Wiesenberg (s059 poker): Sophie plays in the big time

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card Player. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers poker.

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Black and white photo of Michael Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie plays in the big time

“At the buffet,” said my Aunt Sophie, during a break running into me in the crowd jammed between the rail and the banks of quarter video poker slots, “you’ll join me?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “actually I had been planning to take Sara, and they only allow me one guest.”

“Of course, Dollink,” retorted Aunt Sophie, “I know that. But I got my own ticket. The only Southern Californian in the lowball event you’re not, you know.”


“Right you are,” I chuckled. “Judging by my table, I might think I was at the Anaheim Club instead of in the lowball event of the World Series of Poker. I know every single player. Mind you, most of them usually play a bit smaller than I do, but I still see most of them every day. Anyway, though, I didn’t know you were in this tournament. I didn’t see you at any of the tables.”

“And I’m not,” she replied, “at any of the tables you can see. I’m at one of the six tables next to the million dollars, you know, right by the side door. People keep walking up and getting their pictures taken with the famous Horseshoe million dollar display and I think our table is in their picture, too. You’d think they could find room for all the tables in one tournament to be together.”

“There are considerably fewer contestants,” I offered, “this year than last. The prize money is greater, though. Raising the buy-in from $1000 to $1500 made the difference. Last year, some of the contests had so many entries that some tables started out across the street at the Golden Nugget.”

“Imagine,” she marveled, “a poker event so popular that they have to raise the entry fee to keep the number of contestants down.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “and that still doesn’t do the trick. I wouldn’t be surprised if some events still get more entries than last year. And next year I won’t be surprised to see the entry fee go from $1500 to $2000 in some of the more popular events. Of course, the prize money will still increase every year.”

Nu, Tsatskeleh,” she demanded, “what’s the winning strategy for this tournament?”

“Before I respond to that,” I responded, “tell me what you’re doing here. I thought you were playing in the pan tournament at the Union Plaza.”

“Oh,” she laughed, “playing I was, but I was the first one busted out. There was lots of side action, of course, but the only game I could get a seat in had that professional kvetsch, Queenie Quillman, with whom in the same game never I’d get into. And the only other game that had less than twenty people waiting who should be sitting in it looking like he had found a new home away from home, but Marty Goldblum? So, tight play I can put up with, but this guy who acts like a friend only to take advantage of a momentary lapse in judgment in a game and foul your hand at the first opportunity, and besides, he’s got to analyze every hand when it’s over and explain how well he played it, no thanks, I don’t need to jump in a game with him. So I strolled over to the Golden Nugget about ten thirty to see if you two lovebirds had come down yet and a little breakfast might like, and you hadn’t, and they were just starting a satellite for the lowball tournament, and I thought, what the heck, I can’t for two hundred dollars go wrong, and, sure enough, I won it, and so here I am in the same tournament you’re in, and already it’s the first break and still chips I’ve got left, and so a bit of advice I thought I’d ask just in case I get lucky and don’t go busted right away.”

“Aunt Sophie,” I smiled, “do you pay your sentences by the word? That’s the longest I’ve heard you come out with in some time.”

“Your old aunt’s leg,” she shot back, “you’ll stop pulling, please. Just tell me how to make it to the last table.”


“Well,” I returned, “in the five minutes left of this break that’s a tall order. I can just summarize the excellent advice from Tom McEvoy’s book, which is to do your best to survive. In the early stages, which this still is, don’t gamble too much. If you have a moderate amount or a lot of chips, concentrate on picking off the short stacks. Stay out of the way of the large stacks if you can. Of course, don’t dump a playable hand just because you’re likely to get involved with another large stack, but do be careful. This is not a ‘regular’ game, where you can buy more chips if you go busted. Don’t make the percentage plays that squeeze out a few extra bets at the expense of lowering the percentage of pots you win. That means that even with the nuts to draw to on the big blind, unless you have an awful lot of chips, you probably shouldn’t raise on the come.


“And if you have a short stack, say not much more than will allow you to play one hand, wait for a decent hand, and then get as much in the pot as you can. Don’t go down calling. If you go out, let it be because you put the last bet in. And, again, once you’ve got more than the minimum of chips, survival is the key. They’re going to pay sixteen players out of the field of 194. Don’t be number seventeen because you didn’t happen to notice that some other player had even fewer chips than you and would have the blind next hand. And if you make it to one of those last two tables, and you have a lot of chips, then start putting the pressure on, but remember, direct it, as much as possible, toward the short stacks. And now that you prevented me from making it to the men’s room in time, I see it’s time to get back to the table. Good luck, Aunt Sophie.”

“Good luck, Dollink,” she concluded. “Hope I see you at the last table, and you got all the chips, so I can stay out of your way.”

Next: 060 Aunt Sophie learns a key winning element

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