Another $40 live tourney
This week, there were 20 people and I took third. Turned $40 into $85. I played very well and I'm looking forward to getting everything down in the re-cap. For now, I'll say that I don't think my recent string of success is due to luck.
This is a pretty crummy re-cap. It's all over the place, but I guess that's the nature of the beast. I'm trying to think of a way to be more concise in these re-caps, but I don't want to lose any information. I occasionally read back over the hands to see if maybe I missed something, or if I can tweak something to improve my game. Anyway, here goes...
We started with 10K in chips and the blinds were 25/50. There were 20 people at two tables. I'd probably played with half the guys on my table in previous events, so I felt pretty comfortable from the get-go. This would affect my strategy by allowing me to open up my game a little earlier and spend less time getting a feel for the table. We were playing for almost seven hours before I busted, so my memory may be a little spotty on some of the details.
Before I get into specific hands, I'll say that I really felt like my radar was working very well during this tournament. Although I wasn't focusing much on physical tells, I seemed to be able to sense weakness and go after it. I did this several times and had very good results. There were several instances where I forced opponents to fold hands that were far superior to mine. I think this was due to a combination of respect and intimidation. I felt like the table respected my play and at least two of my opponents knew I'd made a couple of final table recently. I also wasn't afraid to make a re-raise and I think that intimidated some players. I felt like their line of thinking was often, "Well, I don't know if I'm ahead right now or not... I like my hand, but there are a lot of scare-cards that could come off and I know I'll have to call big bets on the later streets if I call this raise." In general, I don't think it was a good day to have me sitting on your left.
The blinds were 50/100 and I limped with 66 in late-middle position. There was already a limper in front of me. The big blind, a pretty mediocre player who likes to chase, raised it to 400. EP limper called and I called. The flop came down 234 rainbow. I considered this a very good flop. The BB checked (I now put him on two overs as he liked to gamble it up and I couldn't see him checking an over-pair here), and the EP limper bet 600 into a 1200 pot. I thought for a minute decided my 66 was probably good and announced a rise to 1600. I chose the size of my raise for several reasons: 1) I thought my 66 was probably best here and I felt like I need to raise enough to represent a good hand 2) Although I put the BB on overcards and the EP limper on medium-to-large suited connectors (I was thinking like 78 up to QJ suited) it was possible someone had flopped a set or even a straight and I didn't want to throw too many chips into a trap 3) I wanted to represent a very strong hand and a moderate raise would do that very well. I felt like that raise was big enough to say, "I've got something", but small enough that it could confuse my opponents into thinking I was just massaging the pot. Anyway, the BB folded and the EP limper thought for a while before saying, "Man, that smells like Ace-Five to me. And that's a good raise." He then folded TT face up! I was shocked. My bet was NOT designed to get any better hands to fold. It was an informational bet designed to run overcards out of the pot and take it down right then. This guy had been playing pretty solid poker and I couldn't believe he folded there. I was very surprised that he had limped and then called a raise with TT. If anything, I would expect him to limp-re-raise in that spot.
Late in the 50/100 level, an interesting hand came up that I didn't even play. UTG (a guy I know to be ultra-tight) raised it to 500 (I immediately thought he had AK, JJ or TT) and UTG+1 smooth-called. Everyone else folded and the flop came down something like J95. UTG checked and I thought, "He just flopped a set of Jacks." Sure enough, UTG+1 bet about half the pot, UTG check-raised all-in and UTG+1 folded. UTG then flipped up his pocket Jacks.
