Wynn win-win: Recapping my first good tourney score in a while

As you may have seen on Twitter, I (basically) won a $550 tournament at the Wynn last weekend. I gotta say, it felt really, really good, especially given how I ran in 2011. I won’t recap the bad beats (you can read about last year’s WSOP and my trip to Seattle for that stuff), but I will say that I was really, really down on poker when I got to Vegas this summer. I had conversations with Luckbox Larry where he mentioned that he and another friend thought I looked really miserable at the poker table. “I am miserable.” is what I told him. Just sitting there, folding, looking forward to a chance to get it in as an 80% favorite so I can take another bad beat–that’s no fun. Of course I look miserable.

Anyway, things finally turned around last weekend. I’m going to do a sort of merged recap here. I was tweeting on breaks, and a lot of interesting stuff happened between breaks that I didn’t tweet about. I’m also going to try to keep this pretty short, but I’m frankly writing this for myself more than anyone else, so you’ll have to indulge me. This was my biggest score so far, after all. I want to remember it.

If you want to read this without all the poker commentary, you can just scroll through to see the stuff in block quotes and see the pics. If you want to read more about the details of hands I played and how the tourney went, then you can read between the block quotes.

Back to the Wynn

Over the years, the Wynn has been a pretty reliable place for tournament success. It generally has pretty soft fields and they’re smaller, so cashing isn’t too difficult. Still, I ran kind of bad there last year and had a grueling six hours in a Saturday $550 tournament there a few weeks ago. And yet, I went back.

@JoshDoody: Back to the Wynn for another $550 tourney because I hate money and like getting cold cards and watching my stack dwindle over several hours.

But I was determined to make this one different. Beforehand, I told Luckbox Larry, “You know what? I’m going to play good poker today. I’m not going to be all careful, playing cautiously to hang around and get lucky. I’m going to be aggressive, make moves and either put together a run or go down in flames.” I was determined to play well, and to make my opponents hate me.

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter (and probably on the blog), I spent the past year writing a book about heads-up tournament strategy, and I really learned a lot while writing that book. Much of what’s in the heads-up book is directly applicable to full ring tournaments because, in the words of one of my co-authors, “If you’re playing full ring right, most of the pots you play are heads-up anyway.” You just shrink your playable hand range (and do the same for your opponents) and heads-up strategy is very applicable to full ring tournaments.

So, I learned a lot about heads-up strategy, and I thought I could apply it to full ring games. One of the benefits of writing a book with professional poker players is I get to talk poker with professional players a lot. I went into this tournament focused and really “seeing the ball”. My plan was to play aggressively, be tricky against good opponents, and use position to abuse people. I did all those things, and did them pretty well.

During the first few levels, I played a few pots, but one hand was memorable and it set the tone for the tournament. I used a move called a “flat-float-bluff” (FFB) to win a decent pot with a crummy hand. A FFB is where an opponent in front of me raises and I flat-call his raise (usually with a weak hand). The opponent will typically continue betting (c-bet) on the flop, regardless of his hand. The “float” is where I call that c-bet without a real hand, planning to win the pot later on. If the opponent was indeed betting with a weak hand on the flop, he’ll often check the turn, and that’s when the “bluff” comes in. This move can be very effective against opponents who will give up if they missed the flop and their c-bet gets called.

This time, I actually used a flat-float-bluff-bluff (FFBB) since I had to fire two barrels (one bluff on the turn, another on the river) to win the hand. I won this one with a combination of moxie and a tell I picked up on my opponent. When I went to execute the “bluff” on the turn, there were three hearts on board. I had K2o for total air and no heart draw, but I continued with the plan to bluff anyway. As I was counting my chips to make the bet, my opponent grabbed some “calling chips” and held them out as though he were definitely calling if I bet. This tell can mean a few things depending on the situation, but in this case I knew it meant he was trying to intimidate me into checking instead of betting. He had some kind of decent hand, but probably not a great hand, and couldn’t stand to call a bet on the turn and a bet on the river. He was trying to slow me down so he could get to showdown cheaply. I was pretty sure he did not have a heart draw because of the action in the hand, so I figured he must have something like a one-pair type hand. The river was another heart (putting four hearts on the board), and my opponent checked to me again. I was pretty sure I would win if I bet (because I didn’t think he had any hearts), but I took my time grabbing my chips because I wanted to see if he’d do the same thing where he held out “calling chips” before I bet. He didn’t, so I knew I had a green light to bluff and take it down.

@JoshDoody: We started the @wynnpoker tourney with 17.5k chips. I made the first break with about 18k after getting up to 25k and misplaying a hand.

The hand I misplayed was an interesting hand against a good player who was directly to my right. I flat-called his pre-flop raise because I had position. I don’t remember what I had, but I think it was something like 65s. There was one other player who saw the flop, which was something like K83. The first player checked, the raiser bet out (“c-bet”, which just means he continued betting as is expected of the pre-flop raiser if it’s checked to him on the flop). I called his bet with nothing (another “float”), hoping the first player would fold, and I could steal the pot on the turn (I’m trying another FFB). The turn was a boring card, my opponent checked, I bet, and he check-raised me so I had to fold.

My mistake was that I should have folded on the flop when he c-bet. He had rarely c-bet before that hand, so I could be reasonably certain he had a pretty good hand when he c-bet on the flop. This wasn’t the time to make the “flat-float-bluff” move, especially since he’d seen me win a pot with a similar line a little earlier (the FFBB with K2o on the four-heart board). This would set up a pretty big hand later.

Right after the first break, I had to 3-bet and fold to a 4-bet from Luckbox Larry. The opponent I 3-bet was the same solid opponent I had failed to flat-float-bluff in the hand I misplayed earlier (above). I suspect he began to realize that I was playing aggressively in position on him, and he was suspicious. That’s the setup for this next hand.

My opponent (the good one on my right) made a standard raise from the hijack seat (HJ; the seat two to the right of the button), and I flat-called in the cutoff (CO; the seat one to the right of the button) with Td9d. I think everyone else folded. The flop was all diamonds (something like J42), giving me the medium flush. My opponent c-bet (bet out), which is a standard play, but not one he usually makes (see above). He usually won’t c-bet (which is why I played the hand so badly earlier). I would normally want to raise with my flush to define his hand (his reaction to a raise on that flop would tell me quite a bit), but also to take control of the hand so I could dictate whether we bet the turn (because hopefully he would check to me on the turn if he called my raise on the flop). I decided to call since it seemed he had a real hand, and he might put me on a float if I just call on this board.

The turn was an offsuit king, which was a pretty good card for my hand. If I was ahead on the flop (which was very, very likely), I was still good on the turn (I didn’t want to see the board pair, or a diamond). My opponent checked to me, and I had to bet because I couldn’t give him a free card to see the river and possibly counterfeit my flush. I was nearly certain my flush was the best hand, and I couldn’t afford to slowplay anymore. Also, I had made this same play earlier, and he caught me (the flat-float-bluff) making the move, and he had seen me take this same line against another player earlier (when I had K2o and did a flat-float-bluff-bluff). This was the perfect situation to bet and hope he was trying to trap me. Sure enough, he check-raised, I moved in, and he called. It turns out he had KK, so he had turned a set of kings. That was a big pot that gave me a lot of chips.

@JoshDoody: I have 45k on the second break. Playing good, aggressive poker, earning pots with bluffs and getting lucky occasionally. Who is this guy?!

There was one really interesting hand during these levels. I raised in middle position with AQo, and only the big blind (an aggressive European player) called. I’ll skip straight to the river (we both checked the flop Qc9c8x, he bet at me when another club hit the turn, and I called). On the river, the board was Q984x with four clubs. So I had top pair, top kicker on a four-flush, straightening board. The problem I had was that my hand was “pretty good” (top pair, top kicker is a pretty good hand in a heads-up pot). But there were a lot of hands he could have that beat mine. My opponent’s lead on the turn indicated a semi-strong hand that might be trying to protect against a club draw. On that board, “semi-strong” means several hand that beat top pair, top kicker. On the river, My opponent checked to me, and I often would have just checked back, hoping my hand was good, but I decided that was a bad idea. He could have some dinky little club, or even a weak two pair that he was afraid to bet. The bottom line was there were a lot of hands that beat mine that would fold if I made a good bet. On that board, he would have to fold sets, two pair, little one-club hands and even a straight. So I decided to turn top pair into a bluff. I made a largish bet and he folded.

This isn’t a super remarkable hand except I think I would often have checked there in the past. But checking is a mistake much of the time because I can get so many better hands to fold by betting. I didn’t make that mistake and I earned a pretty nice pot. I’m pretty sure my opponent folded a better hand because he mumbled something that Luckbox Larry overheard… seemed like he might have laid down top two pair. I was feeling pretty good after that hand. I had been chipping up almost all day, and played pretty good poker.

A few hands later, I raised with 92s in late position, and ended up winning a decent pot, but I had to show the hand. (I c-bet the flop, bet again on the turn, and gave up on the river. My opponent had been calling with various draws that all missed, so I had to show my third pair of nines with a deuce kicker to win the pot.) This was a problem because now everyone knew I was raising trash in late position (which I had been for a while – the blinds were pretty tight and folded way too much).

The result was that I had to snug up a bit and hence didn’t grow my stack very much before dinner.

@JoshDoody: On dinner break with ~62k, and average is ~40k. I’m playing well and winning most of the big pots I play (which is lucky). 30 left, 10 pay.

After dinner, I continued to play pretty tight thanks to my image being trashed with 92s earlier. I still managed to chip up, but it was mostly just luck: I happened to pick up hands in the big blind to bust some players who moved in with short stacks. I don’t remember playing too much poker during this stretch. Just sort of sat back and let the cards do the work.

@JoshDoody: We’re on the last break of the night. 21 left, average is 65k, I have 125k. Playing and running well. I should be Top 5 in chips. 10 pay.

@JoshDoody: They broke my table. I got AA the first hand at my new table. Held up against KK for a monster pot. Chip leader with ~250k. 14 left, 10 pay.

This was the first and only time I had AA, KK or QQ in the tournament. Lucky for me, I got AA against KK, AND he had more chips than I did (there were probably only two or three people with more chips, so this is very lucky), AND my AA held up. This was pure luck and it worked out really well for me. I was monster chip leader with 14 people left.

