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.

$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.

$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.

$75 tourney recap

$75 tourney recap

I played in an oddly structured tourney tonight. Initially, it was billed as a $50 tourney with a single $25 rebuy, available if a player went broke. We started with 6K in chips and the rebuy was for 6K and was available for the first hour (three levels). It didn’t take too long before a few people were allowed to rebuy a second time, although no one went crazy or anything. After the first hour was up and the rebuy period had ended, we decided to do an optional $25 add-on for 6K more chips.

We started with 20 guys and the final prize pool was about $1650. The top four spots were to pay something like $700, $500, $300, $150.

At the end of the first hour, I had almost exactly my 6K starting stack, so I took the rebuy, which bumped me up to 12K. I knew I had to buckle down since there were a lot of chips in play and this was likely to be a long tourney. Tightening up wasn’t too difficult since I was totally card dead for the first couple hours.

I’ll do a more detailed recap soon, but it basically came down to five people and I was the chip leader with about 1/3 of the chips in play. The blinds were escalating quickly, so we all decided to chop. I proposed that all five of us take fourth place money and then divide the remainder according to chip stack. After about 6.5 hours, I ended up getting $450 of which $20 went to the dealer.

My best hands were as follows: AA, KK, 99, 77, 44, 33(2), AKs, AQ(2), AJ, KQ, KJ, KT. My best made hand a straight at my first table.

First or second hand of the tournament, I was in the BB with 54o. A middle position player, who I know to be pretty loose/aggressive pre-flop, raised it to 3 BB. A couple players called, I called and the flop was 67J. I checked, the pre-flop raiser bet half the pot and only I called. The turn was a 2. I checked, the pre-flop, checked. I had decided he was on a couple big cards and I was going to bet the river if a card Ten or lower came off. The river was an Ace, so I checked and he checked. He showed KQ and took it down with King high. In retrospect, I played this hand a little passively. I really think the correct play is to check-raise him on the flop here since I figured he missed the board. I was in the BB and he knows I’m a tricky player, so I’m pretty sure he would fold without a pair there. As it was, I decided to play it to keep the pot small.

I was getting pretty short-stacked when I picked up AQo UTG+1. I made a raise to 3 BB and the SB called. Flop came down Q93 with two diamonds and the SB checked. I bet out half the pot, he check-raised to three times my bet and I moved all-in. He quickly folded. Another guy at the table made the sounds of a fishing line that just got a bit and he began reeling in his (my) fish. I think I probably moved in a little quickly. I might’ve gotten a call if I thought for a little while before moving in. I think I was just trying to discourage any straight or flush draws from coming along because the pot was already pretty big (relative to my stack) and I just wanted to take it down right there. Anyway, this hand got me a few chips.

A bit later, I got 77 in middle position and raised it to 3 BB. (I should note that I went with 3 BB because the table was playing pretty fast and loose and I knew 2.5 BB wasn’t going to ever steal the blinds. Also, these guys were a little crazy, so I didn’t want to play multi-way pots with them since I had trouble reading their hands. Finally, since we were never going to have antes, the bubble benefit wouldn’t be there for 2.5 BB.) The guy to my immediate left called (he calls a lot and is generally pretty passive) and everyone else folded. The flop came down AKx with two diamonds (I had the seven of diamonds, so at least both of my sevens were live). I hated this flop, especially against this opponent, but I threw out a c-bet anyway. He called pretty quickly and I knew 1) I shouldn’t have c-bet and 2) I was done with the hand unless I made a set. The turn was an offsuite Queen and we both checked. The river was a six of diamonds. I checked, he moved in (for about the size of the pot) and I folded. I was mostly unhappy with myself for c-betting, but I felt I played the rest of the hand ok.

