$40 tournament recap: tough day at the office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Orleans trip re-cap

So far, we haven’t done too much. We left Wednesday nigh after watching the Mav’s game in Dallas. We stopped off in Shreveport to get some sleep, then continued on to New Orleans early Thursday morning. We rolled in around 3:00 pm.

First thing we did was bring out the cards and chips for a quick $20 Sit ‘N Go. I had a pretty crummy run of luck and went out fourth of five. Then a few of us went upstairs to get a quick workout before we headed over to Harrah’s to play some satellites.

I decided that the $65 one-table satellites would be my best bet. The sat pays out a $500 tournament entry trip and $50 in cash (the vig. for the tourney). In my first one, I ended up playing with three of the guys I drove out with. That was pretty silly and we vowed never to do it again. There’s just no point in four of us battling it out for one seat against six other people. The main problem was that the four of us were probably the four best players at the table. We hadn’t been seated together intentionally, but we’d need to go out of our way to make sure we didn’t get seated together again.

Anyway, I busted fourth because I caught no cards. I had TT once, played in conservatively and got out as cheaply as I could when an opponent with KQ flopped top pair.

Next, we went to dinner at Besh Steakhouse and had a pretty good time. “Time” being the operative word because we were there for over two hours. Service was really, really slow and I’m pretty sure it’s because the hotel hasn’t been able to staff enough people since Katrina.

After dinner, a few of us decided to try another satellite. This time, only three of us were at the same table and one of the guys was directly on my left. I ended up getting heads up with one of my buddies and we chopped it down the middle. We basically had an even chip stack. If I hadn’t been heads-up with a friend, I probably wouldn’t have chopped.

So now we’re going to register for the $500 tourney and get some breakfast. I hope to do well in the tourney, but it’s going to be a crapshoot. We start with $1500 in chips with blinds at $25 and $25. There are 40-minute levels. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes. I’m in for $350 total.

$500+50 tourney re-cap

Well, the $500 didn’t go as well as I’d hoped it would. I played to the end of the fifth level, but just couldn’t get anything going. The structure was a bit fast, but nothing crazy. We started with 1500 in tournament chips and played 40-minute levels. The following is a list of all the “good” hands I got (I’m obviously stretching a little bit with some of these): 33, 44, 66, 99, JJ, JJ, QQ, AK, AK, AQ, AQ, ATs, KJs. That’s it. I had suited connectors–87s–once in the BB, but UTG+1 raised pre-flop and bet out on a flop that totally missed me, so I dumped it.

I figure I’ll just go through and describe what happened with all the hands I listed above. That should provide a pretty good summary of how the tourney went:

Early on, the guy to my right showed a pretty nasty bluff. UTG had made a decent raise pre-flop and this guy cold-called. Flop was JJ7, UTG bet out about 3/4 of the pot, guy to my right pushed. UTG thought for a long time and finally folded. Guy to my right showed 44 (obviously convinced that UTG had laid down AA or KK).

So, the guy to my right was pretty LAGgy. Blinds were 25/50 and he made a standard raise to 125 from UTG+1. I had JJ, so I re-raised to 400. Guy two to my left thought for a while before folding (after the hand, he said he had 99). Everyone folded back to UTG+1 who thought for a while and showed me AJ.

Fifteen or 20 minutes later, almost exactly the same thing happened, only I had QQ this time. Same result, but guy to my right didn’t show this time.

Some time in the 50/100 level, the guy to my right raised to 275 and I made it 700 to go with JJ. Guy two to my left called and everyone else folded (including the original raiser). Flop came all under cards and I moved in. Guy two to my left folded and said he had AK.

Everyone folded to me on the button with ATs. I raised to 300. Both blinds called and the flop came down KTx. The SB checked, the BB checked and I bet half the pot. Only the BB called. The turn was a Jack, the BB bet around 1/3 the pot and I called. The river was a blank, the BB bet 1/2 the pot and I folded.

Later in the same level, the guy to my right limped UTG+1. I limped behind him with AQo (I respected his UTG limp a lot more than his UTG raises). Two or three other called and the flop came down all low cards. I check-folded. Not long after that hand, we got moved to a different table in a different room. We kept most of our players, though.

At our new table, the first hand I got was 99. I raised it from middle position and took the blinds.

Later, the guy to my right limped UTG, I limped behind with 33 (again, I respected his UTG limps and suspected the rest of the table did too). Several others also limped. When it got to the BB, he moved in for a pretty big overbet. He’d bee doing this sort of thing all day (moving in on limpers, check-raising all-in, limp-re-raising all-in, etc.) and he usually bet a lot more than he should’ve. This time, as soon as he moved in, I thought, “He has junk, but I can’t call with 33.” Fortunately for me, UTG moved in over the top of the BB and the rest of us folded. BB showed K5o, and UTG showed 99. UTG busted the BB with a set of nines.

Next time I took the BB, I had KJs. The player in the CO made it 450 to go, the button called and I called. The flop came down King-high and I checked it, hoping to check-raise all-in. Unfortunately, both the CO and the button checked behind me. The turn was a blank and I thought for a few seconds before moving in. I took it down and had about 2200 chips.

A bit later (with the blinds at 75/150 and my stack around 1800), I had AQo in early-middle position. UTG raised it to 450 and I realized I’d either have to move in or fold. I took a while studying UTG and decided he was pretty strong (I put him on 99+, AQ+). I laid down my AQ because there were still several people to act behind me and I knew UTG would call if I moved in. I didn’t want to race if I could avoid it. As it turned out, the button woke up with AK and moved in; UTG called with TT, but lost when a King hit the board. I felt that I made a good read and made the right laydown given the circumstances.

A couple orbits later, I got AK in the SB. Of course, everyone folded to me and I raised it to 600. The BB folded showing trash.

