With the Royals not being in the World Series for the last six years, spotting a Royals jersey, especially an 80s Bo Jackson powder blue jersey, has been a rarity. However, a proud Royals fan was wearing such a jersey on an improbable run in the 2021 World Series.....of Poker. This is the story of Middle Age Bo.
What is the World Series of Poker (WSOP)? The World Series of Poker is an annual event running for more than 2 months and consists of more than 80 individual events. These events include the $10,000.00 buy in Main Event, but other tournaments consist of a variety of buy-ins ranging from $500.00 to $50,000.00. TV viewers are probably familiar with Texas No-Limit Hold-Em; however, there are numerous events consisting of a variety of other poker games, including seven cared stud, Omaha, etc.
What event did Middle Age Bo compete in? Middle Age Bo, as he could only get away from his work for 5 days, chose the $1,500.00 buy-in Razz Event #42. Razz is a limit game where the player tries to make the lowest hand possible, often referred to as the worst hand possible. The hand is decided based solely on the numerical value of the cards and flushes are irrelevant and pairs, full houses, etc. are actively avoided as pairs and full houses do not usually make low hands. In effect, players are trying to make the worst hand possible, kind of like the 2005 Royals.
There is usually 8 or fewer players at a table in Razz. Each player posts an ante and two cards are dealt to each player face down and an additional card is dealt face up. The player with the highest card is then forced to put more money in the pot, called the "bring in." The remaining players may choose to call the bring-in or raise the bet which is called "completing the bet." The amount of the bet is set which makes Razz a "limit" game. On each round of betting, players can put in a limit of five raises. After each player decides to fold or call the initial bring in, completion or raise, another card is dealt face-up to the remaining players and the player with the lowest hand showing has the action and he or she can decide to check or bet. An example is a player showing a 5 and a 3 showing has a lower hand than a player having a 5 and a 4 showing and would start the action. After that round of betting, a fifth card is dealt face up and the limits are usually doubled and the best low hand starts the betting. After the fifth round of betting, a sixth card is dealt to each remaining player face-up and the best low hand starts the betting. After the sixth round of betting, a seventh card is dealt face-down to each remaining player and the low hand starts the betting. After that round is betting, the player with the lowest 5 cards out of his or her 7 cards wins the pot. The best hand in Razz is 5-4-3-2-Ace which is called "The Wheel," the second best hand is 6-4-3-2-Ace, the third best hand is 6-5-3-2-Ace, the fourth best hand is 6-5-4-2-Ace, the fifth best hand is 6-5-4-3-Ace, the seventh best hand is 6-5-4-3-2, the eighth best hand is 7-4-3-2-Ace and so on.
Razz is a frustrating game as a spectacular or sold starting hand can turn quickly into a hand that is unplayable, kind of like the first half of the year for Hunter Dozier. A player could be dealt an ace and two face down, have a three showing, and complete or raise every bet on the first round of betting. Then that player may be dealt a king or be dealt another A, 2 , or 3 while his remaining opponent(s) receive low cards. If betting is not too crazy, the player would probably call any bets to see a 5th card and if the player receives another high card or a card that pairs his hand, that spectacular or solid starting hand can go down the toilet like the 2003 Royals in September. and the player, if smart, will be forced to fold.
Who is "Middle Age Bo"? Middle Age Bo is a 51 year old from southeast Kansas with a gut, one beautiful wife, and 3 kids. Middle Age Bo started playing poker on the internet in 2003 after watching ESPN's telecast of Chris Moneymaker, an amateur, winning the $10,000.00 Main Event. Due to ESPN and subsequently the World Poker Tour (WPT) showing the down cards (usually called "hole cards") of players and an amateur winning over a million dollars, a poker boom started and there were numerous sites on the Internet that attracted many new poker players. Middle Age Bo, due to just going out on his own and starting a solo law practice, often had time during the day and would play in "freerolls" where it would not cost the player to enter the tournament but the poker site would pay the top finishers in real money. Middle Age Bo won $40.00 in a freeroll and due to extreme luck, would be able to increase that win to a bankroll where he could continue playing in real money tournaments. When Middle Age Bo did not play tournaments, he would play Razz in cash games as a break from the usual no-limit tournaments.
