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April $50 tourney re-cap

I usually try to write my re-cap within 24 hours of the event, but I just didn’t feel like it on Saturday, and I was pretty busy playing online Sunday (more on that later). This will probably be a pretty long post, although it’ll be shorter than in would’ve if I’d written it Saturday because I’m sure I’ve forgotten a hand or two. Here we go:

After re-reading previous re-caps (that is why I write them, after all), I saw a common theme was that I was “card dead”. While I think that was true, I think I was also probably playing a little weak-tight. Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun rethinking my pre-flop strategy and I basically concluded that I simply wasn’t opening enough pots. This was either because I wasn’t getting cards or because I was playing rocky-tight. I think it was a combination of both. I decided to increase my range for opening hands to include some medium suited connectors and a few other “speculative” hands. My reasons for doing this were three-fold: 1) I simply needed to be in more pots to win more pots. I also needed to make SURE I got action when I picked up a big hand; 2) I feel very comfortable playing with these opponents after the flop, and I needed to give myself more chances to do that; 3) if I hit a hand with one of these “speculative” hands, I’d be sure to get paid off because many of these guys overvalue hands like top-pair and even big overcards.

So, I basically started out raising more pots that I normally would. I was playing in position and even playing well out of position. The first pot I won was from the BB when everyone folded to the button, who limped. I had 92o and the flop came 2Jx rainbow. I bet out about half the pot and the button called. I’ve played with this guy enough to know that he’d raise if he hit top pair, so I immediately put him on a draw of some kind (keeping in mind that a draw could be just two overcards). The next card off was a rag and I bet out again. He called. The river was a Q, which wasn’t a good card for me. I decided to check and see what he wanted to do. He checked behind and showed AKo and my deuces took the pot.

Two hands later, I was on the button with TT. Normally, I’d raise this hand, but there were threee or four limpers and I saw a chance to win a big fat pot if I flopped a set. I called, the SB completed and the BB checked. The flop came 98x rainbow, everyone checked to me and I bet the pot. Everyone folded. No set, but I’ll take it.

I stole the blinds a few times before I made a standard raise from late-middle position with AQo. Only the BB called. I’d played with him before and knew him to play according to his cards in the BB. He would call with decent cards (QJo, JK, KQ, pairs, medium aces) and give up on the flop if he didn’t connect. The flop came down K-high and he checked. I bet half the pot and he called. I immediately decided I was done with the hand unless I hit an Ace. Turn was a blank and we went check, check. River was a blank, he bet out and I folded.

We had started with 4000 chips and I’d worked up to about 4500, mostly by stealing blinds (my best hand so far was my pair of deuces). Blinds are 75/150 (this is the fourth level, but we only play 20-minute levels) and we’d been playing for just over an hour. Everyone folded to a pretty weak player in the CO (I’ve played with him before and he makes a lot of dinky 2x BB raises and does a lot of limping; usually his bet directly correlates to the strength of his hand) who limped. The button folded and the SB called. I was in the BB and looked down at two black Jacks. I popped it up to 600 total. The limper in the CO thought for quite a while before he called, and the SB folded. I immediately put him on a medium pocket pair. The only hand I could see limp/calling with (for this guy) was AK, and I was sure he would’ve raised with it to begin with. I don’t think he would’ve called the raise with hands like KQ, KJ, QJ, or medium suited-connectors (he might’ve limped with them, but I could tell he had a tough decision on whether to call and I felt if he was going to call with these mediocre hands, he would’ve just thrown the chips in quickly). I figured him for TT-66 or 55 (also allowing for a very unlikely AK or KQ). The flop came down K79 with two hearts. I felt that was good and bad. As much as I hated to see it, I didn’t think the K had hit his hand and I was more afraid of the 7 and 9. I put out a continuation bet of 600 (just under half the pot) and he quickly raised it to 1600. I put on a “thinking” act for about 20 seconds and then mucked the JJ face-up. He showed 77 (flopped a set) and took it down). I was ticked, but I played it perfectly and he just got lucky. I was down to 3300 after playing great poker for the first hour.

