Monkey Asks: How Hard Is It To Run A Poker Tournament?

20 min read

My nickname is Monkey. It has been Monkey for a long time now, long before I started playing poker. Sometimes, that nickname causes a bit of a conflict. People playing badly have been called a monkey. People making bad decisions have been also labeled monkeys. And finally… you have those occurrences where you will hear someone ask: “Who is running this shit show? A bunch of monkeys?”

Yes…all fair characterizations of a conveniently labeled ‘monkey.’ Well, I would like to defend my nickname if I can, and beg not to be included in that group of ‘monkeys.’ So this takes me to the last couple of events I’ve played, that were, ahem…apparently being run by monkeys.

You already heard me rant about the ridiculousness that I face up in Baton Rouge a few weeks ago. And if you didn’t, I’d invite you to read one of my posts on my sister-site that I blog for…you’re industrious little blog readers, if you care…you will find it with a small amount of effort. Well, against all conventional wisdom I made the decision to drag my ass up to a place I’d emphatically pledged never to return to the last time I was there. That place? Coushatta casino in a town called Kinder, Louisiana. A lot of the same critters I witnessed in Baton Rouge would show up for this event.

Let’s talk about this ‘event’ shall we? Preceding the $1000 Main Event…they had a $300 the day before. Me, my friend Barth…and the girl who is currently living under our roof, and whom Barth and I have been staking this month….all left late Wednesday night, so we could arrive in time to get enough sleep to be functional the next morning for their undesirable 10:00 start time. I did all the driving, of course. And my 4-Runner was converted to Hotel Toyota for my passengers.

Hotel Toyota
Hotel Toyota

We arrived around midnight, got checked in, and got to sleep. Barth woke up at 8:00 am and ventured over to the venue to get us registered so we wouldn’t face a possible line at 9:30-10. Good move, right? Thanks Barth, buddy…for doing that while we got to sleep.

Never mind. He arrived only to discover that we would be going on a hand-written list of people who would be going in as alternates. Say what? A full two hours before the event…and we are alternates? Yeah…in fact we were numbers 48, 49 and 50. Good gawd. 26 tables. That is what they were filling. 26 tables that are located in a tent…an actual tent, just like the kind you see at a circus. I suppose that is fitting.

You see the tent?
You see the tent?

So we head over to the tourney at about 10:15…since we know we are never getting in even close to the start time. We were correct. In fact, we would wait for two hours. Two HOURS! In the cash room…which is in a separate location from the tourney area…probably about a 5 minute walk. As we sat around waiting with a bunch of other players, we all couldn’t help but look around the cash room and notice that there were 15 empty tables…out of 26 in that room. Do some math here. 15…times 10 (players per table) equals 150…which was about the number of players they had on the alternates list. What gives? Why aren’t they seating in here? Like most poker tourney venues do?

Are You A Manager Sir?

So I get up the gumption to ask one of the ‘heavies’ that is stuffed into a shirt and tie if he is one of the tourney directors. He informs me that he IS the tournament director. Ahhh…I see. Yahtzee! Can you tell me why we are all sitting around as alternates when you have 15 open tables in here? Why we drove all night to get here on time, early actually…only to go in as alternates? God knows when? As it turned out…they would finally call us in Level five!

This was after they had earlier announced that alternates would only be allowed to enter up till the end of Level four. Then…once they got to that point, and noticed they still had 40-50 players to accommodate, they extended it. Awesome of them. I mean, who isn’t tickled to have the chance to enter a tournament with a stack that represents 6 big blinds? I know I was thrilled.

He proceeds to inform me that they don’t seat players in the cash room because “that’s not how we do things here.” Good answer. How long have they been doing this tourney, you ask? It must be new, right? Maybe their first tourney…or at best, second? Um…you’d be wrong if that was your guess. It’s been at least 7 years that they have been hosting this joke of a tourney. And what have they learned? Well, the easy answer is ‘nothing.’ But they take incompetency to a whole new level.

I was up a couple hundred playing cash as I waited for my seat, and frankly, gave a lot of thought to just not playing the tourney, saving the $300, and continuing to pound on the local fish. But like a fish myself, I decided to go give the tourney a shot. I think I lasted less than 30 minutes. My first mistake, was trying to make this woman fold. Oh…don’t get me wrong…she had every reason to fold her 10-10…when the flop came A-9-3…and I put a nearly pot-sized bet out there…but she didn’t…and oh…I had KQ and didn’t intend to make another bet, knowing she was never folding….so it went check check on the turn and river…with me hitting nothing…and she won. Brilliant. Soul read. Monkey’s drawing dead. In Coushatta!