Middle Age Bo has competed in usually 1 or 2 live tournaments a year sponsored by regional poker tours in the Midwest such as the Heartland Poker Tour and Run Good Poker Tour. He has some respectable places in tournaments, including a 10th place out of more than 450 players in a no-limit hold-em event.
Middle Age Bo has never been to Las Vegas and the trip to Las Vegas is over the 20th wedding anniversary to his lovely wife and he will be staying at the Rio where the WSOP is conducted.
First Day. As Middle Age Bo did not want to wear his Bo Jackson Cooperstown Authentic Jersey on more than 1 day of the possible 3 days in the event due to not wanting the other players to say that he stunk bodily just as much as his poker playing, Middle Age Bo chose a t-shirt with a picture of a donkey with the words "Mr. Happy" underneath it. A "donkey" in the poker world is a bad player and Middle Age Bo is known as Donkey King at his Wednesday night home game due to his erratic and unpredictable play.
Day 1 consisted of around 15 levels and lasted more than 12 hours. Players will play 3 levels (2 hours) and then have a 15 minute break. Middle Age Bo is worried that he will need to go to the bathroom more frequently than every 2 hours and will miss hands due to still having to post antes if he is in the bathroom.
Each player starts with 25,000 in chips. At the first four levels, each person will not need to post an ante every hand and a puck called a "button" will rotate around the table and the player with the button will be the only one to post an ante. Due to the low amount of bets, Middle Age Bo decides to play "tight" which means only playing premium hands and playing those hands aggressively. Middle Age Bo decides that he will only play a hand if each of his first three cards are seven or lower or eight or lower in certain situations This is usually called "A-B-C poker" and the baseball equivalent is probably 2014 Ned Yost just trying to get the ballgame to the 6th or 7th inning with the Royals leading to allow the bullpen to take over.
The strategy of Middle Age Bo seems to be working as over the first six levels he increases his chip stack to 55,000.00 which includes making "The Wheel" on his second hand. Middle Age Bo is helped by his starting table as they are friendly and frankly play to many hands. The older gentleman to his right is constantly frustrated and continually mutters to himself.
Unfortunately, after 6 levels, Middle Age Bo is moved to a much tougher table after level 7 where the players have better strategy. Additionally, Daniel Negrenau who is known as "Kid Poker" is seated at his table. Kid Poker is one of Middle Age Bo's favorite poker players and he has trouble focusing as Kid Poker is constantly telling jokes and Middle Age Bo did not think that he would see top poker players like Daniel Negrenau in a $1,500 tournament. Middle Age Bo gets into a pot against Kid Poker with Middle Age Bo starting with three cards seven or below and Kid Poker starting with an 8 showing. On the next three cards, Middle Age Bo catches another low card that helps his hand but also is dealt a jack and a card that pairs one of his two hole or hidden cards. Middle Age Bo continues to bet into Kid Poker in the hopes that Kid Poker will be convinced that Middle Age Bo has 7 high; however, Kid Poker continues to call. On the last card, Middle Age Bo receives a 9 and has a 9 low; however, Kid Poker receives a good last card is able to win the pot with 8 low. Kid Poker comments that he was a 2 to 1 underdog in that hand.