A few hands later, I made a steal-raise from the CO with 54o. The BB is calling station, but he’ll give up his BB if he has a weak hand. Unfortunately, he called and the flop came down Ace high. Normally, I’d represent the Ace, but he bet right out at me and I knew he had an Ace. I just let it go.

About five hands later, we were about to go on break when I got dealt JJ in early-middle position. UTG folded, UTG+1 called and I raised to 600 (we’re still at the 75/150 level). Everyone folded to UTG+1 who quickly moved in for the rest of his chips, which was about 1300 more. There was about 2700 in the pot and it cost me 1300 to call. I put his range on exactly AK, AA, KK. This guy was a tight player and I’m sure he would’ve raised with QQ. I had a tough decision to make and I took a couple minutes to think about it (this was for about half my remaining stack, thanks to JJ busting me up earlier). This was a pot-odds problem and a tournament equity problem. I was getting about 2:1 pot odds to call with JJ against a hand-range of AA, KK, AK. I didn’t do the exact math, but I knew he was about 60% likely to have AA or KK, which would have me as a 80% underdog. The other 40% of the time, he’d have AK and I’d be a 55% favorite. If I had a lot of chips to work with (say, if I was sitting on 6000 instead of 2500), this would be an easy call. But if I called this and lost (which I would, most of the time–about 66%, I found out later), I’d be crippled: I’d have about 1300 chips left and the blinds were going to 100/200 on the next hand, so I’d have 6.5 BB. If I folded, I’d have about 2600 chips left, or about 13 BB. I decided I’d rather fold and keep out of short-stack range. I also kind of felt it was a little more likely than normal that he tried this with AA or KK than AK. I mucked the JJ face up and he showed AK. The deal (even though we didn’t request it) ran the board and my JJ would’ve been cracked on the river. As it turned out, I was getting almost EXACTLY the pot odds required to call based on the range of hands I gave my opponent. I think this is one of the situations that David Sklansky talks about when he says to avoid very close decisions for a large portion of your chips early in a tournament. In this case, I was getting odds to make a marginal call that would’ve crippled me about 66% of the time (I would’ve been down to 5 BB in the next 4 hands).

From here on out, I didn’t catch any cards for a very long time. I was literally catching T7o, 62o and trash like that for about 15 hands. I did manage to get a walk (everyone folded to my BB) and steal the blinds twice in three consecutive hands, but that did little to stop the bleeding. Finally, with the blinds at 150/300 and with about 2200 chips in front of me, I moved in from early-middle position with QTo. The player to my left immediately called all-in (he had about half the chips I did) and everyone folded to the button called all-in (also for about half my chips). Obviously, I knew I was in bad shape. The player to my left had JJ and the button had QQ, which held up.

I was down to something like 1100 chips and I picked up K9o on the next hand (UTG+1). I moved in, the guy to my left (previously two spots to my left) looked at his cards and practically said, “Oh boy! I have to call!” (I’m not making that up) He called, everyone folded and he showed AKo. The board made a straight and we chopped it.

Next hand, I got AKo UTG and moved in. Mr. “Oh boy!” looked at his cards, thought for a second and said he had to call because, “I’m just getting cards.” Everyone else folded and he turned over QJo (!!). This call was for about half his chips, he was UTG+1 (with about 6 people to act behind him) and he called with QJo. I was pretty shocked. Even if he puts my range at something that QJo might be a favorite against, he still has six people behind him and we’re early in a tournament, so he can’t count on any kind of “cooperation play”. But I digress… The flop brought an Ace and two rags (making me about a 95% favorite to win the hand), the turn brought a Jack and I began shaking my head even though people were congratulating me. The river brought another Jack and I was out 21st of 32 players.

Although I busted earlier than I had in any tournament this year, I felt I had played my best tournament poker in a long time. I made good reads and simply didn’t get lucky.

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