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$40 tournament recap: tough day at the office
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I just got back from a $40 tourney. There were only 21 people and we started with 10K in chips with 30-minute blinds. I busted 6th–on the bubble–after a rollercoaster final table. I felt like I played fantastic poker (the best in a while), but the cards just didn’t cooperate once we made the final table.

I started the day off with a bang: I bluffed three barrels after the flop and got called all the way down. I was playing the board on the river and I didn’t have any kind of draw (I had T9o and the board was pretty scary, which is why I kept betting). I showed my hand and thought, “Well, now they’ve seen me bet big on every street with air, so it’s time to get paid off on some hands!”

My first big hand was a turned set when I had 33. There were a couple limpers and I was in the BB. The flop was T76 and I bet out half the pot. Two guys called and the turn came a 3, giving me bottom set on a very non-threating board. I bet out a little more than half the pot and got one caller. River was a blank, I bet out a little more than half the pot and got a caller. I figured he had at least top pair, maybe even a funky two-pair with T7 or 76. I said, “You’re not gonna’ like this.” and I showed my set. That was a pretty nice pot.

A few hands later, a new guy came to the table. He had already lost about half his chips (I think we were in the second level, maybe third level). When someone sits down with a short stack, I start wondering how they got short. Usually, they’re either playing badly, or they’ve taken some tough beats. It usually only takes a few hands to figure out if they’re playing badly, and this guy liked to call too much. He called pre-flop raises and flop bets way too frequently. I had seen him play three or four hands when I was dealt ATo in middle position. Compared to the cards I’d been raising with, this was a big hand, so I popped it up to 2.5 BB. The new guy called and everyone else folded. New guy would have position on me throughout the hand. The flop was A96 rainbow, which I considered a good flop for me. I took a look at him to make sure he wasn’t jumping up and down, celebrating a flopped set or anything, then I bet about half the pot. He quickly called. From his call, I felt like he was pretty strong (I mean the way he called, not just the fact that he called), so I figured him for either a decent Ace, a strong nine (K9, Q9) or maybe TT. I was leaning toward a strong Ace given that he called my pre-flop raise and now quickly called my bet on the flop. The turn was another six (a good card if I’m ahead, a meaningless card if I’m behind), making the board A966. I was watching him out of the corner of my eye and my gut just told me to check it and see what happened. I knew that if he had AQ, AJ or AK, I wasn’t getting him to fold if I bet out, and since I now had Aces up with a medium kicker, I wasn’t too afraid of being outdrawn if he checked behind (if he has TT, he has two outs, if he has a strong nine, he has two outs) and there really aren’t any scary draws out there. If he checked behind me, the plan was to bet out about half the pot on the river, regardless of what card came off. As it happened, he bet about half the pot, which meant I had a decision to make. If I was ahead, I felt like I should make a small raise to try and build the pot, so I could get paid off on the river (if he had something like TT). If I’m behind, I’m drawing almost dead and I don’t like knowing that I’ll have to call a bet here and possibly call another bet on the river. Also, if I’m behind, it’s very unlikely he’ll fold if I raise. I had to replay the hand: he called a pre-flop raise, he called a half-pot bet on the flop, he bet when I checked to him on the turn. I decided he had AJ or AQ and I figured he would’ve raised the flop with AQ, which left me with AJ. I thought about it for a while and he finally said, “If you fold, I’ll show you my hand.” Sometimes, this means the guy’s weak and he wants you to go away. This time, I felt like he was geniunely strong. I said, “You’ll show it?” He said he would, so I turned over my ATo and said, “I can’t beat Ace-Jack and I think that’s what you have.” Sure enough, he turned over AJo and took down the pot.

A few hands later, I had 55 in the BB. UTG raised to 3 BB, the button called and the SB called. The flop was K63 rainbow and we checked it around. The turn was another K, making the board KK63. I considered this a good card for me and since the UTG player hadn’t bet the flop, I figured I’d take a stab at the pot. I bet something like 40% of the pot, and everyone folded to the SB who check-raised me to about 3x my bet. There weren’t any draws out there and if he had 54, I thought he would’ve bet out on the turn. I felt like he either had a King or six, or he was bluffing. I decided that was a bad place to try and bluff, and I didn’t want to put a lot of chips in there with a paired board and an overcard to my 55, so I folded my 55 face-up (I was hoping he’d show me a King or six, or a bluff, so I could remember the hand for later). He showed 34s for bottom pair, no kicker. What really confused me about the way he played the hand was that I don’t know if he was bluffing or check-raising for value. I still don’t know. Bad laydown, I guess, but it didn’t cost me many chips.