Unfortunately, things would turn ugly for the last level of the night. This next tweet says it all.

@JoshDoody: JJ < KK, a blind vs blind gone bad, raise/fold with 88, flat-float-bluff fail and I'm down to 124k (above avg) with 12 left. Back at noon.

I beat myself up pretty bad after this run of hands, but I was probably a little hard on myself. The JJ < KK hand was blind versus blind. It was folded to the small blind who had literally moved all-in probably six times since I sat down at my new table. He had been showing good cards, but was still pretty short. He had about 40k left (remember, I had 250k, and average was around 100k, so he was pretty short), and moved all-in. I looked down at JJ and had an easy call. Of course, he had KK and it held up, so there goes 1/6 of my stack.

The next hand, I was in the small blind and it was folded to me. The big blind only had 29k left and I think we were at 1,500/3,000 with a 400 ante. Translation: He was very short, short. I looked down at J7o and decided I could move in and take the blinds pretty easily. The player in the big blind had been playing really tight, so I expected him to need a good hand to call.

He thought for a few seconds and called with… Q6o. I’m not sure why he called. That’s clearly not a calling hand, and he was a tight player. He just decided to go with it, I guess. Of course Q6 held up and I lost another 30k. Down from 250k to 180k in two hands.

About five hands later, I was in early position and opened with 88 (we were six-handed). A tight player two to my left moved all-in, and I ended up folding. He later told me he had TT. Another 10k gone.

The last hand of the night, an aggressive player in early position (we’re still six-handed) made his standard raise to 9,500. I flat-called on the button with KTo (I think this is fine six-handed, and a 3-bet would be totally acceptable as well). The flop was Q94, giving me a gutshot straight draw and an over card (and king high, which could be good). He c-bet and I floated. The turn was another four, and he checked, so I bluffed for 21k (just about half pot). I’ve now tried a FFB… and he called. The river was another queen, so the board was Q944Q. He led out for 40k and I thought for a while and folded. I almost called with king high there, but just decided it would be awful to go to Day 2 with 80k chips, below average. I may have lost a leveling war because I’m pretty sure my opponent knew I would think that way, and that may be why he made that bet. He may also have had a hand, but I kind of doubt it. Who knows.

Day 2

@JoshDoody: Our table draw for Day 2 of the Wynn $550 is here (ugly pic): [The link is already broken.] @hugepoker and I are at the same table. I’m 5th in chips.

Luckbox Larry and I did a lot of research on our Day 2 table, and it turned out I had a pretty bad seat between two good players. We were only six-handed, so this was a bad seat draw, especially since Luckbox Larry was also at my table. I’m pretty sure our table was significantly tougher than the other table.

We also decided to swap some equity since we both had the same chip stack and we were on the bubble. This is a pretty unusual swap because equity swaps usually happen before the tournament starts. But since we were on the bubble and had similar stacks, we decided it would be prudent to hedge by swapping some equity. Basically, we were trying to ensure that at least one of us would get something as long as one of us cashed.

It all turned out to be moot because we literally played one hand before two players (one at each table) busted and we made the money.

@JoshDoody: Made the final table at the Wynn. I’m guaranteed a min-cash, going for the $11k first prize. (cc James Di Virgilio) https://twitter.com/JoshDoody/status/219511016785059840/photo/1

Once we made the final table, we redrew for seats, and my seat draw was much better. The good player to my left moved over to my right. The good player that was to my right moved across the table from me.

You’ll also note that I’m wearing a suit for the final table. I did that just because several of my friends back home told me I had to change something up to stop running bad. I decided I would dress up to show the final table I meant business (and to show them that I only had one outfit resembling a costume).

@JoshDoody: 9 left. I’m below average and need to win a pot (it’s been a while).

I was card dead for quite a while at the final table.

@JoshDoody: 8 left. I stole the blinds once, so hanging in there.

The card-deadness continued down to eight left. Stealing the blinds was worthy of a tweet, so that paints a pretty clear picture of how my cards were. I’m pretty sure we played down from 12 left to eight left, and the only pot I won was this blind steal.

@JoshDoody: 7 left AND I knocked out number 8 with KQs > 99 ( I won a flip!). I’m still pretty short, but not desperate anymore. (UPDATE: 6 left)

I was getting really short-stacked, and an under-the-gun opponent moved all-in when I was in late position. I would normally not call all-in with a hand like KQ, but this particular opponent had been moving in a lot, and I thought there was a pretty good chance I had him dominated (I think KJ, KTs, QJ were in his range). I could also essentially remove AA and KK (and maybe QQ) from his range because he moved in quickly when it was his turn to act. Most players will have to think, “How can I maximize my chances of doubling up with these aces?” before they move all-in or raise. He didn’t take enough time to think that over, so I could be pretty sure he didn’t have a monster. Given the fact that I could have him dominated and that he was unlikely to have me dominated, I decided to put my chips in with KQ. Turns out we were in a coinflip and I hit a king on the turn to bust him (I barely had him covered).

@JoshDoody: First break of the day. Still at 6 left and I’m either 5th or 6th in chips. Need to get lucky now.

After the KQ > 99 hand, I went back to being pretty card dead and folding a lot. I also had the misfortune of having an extremely aggressive (and good) European player on my right, and he was frequently moving in on me if it was folded to him in the small blind. Since he was moving in so frequently, I knew I could open up my calling range quite a bit from the big blind, but my cards were far worse than what I would need to call an all-in (even against a guy who’s basically moving in with any two cards). I had 62o and 84o a lot during this stretch for some reason. There was a two-orbit stretch where I had a two in my hand in all but one hand.

@JoshDoody: 5 left, and I knocked out 6th (AT > 73o). I’m 4th in chips. @hugepoker is chip leader with more than 450k. I have about 170k.

This was another gift like I received a few times on Day 1. It folded around to a late-position, short-stacked opponent who moved all-in when I was in the big blind. I woke up with AT and had to call. I was lucky to have another 70/30 hold up (my fourth or fifth of the tournament).

This is the kind of “good luck” you need to win a tournament: you have to avoid getting unlucky in crucial pots. Yes, I’m supposed to win a 70/30 most of the time, but winning four or five of them in a row is really good luck. I also had the good fortune that when I lost these hands, I usually had my opponent well covered, so it didn’t do serious damage to my stack.

@JoshDoody: 4 left, and I knocked out 5th place (A6s > KQo). I have about 315k, avg is 270k. Pretty sure I’m 2nd in chips. @hugepoker is chip leader.

Speaking of the really aggressive European player to my right, he finished in 5th place. It was folded to him on the button, and he moved all-in. I had been playing tight in the blinds, and so had the guy to my left, so this was a really good spot for him to move in with a pretty wide range of hands. Again, I normally wouldn’t call all-in with A6, but I knew I was ahead of his range, and I was short enough that I had to take a chance to win a pot and bust a player when I could get it. It turns out he had KQ, so I was ahead, and my hand held up again (this time in a 60/40). More good luck.

@JoshDoody: Took a nasty beat four-handed (AKo < K5o -- he rivered a straight) that would've made us 3-handed. Down to 6 BB, now back to almost 20 BB.

This was a devastating hand, one of those 70/30s you have to win to win a tournament. The player to my left was first to act (I was big blind), and he moved all-in for about 240k. It was folded to me, I woke up with AK and had an easy call. Not only did I lose the hand, but I lost it in a nasty way: he made a straight on the river (with his five). The next tweet says it all…

@JoshDoody: Forgot to mention that if my AK holds up, we’re three-handed and I’m probably chip leader. Still in it and playing great poker.

I would’ve been around 520k if I won that hand, and we would’ve been three handed (“we” being Luckbox Larry, a short stack, and me). Luckbox Larry and I had a goal of getting heads-up for the win, and this hand would have made that an almost-lock. We were this close to being one and two in chips with three left, but the poker gods didn’t smile on me this hand.

After this hand, I was left with something like 60k chips, and the blinds were (I think) 5k/10k with a 1k ante. I was desperately short-stacked and would need to get seriously lucky to win the tournament.

All that said, I have a very clear and effective short-stack strategy that I’m very comfortable executing. My biggest hurdle after this hand was psychology–it would have been really easy to just give up. While a 6BB stack is really, really short, there’s still room for skill to help me get back in the game. I needed to keep my head and not tilt.

This is one of the better aspects of my game: I have extreme patience (sometimes to a fault) and rarely tilt, even after horrendous beats. This beat was one of those rare bad beats in a tournament where I could actually calculate how much money it cost me. A 4th-place finish would pay $3,500, and moving up to 3rd would pay about $5,000. If my AK held up, it would have earned me $1,500. Instead, I was by far the shortest stack, staring at a 4th place finish.

Fortunately, I kept my head and played my short stack long enough to make the next break so I could catch my breath and settle down (we were about 20 minutes from the break when I lost this hand).

@JoshDoody: Second break of the day. Still four-handed and I’m the short stack. @hugepoker just took a nasty beat to chop with AT = A5 in a 560k pot.

Meanwhile, Luckbox Larry had a chance to win a huge pot and become chip leader, and it was a similar situation: he was a 70/30 favorite. But the board double-paired to counterfeit his kicker, and he ended up chopping (splitting) the biggest pot of the tournament with two pair, ace kicker. This was probably almost as deflating for him as my AK < K5 hand was, except he didn’t actually lose the hand. Suddenly, we were both running bad at the worst-possible time.

@JoshDoody: We just chopped it up four-handed. I got the lion’s share: ~$8,200. Everyone else got ~$6,500. Technically… I won? https://twitter.com/JoshDoody/status/219590756048973824/photo/1

But fortunes can swing quickly at the final table because the blinds and antes are so large relative to the chip stacks. I had worked my stack up to over 200k (from 60k after the bad beat earlier), and we all seemed to have between 200 and 300k chips. One of the remaining players (we called him “red shirt” because… he was wearing a red shirt) asked if we wanted to talk about a deal (distributing the prize money in some way rather than playing the rest of the tournament). As he started to mention it, the dealer was already dealing a hand, so we decided to wait until after that hand to talk about a deal.

Unfortunately, he won a big pot with AK > AJ (against Luckbox Larry), and ended up being massive chip leader after that hand. “Never mind. It doesn’t make sense now because I have so many chips and a chip-chop wouldn’t work.” So we would play on. A couple of hands later, I doubled through “red shirt” to take a massive chip lead (AQ > … A5, I think? — I won another 70/30). We were ready to talk “deal” again, and I ended up getting the lion’s share of the chips.