She won't fold
She won’t fold

In between hands…one of the floor guys was in the vicinity of my table, and one of the other players made the mistake of asking him a question about the tourney. What was the question? I honestly don’t remember…but it was enough to cause me to blurt out a question of my own. Oh wait, I remember what it was. Someone commented on the dealers. Dealers? Yeah, Coushatta is famous for NOT hiring circuit dealers for their event, or even freelancers for that matter. What they do, is they bring in all of their dealers from the casino floor to deal the poker tourney….you heard me. Blackjack, 3-Card Poker, Let it Ride….those guys. To deal poker. This floor guy defended that move.

“We just don’t ever contract dealers to do our events here. Why? Because they cost money.”

I heard that, and kind of came unglued.

“So you guys don’t have a problem charging us juice to pay dealers, right? But you don’t think that money should be used to actually hire dealers? And meanwhile, you make us wait two hours or longer to get into the tourney while you have 15 empty tables in your cash room? You realize how ridiculous that is, don’t you?”

Negative. There wasn’t one thing about this guy’s reaction that would indicate he realized anything of the such. In fact, the only thing that topped the horrible play at Coushatta was the horrible ability to run a good poker event by their management staff. Then this guy made the statement that he literally ran away from. I was left with my lower jaw hanging so low I could have vacuumed the table.

“Have you seen our cash room in there? Why do you think we run these tourneys? I mean, we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere and struggle to fill our room. So we hold this tourney twice a year hoping to get enough players to come up here…that after they bust they will go over and play at the cash tables.”

Yeah. He said that. And I responded with an equally thought-provoking question of my own: “So what you’re basically saying is you have these tourneys, with these awful structures, these inexperienced dealers, and inadequate seating, and really don’t care about what the players’ opinions are of them, how they are run? Because your primary goal is to get us up here and have your cash tables be filled for three days out of the year?” He didn’t even answer…what he did was wish me a good day, and scampered from the area like a cockroach after the lights are turned on.

That exchange kind of put me on life tilt….and might have been responsible for me making this play. At 300/600 and me holding 6400 chips….there was a limp….followed by a call, and another call…and with 3150 in the pot and me holding 66 on the button, how bad could a shove here turn out? I most likely had the best hand anyway. So I ship it. And when the tightest player at the table, the woman in the small blind with the 1987-esque hairdo moved all in over the top, I knew I was behind. The rest of them folded. Yep. She had AA. Obviously. No magic 6 for Mr. Monkey. I was donezo. New word I just made up. Kind of like GoneZo, or Gonzo…I was done…or DONEzo. Ya like it? I returned to the cash room…where I grinded for hours. And hours.

Care to know how THAT ended? Well…at one time I was down 1600. I grinded that all the way back to having 1950 in front of me when my table broke. I took four racks of chips to a new table. Well, new for me. And I now have a theory. When you go to a new table…carrying four racks of chips, a couple things happen. (1) The other players at the table all get looks on their faces. Some of those looks are fear. Some of those looks are envy. And some of those looks are spite. And that is when you know that (2) everyone is now going to be gunning for you. For most of them have their own opinions on how you got those chips. And I would say the majority of those people usually surmise that you got them by playing aggressive and being a bully. Despite it being just the opposite….playing very stealthy and fairly tight…it doesn’t matter to them. It’s late at night…and this guy, this asshole, just showed up with four racks of chips.

I’ll Be Taking Those Off Your Hands, Mister!

So yeah, instead of calling it a night, leaving with a $350 profit, and getting a good night sleep before playing the Main Event the next day…I decided to go for the jugular…to end this night with results I could feel good about. Nothing about a $350 profit over 9 hours of grinding was going to make me feel like an accomplished cash game player! I needed something to hang my hat on. Plus, I’d been running like a God…well, maybe a mythological figure of some sort, just shy of a god…the last two hours.

Get ready to take the bullet
Get ready to take the bullet

That part about a $350 profit? Yeah….if I could do it over, I would have. From the time I sat down…till the time I not only lost all four racks of chips, but wandered out to the atrium to locate a cash machine to take out another dime to try and get it all back? Only to lose that whole dime? It was like someone put a blindfold on me, strapped me to a pole, and gave nine people fully loaded machine guns…while handing me that ceremonial cigarette to drag on while they riddled my doomed body with bullets. That was my three hour experience at that table. And it wasn’t that I played bad. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t tired.