A while later, I had A8 in the SB. I had been really active, so I figured I’d take this chance to slow down and maybe catch an Ace-high flop to get paid off. Everyone folded to me, I completed and the BB checked. The flop was Q86, giving me middle pair, top kicker. I really liked my hand. I bet out for half the pot and the BB called. He either has a Q, an 8, JT or J9, or maybe KT or K9. My plan was to fire another shot if the next card was an undercard to the board or an eight. The next turn was a King, which I really didn’t like. I felt like I was either behind or my opponent had just picked up a pretty good draw (possibly as good as an open-ended straight draw and two overs). I checked, he checked behind. The river was a four that put three hearts on the board. I checked, hoping for a free showdown. He bet about half the pot and I folded. We chatted about the hand for a bit and he said he had an eight. I hated to hear that because it meant I made a bad laydown. In fact, I played the hand terribly. I should’ve bet when the King came off on the turn, and I knew it as soon as I checked. Since I checked the turn and he checked behind, then a pretty harmless card hit the river, I should’ve called his bet on the river since my pair was likely good. I wasn’t happy with myself after this hand.

A couple orbits later, I got AKo in middle position (eureka!). One guy limped in front of me (his limping requirements were very broad; this was the same guy who I hit the set of threes on earlier), so I popped it up to 4 BB. Everyone folded back to him and he called. The flop was Axx (two low cards). He checked, I bet half the pot and he called. The turn was a blank. He checked and I checked behind, hoping to induce a bluff on the river. The river was a Jack, which I didn’t particularly like. He bet out for about 2/3 the pot and I thought for a while before calling. I really thought he made two pair, but I was wrong and my Ace won the pot. I’m not sure what he had, but that was a pretty decent pot.

I made a couple good moves to pick up dead money. For instance, two people limped in early position (I detected weakness since they liked to limp), so I popped it up to 6 BB and took it down. I think about three players knew exactly what I was doing, but they didn’t have anything to play back with. I guess that’s one way to win chips with 42o.

A bit later, I got KTo on the button. Two or three people limped and I thought about making a move, but the time just wasn’t right, so I called. SB completed, BB checked and the flop came down AQJ with two hearts. I flopped the nuts in a five- or six-way pot, which I consider a pretty good result for this hand (insert snarky smile here). Everyone checked to the CO who bet about half the pot. He was short-stacked, so that was an argument to just call, but since there was a heart draw out there and any King or Ten would counterfeit my hand, I decided to raise. I raised to a little less than three times his bet because that was enough to leave him a few chips (I didn’t want him to fold a hand like A5, KQ or KJ). Everyone else folded and he called. Turn was another Ace, which I didn’t love, but it wasn’t a heart so I was ok with it. He moved in his last few chips, I called and he showed JT of hearts. He had flopped bottom pair with a straight and flush draw and turned a draw to a full house. Luckily, the river was a blank and I busted him.

About ten hands later, I got KK in middle position. I made my standard raise and got called by the BB. I’ve played with this guy quite a bit and I know he likes to take down pots with overbets and I know he likes to bluff big on the turn if he feels he can steal the pot. The flop came down K53, so I flopped the nuts on a dry board. He checked, I “thought” for a second and checked behind. The turn was a 6 (I consider this a very safe card since he’d have to be playing 24 or 47 to be ahead right now) and he checked again. I decided to bet half the pot and hope he would come after me. I bet half the pot, he check-raised all-in and I insta-called. He had A4o, so he was drawing to four Twos. He missed on the river and I busted him out.

So far, I’ve made two sets, flopped the nut straight and made top pair, top kicker and gotten paid off to the river. Is this what it’s like to run good? I’d have to enjoy the feeling since that would be the end of all that.

I basically went totally card dead and just tried to pick up small pots when I could. I made a standard raise in middle position and got called by the BB. The flop was A66. He checked, I bet and he called. Obviously, I put him on an Ace and I had to decide if I was just done with the hand or if I’d try to take it away from him on the turn. The turk was a King, making all that a moot point (if he had an Ace with a weak kicker, he now had Aces up with top kicker and would only fear AK or a six. He checked and I checked. The river was a blank, he checked and I checked. He showed A9 and took it down. I decided this would be a good time to pretend I just took a bad beat, so I started up the “I had Jacks and he hit a three-outter on me” routine. Of course, I had been trying to steal with 62o, but the table didn’t need to know that.