A bit later, I got moved to a new table. We were just starting the 100/200 level. I folded my first hand, then got 44 in the BB. Several people limped around and I just checked my option. If I’d known more about the table, I probably would’ve moved in here. My problem was I didn’t know how strong the limpers were and I had no idea if any of them was trapping. On balance, I thought it would be risky to push into a possible trap and I liked that several people limped so that my implied odds were very high if I hit a set. I checked, the flop came high cards and I check-folded.

Two hands later, I was on the button with 66. The CO moved in for about half my chips (I think I had 1700 left at this point) and I moved in over the top to isolate him. I figured my 66 was good and I was probably racing, but I figured it was also possible that he could have a smaller pair, or a very weak Ace. Even if I was racing, I was getting a good overlay as a 10% favorite and I was only risking half my chips. Anyway, the guy turned over A7s. He flopped a flush draw and turned an Ace to double-up and leave me with about 900 chips.

Two hands later, I had QJ in late-middle position. Everyone folded to me and I moved in. The BB called with A8 and I doubled-up when I rivered a straight. I was now back up to around 1800 in chips.

Next time I was UTG+1, I picked up AKo. I made a raise to 600 and the player two seats to my right began counting down his chips. He eventually moved in and had me covered. When it got back to me, I called and he turned over QQ. His QQ held up and I was out.

Psychologically, I felt very prepared for this tournament. I wasn’t the least bit nervous or intimidated by any of my opponents. Some of the people playing were really awful poker players. I felt I played well considering I was card dead for two hours. I didn’t take many flops because I just never had cards that liked flops. I only had suited connectors once, and they totally whiffed. Most of the time, I was getting junk (Qx, Kx, Jx, unsuited two-gappers, etc.) and I had very few spots to make any moves. I also couldn’t win a race, and everyone knows those are key to going deep in a tournament. My best hand all day (post flop) was a straight, which won me very few chips. My second best hand was top pair, second kicker. I never flopped a flush draw or a straight draw, never made two-pair or trips and generally just missed every flop.

Overall, it was a great experience and I feel like I played well. I was reading people very well, but my read usually told me they were strong, so I saved chips, but rarely made chips because of my reads. I ended up busting about 230 of 606 after about four hours of play.

And the rest of the weekend…

After the $500+50 tourney, I went to watch some friends play the WSOP Texas Hold ’em Bonus table game. It was pretty entertaining. The house makes a killing on that game. After a few hours of that, we all went to the buffet to get dinner. One of us was still in the $500+50 and doing pretty well. After dinner, I decided to head back to the hotel to unwind. Playing tournament poker really takes a lot of energy for me.

Anyway, I hung out and watched basketball all night. A few of my friends went out to experience the New Orleans night-life and experience it they did. Aside from basketball, a lot of my entertainment for the evening was watching them act like idiots.

While all that was going on, my friend was busy making the final table of the $500+50. They wrapped it up around 1 am when they had 9 people remaining. The final table was scheduled for Saturday at 4:00 pm.

Saturday, we all woke up late and had a plan to go watch our friend at the final table. We all grabbed breakfast and tried to prep him for his day of making big money. Around 3:30, we all went to the theatre at Harrah’s. The final table was on a stage with a single video camera mounted above it to capture the action.

The final table began around 4:00 and our guy busted around 4:08. He had AJs and moved in on the turn when the board was 445A with two of his suit. Unfortunately, his opponent had A5 and he filled up on the river. He finished 9th and cashed for $5500.

After that, we went to get dinner on Bourbon street and then went back to the hotel to play a $1/2 NL cash game. The five of us all bought in for between $100 and $200. I ran my $100 up to over $180 before I caught some bad luck. I ran into trips and sets FIVE times in less than half an hour. This was only a five-handed game where we were self-dealing. I figure we probably played less than 20 hands in this time. Anyway, I went from $180+ down to $60 and then they decided to quit. I was pretty peeved because 1) I had been running so badly and 2) if I’d known we would up and quit after only an hour or so, I would’ve taken my $80 winnings and called it a night.

So, I went back to my room and the other guys decided to out on the town. I watched TV for a bit, then went to bed about 11:00. I didn’t wake up till 1:00 pm the next afternoon. Apparently, I missed out on quite a bit including one of the guys breaking his foot after he decided to run and jump down a flight of stairs. Sleeping seems much safer.

Sunday, the big winner decided to stake a couple of us to play satellites for him. First, all three of us bought into a 1-table $125 satellite that awarded $1100 to the winner. One of my friends sat directly to my left and knocked two guys out in the first few minutes. I hung in there for a while and eventually doubled my initial stack. I ended up busting after I made a solid read on a guy and moved in on him with A4s after he min-raised in EP with J9s (same suit as mine). He spiked a 9 on the flop and took most of my chips. The other guys didn’t make money either as they both took nasty beats to bust out. The guy who ended up winning the satellite was all-in at least three times with a dominated hands and he survived anyway. There’s a lot of luck involved with winning one of those satellites.

After the $125, I went to a $65 and did about the same. I didn’t play a hand for the first two levels (which is an eternity in a short-stacked satellite), but I got lucky to double-up then knock a guy out with AKs and AQs within a few hands. I ended up busting when I bluffed off my chips. I had KTo UTG and raised it up. The SB immediately said, “Not too much!”, which I’d heard him say earlier in a similar situation when he called with J9o. I said, “Not too much. One-fifty is just right.” He called and everyone else folded. The flop was 666 and he checked to me. I bet out about 60% of the pot and he moved in. I did the math and realized I had to call because I was getting 3:1 on my money and I figured I had 6 live outs. At first, I thought maybe he put a good read on me, but I think maybe he just went with a hunch that I didn’t have a pair. He had 33 and I didn’t improve. I don’t really like him check-raising there because he is almost guaranteed that he’ll have to fade the turn and river cards (if he’s not already behind). Anyway, I busted on that hand. Later, I realized I should’ve just kept my mouth shut when he said something to me. I think I gave away too much info by answering him pre-flop.