A few hours into the tourney, I was pretty low on chips (as I had been all night) and I got 78 in the BB. Two or three players limped and I checked my option. The flop came down 569r giving me the nut straight and no flush draw onboard. I checked it, an LP, aggro player bet, I called and everyone else folded. The turn paired the board with a 5 (not a scary card for me at all) and I checked it, but the aggro player checked behind. The river was a Ten, I moved in for about the size of the pot and he folded. I normally would’ve value bet, but I figured he either had something like A9o or absolutely nothing. I figured a regular value bet was about as likely to get called as an all-in, so why not maximize value by moving in.

My best hand at my first table was 99 and I just took the blinds with a standard raise.

By the time we got down to the final table, I was pretty short on chips. I think I had around 11K chips and the blinds were 500/1000. That being said, the blind structure was moving slowly (next level would be 600/1200, then 700/1400, then 800/1600), and there were no antes, so I wasn’t feeling too desparate. Also, we had just moved from five-handed to ten-handed, so I had some room to breathe and didn’t feel any pressure to make any crazy moves yet.

Second hand of the final table, I was in the BB. CO and button limped and the SB completed. These are three of the looser players I’ve played with and I knew they could literally have almost anything. I looked down to see AQo and moved all-in. Immediately, they all started hemming and hawing about how automatic that move was and how they saw it coming, sort of implying they thought I could make that move with almost any two cards (which is certainly true). I realized this was a good opportunity to do a little advertising, but not the kind I would normally do. I mucked my hand and, as I raked in the pot, said, “Man, you guys are just makin’ it too easy. I just about doubled-up there!” I wanted them to think I made that move with nothing so I could get action on my big hands if I got them. Because the table was a relatively loose, aggressive table, I knew I’d probably have to catch some cards to get chips, and I wanted to make sure they called me if I hit big. This hand would prove to be pretty important later.

In reality, I had added about 3K to my stack and I was now at about 14K. Two hands later, I was on the button with KQo. Two or three people limped before me and I decided to just call and take a flop. If my stack had been bigger or shorter, I probably would’ve raised, but with an M of about 10, I felt like calling was right. If I missed the flop, I could just fold. If I hit it, there would likely be a bet in front of me and I could move in and get some chips. The SB completed, the BB checked and the flop came down JTx. I decided immediately that my chips were going in the middle, and I hoped someone would bet in front of me to sweeten the pot. Sure enough, The hijack bet out a little more than half the pot. I thought for a second, said, “I raise…”, counted out my chips, threw in his bet amount and then declared all-in. Everyone folded to the original bettor who griped a little before folding. By now, people were starting to joke about how I was moving in a lot. I was thinking about how I had more than doubled-up in four hands at the final table and I hadn’t shown a hand yet.

Next time I was in the BB, I picked up T2s. The button limped, the SB completed and I checked my option. The flop was something like Q54 with two of my suit. I checked, the button bet out, the SB folded and I moved in. The button folded showing K5 (for middle pair). This is pretty standard for me given the situation and the stack sizes. My thinking is as follows: the board is pretty dry (except for the flush draw, which I have), my stack is small, but not tiny

A few orbits later, I was UTG, and picked up Aces, by far my biggest hand of the night (next best was 99 a few hours earlier). I raised it to 3 BB (I’m at a pretty loose table, so I’m not worried about everyone folding and I want as much value as possible from my hand), and got a call from a late position player and the BB. The flop came down A95 with two clubs. Against some players, I’d slowplay this, but I bet out 3 BB instead. Here’s why:

I’ve played with the late position player a lot, and I specifically remember a very similar hand where I raised in early position with AA, flopped a set and slowplayed it. The late position caller in this hand had seen that hand and had even commented on it after it was over. I knew that by betting out, he would at least think it was possible I was weak, whereas he might’ve been cautious if I checked it. I also had a read on the BB and I know that 1) he over-values weak Aces, 2) he will check-raise bluff with nothing or sometimes bottom pair and 3) he doesn’t seem to put enough emphasis on position, so I thought it likely he would not give me credit for Aces or even a big hand. In short, I thought there was a great chance I’d get action (especially from the BB) if I bet out, so why not build the pot?