I'm pretty sure the blinds were 200/400 and I was in the BB with A7s in clubs. An early-middle position player limped, the button limped, the SB completed and I checked my option. The flop came down J98 with two spades. The SB checked, I checked, the first limper bet 600 (into a 1600 chip pot), the button folded, the SB folded and it was back on me. I've played with this guy a lot and his bet seemed really, really weak to me. I decided to check-raise* "with air", as they say, and take the pot away. I popped it up to 1800 total and he called pretty quickly. I put him on a flush draw because he called so quickly. The turn was an offsuit 6, giving me an open-ended straight draw that was really just a gutshot (if a Ten came off, a Queen would beat me). Since it wasn't a spade, I bet out 2200 chips. This was about half my opponent's stack and he called. I still put him on a flush draw, but I thought maybe he had a pair also (I was thinking A9, A6, AT, Q9, K9 and hands like that). I had pretty much decided I was done with the hand when he called here. I couldn't think of many hands I could beat (I could beat KQ of spades and that was about it). The river was an offsuit 7, making a board of 6789J with two spades. Although I now had a pair, I didn't like it much and decided to check and hope he checked it down with a busted Ace-high flush draw or something. Instead of checking, he bet his remaining 2400 in chips. There was approximately 12500 in the pot and it cost me about 2500 to call. I was getting 5:1 on my money and I thought that was a decent price. I started trying to figure out what hands I could beat, and there weren't many: any hand with an 8, 9, T or J beat me. He'd called off a big portion of his stack and I just couldn't give him credit for a flush draw without something else going for it (a pair, straight draw, etc.). At this point, I had about 14K in chips and I decided I was beat more than 15% of the time here. The only hands I could be ahead of were Ace-rag of spades. I folded and he triumphantly turned up his K2 of spades to show his awesome bluff. I kept my composure, said "Nice hand." and watched him call off all his chips on draws to bust 8th of 20. I'm obviously questioning my play on the river. Honestly, I was very pleased that I had a good enough read to check-raise the flop with nothing, then bet out on the turn with nothing. I was right that he was weak, I just didn't know how weak he was. I wish I had the heart to fire the final bullet on the river... or at least call his bluff. I'll be re-thinking this hand for a while. The more I think about it, given how few chips he had left, the right play was to check/call any bet.
A few hands later, I got KK UTG+1. UTG raised it to 3x the BB
At the end of the 200/400 level, I was in the BB w/ 66 again. There was one limper and the SB completed. The flop came down something like K42 rainbow. The SB checked, I bet about half the pot, the limper called and the SB folded. By this hand, I had a few tells on the limper, and those tells (or lack thereof) indicated to me that he didn't love this flop and that his call was reluctant. The turn was another King. This time, I bet about 3/4 of the pot and the limper thought for a long time before he folded JJ face up. Again, I couldn't believe it. This was the second time someone had folded (and shown) a big pair on a relatively non-scary board. After this hand, I realized that the table was basically playing scared and I couldn't wait to get back from the break and collect some chips.
After the first break, things were pretty uneventful until we combined for the final table. Even then, nothing much was happening. That was ok with me because I was using the time to get a read on my new opponents. There were three or four guys that I'd never played before, so I had some catching up to do. It didn't take me long to peg a couple guys and it was smooth sailing from there.
I only busted one player in the tourney and it was with KQs. A pretty loose player to my right limped (I think he was UTG+2), I looked down at my KQs and raised to 4x the BB. The player to my left moved in for something like 2x BB more, everyone else folded and I called. He showed A7o, but I spiked a Q on the flop to bust him.
Ironically, my first big hand at the final table was against a guy whom I've played with several times. He knows a lot of my tricks, which was unfortunate for him on a few hands. Earlier in the Final Table, I had made a "button move", which is where I'll raise in late position to steal the blinds and a couple limpers' chips. I think two people had limped, I popped it up and everyone folded. On that hand, I had Q2o. A few orbits later, the same two people limped in and I was on the button. I raised it to 5x BB and the SB (the guy I know) re-raised to about 15x BB. I thought for a few seconds, then scooted my chips in and said, "I'm all-in." He reluctantly called (he was getting almost 7:1 on his call) and wasn't pleased to see that I had AKs and his AQ was in bad shape. He was the chip leader before that hand, so it didn't hurt him much, but I was down to about 14K and the blinds and antes were 400/800, so I wasn't very comfortable. After this hand, I had almost 30K so my M went up to about 25 and I was in good shape to make the money. The interesting thing about this hand is that my opponent later told me that if he didn't know I was capable of making a button move in that situation, he would've just let the AQo go.
After that, people started busting left and right. I didn't bust any of them, but I was glad to see them go. I didn't have all that many chips and I wasn't getting many cards. Before long, we were down to three-handed. I don't even remember who busted fourth.
About half way through the first level after we were three-handed, I picked up 97s in the BB. The button folded, the SB completed and the flop came down 954 rainbow. The SB bet out about half the pot and I raised to 3x his bet. He called. The turn was a 6, making the board 9654 and giving me an open-ended straight draw to go with my to pair, medium kicker. He bet out again about half the pot and I moved in. He thought for a couple minutes and finally called with 9To. I was pretty shocked because I'd represented a hand that could beat his. I spiked a 3 on the river for a straight and doubled up.
