town — The New Poker — and pros need to make some adjustments to meet this new challenge. One way might be to keep the action to a minimum to limit the potential loss in a hand. The New Poker players need to make some adjustments, too. They must realize what underdogs they are when calling with mediocre hands, and that it won’t work most of the time. They may get lucky in the short term, but they probably won’t win any major tournaments by playing this New Poker style. The future of poker is strong and will continue to bring new players to the game. It will be interesting to watch as The New Poker and The Old Poker battle it out this year for the princely prizes awarded in tournament poker today.