I had some friends ask me what happened at the end–why we didn’t play it out. The reason is that there’s a lot of variance (big swings in chip stacks) late in tournaments when the blinds get high. These last few hands illustrate that pretty well. Luckbox Larry had a huge chip stack, then suddenly he was short and “red shirt” had a huge chip stack, then suddenly he was short and I had a huge chip stack. That all happened in like four hands.

Since 4th paid only $3,500 and first was $11,500, there was a lot of money on the line, and we were basically gambling for it. In order to reduce variance (and to avoid “losing” a pile of money), we decided on a deal: I would get $8,200, “red shirt” and the guy to my left would each get $6,500, and Luckbox Larry would get $6,400 because he was really short-stacked. The primary beneficiary of this deal was Luckbox Larry – he got more than he probably should have, but that’s just because he’s good at negotiating deals. I probably could’ve gotten a few hundred more dollars, but I didn’t want to risk losing the deal. I was hoping to land at $8,500, but ended up at $8,235. I’m happy with the way things turned out.

@JoshDoody: A decent shot of me forcing a smile (holding it for like 30 seconds). And some cash. Also, I’m wearing my magic suit! https://twitter.com/JoshDoody/status/219613236952170497/photo/1

That’s an awful picture of me that’s out of focus. Also, I literally had to hold that “smile” for like 30 seconds before the dealer took the pic, so my typically non-photogenic smile is even worse than usual. Bad smiles aside, it was nice to end up with a little pile of cash, my biggest tournament score yet.

2011 Seattle Trip Diary

Day 1: Today started pretty rough, but got better as it went on. I went to sleep about 2:00 AM and had to be back up at 4:00 AM. My plane left Gainesville at 5:20 AM and I arrived in Seattle at 9:30 AM local time. The Muckleshoot Casino, where we’re playing three tournaments this weekend, is pretty close to the airport, so Luckbox Larry and I swung by to register for Friday’s $300 tournament (we heard it was likely to sell out). Wow, that sentence was awful. So, once that was out of the way, we headed up to Seattle so I could get settled.

Once I dropped off my stuff at Luckbox Larry’s place, I met Jimmy Trent for lunch at the Green Lake Bar & Grill. It was good to catch up on Jimmy’s life since he and his family relocated from Gainesville to Seattle. After lunch, we met up with the rest of his clan at Seattle’s version of Mochï (I can’t remember what it’s called).

On my way back to Luckbox Larry’s place, I stopped off at Herkimer Coffee (recommended by Jimmy) to pick up a couple lattes (one for me and one for Luckbox’s wifey). I figure I’m basically in the coffee capital of America (the world?), so I might as well sample the goods while I’m in town, right?

By then, my head was more or less spinning because I hadn’t had much sleep. The entire afternoon is pretty hazy, actually. I did some work on the super-long post about the big hand between Vanessa and David and then managed to get a nap on the “Futon Bed”, which is the odd combination of a futon with a giant full-size mattress on top of it. It sleeps normal-er than it sounds, so I was out for an hour or so.

Next up, we all headed off to a Team Huge (Luckbox Larry’s poker-playing crew who often visits Vegas for the 4th of July festivities) dinner party, where we had some chicken stuff, some bread, salad and corn. (Did I mention my memory gets a little fuzzy from the afternoon through the rest of the day?) Then we played a quick little poker tournament (I busted first), and finally left to head back to Luckbox’s place around 11:00 PM. By now, I’d more or less been awake for 24 hours except for a nap on the plane and another nap on the Futon Bed. I guess we drove back home and I went to sleep or something.

Day 2: I originally scheduled this to be an off day so that I could adjust to the new timezone and see a bit of Seattle. That’s more or less how the day turned out. I managed to sleep till about 8:00 AM. I considered this a coup since I was afraid my body would be stuck on East Coast time. I wandered out to find a coffee shop and landed at Lighthouse Roasters. They didn’t have WiFi, but that’s no biggie since I have MyWi on my iPhone. I spent a few hours there (more editing on the Vanessa v. David piece) and then headed back up to Luckbox’s place.

I spent a few more hours getting some work done (including some work for the next phase for this site) and then we went and got takeout at Paseo, which is a kind of Cuban-Caribbean fusion and Freemont institution. In a word: superdelicious. I had the Cuban Roast sandwich and it basically blew my socks off. Then I took a nap.

For the evening festivities, Luckbox and I decided to go play a tune-up $130 tourney at the Tulalip Casino, where they HATE, HATE, HATE bags. All bags. Do not bring a bag to our casino! Uh, so neither of us cashed in that tournament and then we left WITH OUR BAGS. Hopefully my 0/2 start isn’t a harbinger of things to come this weekend.

On the way back to the abode, we stopped in for dinner (?) at Molly Moon’s. I got a 2-scoop waffle cone with Salted Caramel and Maple Walnut. It was incredible, and quite a bit more than I was prepared to eat since Luckbox’s wife was supposed to help out, but ended up bailing because she wanted to sleep instead of eating ice cream at midnight or whatever.

Then I did some reading and went to sleep.

Day 3: We had to be up pretty early today because the $300 tourney started at 10:00 AM and we were about 45 minutes away. We dropped off Alfie and then drove down to the Muckleshoot (with a Starbucks stop on the way). We walked in just as the tournament was getting under way and it was more or less like playing poker in an igloo. I felt I played pretty well, but just ran kind of bad. I took a couple nasty beats (for example, one gentleman check-called my bet with KhQh on a J52 flop and then hit runner-runner hearts to make a flush on the river) and just had trouble getting traction. My final hand, I moved in with JJ to isolate against a late-position short-stack who had already moved all-in. Of course, another dude called my all-in with AK and he hit an ace on the flop. To add insult to injury the short stack also turned a set of sevens (although it didn’t matter for me). So, my streak of sucking at coinlfips continues and I was out somewhere around 175 of 250.

I headed over to Starbucks to kill time and ended up spending about seven hours there. I got some work done, caught up on Big Brother (yeah, I watch that show, Big whoop, wannafightaboutit?), did some reading, and wrote up this here diary.

Once Luckbox Larry busted from the tournament (narrowly missing the final table), we headed back into Seattle to meet his wife and another friend for dinner. We went to May, I great Thai place that was even greater thanks to a Restaurant.com coupon. Dinner wrapped up pretty late, so we promptly headed back to the house and called it a night.

Day 4: Today was the $500 tournament at the Muckleshoot. I’ve been running pretty badly since before I went to Vegas earlier this summer, and I was hoping my luck would finally change today. As it turned out, I was in for more of the same. I ran into a few sets (once with top pair, top kicker in a spot where I could have played for stacks but managed to lose the minimum) and ended up busting on another coinflip (QQ < AK). I think I went out with about 100 left and we started with 230 or so. This coin flip thing is getting kind of ridiculous: I'm pretty sure I've busted in about half of the last 10 tournaments on a coinflip where I was ahead and where I was the one who moved all-in. I keep getting called by overcards and they keep hitting. This isn’t a situation where I’m all-in every other hand. I’m usually all-in and called maybe two or three times per tournament. Today, I was all-in once (the hand I busted). Yesterday, I think I was all-in once (when I busted with JJ < AK) or maybe twice (I don’t remember for sure). In the WSOP Main Event, I was all-in and called twice (once when I actually won a coinflip with 99 > AQ, then on my bust-out hand with AA < KK). I'm just not all-in very often, so to be constantly busting on coin flips (especially where I'm ahead every time) is just really bad luck. Anyway, I feel that I'm playing good poker, and I'm just not getting any breaks. Tomorrow is the $1k main event, so hopefully things will turn around then. The good news is that my bad run isn't affecting my play as far as I can tell. If I keep playing good poker, I should eventually have a nice score. This afternoon I watched the Gator game online, then we went to dinner at Ray’s Cafe. We sat out on the deck, which overlooks Puget Sound. I’m not really one to talk about sunsets, but we got to see a pretty spectacular sunset:

Afterwards, we all went back to the Huge Mansion and sat around talking for a while. I got a salted caramel milkshake from Molly Moon’s and Luckbox made some kind of crazy drink concoction thing complete with rosemary and a bunch of berries–it was pretty darn good.

Time to sleep. I’m going to keep playing good poker, and hopefully I’ll have a nice score in the $1k tomorrow.

Day 5: Today was the $1k Main Event at the Muckleshoot. We were expecting a smallish field, but ended up getting about 155 entrants. This tournament turned out to be a great deal because the casino added $25k to the prize pool. That worked out to $165 or so for each player, which means we essentially played rake-free and had an overlay. Pretty good deal.

WARNING: Things are about to get poker-y here. If you don’t care about poker stuff, scroll down to where you see “BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING”.

The field also turned out to be a little softer than we expected. It wasn’t a crazy donkfest or anything, but there weren’t too many good, experienced players to be seen. My table was a good table (pretty soft) as I saw some players playing really big pots with relatively weak hands like top pair or even second pair. I figured if I could just catch some hands, I’d have not trouble chipping up.

Well, I did catch some hands and they were either second best or got outdrawn on the river. I had a couple funky AJ hands where I was in the blinds against a middle- or late-positionr raiser. Once, I flopped second pair (KJx board) and check-called to the river. The other guy had something like 96s and rivered trip sixes. So, my play was good – I had him betting at me as a big underdog – he just happened to get there. Another time, I flopped top pair, top kicker and check-called a bet on the flop. A king hit the turn, I checked, the guy made a very big bet and I folded. This seems a little tight, but he had already seen me pay off a few times in other hands in similar spots, AND I suspected his big bet meant business. I saw him say something to the guy next to him, and I’m pretty sure the king improved his hand. I also flopped several big draws that didn’t get there. I flopped a gutshot straight flush draw (I had AdTd on a KdQd9x board) and just called bets on the flop and turn because my opponent had raised UTG and was likely very strong. Of course I didn’t improve and had to fold to his bet on the river.