Later, when we were down to three-handed, the "button play" scenario came up again. The guy I knew pretty well was on my left and an unknown was on my right. This time, I was on the button and I had AQs. I had a pretty good chip lead (I had 110K and my opponents both had around 55K and 35K) and I had been pushing them around since I took over the chip lead. I made a standard raise to 3x BB on the button, he moved in for about 9x BB and I called. He had AJo and spiked a Jack on the river. This was the beginning of the end for me.
I continued to grind down the other player and he was down to about 18K at one point. He had told us he was on "all-in alert" and had been moving in almost every hand. He had stolen blinds and worked up to around 45K with the blinds at 2K/4K. I was on the button with AQo and limped, intending to trap. The SB folded and Mr. All-in raised it to 14K total, leaving himself with about 27K (he had 45K less 4K for the BB before this hand). I thought for a second (mostly about how I was about to steal his chips) and then moved in. He called instantly and turned over AKo. Of course, his AK held up and I was down to about 55K chips. We only had about 7 minutes till the blinds would go up to 3K/6K.
I folded a few hands and then got 53o in the BB. The button folded, the SB completed and I checked. The flop was TT5 rainbow. He bet out about 10K and I thought for a while... I decided my pair of fives was probably good and decided to move in. He thought for a little bit**, said, "You don't have a ten do you?", and eventually called. He turned over K5o and I was drawing to 8 outs. That was it.
The thing I enjoyed most about this tournament was that the blind structure allowed a lot of room for play, especially once we made the money. With three people left, the average chip-stack was about 65K, but the blinds were only 1K/2K. I think this was the first time I'd ever played short-handed when there was room for making moves and such. It was really fun and we played three-handed for over an hour.
*On a related note, this is a play I occasionally use to isolate against a player I think is weak or bluffing. Basically, I check the flop because I'm out of position and there are still two (or more) players left to act. In this case, I knew the SB had likely whiffed the flop because he checked. The limper's bet seemed weak to me, but the button still had to act. Since the button and the SB both folded, I no longer had to worry about them. I now had it heads-up against a player who I knew was weak, and bluffing heads-up with information about my opponent's hand is much more +EV than open-bluffing into two opponents on a coordinated board. I will also make this play when I have a small pair in the BB against multiple opponents. Specifically, if one of those opponents has made a play that I think could indicate that he either 1) has a monster or 2) has a drawing hand, I'll check to see what happens. Here's an example of when I might use this play:
I'm in the BB w/ 77. UTG+1 makes a min-raise, the button calls, the SB folds.
[What I'm looking for are two things: 1) the opponent that min-raised should be straight-forward (ie, he'll bet the flop if he has AA and the board is all under-cards, but he'll check the flop if he has AK, KQ, QJ and misses) and 2) the player on the button is aggressive and likes to steal pots.]
The flop comes down TT8 rainbow. I check, the min-raiser checks (indicating he had a drawing hand and missed), the button bets 1/3 to 1/2 the pot.
[Now, both players have done what I expect them to do when they miss: the predictable player checked and the aggressive player took a stab at the pot when two people checked to him.]
Here, I spring my trap and check-raise to about three to four times the button's bet.
[This will force the initial min-raiser to go away if he has a hand like AK or KQ. It will also likely get the button to go away if he was just taking a swing at the pot. He may even fold an 8 as I am representing a Ten. Obviously, if someone has a Ten here, I'm in trouble and I'll shut down if they re-raise or if I don't catch a 7 on the turn.]
**Later, I realized (too late) that this guy always called big bets. This was the same guy who called my raise and then all-in with 9To on a board of 9654 earlier. I don't think I saw him make a big laydown all night. Earlier, a very, very tight player raised UTG, this guy re-raised from early-middle position, it was folded around to the UTG player who moved in and this guy called... with 33. His 33 held up to knock out the UTG player who held AKo. A little before that, a UTG player raised, this guy re-raised from UTG+1, everyone folded to the UTG player who moved in for a significant amount of chips and this guy insta-called with AQo. His AQo held up against UTG's JTo (I was shocked at the play on both sides of this one). The tourney ended when the guy I knew flopped a pair on a 2-flush board. He moved in and this guy called his all-in (without proper odds) with a Q2 flush draw. He hit the flush on the river and it was over. To my knowledge, this guy didn't have any reads on these people and he'd never played them before.