Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: Heartland Poker Tour Qualifier @ Majestic Star Casinos Gary, Indiana

On Sunday, July 20, I decided to take a road trip and headed to Gary, Indiana to play in a Main Event Qualifier of the Heartland Poker Tour at the Majestic Star Casinos. The Heartland Poker Tour travels throughout the midwest in states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa, and has been reaching out to other states like New York. I have watched final table play in several HPT events on television and was waiting for a chance to try my skills at the table.

The Casino: Majestic Stars seemed to be typical Midwest riverboat casinos – lots of slot machines, a kind of grimy feel, and a nasty smoke smell. The poker room was decent size and had autoshufflers on the tables. The dealers all seemed to be very good except for someone who was obviously new. We helped her, though, and there were no major problems. If I were a local, I would play here.

Tournament Registration: Setting up at a small table in front of an elevator, not beginning registration until 90 minutes before the event, and having only two people working at the table made for a long registration line. Thankfully, I was near the beginning, but it still took almost a half hour to complete my registration and payment, which took place in the poker room at the cage (another line to stand in).

Tournament Structure: 10,000 chips, half-hour rounds, blinds starting at 100-100. The first break was two hours into the tournament after the fourth round. Antes also began after the break.

Because I drove in from a distance and was short on time, I was not able to try to satellite my way in through the 2 player advance or 3 player advance SNGs. I have heard that the satellite competition is soft, so maybe next time.

Competition: About 130 players were in this qualifier, with about 27 advancing to the next round. The max was 120 people, but they let stand bys in through the first several levels if anyone busted. The first bust out came about three minutes into the tournament. I’ll bet that there is a good story behind that.

My impression is that the players tended to be at least decent. I didn’t see too much totally idiotic play, and I was actually fortunate enough to be at tables with good natured players. The chat was civil, and the atmosphere was professional.

My Lack of Success: I had a good time despite being totally frustrated. I got pocket Cowboys in the first orbit, played a few hands in the first 60-90 minutes, then went totally card dead for over two hours. In the next four hours after I was dealt pocket Kings, my best hands were A-Ksooted, A-J, A-10sooted, 8-8, 5-5, and 3-3. Yep – that was it. Since the autoshufflers were in use, it was even worse since so many hands were played rapidly. It was so frustrating to have to fold, fold, fold … I could not even get a decent hand to push my small stack and attempt to double up at the end. I finally had to go all in with K-5. I got two callers – another smallish stack who had me covered, and one of the table’s big stacks. When the flop brought a King I had hope, but the betting by the other players told me that I was a goner. Sure enough, the big stack had K-J and the smallish stack had A-A. End of tournament. The tournament board was a little behind, so I am guessing that I went out somewhere around 60th place. Ugh.

Conclusion: Apart from a poor setup at registration, the tournament had a good structure, seemed to be run well, had good players, and was actually a lot of fun. It was frustrating to not really even be able to play since my cards were so exceptionally poor. However, I guess that beats getting ousted by some lucky play where a donkey hits a miracle card on the river. I would definitely play in a Heartland Poker Tour event again. If the tour comes to your area, give it a try.


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