In another hand, that same dude check-called my flop bet when he had Ah8h on a Th9s2s board. I had 8s2s and had flopped a flush draw and he had flopped… ace high. Anyway, he check-called my flop bet with nothing, then he led the turn when another heart hit. I called because I had a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw. My plan was to bet the river if I missed and he checked to me. Then a heart hit the river and he led out again, so I folded and he turned over his flush. What he was doing on the flop, I don’t know. So anyway, that’s how my day was going.

I went into the first break with about 13,000 chips. This was kind of short because we started with 20,000. Obviously, I was short because I’d just been slowly losing chips in the pots I described above. The first level after the break, we would have our first ante level, and I planned to step up my aggression to start chipping up. I had seen some good spots to 3-bet light (or squeeze) and I was going to exploit the next spot I saw. The second hand after the break, I had the button and the player to my right raised to 500 (the blinds were 100/200 with a 25 ante). I 3-bet him to 1,500, the SB cold-called the raise and the original raiser also called. First of all, I should say this was my first 3-bet all day, and my image was pretty tight by this level. So, it’s a little unlucky that both of those players called this 3-bet. The flop was JcJs9c and both players checked to me. I c-bet 2,400 and both players called. The turn was a Ks, the SB checked, the guy to my right bet 11,000, I folded and the SB check-raised all-in. The SB had KK (he turned kings full) and the guy to my right had QcTc (he turned a straight plus a straight flush redraw against the other guy’s full house). The kings full held up. I like my 3-bet (it was a good time to try it), but my c-bet was a mistake: The SB was a tight player and his cold-call pre-flop should have been a red flag for me. After the hand, I knew I’d screwed up with the c-bet because the SB’s range is really small when he cold-calls my 3-bet pre-flop. I had thought maybe he cold-called with something like AK or AQs, thinking he didn’t want to 4-bet, but he also didn’t want to fold. The guy to my right could have had a pretty wide range because he was getting such good pot-odds to call my 3-bet (he had to call 1,000 to win 4,000), and a lot of his range is stuff like AK/AQ/KQ and medium pairs. So I c-bet because I thought there was a good chance they both had either big cards or medium pairs that missed the flop. But, in hindsight, the SB was obviously stronger than that here. It’s a small mistake, but it cost me 2,400 chips and I don’t like that. Also, I know it’s bugging you that I haven’t mentioned my hand – that’s because my hand didn’t matter since I had planned to 3-bet light. But if you must know, I had 8d3d (it was soooooted!).

Ok, so we fast forward two hands. I start the hand with about 8,500. The guy two seats to my right open limps (he’s done this before and I’ve raised his limp before), and I raise it to 700 (blinds still at 100/200/25) with AKo. It folds back to him and he calls. The flop is AT5, he checks, I bet 1,000 and he calls. The turn is a king, so I’ve got top two pair. He checks. There’s about 4,000 in the pot and I have about 6,500 left, so I decide to just move all-in both to protect my hand (there was a flush draw out, and possible funky straight draws) and for value (he might have a weaker ace or funky two pair, and I don’t want him getting scared off if he does have one of those hands and another big card hits the river putting a four-card straight on the board). He thinks for a while and then calls with AJo. So he needs one of four queens to knock me out, and I’m a 92% favorite to double up. If you’ve ever met me, you know that a queen hit the turn and I was out.

So, I played three tournaments at the Muckleshoot ($300, $500 and $1,000). I was all-in and called three times: JJ < AK; QQ < AK; AK < AJ on a AKT5 board. Or, in numbers: 55% favorite; 55% favorite; 92% favorite. I lost all three all-ins. It’s important to note that in all three cases, I was the one who moved all-in and my bet or raise was big enough that my opponent could legitimately fold. Yesterday, I mentioned there may have been another all-in, but I can’t remember it. You may recall that I busted from the WSOP ME with AA < KK (80% favorite) a few tournaments ago, and before that I min-cashed and had three final table bubbles at the Wynn. So I’m on a little bit of a cold streak right now.


After the pokerz, we headed back into Seattle and took a detour so I could finally meet The Freemont Troll. I’d been hearing about this guy since I arrived in Seattle, so it was nice to finally put the name with a face:

Yeah, that’s a VW Bug he’s crushing with his hand. A real VW Bug.

Then, Luckbox Larry and I stopped off at Theo Chocolate to get his wife a birthday present (she was kind enough to let him play the $1k main event on her birthday). Can I just say that Theo Chocolate is an amazing place where they literally just have piles of chocolate sitting around, waiting to be eaten for FREE?! It was a good thing that Luckbox Larry already basically knew what he was getting because I could’ve put away three or four pounds of chocolate with no problem if we’d stuck around long enough. It was awesome. Here’s a pic of a couple of their caramel selections:

Uh, so anyway, then we headed back to the palace and I took a nap while they went for a stroll to the market.

Some time in the evening, we all headed over to Dan (AKA, Fat Yeti of Fat Yeti Photography) and Maya’s place for a birthday dinner for Rachel (Luckbox Larry’s heretofore unnamed wife). I’d say the two highlights were the salmon that Dan cooked on his Big Green Egg (see below) and the S’mores Cake that Maya made (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get a picture of it).

After dinner and dessert, we all went to Dan’s studio so he could show us some pretty awesome pics of him and some friends shooting giant guns. While we were browsing the gun pics, I scanned the walls and noticed some random-looking pics of people wearing a chicken head mask, but otherwise looking pretty normal. I asked Dan what was up with the mask and he said something like, “Yeah, we like to take pics of people wearing the chicken head. Do you want to take a pic wearing the chicken head?”

“Sure I do.”

That’s just one of two that we did. I’ll post the other one in its own blog post because it’s JUST THAT AWESOME.

Day 6: Today was pretty laid-back since we didn’t have any poker to play. I spent the morning over at Caffe Vita doing some writing and reading. I started “The Big Short” last week, and I’m starting to get into that.

We went for pho for lunch, but I didn’t catch the name of the place. It was good pho. Afterward, we went for gelato at another place whose name I didn’t catch. I had white chocolate and orange (one flavor) gelato and it was really good.

Then we ran some errands on foot, and ended up cruising around for about an hour, going store to store to get stuff done. It turned out to be a pretty good workout, so hopefully I burned off some of the calories I ate for lunch.

For dinner, we went for burgers at Uneeda Burger, and it was really good. We took Alfie with us, and he was just relaxing on the deck while we ate… until Bentley the local cat came along and started making trouble. Eventually, we ran Bentley off and Alfie stood his ground next time Bentley came around.

We just spent the rest of the evening chatting and I finished up re-packing my stuff for the second leg of my trip. I’m off to Vancouver at 7:40 AM!

Back-to-back tourney wins: Poker and… Foosball?

I should write this down so I don’t forget about it.  We had a doubles foosball tournament at work today and my team won.  Then I went home for an hour or so and got ready to go play a couple of single-table ten-dollar poker tourneys. I hadn’t played with this group before, but they’re mostly guys that I know and it was a good time.  I won the first tourney and didn’t cash in the second.  I’m sure winning a foosball tourney and a poker tourney on the same day puts me in with some strange company.


Also, I bought a 3G iPhone today.  I woke up at 4:30 and got to the AT&T store at about 5:30.  We were in the doors at 8:30 and back out again by 9:15.  Of course, the iTunes crash prevented me from registering the phone for several hours, but I’m up and running now.  So far, I’m really impressed with the iPhone.  I still need to finish loading all of my music, but texting, surfing the web, using the iPod and GPS are all super useful and really easy to use.  The only thing I’m not excited about is my new $100-plus cell phone bill.

My week, sans the work: Part 2 – Las Vegas

On Wednesday evening, I headed west to Las Vegas.  As it turns out, I also arrive in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening since time stands still when flying west (in the States anyway).  This demonstrates Superman’s superiority as Boeing can merely cause time to stand still, while Superman can actually cause time to go backward. (NOTE: I will not check to see if Boeing makes a jet that flies fast enough to cause time to reverse when flying west in the States.)  A couple of friends were also in Vegas and had the good fortune (read, “have gambled enough”) to get two rooms comped at different hotels for Wednesday and Thursday.  I ended up crashing in a room at the Hard Rock for free my first two days in Vegas.  Wednesday night, I slept.

Thursday, I woke up relatively early (9) and did a few hours of work.  Then I wandered over to the Wynn and had lunch at Terrace Pointe Cafe.  It was excellent and I was full, so I decided to walk over to Bellagio and get some gelato.  I didn’t have any plans for the remainder of the day, so I popped over to Planet Hollywood Casino and played some $1-$2 No Limit.  I dropped about $85 over five hours (possibly accounted for by the $90 pot I lost after being about 90% to win when the money went in) and then went back to the Hard Rock to do a little more work and then get some sleep.  The next three days would be busy ones.

Friday morning, I woke up and did a couple hours of work and then checked out of the Hard Rock and into – let me finish – the Tropicana.  Actually, I just checked my bags at “The Trop” (that’s what the townies call it, probably because it’s a dump and doesn’t really merit more than two syllables) and then walked over to the MGM Grand to meet a friend for boot camp.  The friend is a poker pro who was teaching at a three-day WPT Boot Camp that I was to audit for the weekend.  (I don’t name-drop here, but her recent tournament winnings put her on a short-list for best female tournament player, and she’s probably moving up the same list for “overall” tournament player.  Google is fun.)

Within the first two hours of the camp, I’d already identified why my poker game has been so awful recently and decided it was time to update (and, in many ways, revert) my style.  In a nutshell, it was pretty obvious that I had regressed into a weak-tight style.  It quickly became obvious I needed to LAG it up a bit and play more (but smaller) pots against my opponents.  So far, so good.

The rest of the first day was good, but not as great as the first session.  I really enjoyed the other sessions (hanging out with people who’ve written books I’ve read has to be fun), but they were mostly high-level refreshers that didn’t resonate like the first session had.  My friend and I skipped out on dinner and met up with her fiancée and some of their friends for dinner at Antonio’s at the Rio.  The lasagna was good and I was entertained both during dinner, by the conversation, and after dinner, by the meticulous accounting required to verify proper appropriation of each penny on the check (including tax and tip, of course).  After dinner, we met up with another friend and went to see the new Indiana Jones movie (which was a colossal letdown and seemed more like a prank than a long-awaited fourth installment to the series).  I then went back to The Trop to officially check in and collapse.