After that, we all went to get some dinner. During dinner a few of us decided to go back and play some blackjack and Bonus Texas Hold ’em. The guys each gave me $100 so I could try my luck with card-counting. They made it clear that they didn’t care if I lost it all, so I didn’t mind gambling their money. I played a $15 table with $300, which is a pretty short stake. The count only got moderately high once and I lost all my money within about two hands. My friend was sitting to my right and hit a blackjack on both of the hands while I got dealt a 12 and a 14 (both with my first card as a Ten). I think I can do well at card-counting with some practice.

After that, we all went back to the hotel and crashed. We got up at 7:00 Monday morning and started our trip home. We got back to Dallas about 6:30.


Another $40 live tourney

This week, there were 20 people and I took third. Turned $40 into $85. I played very well and I’m looking forward to getting everything down in the re-cap. For now, I’ll say that I don’t think my recent string of success is due to luck.

This is a pretty crummy re-cap. It’s all over the place, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast. I’m trying to think of a way to be more concise in these re-caps, but I don’t want to lose any information. I occasionally read back over the hands to see if maybe I missed something, or if I can tweak something to improve my game. Anyway, here goes…

We started with 10K in chips and the blinds were 25/50. There were 20 people at two tables. I’d probably played with half the guys on my table in previous events, so I felt pretty comfortable from the get-go. This would affect my strategy by allowing me to open up my game a little earlier and spend less time getting a feel for the table. We were playing for almost seven hours before I busted, so my memory may be a little spotty on some of the details.

Before I get into specific hands, I’ll say that I really felt like my radar was working very well during this tournament. Although I wasn’t focusing much on physical tells, I seemed to be able to sense weakness and go after it. I did this several times and had very good results. There were several instances where I forced opponents to fold hands that were far superior to mine. I think this was due to a combination of respect and intimidation. I felt like the table respected my play and at least two of my opponents knew I’d made a couple of final table recently. I also wasn’t afraid to make a re-raise and I think that intimidated some players. I felt like their line of thinking was often, “Well, I don’t know if I’m ahead right now or not… I like my hand, but there are a lot of scare-cards that could come off and I know I’ll have to call big bets on the later streets if I call this raise.” In general, I don’t think it was a good day to have me sitting on your left.

The blinds were 50/100 and I limped with 66 in late-middle position. There was already a limper in front of me. The big blind, a pretty mediocre player who likes to chase, raised it to 400. EP limper called and I called. The flop came down 234 rainbow. I considered this a very good flop. The BB checked (I now put him on two overs as he liked to gamble it up and I couldn’t see him checking an over-pair here), and the EP limper bet 600 into a 1200 pot. I thought for a minute decided my 66 was probably good and announced a rise to 1600. I chose the size of my raise for several reasons: 1) I thought my 66 was probably best here and I felt like I need to raise enough to represent a good hand 2) Although I put the BB on overcards and the EP limper on medium-to-large suited connectors (I was thinking like 78 up to QJ suited) it was possible someone had flopped a set or even a straight and I didn’t want to throw too many chips into a trap 3) I wanted to represent a very strong hand and a moderate raise would do that very well. I felt like that raise was big enough to say, “I’ve got something”, but small enough that it could confuse my opponents into thinking I was just massaging the pot. Anyway, the BB folded and the EP limper thought for a while before saying, “Man, that smells like Ace-Five to me. And that’s a good raise.” He then folded TT face up! I was shocked. My bet was NOT designed to get any better hands to fold. It was an informational bet designed to run overcards out of the pot and take it down right then. This guy had been playing pretty solid poker and I couldn’t believe he folded there. I was very surprised that he had limped and then called a raise with TT. If anything, I would expect him to limp-re-raise in that spot.

Late in the 50/100 level, an interesting hand came up that I didn’t even play. UTG (a guy I know to be ultra-tight) raised it to 500 (I immediately thought he had AK, JJ or TT) and UTG+1 smooth-called. Everyone else folded and the flop came down something like J95. UTG checked and I thought, “He just flopped a set of Jacks.” Sure enough, UTG+1 bet about half the pot, UTG check-raised all-in and UTG+1 folded. UTG then flipped up his pocket Jacks.

I’m pretty sure the blinds were 200/400 and I was in the BB with A7s in clubs. An early-middle position player limped, the button limped, the SB completed and I checked my option. The flop came down J98 with two spades. The SB checked, I checked, the first limper bet 600 (into a 1600 chip pot), the button folded, the SB folded and it was back on me. I’ve played with this guy a lot and his bet seemed really, really weak to me. I decided to check-raise* “with air”, as they say, and take the pot away. I popped it up to 1800 total and he called pretty quickly. I put him on a flush draw because he called so quickly. The turn was an offsuit 6, giving me an open-ended straight draw that was really just a gutshot (if a Ten came off, a Queen would beat me). Since it wasn’t a spade, I bet out 2200 chips. This was about half my opponent’s stack and he called. I still put him on a flush draw, but I thought maybe he had a pair also (I was thinking A9, A6, AT, Q9, K9 and hands like that). I had pretty much decided I was done with the hand when he called here. I couldn’t think of many hands I could beat (I could beat KQ of spades and that was about it). The river was an offsuit 7, making a board of 6789J with two spades. Although I now had a pair, I didn’t like it much and decided to check and hope he checked it down with a busted Ace-high flush draw or something. Instead of checking, he bet his remaining 2400 in chips. There was approximately 12500 in the pot and it cost me about 2500 to call. I was getting 5:1 on my money and I thought that was a decent price. I started trying to figure out what hands I could beat, and there weren’t many: any hand with an 8, 9, T or J beat me. He’d called off a big portion of his stack and I just couldn’t give him credit for a flush draw without something else going for it (a pair, straight draw, etc.). At this point, I had about 14K in chips and I decided I was beat more than 15% of the time here. The only hands I could be ahead of were Ace-rag of spades. I folded and he triumphantly turned up his K2 of spades to show his awesome bluff. I kept my composure, said “Nice hand.” and watched him call off all his chips on draws to bust 8th of 20. I’m obviously questioning my play on the river. Honestly, I was very pleased that I had a good enough read to check-raise the flop with nothing, then bet out on the turn with nothing. I was right that he was weak, I just didn’t know how weak he was. I wish I had the heart to fire the final bullet on the river… or at least call his bluff. I’ll be re-thinking this hand for a while. The more I think about it, given how few chips he had left, the right play was to check/call any bet.