Middle Age Bo then goes through a period where he has no playable hands and continues to lose chips and is moved to another table with around 35,000. in chips. The new table is relaxed and fun with the most notable player being Alex Livingston who won $4,000.000 for his 3rd place finish in the 2019 Main Event. Alex is very pleasant and continually talks to Middle Age Bo and another player who says this is his first WSOP event. Unfortunately, Middle Age Bo continues to lose chips and his chip stack goes to around 19,000. Additionally, Anthony Zinno who has won 2 tournaments at the 2021 WSOP is moved to the table. Zinno is a pleasant guy and just knocked out Phil "Poker Brat" Hellmuth which resulted in the usual Hellmuth rant directed at Zinno that he does not know what he is doing. The table enjoys making fun of Hellmuth for about an hour, however, Middle Age Bo is not getting many playable hands. Luckily, Middle Age Bo wins 3 hands in a row at the end of the last level and is able to increase his chip stack to 61,500. The end of a very long day comes just shortly after 2 a.m. with no further players being able to enter the event. A total of 311 players entered the event with 98 surviving to play Day 2. Middle Age Bo is 53 out of the remaining 98 players and 47 players will make the money and a first place prize of more than $99,000.00
Day 2 After a fitful night of sleep, Middle Age Bo wakes up about 10:00 a.m. and gets on Pokernews to look at which players will be at his new table. Middle Age Bo is initially dismayed to see that the Day 1 leader is to the immediate right of Middle Age Bo. After thinking it through, Middle Age Bo thinks that the chip leader may try to play too many hands and since Middle Age Bo will bet after the chip leader decides whether or not to play, if Middle Age Bo raises the chip leader, it is unlikely that other players will get involved in the pot unless they have a good hand. Of course, the chip leader may become annoyed and, even if the chip leader does not have a good initial hand, may get lucky and break Middle Age Bo like a bat over a knee. With that risky strategy in mind, Middle Age Bo goes to put on his baby blue 80s Royals road jersey replica.
The theory of Middle Age Bo is correct as the chip leader plays too many hands and tries to bully the table. Middle Age Bo is able to pick up some hands and increase his chip stack to 90,000. Unfortunately, the table is broken and Middle Age Bo is moved to a table with Anthony Zinno. When there is about 60 players left in the tournament and only 47 make the money, Middle Age Bo gets into a big pot with Zinno. Middle Age Bo gets dealt an ace and 7 down with a 6 showing and raises. Zinno reraises with an 8 showing and Middle Age Bo calls. On the fourth card, Middle Age Bo gets dealt a 7 which is bad for his hand, but trying to convince Zinno that his two downcards are less than a five, Middle Age Bo decides to bet. Zinno gets a 6 and calls. On fifth street, Middle Age Bo gets a face card which is extremely bad but Zinno also gets a face card. Middle Age Bo bets and Zinno calls. On the sixth card, Middle Age Bo receives a 5 and Zinno receives a 3. Middle Age Bo bets and Zinno stares at Middle Age Bo for at least 90 seconds. Middle Age Bo knows that as of right now due to pairing his 6 and having a face card that he is probably behind and Zinno has probably a made 8 low. About 80% of Middle Age Bo's chips are in this pot and if Middle Age Bo loses, it is slim that he will make the money and a world class player who is leading the Player of the Year points is staring him down trying to get a "read." Middle Age Bo decides to just stare at a spot on the table. Fortunately, Zinno folds and Middle Age Bo coasts into the money with around 180,000 in chips.
After making the money, Middle Age Bo gets into another big hand. Middle Age Bo raises with 2, 3, and 4 and an a player who says he was originally from Iran reraises. On the fourth card, Middle Age Bo receives a 5 and bets and the Iranian player reraises. Middle Age Bo calls and receives a king on the fifth card with the Iranian player receiving a 7. The Iranian player bets and Middle Age Bo calls. On sixth street, the Iranian player receives another good card and bets and Middle Age Bo receives another king. The Iranian player who most certainly has a 7 low bets and Middle Age Bo stupidly calls thinking that he has to due to 60% of the chips of Middle Age Bo being in the pot. Everyone at the table knows that Middle Age Bo is beat. The last card is dealt face down and the Iranian player bets. Needing at least a 6 or an Ace, Middle Age Bo looks at his last card and finds a 6 and calls. The Iranian player slams the table and calls Middle Age Bo a donkey and mutters to himself in Arabic. The rest of the table is silent.
Middle Age Bo is then moved to a new table where he receives his first compliment. on his jersey A well respected pro player David "ODB" Baker says that he went to Auburn and mentions that he won a radio contest in Chicago where the question was "Which Hall of Famer played with Bo Jackson at Auburn" with the answer being Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas who played tight end as a freshman before focusing on baseball. I did not know this and a conversation about sports betting started. Middle Age Bo found that most of the professional players were friendly even though they are very serious during the tournament.
