Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Trip to Canterbury Park's Fall Poker Classic

On October 1, 2011, I made the three-hour drive between my house and Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota (just South of the Twin Cities). Canterbury was actually the first poker room I was ever in, way back in 2002. I hadn’t paid a visit in over five years, but I thought I’d head up there for their annual Fall Poker Classic, which has grown in both size and prestige in the past few years.

The Fall Poker Classic is Minnesota’s premiere poker series, spanning 16 days and 32 events. For a look While I wasn’t able to stay for the entirety, I took a few days off to play in some events and try my luck in their clever “Survival tournaments,” which are designed to offer a no-limit/pot-limit cash-game like experience in a state that allows neither version (more on this later).

I arrived at Canterbury Park about an hour before the first tournament, Event #1 $300 No Limit Hold’em, and promptly made my way to the cardroom, which is inside a massive race-track facility (Canterbury Park is a premiere horse-racing track). After registering, I made my way to the tournament floor and was immediately impressed. They had a nice spread for the players that included a continental breakfast, quality tables, professional dealers, and cultivated a comfortable space for a poker tournament. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck in that tournament. I got off to an early start, but then I picked up pocket queens and called in opponent’s all-in preflop bet. He held 10-9 of diamonds and ended up hitting trips to take a chunk of my stack, which was followed closely by my elimination.

That evening I tried the $100 NLHE bonus event, which was essentially a Turbo. I have a lot of experience in those and did quite well. However, all my hard work was for naught as they paid 30 spots and I busted in 32nd place. I nursed a short stack for a long time before trying to steal with A6o only to run into pocket queens in the big blind. I was pleased with my play, but bubbling is very demoralizing.

The following day I played Event #2 $150 NLHE, but it was fairly uneventful and I busted in Level 4. Since I couldn’t play the evening’s Seniors Event, I decided to try out the “Survival Tournaments,” which are essentially a no-limit hold’em cash game with a twist. You see, in order to satisfy state requirements, the game must be a tournament format. So, each player would buy in for a predetermined amount (i.e. $300, $500, $1,000, etc.) and would get chips totaling that amount. The game would then begin and would last for a predetermined time (two hours, three hours, etc.). When that time is up, the game is over, and players cash out whatever amount they have in front of them.

It is a really intriguing and clever concept, and it worked really well. I usually don’t like playing with a time limit, but in this instance it seemed to inspire action. My opponents had the mentality that they needed to see as many hands as possible because the clock was ticking, which proved especially true in the last half hour. Basically, they were playing a turbo tournament strategy in a cash game. Not a good idea. I employed the standard cash game strategy of playing tight and waiting for a hand, and I got paid each and every time. I ended up playing two of these Survival Tournaments, and that ultimately contributed to me coming home with more money than when I left.

On Tuesday, I played Event #3 $200 NLHE and was doing quite well. I slowly chipped up, hit a couple sets, and then received a crucial double when a short stack moved all in with A6, I shipped all in over the tops with queens, and a guy holding AK called. My queens held and that pot put me right back in it headed to the dinner break. An hour later, we returned and I proceeded to lose every single hand I played, busting in 33 place when 20 got paid. Another close, demoralizing finish.

I should also note that there were a few notables in attendance in CardRunners’ Michael Schneider and “Minneapolis” Jim Meehan, the latter actually finishing as runner up in Event #7 for $9,533. My visit to the Fall Poker Classic came to an end after that as some pressing matters caused me to leave a couple days earlier than expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Thanks to the Survival Tournaments, I returned with more than I took, and I had the chance to meet a lot of fine people, like Michael Hochman, Senior Director of Card Casino Operations (you can check out my interview with him on PokerNews).

Here are the results for the first week of the Fall Poker Classic:

- Event #1 $300 NLHE / 244 entries / $71,004 Prize Pool / Henry Holderness ($17,680)

- Bonus Event $100 NLHE / 256 entries / $24,832 Prize Pool / Mike Levine ($6,186)

- Event #2 $150 NLHE / 235 entries / $34,193 Prize Pool / Aaron Johnson ($8,513)

- Bonus Event $100 Seniors NLHE / 153 entries / $14,841 Prize Pool / Al Giardina ($3,857)

- Event #3 $200 NLHE / 219 Entries / $42,486 Prize Pool / Adam Dahlin ($11,047)

- Bonus Event $100 Ladies NLHE/ 91 entries / $8,827 Prize Pool/ Lori Cosner ($2,471)

- Event #4 $200 Omaha Hi/Lo / 131 entries / $25,414 Prize Pool / Casey Schams ($6,608)

- Bonus Event $100 NLHE / 233 entries / $22,601 Prize Pool / Eric Eelkema ($5,628)

- Event #5 $200 Mix Limit O8/Hold’em / 81 entries / $15,714 Prize Pool / Doug Fink ($4,400)

- Bonus Event $100 All-in or Fold NLHE / 74 entries / $7,178 Prize Pool / Keith Lindgren ($2,010)

- Event #6 NLHE $200 NLHE / 244 entries / $47,336 Prize Pool / Nate Fair ($11,787)

- Bonus Event $100 Mix Limit O8/Hold’em / 127 entries / $12,318 Prize Pool / Ryan Pick ($3,202)

- Event #7 $300 NLHE / 234 entries / $68,094 Prize Pool / Blake Bohn ($16,955)

- Bonus Event $100 NLHE / 300 entries / $29,100 Prize Pool / Gerald Cunniff ($7,239)

If you ever get the chance to go to Canterbury Park, be it for the Fall Poker Classic or just to play, I highly recommend it. They run a nice poker room and it proved one of the most satisfying poker experience I’ve had. If you’re interested in keeping atop the Fall Poker Classic, be sure to follow them on Twitter @CanterburyPoker. You can also follow @ChadAHolloway as I’ll be tweeting the results daily.

*Picture courtesy of Minnesota Poker Magazine.

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