A few hands later, I got KK UTG+1. UTG raised it to 3x the BB

At the end of the 200/400 level, I was in the BB w/ 66 again. There was one limper and the SB completed. The flop came down something like K42 rainbow. The SB checked, I bet about half the pot, the limper called and the SB folded. By this hand, I had a few tells on the limper, and those tells (or lack thereof) indicated to me that he didn’t love this flop and that his call was reluctant. The turn was another King. This time, I bet about 3/4 of the pot and the limper thought for a long time before he folded JJ face up. Again, I couldn’t believe it. This was the second time someone had folded (and shown) a big pair on a relatively non-scary board. After this hand, I realized that the table was basically playing scared and I couldn’t wait to get back from the break and collect some chips.

After the first break, things were pretty uneventful until we combined for the final table. Even then, nothing much was happening. That was ok with me because I was using the time to get a read on my new opponents. There were three or four guys that I’d never played before, so I had some catching up to do. It didn’t take me long to peg a couple guys and it was smooth sailing from there.

I only busted one player in the tourney and it was with KQs. A pretty loose player to my right limped (I think he was UTG+2), I looked down at my KQs and raised to 4x the BB. The player to my left moved in for something like 2x BB more, everyone else folded and I called. He showed A7o, but I spiked a Q on the flop to bust him.

Ironically, my first big hand at the final table was against a guy whom I’ve played with several times. He knows a lot of my tricks, which was unfortunate for him on a few hands. Earlier in the Final Table, I had made a “button move”, which is where I’ll raise in late position to steal the blinds and a couple limpers’ chips. I think two people had limped, I popped it up and everyone folded. On that hand, I had Q2o. A few orbits later, the same two people limped in and I was on the button. I raised it to 5x BB and the SB (the guy I know) re-raised to about 15x BB. I thought for a few seconds, then scooted my chips in and said, “I’m all-in.” He reluctantly called (he was getting almost 7:1 on his call) and wasn’t pleased to see that I had AKs and his AQ was in bad shape. He was the chip leader before that hand, so it didn’t hurt him much, but I was down to about 14K and the blinds and antes were 400/800, so I wasn’t very comfortable. After this hand, I had almost 30K so my M went up to about 25 and I was in good shape to make the money. The interesting thing about this hand is that my opponent later told me that if he didn’t know I was capable of making a button move in that situation, he would’ve just let the AQo go.

After that, people started busting left and right. I didn’t bust any of them, but I was glad to see them go. I didn’t have all that many chips and I wasn’t getting many cards. Before long, we were down to three-handed. I don’t even remember who busted fourth.

About half way through the first level after we were three-handed, I picked up 97s in the BB. The button folded, the SB completed and the flop came down 954 rainbow. The SB bet out about half the pot and I raised to 3x his bet. He called. The turn was a 6, making the board 9654 and giving me an open-ended straight draw to go with my to pair, medium kicker. He bet out again about half the pot and I moved in. He thought for a couple minutes and finally called with 9To. I was pretty shocked because I’d represented a hand that could beat his. I spiked a 3 on the river for a straight and doubled up.

Later, when we were down to three-handed, the “button play” scenario came up again. The guy I knew pretty well was on my left and an unknown was on my right. This time, I was on the button and I had AQs. I had a pretty good chip lead (I had 110K and my opponents both had around 55K and 35K) and I had been pushing them around since I took over the chip lead. I made a standard raise to 3x BB on the button, he moved in for about 9x BB and I called. He had AJo and spiked a Jack on the river. This was the beginning of the end for me.

I continued to grind down the other player and he was down to about 18K at one point. He had told us he was on “all-in alert” and had been moving in almost every hand. He had stolen blinds and worked up to around 45K with the blinds at 2K/4K. I was on the button with AQo and limped, intending to trap. The SB folded and Mr. All-in raised it to 14K total, leaving himself with about 27K (he had 45K less 4K for the BB before this hand). I thought for a second (mostly about how I was about to steal his chips) and then moved in. He called instantly and turned over AKo. Of course, his AK held up and I was down to about 55K chips. We only had about 7 minutes till the blinds would go up to 3K/6K.

I folded a few hands and then got 53o in the BB. The button folded, the SB completed and I checked. The flop was TT5 rainbow. He bet out about 10K and I thought for a while… I decided my pair of fives was probably good and decided to move in. He thought for a little bit**, said, “You don’t have a ten do you?”, and eventually called. He turned over K5o and I was drawing to 8 outs. That was it.

The thing I enjoyed most about this tournament was that the blind structure allowed a lot of room for play, especially once we made the money. With three people left, the average chip-stack was about 65K, but the blinds were only 1K/2K. I think this was the first time I’d ever played short-handed when there was room for making moves and such. It was really fun and we played three-handed for over an hour.