As I was checking in, I began to realize that they may not have reserved a non-smoking room for me.  This was going to be a problem.  I first began to suspect something was up when the receptionist said, “Ohhhhhh…  you wanted a non-smoking room?” Then, clackity-clack-clack tip-tap tap-tap-tap … thunk.  She probably suspected I requested a non-smoking room because I had submitted the following “special request” when I booked the room on Expedia:

I absolutely DO NOT WANT A SMOKING ROOM, or a room that has ever been a smoking room, or a room that is near a smoking room.

She explained that they didn’t have any more one-bed non-smoking rooms.  I explained that I didn’t care how many beds were in the room so long as it wasn’t smoking, and hadn’t ever been a … (see above).  She said she was new, so she was going to get the manager.  The manager swooped in, tapped around for a few seconds and said, “We’re going to upgrade you to a suite.”  Bummer.  Wait, what?  Okey dokey!  (That was actually all in my head.)  Aloud, I said, “Ok.” as if to communicate that we both know they owe me that much.  She then explained that Vegas hotels can’t guarantee rooms like that.  But she also gave me an insider tip:  if I want to make sure I don’t get stuck in smoking, I should book the room, then call ahead to the hotel and tell them I’m allergic to tobacco and smoke.  That’ll land me on “the security list” and I should be good to go.  I’m getting a suite, suckas!

As I approached the suite, I saw a sign: THIS IS A NO SMOKING AREA.  I took that as a good omen, but was a little leery of the slight smokey smell that surrounded it.  The suite had most likely been furnished by bargain hunters who scored a bunch of stuff from garage sales in South Florida.  Most of the room was coral, teal and wicker.  I was curious what the smoking room would’ve looked like.  (Probably something like coral drawn toward earth tones via tar stains.)  It smelled a little like smoke, and would smell that way for the duration of my stay.  I assumed this was the result of 25 years of people ignoring the sign outside my door.

On Saturday, I began the day by bumming breakfast off of the boot camp.  Then the sessions began again and, again, there was one particular session that really resonated with me.  As before, the theme was “aggression” and it became even clearer to me that I had devolved into a weak-tight player (possibly the worst kind of tournament player to be).  After the day ended, I headed straight back to my hotel room to try out my newfound LAGgy confidence in some small multi-table tournaments.  Two things were almost immediately apparent: first, this style is obviously effective; second, this style seems pretty similar to what I used to play when I was regularly playing live tournaments.  (A third epiphany also began to dawn, but wouldn’t become completely clear until Sunday: it’s too bad I blew $1K in New Orleans because I didn’t have the slightest chance at actually winning that tournament.)  I didn’t cash in either of the small tournaments I played, but I easily built a big stack and was in great position to assume the chip lead when we hit the bubble.

…Ironically, one of the topics that came up frequently in my two favorite sessions was pre-flop raise-sizing.  The number of 2.5 Big Blinds was mentioned frequently, so I decided to take a look back at my posts from a couple years ago.  Sure enough, I had written two long posts (well, long if you ignore this one) called “2.5 is the new 3!”…

Sunday began the same as Saturday, but was more of a wrap-up day.  We had a couple of general sessions, then lunch, then a winner-take-all tournament that I didn’t play (because I was freeloading).  Before the tournament, my friend was kind enough to look over my hand-history from the $1K in New Orleans.  We both had a good laugh and I felt a little embarrassed at how obviously weak my play had been.  It wasn’t awful (she occasionally found something I’d done correctly), but it was pretty bad.  It was mostly good that it was so obvious to me how bad my play had been – that meant I had actually learned something over the past couple of days.

After my friend busted from the tournament, we milled around chatting with all the other busted pros (the pros apparently weren’t so great in this one) and then headed off the strip and back to her condo to kill some time.  We chatted with some other guests she had in town and then she decided it was time to teach me to play backgammon.  I remember seeing a backgammon board at a friend’s house when I was really young, but I don’t think I ever played the game.  Anyway, the first few games were a little frustrating (probably more for her than me) and she went up 5-0 in a match to 7.  But then I won four games straight to win the match 7-5.  Of course, I’m aware that I was a total luckbox, and that she helped me make good plays and avoid horrible plays… but it’s also nice to know that she died a little inside when a total neophyte crushed her.

After the longest-odds backgammon comeback in history (or at least my history, which includes only one match), we met up with a friend and went for sushi at Sushi Roku in Ceasar’s Palace.  After my friend was mistaken for a hostess (“One for the sushi bar.”  “What?”  “One for the sushi bar.”  “What are you talking about?”  “Oh, you don’t work here?  I’m sorry.”), we were seated at the least-attended table in the joint.  After receiving my latest lesson in the art of the chopsticks, we downed our meal pretty quickly and then jumped right into discussions on morality, politics, social faux pas and the like.  We also noticed that our server hadn’t been around in quite a while.

My friend was particularly frustrated by this (we had been trying to get the check for about 20 minutes and our glasses hadn’t been refilled in a while) and decided to use me as an instrument of passive-aggressive revenge.  Because she has no soul, she decided the best way to exact revenge would be to give our server a seemingly genuine, but completely fake, compliment.  I was offered a 20-dollar freeroll if I would, with a completely straight face, tell our server how much I appreciated her attentive service.  And she had to believe I meant it.  I mulled it over for a while (I possess a soul, and so this task would be more difficult for me to execute than it was for her to imagine), but decided I was freerolling and therefore only had my dignity to lose, but 20 dollars to gain!  I began thinking back to my acting classes to see if I could remember how to find motivation and get out of my head.  Mostly, I was concerned I would begin offering up my fake compliment and bust out laughing, which would make me feel awful (yes, worse than I would feel for passive-aggressively taking a shot at our only-slightly-English-speaking server).  No motivation became apparent, so I decided to look for the right opportunity and go for it.

I decided that opportunity would present itself when our server brought the check (assuming this ever happened).  Eventually, she brought the check, set it on the table and began to make a hasty retreat.  Before she could get away, I began:

“Excuse me.  This is my first time in Las Vegas and I am just about to leave to catch my plane home.” 
“Where are you going?” 
“Back to Florida.  But I just wanted to let you know that I had a great time here this week, but your service tonight has been really exceptional and is just a great way to end the week.”
By this time, it was obvious that she was a little skeptical of my kindness.  Of course, she should’ve been since I’m sure she knew she hadn’t paid us any attention for the last couple of hours.
“So, thank you for your great service tonight.  This was a great way to end my trip.”

I was so convincing that my soulless friend felt compelled to stop snickering into her napkin (I wanted to say, “stop snickering into her serviette”, but this is America) and say, “Aw, that’s so nice of you!”  This comment finished the job and clearly convinced our server that we were indeed genuinely impressed with her service.  I was paid my blood money and we began preparations to negotiate the check.  But while we were razzing the server, our friend had sneakily paid the check (apparently, the staff was very quick to retrieve already-paid checks), so I actually made twenty dollars at dinner (and forever lost a small piece of my soul).

From there, we went back by The Trop to retrieve my bags (checking out is substantially easier than checking in) and ferry me to the airport so I could catch the red-eye.  I’m pretty sure this is my first red-eye flight, but I’m realizing that one attribute of a red-eye is that they’re difficult to remember, so it’s possible I’ve flown a few before.  In about 45 minutes, we’ll touch down in Gainesville and I’ll go home and sleep the day away.  Back to work tomorrow.

$50 tourney recap

This was only my second live tourney since October and I felt I played well until (of course) the last hand. We started with 5K chips, 10/20 blinds and 30 minute levels. It was a pretty good structure and I really liked my chances. I was sitting to the left of a couple guys who were sort of tricky, so I had a pretty good seat.

I caught a couple hands early (AA, KK), but didn’t get too many chips with them. I didn’t mind too much because I was picking up information on my opponents, so I really didn’t want to be in too many hands anyway. Here are the significant hands I can remember:

I think we were at the 15/30 level and I picked up KQs in the CO. MP2 limped (he’d been limping a lot), I raised to 130, he called. Flop was ATx rainbow. He checked, I c-bet something like 175 and he called. Turn was a blank. He checked, I checked. River was a Queen, he bet 400. I thought this was a suspicious bet since he was basically representing an Ace. But if he was representing an Ace, then he thought I didn’t have one and I couldn’t understand why he’d bet 3/4 the pot in that situation. I called, I think he mucked something like 77 and I took it down.

50/100 level, it’s folded to the CO (same guy from previous hand) who raises to 275. BU folds, I wake up with AA and re-raise to 1000 straight. I wasn’t sure what to do there because I knew he was probably raising light, but I felt we were too deep to get cute and just call. He folded.

75/150 level, I get AQs UTG (we’re now 8-handed, I think). I raise to 450, everyone folds to SB who calls (same dude from previous two hands). Flop wasQQ2 rainbow. SB checked to me and I decided to make a larger c-bet than normal since I figured he’d interpret that as weakness. I bet 600, he c/r-ed to 1700 and I just called. I figured if I just called, he might put me on TT or 99 and try to steal it if the turn was a good bluffing card for him. I called. Turn was a Two, giving me Queens full. He checked, I checked. River was a blank, he checked, I bet 2K, he folded saying, “I know you didn’t have a Queen. Smells like Ten Ten to me.”

A couple times in there, I’d made top pair from the BB, bet out and had to fold to a raise. I also chopped a pot with AQ vs. AQ (same guy).

100/200 level, I misplayed AK against the guy mentioned in the sentence above and went home. Here’s how I screwed it up: I was UTG with AKo and accidentally raised to 450 (I’d forgotten the blinds had gone up). A tight player in MP1 (we’re still 8-handed) re-raises to 1650 total. Everyone folds to me. I have about 5600 left, which is a good number to shove with AK in this spot. I think about his raise and realize it seems a little scared. I put him on AK, JJ, TT, maybe QQ. I figured I had just enough left that he might fold JJ or TT (and probably AK), and I’d be racing against QQ if he called. Before the hand, my M was about 20, but we’d be adding an ante in about 15 minutes, which meant my M was about to drop to 10. I decided to shove and I felt pretty good about it when he didn’t insta-call. But he ended up calling with KK, and I didn’t improve.