No…what it was…was I had chips. And those chips dictated that these assholes were going to see all five cards…EVERY hand…not caring whether they were drawing to only 1 or 2 outs most of the time. I can only think of ONE time where I moved in on one of them on the turn in a ‘bluff’ maneuver…and even then, I had a flush AND straight draw…no problem though, for the guy calling with middle pair and no draw. For his whole stack. Brick. Another huge loss. It was an epic disaster. And when I finally left the table from hell and limped back to my room, the sun was just peeking out on the horizon. I’m an idiot. And I had fallen victim to all that Coushatta could do to a normal person’s soul. And bankroll.

Let’s Go Play The Main Event On Three Hours Of Sleep!

Great idea, huh? Well, unfortunately, they don’t have different flights at this place. Day 1…is Friday. And it started at 10am. Marvelous. Same tent. Same dealers. And here is a fun twist. Most tourneys? You play for what? 6 or 7 hours? Then you go on dinner break. Right? Not this place. You play two…TWO…levels, and get put on a one hour LUNCH break. One of the things they point to when you question the horribly speedy structure and the amateur dealers is that they give you FREE FOOD! Great. Nice tradeoff. I honestly don’t mind wandering down to one of the casino eateries in exchange for professional dealers and decent structures. You walk into this tent and you see, on the left…26 poker tables. On the right…you see 7 rows…each row about 40 feet long….of cafeteria-style fold-up tables to accommodate all the people eating their free buffet food on break. That area translates to what COULD have been easily another 10-15 poker tables…or 150 players. Ridiculous. Yes…I’m an asshole for not taking pictures of all of this ‘set up’ of theirs. I’m sorry. I won’t let that happen again, I promise. I was probably just too in shock to remember my responsibilities to my blog readers.

How did I fare in the tourney? Well…let’s just say, NOT WELL. I made the LUNCH BREAK! That was quite exciting. But I wasn’t having a whole lot of luck, and my hands pretty much sucked. I finally decided to play a pretty crappy hand out of position to try and get something going. So at 200/400 I raise to 1000 with A5. No, it wasn’t suited. The guy on the button flats me with 10’s. Nice call sir. The flop brought me a board I knew I was either going to double up on, or go broke. Option B.

The flop produced 3-4-6…rainbow. Pretty sure none of us are getting away from our hand on that board, and I was no different. I decide, since I didn’t have a made hand…and needed to pick up a decent pot, that I would check raise heavy on this one. I check. He bets out 2200. I re-raise to 6400. He tanks…for quite a while…and I felt like he was probably going to fold. Since I’d made a bet he couldn’t realistically just smooth call…his only options were to shove or fold. I was wrong. He shoved. Fuck. Well…I didn’t raise to 6400 so I could fold. I called. Saw the tens….okay well I ‘only’ have 11 outs here…would I hit one? Obviously not. DONEZO!

Have you ever played a $300 tourney that had a better structure than the $1000 Main event the following day? No? Yeah well I did. They started us off with 20k in chips…which they deemed to be a ‘ton of chips!’ Um…hello, this is 2014 calling! 20k starting stacks do not qualify these days as a ‘ton of chips.’ Hate to break it to you. And with levels going 100-100, 100-200, 200-400, 300-600, 400-800 and 500-1000 with a 100 ante? Yeah….no antes until 500/1000…and no green chips in play ever…so for those of us who consider ourselves ‘real players’ who don’t like being forced to raise 3x (or more sometimes) it was a real annoyance. I don’t think I’ve played one main event where a majority of the good players all raise about 2.5x every time they open. And no antes? Why? Because you are in one of those weird fucked up places where they cater to their players who all ‘freak out about antes!’

Don’t ever attempt to have a conversation with a mutant poker player where you are trying to explain pot value to him, and the benefits of having 25, 50 and 100 antes included. They want no part of it. To them…it’s the tournament directors’ secret strategy to blind them off quicker and end the tourney in record time. It’s like my mamma always told me….You just Caint fix stoopid!


Let’s Go Play Blackjack!!!!