*On a related note, this is a play I occasionally use to isolate against a player I think is weak or bluffing. Basically, I check the flop because I’m out of position and there are still two (or more) players left to act. In this case, I knew the SB had likely whiffed the flop because he checked. The limper’s bet seemed weak to me, but the button still had to act. Since the button and the SB both folded, I no longer had to worry about them. I now had it heads-up against a player who I knew was weak, and bluffing heads-up with information about my opponent’s hand is much more +EV than open-bluffing into two opponents on a coordinated board. I will also make this play when I have a small pair in the BB against multiple opponents. Specifically, if one of those opponents has made a play that I think could indicate that he either 1) has a monster or 2) has a drawing hand, I’ll check to see what happens. Here’s an example of when I might use this play:

I’m in the BB w/ 77. UTG+1 makes a min-raise, the button calls, the SB folds.
[What I’m looking for are two things: 1) the opponent that min-raised should be straight-forward (ie, he’ll bet the flop if he has AA and the board is all under-cards, but he’ll check the flop if he has AK, KQ, QJ and misses) and 2) the player on the button is aggressive and likes to steal pots.]
The flop comes down TT8 rainbow. I check, the min-raiser checks (indicating he had a drawing hand and missed), the button bets 1/3 to 1/2 the pot.
[Now, both players have done what I expect them to do when they miss: the predictable player checked and the aggressive player took a stab at the pot when two people checked to him.]
Here, I spring my trap and check-raise to about three to four times the button’s bet.
[This will force the initial min-raiser to go away if he has a hand like AK or KQ. It will also likely get the button to go away if he was just taking a swing at the pot. He may even fold an 8 as I am representing a Ten. Obviously, if someone has a Ten here, I’m in trouble and I’ll shut down if they re-raise or if I don’t catch a 7 on the turn.]

**Later, I realized (too late) that this guy always called big bets. This was the same guy who called my raise and then all-in with 9To on a board of 9654 earlier. I don’t think I saw him make a big laydown all night. Earlier, a very, very tight player raised UTG, this guy re-raised from early-middle position, it was folded around to the UTG player who moved in and this guy called… with 33. His 33 held up to knock out the UTG player who held AKo. A little before that, a UTG player raised, this guy re-raised from UTG+1, everyone folded to the UTG player who moved in for a significant amount of chips and this guy insta-called with AQo. His AQo held up against UTG’s JTo (I was shocked at the play on both sides of this one). The tourney ended when the guy I knew flopped a pair on a 2-flush board. He moved in and this guy called his all-in (without proper odds) with a Q2 flush draw. He hit the flush on the river and it was over. To my knowledge, this guy didn’t have any reads on these people and he’d never played them before.


$60 tourney re-cap

This tourney actually happened on April 15 and I just never got around to posting the re-cap because I’m lazy.

I finally made the money… sort of. We played for about six hours before I busted, so this is going to be long, but might be more vague because I’ll skip over large clumps of hands because they weren’t very interesting.. We started with 15K chips and blinds of 25/50 with 30-minute levels. The structure was basically really slow early and ramped up very quickly near the end. Also, we started off with 12 people (seven people cancelled), so we were 6-handed on two tables. Six-handed with deep stacks is pretty unusual, but it gave me some really good opportunities to get reliable reads on my opponents.

I can skip a lot of the early hands because the ones I played for in very small pots and I was doing a lot of ducking and dodging. I wasn’t so interested in winning pots as I was figuring out my opponents. I did some unorthodox things specifically to see how my opponents would react. The first time it was folded to me in the SB, I limped to see how the BB would respond. He raised and I threw m J3o away. Next time it was folded to me in the SB, I raised and the BB folded. Now I knew he probably wasn’t going to let me limp in behind him (without protection), but I could raise and take it from time to time.

I’d played with the guy two to my left before and I was glad he was on my left. He’s the type of player who’s annoying to have in late position when you’re in the blinds. He does a lot of min-raising with weak cards. But, he doesn’t like to enter pots unless he’s the first one in. He will very rarely come in behind a raiser. This was good for me because I didn’t have to worry too much about him coming back over the top without a really big hand. Three to my left was very aggressive and was constantly over-betting pots. He would sometimes check-raise for twice the pot and I knew he was overvaluing pairs and such. Early on, I decided he was a guy I wanted to get big hand against. Four to my left was basically just a rock. He only played with great cards and he always played them for a raise. Immediately to my right was a guy I’d played with several times and he’s also very, very tight. I think he also might give me a little more credit than he should because we played a big pot in a cash game last week and I got him to put all his money in the pot as an 88% underdog… he hit a 3-outter on the river to win it, but he didn’t forget that pot. He even apologized when I first saw him today.

So, those are the reads, now on to the hands. Blinds are 50/100, I’m second to act and I limp with 77. The aggressive guy three to my left min-raises to 200. Everyone else folds and I call. I put him on a big hand. He’s been overbetting a lot and I suspected he didn’t have much when he overbet (he hadn’t shown cards, but I had a hunch). His min-raise felt like a “tricky” play to me, so I was wary that he might have a monster. The flop came down 78x with two spades. Basically, I know he’s not going away on the flop and we’ll be doing some betting on the turn. I decided to start trying to build a pot to justify some big bets on later streets. I also thought if I bet right out, he might make one of his huge overbets (although since I put him on a big hand, I suspected he might continue to play it tricky). I bet out 100, he raised to 200, I re-raised to 700, he called. This was the perfect result for me. I knew he had a big hand and I had already managed to build the pot to around 2000 chips and he still has to make it through two more streets. The turn was an 8, pairing the board and giving me sevens full. This is good news and bad news. It’s good because I’ve got a mortal lock on the hand, it’s bad because that could be an action killer for me. He might put me on top pair and slow down because he thinks I made trips. I decided to throw him some rope with a check. He bet 1000, I raised to 2500, he called. The river was a T, which I considered a great card. By now, I’ve got him on a big pair, AA-QQ, and that card couldn’t have helped. I decided to go for a small value bet hoping to get paid off, or maybe he’d try to blow me off the hand with a big all-in or something. He just called and showed AA. In retrospect, I probably could’ve gotten at least 1000 more chips out of him on the river, but I was happy with the result. In fact, I think if I’d played the hand differently, I could’ve made a lot more money, but I guess that’s just something I need to work on. I don’t get big hands that often (this was my first full house in my last eight live tourneys or something like that).