My mistake was not in the way I played the hand, but in who I played the hand against (I will not use “whom” in a poker post!). Dude had a lot of chips, but only because he’d been a card rack for a while. He had gotten KK against AK earlier, I’m pretty sure he flopped a straight against me when I had top pair, he also flopped a better top pair against me when I flopped top pair another time. He hadn’t shown any junk and he’d been playing very tight. Against a player like this, a re-raise to 4x my bet means, “I have a big hand! Let’s get as many chips in there as we can, ok?!” What’s worse is that I had a great read on everyone at my table, so I could’ve played small ball and continued to chip up. I guess my excuse is that I hadn’t played a live, deep stack tourney in about five months.

So, I played for about 3.5 hours and finished something like 15/19. I’m pretty disappointed that I busted misplaying AK that badly. That’s pretty out of character for me.

Tournament of Champions recap

Tonight was the Tournament of Champions (TOC) for one of the groups that I’ve been playing with this year. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to write up a full recap, but here’s a brief summary:

I was basically card dead all night. That being said, I did pick up a few nice hands, but I never got any action on them. I had AK once and took the pot down with a re-raise pre-flop. I had AA twice, QQ, JJ twice and 33; I didn’t get any action with any of those hands. I busted with AJ vs. K5s when my opponent tried to make a move and I picked him off. Here’s that hand (it was one of the most interesting of the night):

We were three-handed at the 500/1000 level and I started with about 15K chips (I’d been hovering around 15K for a couple hours) and I was the BB. The button limped, the SB folded and I raised to 4K with AJo. The button moved in pretty quickly and I called before he had his chips in the pot. He showed K5o, the flop was AKK and IGHN. The SB said that he had also folded K5o.

That was pretty much it. My best hand of the night was a King-high straight that I made in the first level for a very small pot. I never had trips. I never had two pair. I think I flopped top pair once or twice (once, I had to fold to a raise by a guy who flopped a flush). I made some very good laydowns and some excellent reads. Most of the pots I won were pure bluffs. Once we were three-handed, every pot I won post-flop was a bluff.

I finished 3/10 for $600. I also played a $10 last longer against four other guys and I won that. The prize pool was $2500 and we each put in $50 more to make it $3000. We played for about 5.5 hours.

All in all, I was very satisfied with my play. I doubt I could’ve played any better. I was disappointed to finish third, but that’s just the way the cards fell. I was only all-in once and the best hand didn’t win. As I look back on the year, I’m floored by how far I’ve come as a tournament poker player. I thought I was decent back in January, but I just didn’t have a lot of live experience. I think I’ve played about 100 hours of live tournament poker this year, and my game is much the better for it. More importantly, I played against a variety of opponents and that forced me to be more flexible in my game. Even tonight, there were only 10 guys at the table, but they ranged from ultra-tight to fairly LAGgy. Seeing so many types of opponents has made me much, much better.

There’s still another TOC in December for the other group I’ve played with this year. As of right now, I’m in line to get a seat in that tournament, but there are three more tourneys before the end of the season. If I still have enough points at the end of the season, I may fly back to play that TOC as well.

$45 tournament recap

Saturday I played a $45 buy-in tournament. We started with 10K in chips with 30-minute levels and 25 players.

This tournament was very difficult for me both physically and psychologically. It began exactly 12 hours after Friday night’s tournament ended, so I had very little time to sleep and refocus my mind. Early in the tourney, I was splashing around a lot more than I usually do, but I was playing very well post-flop. I made some good laydowns, some strong bluffs and was generally making good reads. Because I was messing around so much pre-flop and because my table was playing pretty loose poker, my stack constantly fluctuated for the first couple hours or so. Usually, my stack will slowly increase as the tournament progresses, so this was a pretty unique tournament for me. It turns out one downside to being tired in a tourney is that I can’t remember a lot of the hands I played, so I’m only going to highlight the significant ones here (there weren’t too many).

After the first couple hours, I was down to about 4/5 of my starting stack and I was looking to make a move to accumulate some chips. The blinds were starting to creep up on me and I didn’t want to get short-stacked. I think the blinds were 150/300 and I had about 8500 in chips. A couple players limped in front of me and I limped in the CO with QTs. The button and both blinds came along as well. The flop was AQ3 with two hearts, giving me middle pair, medium kicker, second-nut flush draw and a backdoor straight draw. Everyone checked to me and I decided I wanted to get all my chips in, but I had to figure out the best way to do it. The pot was around 1500-1800 chips, so moving in (for about 8200) would be a huge overbet. I could check-raise, but 1) I wasn’t sure the player behind me would bet, even if he hit the board and 2) if he only bet about half the pot, I would be overbetting if I moved in. I decided the bet/three-bet all-in would be my best option, and I could always push the turn if he just called my bet and didn’t raise. I realize this sounds contradictory–I didn’t want to check-raise because the button may not bet; I was betting hoping he’d raise so I could move in–but I put him on an Ace-rag and he really liked pretty much any Ace that he flopped. My reasoning was that he would probably check behind to trap with his Ace (never mind that it was a multi-way pot and that his kicker probably wasn’t any good), but he would raise for value if I bet. Anyway, I had to pick the right amount to bet so that if he raised me 1) my re-raise all-in would be significant enough that he’d have to consider folding if his kicker was trash and 2) he’d be making a mathematical mistake if he folded. I decided to bet 1200 (leaving me with about 7K), figuring he’d raise to about 3600, so I could push another 3400. Given the stack sizes, this last 3400 would actually be pretty significant to him because it’d be the different between him having a short-to-medium stack and him being crippled. So, I bet 1200, he raised to 4000, I moved in for about 3500 more and he called pretty quickly. Turns out my read was right, but his kicker was a three, so he had Aces up and I was only about 40% to win the hand (maybe a bit less). I got luck to spike a heart on the turn to double up to around 17K.

We broke for the final table not too much later. The first big hand I played at the FT was a pre-flop semi-bluff gone wrong, then being salvaged. I was in MP3 with 89s and made the standard raise to 3 BB (I had been playing pretty tight, so I thought I could steal the blinds). Both the CO and button cold-called my bet and we had three to the flop. Obviously, I’m not thrilled that both of these players called my bet, but I do have a pretty 89s, so I could flop pretty big. Flop was TT7r, giving me an OESD. Still, I didn’t like my hand against JJ or QQ, so I checked it to see what they’d do. I was prepared to exercise each of my three options (call, fold, raise) depending on who bet and how strong I felt he was. Both of them checked. Now I’m thinking 1) Sweet! I get a free shot at my OESD and 2) Both of them must have a couple big cards, which means I can steal this on the turn if a blank rolls off. The turn was an 8, making the board TT87r, and giving me middle pair and an OESD. I bet out 1/2 the pot and both players folded. I think I added 30% to my stack this hand.

I folded for quite a while and occasionally stole the blinds to build my stack to about 27K. Then I got AKs (clubs) UTG and raised it to 3 BB (2400 chips at the 400/800 level). The CO called and everyone else folded. The CO could have a pretty wide range of hands here–ATs+, 66+, KTs+, QJ–but I have most of them dominated, so I wasn’t really worried about his call. I also knew he was an aggressive player, so my plan was to check-raise the flop if I hit it, but just lead out at the flop for a standard c-bet if I missed. Flop was KQ7 with two spades (KQ). This is good news and bad news because it’s a good flop for my hand, but it hit KQ perfectly and KQ is definitely in his range. I decided to stick with my plan, but if he re-raised me all-in on the flop, I’d have a decision to make. I checked, intending to raise, and he bet out for about half the pot (2400). I raised to 9K total and he thought for quite a while before calling. Now, I’m pretty sure he’s either on a flush draw, a straight draw, has a weak King, weak Queen or he has KQ. I really didn’t feel like his call was very strong, so I pretty much discounted KQ. My plan was to push if a non-straightening/non-spade hit the turn. The turn was the 3c (perfect card for my hand), so I moved in (I had him covered, so my bet was reduced to about 13.5K). He went into the tank (obviously he doesn’t have KQ), and took a long time to think it over. Several times he said things like, “Y’all will think I’m a donkey if I show this hand.” Eventually, he made the call. “Spade draw?” “No.” “King Queen?” “No.” And he turned over KJo, meaning I was about 94% to win the hand. The river was a Jack and we have our new chip leader; I’m crippled with about 4.5K remaining. He said he put me on a flush draw. I’m going to break this hand down a little further because it was a big hand on a lot of levels.

First, I just want to look at it from a purely theoretical poker standpoint. This was my seventh tournament with this group of guys and this was my sixth final table. They’ve seen me play and I have a generally tight, aggressive image. It’s true that I play a lot of junk from time to time, but I rarely show it, so they normally see me show good cards. So, my table image should be pretty tight-aggressive and I’m UTG at a full (9-handed) table. I raised it to 3 BB and everyone folded to him. Now, I assume that he’s putting me on a range of hands here (this may not be a valid assumption), and I’d say my range is probably AJs+, 88+ and that’s about it. Really, that’s probably a little loose… I’m not sure I’d raise with AJs UTG in this situation, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. So, there are 10 hands I could have and he’s totally dominated by six of them, but he has a race against four of them. This is an easy fold unless he’s sure I could be making a move and raising with junk. Ok, so he calls and we take a flop of KQ7 with two spades. This is either a very good or very bad result for him. He’s either just won a race against 88-TT, gotten lucky against AQ, AJ, JJ or he’s in very bad shape. The one exception would be if I had AJ of spades, which would’ve given me a royal flush draw with an overcard (15 outs), and would make me a slight favorite. So, I check (good for him) and he bets 2400, which is 1/2 the pot, and I check-raise him to 9K (about 3.5 times his bet). This is very, very bad for his hand. I’m saying I have him beat and, if I’m telling the truth, he’s drawing very slim. I’m representing AA, KK, QQ or AK, and the best-case scenario is that he has 5 outs to beat my AA. Worst case, he’s drawing dead to KK or to runner-runner Kings against QQ. So… he calls. At this point, he has to put me on a total bluff or a semi-bluff (as I mentioned earlier, the only legitimate semi-bluffing hand I could have is AJ of spades). The turn was the 3c, which was a total blank. I gave it a little thought, then moved all-in. So, what do I have? My range of hands pretty much has to be AA, KK, QQ, AK or AJ of spades…or a total bluff. He’s drawing live against AA and AK (barely) and he’s in decent shape against AJs although he’ll still lose about 30% of the time if that’s my hand. I feel that, even though he has top pair, decent kicker, this is a pretty easy laydown. I’ve had lots of opportunities to back down and show weakness and I’ve shown maximum strength on each occasion (raised pre-flop, check-raised flop and moved in on the turn). I guess he had just decided I was on a flush draw and he called off all his chips as a 94% dog.

