Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What to listen to in St. Louis?

I am starting to get excited about my trip to St. Louis. I go down 2 weeks from Saturday for the Amateur Poker League National Championship.

For those of you that don’t know, the Amateur Poker League (APL) is a company that puts on weekly NLHE tournaments in bars and restaurants, across the country, for free. The point is that the establishment that hires the APL to conduct the tourneys gain customers on nights that they normally wouldn’t be very busy. The APL, in turn, collects a fee for their service of hosting the tourney. It is kind of like a bar hiring a DJ or someone to do Karaoke for the night.

For the players, like me, it is great practice for live action, it opens up your network of poker players, and you get an outside chance at a trip to the WSOP main event each year. The tourneys are held each week on the same night of the week at each establishment, with 2 sessions or tourneys per night. Some venues end up with only a few people, while others end up with over 100. The place I play at usually has about 60-70 for the first session, and about 40-50 for the second session. I usually only play the early session, since the second session doesn’t get over until about 12:30am.

The way it works is, if you finish in the top 16, you receive points based on where you place. The top spot gets the most points, while 16th gets the least. Overall, the “league” works like a bracket. You play each week to finish in the top 16 to gain points. If you finish in the points on any given week, you qualify for the next level in the bracket, which is the monthly championship. The first session during the third week of each month, the monthly championship is held for any players that scored points during the previous month.

If you score points in the monthly championship, that qualifies you for the next level, which is the venue grand championship. There is then a semiannual tourney, and a state final tourney. If you scored points in the state final, you qualify for the national championship.

I started playing in the APL in September of last year. I happened to stop into a local pub and saw a sign that said they were starting these tourneys over the Labor Day weekend. I figured that would give me some good practice. It was a great time, I met a ton of people there and I haven’t looked back since. By playing there, I really got back into online poker again and it fueled my desire to learn more by reading, etc. That is when I really started to get into everyone’s blogs and I guess that is why I now write this crappy one.

In any event, I ended up coming in second in my first week. I continued to do pretty well at the beginning and qualified for the first monthly tourney and ended up in 4th place. In November, the APL announced a promotion with Budweiser to send the top 5 players from each state to Vegas for a tourney. It was a 5 week promotion with the top 100 point gainers from each region qualifying for a local tourney. The top 5 in that tourney went to Vegas. As I said before, I usually only played the early session, so that put me at a disadvantage during this promotion. The region was made up of all the venues in Massachusetts, so a lot of people were playing every night they could, and both sessions, in the hope of gaining some points to qualify for the local tourney.

I decided to give it a shot, and started playing at another venue in addition to where I started. It was a new place, so the number of people was less, which gave me a better chance of finishing high, for more points. I ended up qualifying for the monthly championship at that place for December, since I gained some points there while playing for the Bud tourney. I did end up making the top 100, but couldn’t play in the tourney because I was on vacation. That was a bummer, but priorities being what they are, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I really wanted to give it a shot, but it just didn’t work out.

Well, I went on and won the monthly championship at the new place in December. I knew that by winning a monthly, you got to skip a level in the bracket. I thought that got me in the semiannual tourney. When the semiannuals started being planned and posted on the APL website, there wasn’t one at either of the venue that I played at. Since they hadn’t been in existence for 6 months, there was no semiannual tourney. I qualified for the first one next year I was told. Bummer.

Right on the heels of the semiannual tourneys, they started posting invite lists for the state championship. I had been told that I wouldn’t qualify because there was no semi to play in, but I kept my eye on the list. A couple days before the tourney, I noticed that 2 friends of mine were on the list. They were the only 2 from the place I played at on the list. It didn’t make a lot of sense since they didn’t play anywhere other than the places I did, but they had won monthly venue championship tourneys. Hmmm, I thought. I emailed the regional tourney director and asked him about it. Sure enough, since I had won the monthly championship, I did actually qualify for the state final. I needed to come in the top 16 in that tourney to get invited to the National. I posted about the tourney when it happened in February.

After I came in 9th and qualified, I found out a little more info. Basically, you needed to get your self to wherever they ended up hosting the event. They basically pay for nothing other than hosting the event. The winner wins a seat in the 2006 main event. I started to think about whether the expense was worth it. There was some talk about the event being held in Vegas or Kansas City. I was hoping for Vegas to make the decision very easy. When they announced the location, it ended up being in St. Louis. With that, I really wondered if it was worth the trip. Nothing against St. Louis, but I didn’t have a huge desire to go there. I didn’t know what was there, or how expensive it was going to be. Plus, with about 200 people in the tourney, if the only prize was the top spot, the chances are pretty damn slim that I win it, so why not sink the money I would have to spend on the trip into satellites for smaller events in the WSOP?

I talked to the regional tourney director and he said they gave away other things at last years tourney like seats to smaller events, trips to various places, etc. He urged me to give it a shot. One of the guys I originally met at the APL also had made it. We have played a lot of poker since September together and he is great guy. We both decided that we would be kicking ourselves if we didn’t give it a shot. Plus, the whole point of the APL is to move through the bracket right? If you make it to that point, don’t you have to go?

So now, that is where I am. We tracked airline ticket prices for a month and they were pretty high. It looks like only American flies non-stop to St. Louis from Boston. Since we were only going for the weekend, it made sense to fly non-stop. Plus, the difference between those prices and the prices to stop once were almost the same anyway.

Last week, we both booked our flights and paid about $365 each. Luckily we booked then. I checked it out yesterday and it had gone up to $495 per person! We leave at 7am on April 29th and fly home April 30th at 6:30pm. A real short trip, but if I am going to win a trip, I need to save my vacation days right ;) Hey, at least I will meet Moneymaker and see the Arch right?

So now, I need to prepare. If you are still with me on this post, this is my main question. What music do I load up on the iPod? What do you listen to while playing? Do you listen when playing live in a large tourney? Give me your top 5 songs so I can rock out in style while taking this thing down.


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