A bit later, I got 22 on the button. Everyone folded to me and I limped. I didn’t feel there was much danger that the blinds would raise and I had position if they did. The SB completed, the BB checked and the flop came down 447. I considered that a good flop and was planning on betting or raising. The SB checked, the BB made a little bet that I felt was weak, I tripled his bet and both blinds quickly folded.

Everyone folded to me in the SB and I thought I might try to steal the BB. I looked down at J5o and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the BB do something he hadn’t done yet. I won’t go into it, but I felt it was a reliable tell that he had a big hand. I decided to abort the steal attempt and fold. He immediately let out a “shoot! I had good cards that time!” groan and raked in my small blind.

This was sort of a theme today. I had reliable tells on a few of my opponents and I felt I exploited them well. There were several pots that I won because of weakness tells and I was able to avoid throwing away chips because of some strength tells. I caught the “glance at your chips” tell a couple times, and I was able to use that tell both to get out of the way against strong hands and to steal pots with weak hands. There were a few guys who would check their hole cards before it was their turn to act (usually when they were in the blinds) and they would virtually announce when they had weak hands.

I basically just maintained my 25K stack until we combined for the “final table” (quotes because we started with 12, so making the final table didn’t actually mean anything). First big hand I played at the final table was an interesting one. A short-stack (the ultra-tight guy from my previous table) moved in when I was in the BB. At the time, the blinds were 300/600 and short-stack’s all-in was only 800 total. A big stack called, another player called, the SB folded and I looked down to see QTs. There’s no way I fold here because it only costs me 200 to call. But, I took a look around and realized there were 3300 chips out there and nobody seemed to want them too badly. So, I bumped it up to 4000 total. Everyone folded, I pulled back my raise (less the 200 to call the all-in) and he showed AKo. He flopped and Ace, but I made a flush on the river to knock him out. There were still nine or 10 people left, so we weren’t on the bubble and I liked getting 16:1 on my money, heads-up. An interesting side note is that I’m not sure I should’ve been allowed to raise in that situation. Short-stack’s raise wasn’t actually a full, legitimate raise and I’m not sure the betting should’ve been re-opened. I wasn’t angle-shooting, but I think I got away with one there.

Even at the final table, I didn’t play much after the flop. Most of my chips came from “raising the limpers” pre-flop and the occasional continuation bet in position. There was a big stack who I’d played before. He would constantly limp with weak hands and would fold to a raise. Last time we played, he was directly to my left, so even though I noticed his tendencies, it was tough to take his chips. This time, I had position and made the best of it. He would also get tied onto hands like top pair with a weak kicker. He basically replaced the overbetter from my previous table as the “guy whose chips I’m after”. Here are a few of the interesting hands where we at least saw a flop:

First hand involves the big-stack constant limper. The blinds were 700/1400, and everyone folded to the big stack who raised it to 3000 (basically a min-raise) when I was in the BB. He was three to my right at this point, so he was raising from the Cut-off. His min-raise told me he had a big hand and wanted action. Everyone folded to me and I looked down at 57s. This is the perfect hand to play against a guy who will overvalue single-pair hands after the flop. I called and we took a flop. The flop came down 689 w/ two clubs. Fireworks started going off in my head and I decided to slowplay. The blinds were creeping up and I figured it was worth the risk of him catching up to maybe double up and have a shot at winning. Also, the only hand I was really scared of was AK of clubs and I figured he would’ve raised more with that hand. I basically figured he was drawing dead, or close to it. I checked, he made a smallish bet and I called. The turn was a Nine, pairing the board, but not really scaring me, and I check-raised him for about half my chips. He thought for a while and called. The river was a Ten and I moved in for the rest of my chips. He thought for a while and called. “Straight”, I said, and he showed me AA as I raked in the pot. Second time I cracked Aces in the same tournament, and both times the guy with Aces basically min-raised before the flop.

This hand put me in the chip lead and I felt I had a good shot at winning. I had about 45K chips and I was playing great poker. What I didn’t anticipate was that the blinds would start going crazy. The next four levels were 1000/2000, 1500/3000, 2000/4000, 3000/6000. At the 1000/2000 level, I misplayed back-to-back hands and cost myself a bunch of chips. Here’s how they went:

The first hand, I was UTG with TT. I made a standard raise to 6000 and everyone folded to the BB, who looked at his cards, agonized for a minute, then announced he was raising all-in. His raise was about 26K more on top of my 6000, so I was looking at calling 26K to win 39K, exactly 1.5:1. I put his range of hands on JJ or AK and tried hard to stretch the range, but I just couldn’t. He sees me as a very tight, solid player and I knew he wouldn’t make a move like that with junk after I raised UTG. I knew he probably wouldn’t make that big a re-raise with AA or KK because I wouldn’t give him action. I also didn’t think he’d go all-in with QQ, but I guess that was a possibility. The odds of him having TT were terrible and I didn’t think he’d make an all-in move with 99 against my likely range of hands. I knew I needed 40% equity to make the call and I wasn’t sure what the numbers were, but I knew it was close. It turns out I was 45% to win (against a range of AK or JJ), so even if I didn’t give him any credit for a bluff, I should’ve made the call. He showed AK, the dealer ran the cards for kicks and I would’ve won. If I won that pot, I would’ve had 65K chips and there were only 180K chips in play. I think there would’ve been five people left and I would’ve had about 35% of the chips. I would’ve run over the table. This is the second consecutive live tourney where I’ve laid down a medium pocket pair to an all-in raise from a player holding AK. I’ve got to stop doing that, or I won’t be winning any tournaments any time soon. This hand cost me the tournament, plain and simple.