I had about 25K chips when the following hand came up just before our second break. An early position player raised to 4 BB and it was folded to me on the button. I looked down at 99 and considered raising, but this guy didn’t raise up front very often (he limped sometimes, but rarely raised), so I called. I figured he probably had AK, AQ or AJ(s), maybe KQ (although I thought he’d limp with that hand) or maybe a pair (88 or higher). I think his raise to 4 BB (as opposed to 3 BB) told me he was probably not super strong, so I was leaning to AK, AQ, AJ, 88, 99 (unlikely) or TT. The blinds folded and the flop came down QJ5 rainbow. Yuck. I hate that flop. I’m now beating exactly AK and maybe 88 and that’s it. The good news is that if he has a hand like AJ or TT, I might be able to move him off of it. He checked and I checked behind him. I felt like his check was probably weak, but I didn’t have a lot of information. If I was ahead, then I wasn’t all that far ahead if he had AK (he had ten outs in this case) and If I was behind, I was drawing nearly dead. I figured I’d get more information depending on the turn action. The turn was a four of spades, making the board QJ45 with two spades. I considered this a good card. He bet half the pot and I felt he was pretty weak. I hated the over cards, but the only hand I’m really afraid of here is AQ. I decided to raise because I might still be ahead and he might fold some hands that I beat (AJ, TT). I raised to 2.5x his bet (which was about half my remaining stack) and hoped for a fold. Unfortunately, he called. I didn’t like this call and began wondering if my read that he was weak might be off. Maybe he did have AQ after all. Ooops. The river was another spade, making the board QJ45x with three spades. He moved all-in and I went into the tank. I tend to trust my reads and my read on the turn was that he was weak, but since he called a substantial raise and then moved in on the river, I figured he had to have a hand that beat 99. I reluctantly folded and silently beat myself up for making a bad read on the turn and losing about 60% of my stack on that hand.

After the break ended, we played a few more hands before we broke it down to the final table. I think it was pretty obvious that I was still frustrated about the last big hand when a friend of mine asked me what I had. I told him I had a pair. He quietly said, “He said he had Ace-King of spades.” I said, “So, he made the nuts on the river?” “Yeah.” Boy was I relieved! I had made the right read after all! Unfortunately, he also made a good call (he was being offered the right break-even pot-odds to make the call) and got lucky on the river. If I had seen his cards, the right move would’ve been to either move all-in or smooth-call and hope to induce a bluff if he missed the river. Of course, I had no way of knowing he had 18 outs.

As it was, I was short-stacked going into the final table. I was gonna’ have to get lucky and soon. About six hands into the final table, I got AK in the BB. The big stack at the table made a small-ish raise in late position and it was folded to me. I thought for a bit and moved in. He called with AQo and I doubled-up (this was a much stronger hand than I gave him credit for). Next hand, I had AJo in the SB. A short stack moved in in late position and I called. He showed A9 and I busted him when my AJo held up. And then? And then the famine came.

A few hands later, it was folded to me in the CO and I had QJs. The BB was short-stacked, so this was definitely a raising hand (it is normally anyway). I raised to 2.5 BB, the SB folded and the BB moved in. I had to call because it was only about 1.5 BB more to me. He showed AQ and his hand held up. That hurt a little, but it wasn’t a big deal. Over the next few orbits, every time I tried to open a pot, someone came over the top with a big (usually all-in) raise. Every time, I had to fold (I had decent hands–A7o, A4o, stuff like that–but I knew they had me). Most of the time, they would show AK, AQ or something like that. One hand, three guys limped in front of me and I knew they were all weak. I popped it up to 6 BB with 34o. Everyone folded to the BB, who moved all in for about 19 BB on top of my bet. All the limpers folded, I put on a show, said, “I just don’t think I can call this. I think you might have me dominated.”, which everyone else apparently took to mean, “I have a medium Ace.” I folded and he later told me he had KK. What was odd was that when other players raised, they would just take the blinds without any trouble. I don’t think the table was picking on me (after all, I’d only shown two hands since we sat down and they were AK and AJ), I just think people were waking up with hands at the wrong times for me.

I kept blinding down and finally stole a pot when I moved in UTG with QJ. Three hands later, I moved in with KTo on the button, got called by the SB with A9o and I was out. I couldn’t have been more frustrated. There’s no worse way to bust from a tournament than to go card dead and just get blinded off in spite of seeing good situations to raise and steal. “That’s poker.” I finished 6th of 21 guys. We’d played for 5.5 hours and I finished on the bubble as the to five got paid. Awesome.

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