Second, this hand was very interesting to me on a psychological level. I had a very good read on my opponent throughout the hand and I went with my read until all my chips were in the pot. I read him as having a moderate hand all the way, and I was confident that he wasn’t trapping me. Also, I think my success in this hand (up until the river card) came from me playing the player instead of the cards. Once he called my pre-flop raise, I had a plan for the flop–I’ll check-raise if I make top pair; I’ll c-bet if I miss the board. I knew he was aggressive and I knew he over-valued paint and medium Aces. I did well to follow through with my plan on the flop, but I also added a caveat on the fly after I saw the board–I decided that if he re-raised me after I check-raised, I would allow myself to fold the hand and concede that he had either KQ or QQ. I played the hand cautiously, but perfectly and got myself into a huge +EV situation. Finally, I kept my cool after he hit his three-outter on the river. I didn’t make any comments, I didn’t berate him, I didn’t give any snide looks to the other players, I just knocked the table and said, “Nice hand.” I didn’t go on tilt or allow it to affect my play. After the hand, I had an M of less than 4, but I managed to last another hour through solid short-stack play.

I doubled up a few hands after the beat with AK vs. AQ and that put my M at about 7. I busted about 50 minutes later when I ran my AJ into the BB’s 99 and I couldn’t outrun him. I finished 8/25 and didn’t cash.

$50 tourney recap

I just got back from a $50 tourney where I took 2nd of 33 players for a $400 prize after about seven hours of play. I don’t feel like writing a full recap yet,

but I played very, very well… until we got heads-up when I goofed and got it all in with A5 vs. AK. Other than that hand, I played great poker all night in

spite of having crummy cards.

Here are the good hands I got: AA (2), 99 (2), 88, 66 (2), AJs, ATo, KQs, KQo. The first pair of Aces stole the blinds pretty early in the tourney. I folded one pair of nines after an all-in and a call in front of me, I folded a pair of sixes to an all-in and the ATo didn’t hold up against 43o. I was only all-in twice in the tourney and I played a pretty solid small ball strategy.

I have a $45 tourney in 12 hours, so I should get some rest.

Early in the tourney, I played a lot of small ball. It worked out pretty well because my table was pretty solid all around. I didn’t really have any big hands, but there were three pretty interesting hands that really set the tone for this tournament.

First hand was a blind battle in the second level (25/50). I completed with K4o and the BB checked. I’ve played with the BB before and he made the FT in the $500 tournament I played in New Orleans earlier this year. He’s pretty aggressive, won’t be pushed around and plays solid poker. In this hand, his solid play actually helped me out a lot because it allowed me to deduce his hand (or at least deduce what wasn’t in his hand). Also, it allowed me to think on the third or fourth level. The flop came down something like Axx, I bet 3/4 the pot and he called. I didn’t put him on an Ace since he didn’t raise pre-flop or on the flop. The turn was a Ten and it went check, check. The river was a blank, I checked and he bet 2/3 pot. I had to think about it for a while because he could’ve paired one of his cards, but I figured he didn’t have an Ace because he didn’t raise pre-flop or on the flop. He didn’t have a Ten because he checked the turn. I figured he wouldn’t value bet anything less (if he’d paired a small card on the board), so we was likely bluffing. I called, my King-high beat his Queen-high and I took it down while the rest of the table laughed at us. I think we were both legitemately playing for high card here. He almost had to bet the river in case I had hit a pair by accident, but he knew I didn’t have a Ten or an Ace.

A few orbits later, we played a very similar hand and my Jack-high ended up beating his Ten-high to win the pot. This time, there was a pair on the board, but the betting was similar except I think he gave up after the turn.

Later in the 50/100 level, a middle position player, who I know to be pretty aggressive, raised to 3 BB on my BB. Everyone folded to me and I called with KTo. The flop was AQx and it went check, check. The turn was another Queen, I checked, he bet half the pot, I called. The river was a blank (I think the final board was AQ5Q2) and I checked to him. He bet about 3/4 of the pot and I took a while to think about it before calling. I figured he either had 88, 99 or a medium suited connector (78, 89, 9T, TJ). I decided my King-high might be good, so I called and took it down against his T9 of hearts. The best part about these hands was that I was building an image that I couldn’t be bluffed, so players would leave my blind alone and try to stay out of my way.

Next time I was in the BB, MP1 limped, a late position player limped, the SB completed and I checked with Q4o. The flop was 752r, the SB checked, I checked and was surprised when everyone else checked also. The turn was a Two, making the board 7522, the SB checked again, and I decided I would represent a weak Five, so I bet out. Only the MP1 limper called me. This sort of confused me since I figured he would’ve bet the flop if he’d been limping with a big pair, so he probably had a couple big cards. I thought maybe he had something like 99 and he was concerned I got lucky with that Two, so he was trying to keep the pot small. The river was a Five and, since I’d represented the Five on the turn, I figured I should continue my bluff. I bet about 3/4 the pot and he thought a long time before he called with AK. When he called, I looked back at the board and realized the river was a Six, not a Five, so I shouldn’t have bet. I was playing specifically to get him to lay down 88 or 99, so that Five looked like a good card for me… except it wasn’t a Five. At our next break, the guy told me he had a tell on me and that’s why he called. I am aware of this tell and it was kind of him to let me know he’d seen it. It’s something I need to work on and I think I may have a solution, but I’ll have to give it some time. Ultimately, he made a very good call with AK on a pretty scary board (considering I was in the BB and the board was all low cards).

During the 75/150 level, we were eight handed and I raised it MP1 with KJo. This was more or less a bluff as I felt I needed to raise because I hadn’t made many (maybe any) raises so far. I’d been playing tight, but mostly just hadn’t gotten any cards and I was afraid my table image would keep me from getting any action if I raised with a big hand. Only the BB called (which made me a little nervous) and the flop came down something like T9x with two diamonds (I didn’t have any diamonds). He checked and, against my better judgment, I threw out a half-pot c-bet. I actually almost checked, but I resisted my instincts and bet anyway. This was a mistake as he check-raised me and I had to throw my hand away. In fact, I folded my hand face up and mentioned that I should’ve checked because I missed the flop. I wanted the table to see that 1) I wasn’t raising with total junk and 2) I had decided that maybe I should check with big cards that miss the flop. The second point would allow me to slowplay or bluff scare cards later if I checked the flop.

The next level was the 100/200 level and I only remember one hand from that level. This hand ultimately got me to the final table. I think I started the hand with around 7K or so. It was folded around to the CO (same opponent who check-raised me in the previous hand) who made it 600 to go. I looked down at 88 and decided that 1) My hand was probably good and 2) If it wasn’t any good, I’d like to know before we go any further. I raised it up to 1600 hoping to take it down right there, but also ready to play after the flop. The CO just called, so I put him on a couple big cards or maybe 99, TT or JJ. The flop came down JT8 with two clubs. The good news was that I’d flopped a set, but the bad news was I didn’t think this hit his hand. If he had AK, AQ or KQ, he had missed and would probably fold if I bet (with the exception of KQ, but I didn’t think that hand very likely). I checked and he checked behind. I thought that was a little strange as there was quite a bit of money out there and I figured he’d take a stab at it if he missed. I thought it was possible he was slowplaying, or he just didn’t want to get trapped. If he was slowplaying, I’d just have to go broke unless a really scary card came off on the turn (9 of clubs, for instance). I was hoping an Ace would come off on the turn since that would likely make his hand. My plan was to check-raise if an Ace or King hit the turn, but to bet out if anything else hit. Sure enough, an Ace came off on the turn. I checked, he bet about 2500 and I check-raised all-in. He called very quickly, which made me think he could have a set. Turns out he had AJ and I doubled up to just over 15K.

Just as that hand was happening, there were two new guys moving to our table and several people were gathered around watching the hand. I thought that might gain me a little psychological edge. Right after the break, we played around and I got a walk the first time I had the BB. Both of the new guys (I’ve played with them both several times before) said, “Oh man, y’all are just folding around to this guy? We can’t have that. Get ready to play poker, fellas!” Ironically, they were the button and small blind, so they were technically the ones who should’ve been challenging my blind (of course they knew that). Anyway, I said, “Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you that we’re doing a new thing at this table. Basically, whenever it’s my blind, everyone just folds to me. And when I’m in the small blind, everyone folds so the two blinds can fight it out with King high and stuff. We’re playing high-card poker over here.”

Not too much later, I got AA UTG, raised to 3 BB and everyone folded. Oops. I worked a little too hard at building a “don’t mess with me” table image. Time to start raising more hands.

Unfortunately, my cards totally dried up for the next few levels. I made a “raise the limpers” move from the BB with 96s once to pick up a nice pot and occasionally stole the blinds, but I mostly just watched my stack dwindle. Then, all of a sudden, we were at the final table. I was one of the shorter stacks at the table, but I wasn’t desperate. Also, I’d played with all these guys before, so I didn’t need as much time to take a read on them.

I should note that there was an interesting factor that drastically affected play at this particular final table: This was the last tournament before a “Tournament of Champions” (TOC). The TOC is a one-table freeroll tournament that the league’s point-leaders get to play. The prize pool was to be about $2500, so it’s a pretty significant freeroll. There were several players (probably four) at the table who needed points to lock up a spot in the TOC. I was one of them, but I was also pretty sure I’d locked up my seat just by making this FT. Obviously, these players would be playing first to move up in the “money” to earn more points; they would be playing second to actually win this tourney. I quickly identified the players who needed points since I knew they’d be easier to push off of hands.

One of the first hands, I was in the BB with KJo. The CO (an aggressive, but cautious player) raised it to 3 BB and everyone folded to me. I knew that he could be making this raise with a lot of hands and he was trying to move up in the points. I looked down at KJo and moved in. I think it’s important to note that I did not think I had a better hand than he did. What I did think was that he wouldn’t call without a very, very big hand (AQ+, TT+) because he needed to move up to get points. I needed chips and this seemed like a good time to get them. He eventually folded KQs face-up saying, “I’m folding the same hand you have, but it’s just not worth it.”