Next hand, I was in the BB and I picked up KK. The table just had a big discussion about the previous hand where I said, “I didn’t think he’d move all-in with AA, KK or QQ. I figured him for AK or JJ there.” The player UTG+1 made a min-raise and everyone folded to me. I had him covered and I decided that, based on our recent discussion, an all-in from me would look weaker than it should. I figured I might get a call with AQ, AK, JJ or something like that. He had about 25K chips left and he folded pretty quickly to my all-in. In retrospect, I was tilting a little from my bad fold on the previous hand. My all-in was a huge overbet that wasn’t getting called by anything but QQ, which would’ve gone to war with me anyway. All I did was chase out hands I had totally dominated and that was stupid. At this point, I was pretty upset with myself for basically blowing a chance to bust two players on consecutive hands. The bad news was we could’ve been 4-handed and I could’ve been sitting on about 80K chips. The good news was I still had about 45K chips and I was playing well other than those two hands.

Unfortunately, I went totally card dead from there on out. There were only two more significant hands and I lost both of them. First, I got A8 in the BB, there was one limper, who was the big stack. I checked because I didn’t have a read on the guy and I didn’t know if he was limping to trap or not. Also, I felt like I could outplay him after the flop. The flop came down 789, so I flopped middle pair, top kicker. I felt like it was good, so I bet out 2000 (about half the pot). He called. The turn was a rag, I bet out 3000 (1/3 the pot) and he called again. River was a K, which was a card I didn’t like at all. I checked, he bet 4500, I thought for a while and folded. He showed me a KT for an open-ended straight draw and two overs. I showed my A8 and he said, “Well, I figured I’d take one off on the flop and fold if you bet big on the turn.” I definitely under-bet the pot on the turn, especially considering I thought I was ahead.

Later, against the same guy, I made a standard raise on a bluff. He called. The flop came down 8-high and he bet out. I put him on a pair, thought for a long time and folded. I didn’t see any reason to make a move because I was confident he had me and would probably call an all-in because of his stack size.

That’s it. I ended up busting in 4th place and getting my money back. It was bitter-sweet because I played very well, but ultimately messed up on two hands that took me out of it. After this tournament, I realized that I needed to take more calculated risks with medium-to-big pairs. This was two tourneys in a row that I’d folded JJ and TT to all-in raisers who held AK. This is a serious leak and I need to make sure I plug it. I have to take a 10% advantage whenever it’s offered to me, especially if it won’t bust me if I lose.


April $50 tourney re-cap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


$50 poker tourney

I played in a $50 poker tournament tonight. There weren’t many memorable hands, but the one that busted me was very memorable. No, it wasn’t a bad beat. I simply donked off my last chips. Here’s what happened:

There are 13 players left of 40 entrants. We’re 7-handed and I’m in the cutoff (CO). Blinds are 500/1000 with a 100 ante. I have right at 7000 chips. The table is playing pretty tight. Both the button and the Small Blind (SB) have been playing very tight. The Big Blind (BB) is one of the chip leaders, but I think it’s mostly because he’d been catching cards (the players at the table were talking about that). My table image is pretty tight.

I’m going to raise to 2500 with a decent Ace, any pair, any two big cards, any two suited connectors from 87s on up. Everyone folds to me and I look down at A2s (two spades) and make my raise to 2500. Everyone folds to the BB who looks at me, counts my chips, then calls. Pot is now 6200.

The flop is J85 with two spades. The BB bets out 2000. I have 4500 left, I figure the best he can have is a Jack, which leaves me with 9 outs to the flush and 3 outs for an Ace (assuming he doesn’t have AJ, in which case I assume he would’ve moved in on me before the flop). 12 outs means I’m about 48% to catch a winner by the river. Right now, there’s 8200 in the pot, so I’m definitely getting odds to call here getting 4.1:1 on my money. Of course, calling will leave me with a measly 2500 chips and I’d be pot committed. I decide to raise all-in, which means I’m betting 4500 to win 8800 plus his call of 2500 more. I’m betting 4500 to win 11300, which is almost 3:1 (assuming he calls). He calls.

He turns over 89o (9 of spades), which means I’m actually 42.5% to win because he has one of my outs. I flip over my A2… And realize I’m not suited after all. I actually had the Ace of spades and the 2 of clubs. I was actually 16.9% to win and his hand held up. I’m not entirely sure why he called with 9-high getting no implied odds, but like I said, he was catching cards.

So, I totally misplayed the hand and busted out after playing 4.5 hours of very solid poker. Here are the mistakes I made on the hand:

  • If I’m going to play A2s in this spot, I need to raise all-in pre-flop.
  • I misread my hand (I’ve never done that before)*

*I think I misread my hand in part because we were using cards with the “jumbo” index. I should’ve made sure to get a good look at the suit on both cards before I played. That’s no excuse, but it’s a lesson learned.

So, I was stupid and I busted 13th. Other than that, made a nice bluff early by playing position. It was a small pot, but I had Jack high and won the pot. I made a good laydown with AK in the SB early when UTG+1 open-raised 2x BB, the button re-raised to 24x BB; button later told me he had KK. I won a race (AK vs. 44). Made a nice button steal when 3 people limped and I raised to 5x BB with KTo. I had AA and KK, both in early position and neither got any action when I put in small raises. My best hand all night was a pair of Aces (that includes any hand where I saw the flop, turn and/or river).

I played well until that last hand. I should not have busted with A2o. My live tourney performance has been terrible lately. I’m definitely starting to doubt myself.