So anyway, I bet out 3 BB (intentionally under-betting the pot to look weak), the late position player folded and the BB started talking: “Six thousand, huh? That’s a little small… Do you have an Ace? I don’t think you have an Ace.” He asked me how much I had left and I did a little acting (you know, sad and pensive) as I counted my chips and reported that I had 18K total. He thought for about 30 more seconds before he said, “I’ll put you all-in.” Of course, I beat him in the pot and flipped over the nuts. He immediately mucked and said, “I’m dead.” meaning he had a weaker Ace. I now had about 50K chips and could play some poker.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t be playing all that much poker. I reverted to mediocre cards for quite a while. I tried to steal once with A7s, but got two callers and gave up on the flop (flop was QJTr, not a good flop for that hand). I made a few successful steal attempts, one with AKs. Basically, my chip stack sort of dwindled for about 90 minutes as I played few pots and mostly got blinded down and missed flops.

We were down to seven players and I was a medium stack. There was one big stack, one very, very short stack and the other five of us were medium stacks. I proposed that we chop because the blinds and antes were very large and we were just about to start gambling instead of playing poker. I’m very comfortable with short-stacked poker, but I don’t like leaving the prize pool distribution up to the poker gods. Also, we’d been playing for six hours and only four spots were going to pay. I proposed that we split the money evenly except the short stack just got his buy-in back and the big stack got the remainder of his portion. The five medium stacks would get the same average amount. The big stack declined and I said, “Ok, we’ll just play it out then.” We decided we would play out the next level (2K/4K and there were only 280K chips in play, making the average M less than 7) and then chop it up.

Two hands later, I was in the BB. The CO raised it to 10K, the button called and the SB folded. I looked down at two Kings. I thought for a few seconds and finally moved all-in. The initial raiser didn’t take too long to fold, but the button didn’t seem to want to go away. He asked what I had left, so I counted it all out and put it in the middle. I think it’s important to note that this is very similar to that first hand at the final table where I moved in with AQ after a few limpers. I didn’t show my cards, but I said, “You guys are makin’ it too easy!” as I raked in the chips. The button in this hand was also in that hand and I know he was thinking about that hand as he made his decision. Also, he’s the player I check-raised all-in with my ten-high flush draw earlier (I didn’t show the hand, but I’m sure that he thinks I might be pushing him around by now). He said, “Well, you’ve probably got something, but I know you could be making a move here.” Basically, I got the idea that he wasn’t sure if I was bluffing and he was tired of playing. He called and showed QJo and I busted him. I now had about 75K in chips and was pretty close to the chip lead.

Immediately after the hand, I proposed a chop again. Same as before, but everyone wanted to play out the level.

Next hand, I was in the SB with 73s. Everyone folded to me and I looked at my crummy cards and almost mucked ’em till I realized who was in the BB. He’s probably the tightest player I know and he was extremely short stacked (he started the hand with about 2 BB in front of him). He had just been hanging in there for a couple hours. I literally had almost mucked my cards when I pulled them back, asked what he had left and then put a stack of chips in the middle to set him all-in. He showed 43o and mucked. I showed my 73 and made some joke about having him dominated. I shouldn’t have done that and I wouldn’t have showed my cards, but the guy to my right had seen them when I picked them up to muck them and I felt like I had to show the table. I was mostly interested in stealing the blinds and not in making a fancy move. I just knew that the BB wouldn’t call unless he had a monster, so I realized it didn’t matter what I had.

A couple hands later, the ultra-short stack busted, leaving us with five players. Again, I proposed a chop. This time, my proposal was a little different than before: we all take fourth place money ($150) and chop the rest of it according to chip stacks. Still, everyone wanted to play the level out. By the end of the level, I was chip leader with 94K (of 280K chips in play) because it was obvious people were just hanging out and waiting for the level to end so we could quit. Why not steal some blinds? I asked if anyone had any other proposals and no one did, so we chopped by chip stack. The reason I changed my proposal was that the super short-stack had busted and there were two of us with most of the chips on the table (second place had about 75K).