I did a lot of folding for a long time. I folded some good hands that I normally wouldn’t have, but every decision I made ended up either being correct pre-flop (because I was dominated) or post-flop (because I would’ve lost a race). I think the biggest laydown I made was when MP1 moved in (for about half my chips), then MP2 called (for about 2/3 MP1’s bet) and I had 99. I knew that I could only lose half my chips here, and I knew that MP1 had a pretty wide range for moving in here. I also knew that MP2 probably had a pretty wide range. I decided that my best case scenario was to be “racing” against at least three and maybe four overcards, which meant I’d lose the pot between 60 and 70% of the time. Also, there were still five players left to act and I didn’t want to risk running into a big pair. I decided to fold and save my chips for a situation when I could at least have some first-in vigorish. Turns out my opponents had AQ and AJ and I would’ve lost as an Ace hit the turn. I’m not positive this was the right laydown, but I knew there would be opportunities to get some easy chips, so I figured I’d just wait for those.

As it turned out, I would need these “easy chips” to keep afloat while I waited for cards. I mostly just made moves to pick up dead money for a while. I did flop top two pair for a nice pot, but other than that I just stole blinds occasionally. Eventually, my stack shrunk to about six blinds, so I was looking for a place to double up. The player to my right was also short (though he had me covered) and moved in from the CO after everyone else folded. I looked down at 66 and moved in behind him. I figured we were racing, but odds were that I had the lead, so I needed to take the chance. Turns out he had 22 and I doubled up. I was till pretty short, but not as desperate as before.

I folded for a while until I picked up 99 in the BB. Everyone folded to the SB, who had been pretty aggressive and was often all-in. He moved in and I insta-called. He had AJ and I managed to win the race, so I had a decent chip stack. This was a nice result since many of his chips came from a previous race where his KJ beat my ATs.

By now, I had a pretty healthy stack and I could make the occasional move. As it turns out, I didn’t need to do anything fancy. I was dealt AA UTG, made a standard raise and had a late position player move in. Of course I called and his AK didn’t improve, so I was now one of the chip leaders with about four players left.

It seemed like nothing much happened and then we were heads-up. The other player had been catching cards and knocking people out. We basically had even stacks. First hand of heads-up he took it down with a pair. Second hand, he folded his SB to me. Third hand was pretty ugly:

I was in the SB and looked down at A5o. The blinds were 4K/8K with a 500 ante, so I raised to 20K. He moved in on me pretty quickly and I insta-called. As soon as I called, I knew I’d made a mistake because he was a very tight player. My main problem was that I had underestimated our stack sizes (we had just colored up) and I thought we each had about 60K. I insta-called because I figured I was getting about 2:1 on my money, and I’d be short-stacked if I folded. Turns out I was only getting 1.5 or 1.6:1 and I would’ve still had about 60K chips if I folded. I think that I was tired and just acted hastily, but I ended up getting my money in as a 3:1 dog and busting out. It was frustrating because I thought I had a reasonable chance at winning heads-up. Also, I think my opponent may have chopped if I’d suggested it.

So, I ended up taking 2nd of 33 players for $400. Also, I earned a seat in the TOC, so I’m freerolling for a portion of about $2500.

Good weekend of poker

I had a pretty good weekend at the poker tables. Nothing incredible, but I had decent results.

I played a total of 12 tournaments–11 online and one live. I cashed in four of them and made one final table (the live tourney was a one-table tournament, so no final table points for that one). My online ROI was 140% and my live ROI was 243% for a total weekend ROI of 171%. It was nice to have a good weekend online since it had been over three weeks since I cashed in any tournaments.

All in all, I played very well this weekend and I think the results don’t reflect my performance. I made some very good plays and those plays allowed me to accumulate chips to weather some pretty bad beats. My instincts were good and I played solid, patient poker. I’m also playing very well on the bubble, and not playing to eke into the money (I busted 245 in one tournament where 243 paid when I made a good situational play and just got unlucky; I could’ve easily folded into the money).

In 12 tournaments, I lost 10 all-ins where I was at least a 75% favorite when the money went in. That’s just a rough run of luck and I was pretty fortunate to survive as many times as I did.

This was a pretty interesting hand from one of my online tournaments: We were down to 245 (of 1405) players and 243 spots paid. I had about 5K chips and the blinds were at 200/400-25 (or something like that). It was folded around to two off the button who raised it to 1200 and the CO smooth-called. Both players had stacks about like mine, but maybe a little bit deeper. Since we were on the bubble, and it was folded around to the hijack, he could have a very wide range of hands. Even a tight player will be raising a reasonable range of hands there (I’d say at least ATs+, KJ+, 77+) and a good player will be raising with a lot more hands. The smooth-call by the button smelled like AK to me, but there are a few lesser hands he could have (AQ, KQs, maybe a medium pair). It’s easy to restrict his range so much because of his stack-size. If he had a really big hand (JJ+) he would almost have to re-raise given the stack-sizes and the fact that there are still three players to act behind him. If he had a mediocre hand (AT, AJ, 55, KT, QJ), he’d almost have to fold for the same reasons. I had 99 on the button and moved in. The blinds folded, the original raiser moved in (uh oh) and the CO called (double uh oh). The original raiser had JJ and CO had AK. JJ held up and I was out.

I was pretty upset with my play after this hand but, the more I think it, the more I think it was the right play. Hijack’s JJ was a much better hand than he needed to raise there, and my read that the CO had AK was accurate. Most of the time, my all-in will isolate me against the CO getting 7-to-5 on my money as a 55% favorite.

I think the AK really misplayed his hand here. He ended up calling off his whole stack with AK, sandwiched between a raiser and a re-raiser. AK is a good hand, but it’s the kind of hand that I want to make the last move with. If he’s going to play AK in that spot (and he should), then he needs to move in to isolate against the initial raiser. If I had folded, the SB would’ve been getting about 3.4-to-1 to call. If the SB had folded, the BB would’ve been getting about 4.25-to-1 to call. Those are tempting odds for the blinds to call and get lucky. The bottom line is that he should be playing this hand for all his chips (his M is only about 8 before the hand starts) and AK is a hand best played heads-up.

EDIT: I played again tonight (Monday) and had a pretty decent night. I played three tourneys and made one final table (took third). Of course, I busted from one tourney when I got the money in as better than a 70% favorite, but that seems to be standard. My overall ROI for the night was almost exactly 100%.

$70 tourney recap

I don’t typically do my recap immediately after a tournament, but this one will be so short, I might as well get it out of the way.

During the first two levels, my table was doing a lot of limping, so I joined the party. I made trips twice (once with A8o on a board with two Eights, once with A4s on a board with two Aces) and won medium pots with both of them. I also flopped a lot of big draws (two nut flush draws, two OESDs to the nut straight) in big, multi-way pots, but didn’t hit any of them. I turned a double gutshot straight draw once and bluffed the river, but got called by second pair. I was just below even after the first two levels.

Blinds were 100/200 and I was in the CO with KQs. MP1 raised it to 600 and I flat-called. Everyone else folded. Flop was JT9 with two spades. He checked, I checked. Turn was a 6. He checked, I bet 700, he called. River was a 6. If he bet, I would just call since I thought it was possible he was slowplaying a set. Instead, he checked, I bet 1K, he called. He said he had AJo. This hand put me up to about 16.5K.

Blinds were 100/200 and I had TT in the BB. Three people limped (all very loose players), the SB completed and I raised it to 1200 total. The first two limpers (MP1 and MP2) called and everyone else folded. The flop was A8x. I hated to see that Ace as I was sure at least one of my opponents had an Ace. I decided to check and see what happened. I basically planned to fold, but I was open to other options. MP1 checked, MP2 bet out 1K and it was back to me. I took a read on MP2 that he was weak and it looked to me like MP1 had a weak Ace and that he didn’t like MP2’s bet. I decided to check-raise bluff to 4K total with the intention of getting MP1 to fold he scared Ace and MP2 to fold because he was bluffing. Sure enough, MP1 folded, but MP2 called. I’m done with the hand if no Ten comes off. Turn was a Queen and we went check, check. River was another King and we went check, check. He showed down A9o. I was pretty shocked that 1) he called pre-flop for 6 BB and 2) that he called a large check-raise on the flop. He was obviously looser than I thought. I was down to about 10K.

A few hands later, we went on our first break.

I played one hand in the 200/400 level. Everyone folded to me in the CO and I had A3o. I raised it to 1200 and only the BB called. The flop was AQ9 with two clubs. The BB checked, I bet 1500, he check-raised to 4500 and I folded.

Blinds were 300/600 and I was UTG+1 with AQo. UTG limped, I moved in and everyone folded.

Blinds were 300/600 and everyone folded to me in the BB with KQo. We took our second break a couple hands later.

First hand after the second break, the blinds went up to 500/1000 and we were playing eight-handed. Everyone folded to me on the button and I moved in for about 6000 with K2o. The BB was extremely short-stacked and should’ve called with any two cards, so I normally wouldn’t have moved in in this situation. But, he was a very inexperienced player, so I knew he’d fold most of his hands. Sure enough, he folded and I stole the blinds.

We were seven-handed and the blinds were still 500/1000, I got AQo UTG and moved in for 7400 total. UTG+1 took a couple seconds and said, “I’ll call you.” Everyone else folded to the BB who reluctantly folded (I think he had a small pocket pair). UTG+1 showed ATo. Unfortunately, the flop was KTx and I didn’t improve. I busted 23/33 without ever getting my stack over 16.5K.

I had one pocket pair–TT–and had AQo twice. Other than that, I basically had no cards. It was a very frustrating tournament and I was kind of glad it was over, although busting with AQo vs. ATo isn’t my ideal way to go out. As I think back on the tournament, my biggest enemy was probably the fast blind structture. We started with a generous 15K in chips, but we skipped a lot of blind levels. We started at 25/50 and it went 50/100, 100/200, 200/400, 300/600, 500/1000 and then I busted. So, we skipped the 75/150, 150/300 and 400/800 levels. Starting with 15K chips is nice, but the starting stack is only meaningful in light of the blind structure, which was very fast for this tourney. The only hand I think I might’ve played differently was the TT hand. But even with the 4K chips I check-raised into that pot, I only would’ve had 11.5K before the last hand, which would’ve been an M of almost 8.