Afterthought: It’s been two days since the tournament. I was thinking about this hand again today at lunch and I realize why it was such a big mistake to raise to only 2500 rather than moving all-in (for about 7000) before the flop: My raise to 2500 made the pot 4700 (1500 blinds, 700 antes, 2500 for my bet) and the BB only had to call 1500. That means he was getting over 3:1 odds on his call and he was one of the chipleaders at that point in the tournament. 1500 chips was nothing relative to his stack, and calling with 89o wasn’t a mistake according to Sklansky’s Fundamental Theorem of Poker.

Against any other player at the table, I think my 2500 raise would’ve been the proper play. Everyone else was playing tight, solid poker and not gambling it up. My raise would’ve been about the standard raise at the table and most players had been respecting that raise amount unless they really had a hand. I was prepared to let the hand go for a big re-raise (the pot would’ve been 8700 and I would’ve had to call 4500, so I would’ve been getting less than 2:1 facing a re-raise from a hand which would certainly have my hand dominated) and to re-evaluate the hand after the flop if I got called.

I didn’t take enough into account before I made my play. I should’ve seen who was in the BB and adjusted my play accordingly.


Not much happening

I need to start posting more. Anyway, I finally started working out again and, although I’m taking it pretty easy so far, I feel a lot better than I did most of the time I was traveling over Christmas.

I’ll probably be going to L.A. in a couple weeks for some more training for work. In the meantime, I’ll be sending out another round of mailers to agents here in Dallas. Apparently, I didn’t send them to the right group before. I guess this is good because I haven’t heard anything from anyone I sent to in the first round. That’s not entirely true… I got one mailer back because the place I sent it to doesn’t exist anymore.

Yeah, I’m still playing a lot of poker and it’s going really well. I’ve been upping the stakes for the Sit N Gos (SNGs) and playing some Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs). The SNGs is where I’m makin’ all the cheddar, but I’m steadily improving in the MTTs. I would’ve made the money yesterday if I didn’t bust out to AT with AK (all-in before the flop). I might’ve made the money today if I hadn’t busted out to AT with JJ. Both of those were pretty late in the tournament (yesterday’s was 73/722 or 9 out of the money), so I pretty much had to go with those hands.

Anyway, as soon as I get one of those to hold up (it’s not like they’re big favorites or anything), I should start making the money in the MTTs. Eventually, I hope to win one of those things.

Other than that, I’ve just been watching movies and hangin’ out. I’m still co-writing a short film, but that’s slow goin’. I’m considering taking voice over lessons because I hear it can be pretty lucrative in Dallas. I guess that’s about it.


Good night for poker

Well, the tourney was tonight. There were 17 people, each of whom bought in for $50. The top 4 spots paid out: 1. $425 (50%), 2. $255 (30%), 3. $130 (~15%), 4. $40 (~5%). I finished 2nd, which was fine by me.

Here are some of the highlights (at least from my perspective):

  • First person I knocked out (pretty early on): I had pocket Aces and put in a large raise. Guy to my left declares he’s all-in. Obviously, I call. He has pocket Q’s. My A’s hold up and I move up to about second largest stack
  • First big hand: I flop bottom 2-pair and put my opponent in for about 75% of his chips. He goes all-in and I call. He has top pair with a K kicker. He catches a K on the turn and a 9 on the river for a boat to beat my 2-pair. Tough beat, but it left me with about 2/3 of chips.
  • I’d been hovering around the starting amount for a while and needed to make something happen because my stack was getting smaller and smaller. Person to my right makes a raise about half the size of my stack; I go all-in with AK. He calls with 99 and I catch a lucky K to win it.
  • Later, I’m against the guy who busted my 2-pair. I flop bottom 2-pair, he makes a reasonable bet and I push all-in. He thinks and calls. He missed his straight draw and I knocked him out.
  • We’re down to 3 guys and I’m in a situation where I could basically triple up my money. I matched a K on the flop for a K with a weak kicker. The guy to my left immediately goes all-in. The guy to my right is clearly debating a flush draw and a call. I decide I’m not calling and muck out of turn. This was a good play because I think it saved me $130. I have a feeling I would’ve been way behind to a K with a better kicker if I’d called. The flush draw ended up folding to the bettor.
  • We’re down to heads-up. I briefly held the chip lead, but am now down about $3500 to $5000. I’ve been playing ultra-aggressively calling all-in about every other hand (the blinds are $150/$300 and raising to 200/$400 in 5 minutes). I’m staying in the game by stealing blinds and otherwise playing pretty tightly. I sense weakness on my opponent (he’s Big Blind), so I move all-in with K5. He thinks for about five minutes and calls with A5. He catches A5 and beats my 5’s with a K kicker with Aces up. Game over, I’m in 2nd.

So, I guess the question is this: Would I have done anything differently, especially at the end? I think probably not. He was playing moderately aggressively and I simply wasn’t catching cards. I was moving in when I detected weakness, just waiting to detect strength when I had a superior hand, so I could move in and maybe get a call. I actually thought I had him with K5, but he just made a great call with A5. I had probably moved in on him 15 times by now and we were both ready to see some fireworks. I haven’t figured out if he outplayed me, or if I just lost. Maybe there isn’t a difference.

All that being said, I can attribute most of my success tonight to one book–Tournament Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky. I picked it up a week ago, finished it about an hour before the tournament and was constantly surprised by how much useful information I gained from reading it. I won’t go into details, but I can confidently say that $255 is a fantastic ROI for a $30 book purchase.

So, I’ve played three tournaments now and finished 3/8, 2/8, 2/17. I feel that’s a pretty good record, but I still haven’t got a win. Hopefully, these guys will continue playing tournaments and I’ll find some other tourneys around to play in. After tonight, I feel that poker is something I can actually be pretty good at. I also realize I have a lot to learn. I think I’m going to re-read all my poker books. I think there’s a lot of information I missed the first time through and I can now see that book-learning is a powerful weapon at the poker table.

End rambling about poker.