Dinner break started around 8:00 p.m. and Middle Age Bo and his wife went to the WSOP Cafe to get a bite to eat. The cook complimented Middle Age Bo on his jersey and said that he grew up in Kansas City and moved to Vegas in 1982 and Bo was his favorite player. We talked about Kansas City and I left a sizable tip for my barbeque chicken platter. While the barbeque chicken was edible, it certainly was not Kansas City Barbeque.
Back from break, play continued for about 4 hours with not many players busting. Unfortunately, the antes started to eat into Middle Age Bo's chipstack and when there were 2 tables left with 16 players left, Middle Age Bo was forced to make a stand. A player who was playing very aggressively raised with a 7 showing and Middle Age Bo raised with a 6 showing and hole cards of 4 and 2. On fourth street, Middle Age Bo received a king and then another 6 which paired Middle Age Bo. Middle Age Bo decided that he had most of his chips in the pot and continued to call and was able to show a 10 high at the end but was beat by a 9 high. Middle Age Bo was left with only 3,000 chips which he was forced to put in the pot blind on the next hand and was eliminated in 16th place.
After shaking hands with the rest of the table and going over to thank Alex Livingston for making last night so enjoyable, Middle Age Bo went to the cashier's cage around 1:30 a.m. to collect his $3,800.00 winnings. After tipping the staff $100.00, Middle Age Bo looked over and saw Phil Hellmuth and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow at another window. As there was no one else in the cashier's cage, Middle Age Bo sheepishly congratulated Phil for winning his 16th tournament at the WSOP which is the all time record and asked for a selfie with Phil and Mike. Both Phil and Mike was very gracious and Phil even helped with the camera. The selfie is now the Facebook status portrait on the account of Middle Age Bo.
Final Thoughts Middle Age Bo never thought he would make it as long as he did or have as much fun as he did. Every poker player, if possible, should play in a WSOP event at lease once during his or her lifetime. However, Middle Age Bo looks back and thinks what might have been if he had won just a few more hands, probably like the real Bo Jackson can look back at his baseball and football career and think what might have been if not for his knee injury.
While the Rio convention hall is a great place to host the WSOP, Middle Age Bo and his wife were not that impressed by staying in the Rio resort. While the Rio thinks of itself as part of the Las Vegas Strip, the amenities were subpar. There was no buffet open and no breakfast open so my wife and I would walk down to Denny's for breakfast. Additionally, a well known player who was staying at the Rio was robbed in the hotel right before we got there.
While recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada, I did not know how the Rio hotel addressed marijuana use. Every night when we got to the 29th floor of the Rio, the floor smelled like how I would think Jeff Spicoli's bedroom in Fast Times at Ridgmont High would smell. Cigarette smoking is not allowed in the hotel but that does not seem to stop marijuana smoking. I did not see a designated area or special section at the Rio where you could smoke marijuana. In regards to smoking marijuana during a poker tournament, I saw a few people enjoying a joint;during breaks. However, heavy use probably does not help poker playing as a player came to our table absolutely reeking of marijuana use and he made a pretty big target for the other players just as an absolutely drunk player would probably be a target.
Always check your surroundings, even if you are on the 29th floor. My wife and I opened the window curtains and were in our undies relaxing the morning after we got to the Rio, but did not know there was a zipline right outside our window.
Funnies moment of the trip was when the wife and I went over to the Gold Coast to see if we could find lower limits on blackjack. All the blackjack tables were $15.00 minimums but the craps tables were $10,00 minimum so I jumped on an empty craps table. I have read books on "setting the dice" to try to effect the probability of not throwing a 7, and while I do not know if you can actually control the dice, I set my dice and have the same arm motion to try to have the dice land in the same place each time. My wife who was watching asked "Why do you always put the 3s on top" in a loud voice which attracted the boxman. I subsequently hit the back wall on the fly and sevened out. Since the table was empty, I had my wife buy in and she had a couple good rolls, much more than I had.