What do you do after you bust out of a tourney? Go to your room? Go punch a slot machine? Go smoke a joint? Sneak off to a secluded area and cry a little? All of those options are viable. Or you can do like me, and go play some $10 blackjack…really the only time I do pit games. After a tourney elimination. Just so I can sit there, get drunk, and forget. So I plunk down $200 and get started. After all I had no room I wanted to return to. And my two road mates, one of whom I had staked 50% of…was still in the ‘big event!’ so I was forced to wait for them.

Cue the blackjack. I was quickly joined at the table by a moderately attractive blonde who turned out to be a lesbian. So I got to listen to some interesting stories. And every so often her sleep-deprived lover would show up at our table to check on her mate, who was clearly the girl in the relationship. The other one reminded me of Kenny on SouthPark…complete with the orange hoodie. We sat there playing long enough to warrant two comps to the steak house…and after both of my friends busted we all went for a ‘good meal’ before hitting the road.

We invited the lesbians to join us, and predictably they offered nothing towards the final bill. I guess ‘wanna come to dinner with us’ means ‘want us to buy you dinner’ in the lesbian world. Me and my friend Claudia plowed through a grossly overpriced bottle of Pinot Noir almost as fast as the cuter of the two lesbos attacked her filet mignon. I’m pretty sure she hadn’t eaten a decent meal in years. That steak never had a chance.

It was time to get the fuck out of Coushatta. But wait! As I was checking out…we noticed a gaggle of middle-aged men congregating in the lobby of the hotel. What was the deal? Maybe a bunch of guys up there for a golf tournament or something. There were all kind of dressed the same. At any rate…I handed Claudia my phone and told her to start rolling on the video…and shot this:

That got a pretty nice response. Then we went, packed, and I let the freeloading lesbians use me again…as they had driven all night from Galveston, and had nowhere to stay, and all the hotels were sold out. I let her have my room for the night, since it was paid for. I also was smart enough to let the front desk know to allow NO future charges to the room, or to my card!

We then piled into the Hotel Toyota where I declared myself too drunk to drive, laid out in front of my newly acquired headrest video screen (that was mainly for my two-year old…but boy was it going to come in handy) and prepared to watch a couple movies on the drive home.

Driving home in style
Driving home in style

So…the poker trip sucked! But the drive home was awesome!!! What’s next? Not sure yet!

I was thinking about going to the Heartland Poker Tour’s next stop in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which honestly should have been named Hicksburg, since it is literally in the middle of nowhere. But when we called to find out what kind of numbers they were getting for their prelim events? We got…well, a response I’d never heard before.

Answering the phone was a girl who sounded like a total ‘Tanisha’ if you know what I mean? If you’ve driven through the drive through at most fast food restaurants in Mississippi where I live, then you 100% know what I’m talking about. Where you (a) can’t understand a word they are saying and (b) have to repeat yourself and your order 3 or 4 times. Then you get to the window and it all makes sense when you see the gold teeth, and the crazy hair that had to take someone 3 or 4 hours to construct. Mercy. Well, this helpful gal who answered the phone tells us ‘she’s not allowed to give out that information!” Huh? Did she really just say that? She has to be new or something. That’s ridiculous.

So my friend, who has this call on speaker phone now for amusement, asks to speak to someone in the tournament room. He sits on hold for 10 minutes…then someone finally picks up. He asks them pretty much the same question: “Hi, me and two friends are thinking about driving over there to play your tournament tomorrow…your flight C. But before we decide, we’d like to know how many players you got in Flight A and B so we’ll know if it’s worth it to come over there.” Care to guess what Tyrone told us in response?

“I’m sorry sir, they don’t let us give out that information over the phone.” Oh my god…I was torn between laughing hysterically, and ripping the curtains in half. Again…how fucking STUPID can someone possibly be/get? So obviously we decided to skip this amazing event. And it will shock none of you to learn that in their 3-starting days of their $1650 Main Event…with, oh yeah, unlimited re-entries until the break on all three flights? They managed to draw a mind-boggling 90 total entries! How do I know this? Because I was the idiot who staked Claudia (again) to drive up there and play it. And no…that did NOT have a happy ending. I think I’m out of the staking business for awhile.

If anyone is looking to hire a guy who knows what the fuck he is doing? Who knows how to run a tournament that players WANT to go play? I have a price. Feel free to contact me for that price. Until then, I will be sitting here at home running my 689-entry March Madness pool for the rest of the month, and then my Master’s Pool in April…while deciding on where to go play next.


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