2.5 is the new 3! (follow-up)

I’ve been using the 2.5 BB standard pre-flop raise for a few weeks now and I’ve got a good idea of its benefits and drawbacks. First, the drawbacks:

Whether I can use this raise seems highly dependant on the table climate. A table full of loose/passive opponents will call too frequently, creating multi-way pots where I’m often playing out of position. This can be frustrating because these opponents’ calling ranges are typically very wide, so I’m out of position, often playing speculative hands and I have no idea what my opponents have. Of course, I’m often making raises with suited connectors and other hands that actually play well in multi-way pots, so I get paid off in a big way when I hit my hand. That being said, I’ve found that if the table is too loose, the best thing to do is revert to a standard solid game and just play good cards against these opponents.

Because I’m opening more pots, people will play back at me more often with re-raises. Here’s an example of a couple hands:

I’m in middle position and make a 2.5 BB raise with QTs. The player to my left flat-calls (he’s been doing this a lot and he’s been doing it with junk). Everyone else folds. The flop is all under cards, I c-bet half the pot, he calls. I know he has nothing, but I also have nothing. Turn is a blank. I check, he checks. River is a Queen, giving me top pair, medium kicker. I bet, he raises, I call. He showed Q9o and I took it down.

Next hand, I made a 2.5 BB raise and everyone folded.

Next hand, I made a 2.5 BB raise with AQo. Everyone folded to the BB who moved in for about five times my initial raise. I insta-called and he showed A9s.

This player was a decent player who had been playing solid poker, but he’d seen me show down a QTs a few hands earlier, then steal the blinds the previous hand, then raise again this hand. After the hand, he told me he didn’t think I was that strong. Unfortunately, he would’ve been correct pretty often. I find myself having to fold to a lot of re-raises from astute players. The good news is it’s only costing me 2.5 BB instead of 3 BB.

Astute players in the BB will often call my raise and bet out almost any flop. I think this is a combination of them noticing I’m playing a lot of hands and the good pot-odds they’re being offered to call my pre-flop raise. This reduces my opportunities to steal, but it also increases my chances of picking off their bluffs. Over time, it becomes obvious that they’re employing a sort of stop-n-go/re-steal move, which is beatable by simply calling with good hands, raising with decent hands and sometimes raising with junk.

And now the advantages:

The biggest advantage is typically on the bubble, after the antes kick in. Even the loosest players begin to tighten up as everyone starts to try and eke into the money, and this is my queue to start raising more liberally and build my stack (even when someone calls my raise, they’ll often check/fold if they miss the flop). In this situation, the 2.5 BB raise gets fantastic odds (there is a level in PokerStars tourneys where a 2.5 BB raise is actually getting paid better than even money because of the ante) and people aren’t generally concerned with the pot-odds when they decide to play or fold.

I think the most important thing I’m learning is this: I have to be able to recognize when it’s ok to raise 2.5 BB and play a lot of hands, but I also need to recognize when that style just ain’t gonna’ fly. I have to be able to change gears depending on table conditions. Yesterday, I was playing a $50+5 tournament on Party Poker and we were just about to hit the bubble when I got moved to a new table. I had an average stack and I really needed to accumulate some chips. I forced myself to tighten up (rather than just trying to steal blinds and antes right off the bat) so I could get a feel for how my new table was playing. Turns out the table was playing fast and loose and there were two or three to the flop almost every hand. Trying to raise and take it (for 2.5 BB or any other amount) just wasn’t going to work. It was frustrating, but I had to buckle down and take what the table would give me. I tightened up, made some good plays and made it down to 37th (of 538) before I finally busted (after maybe being a little aggro with 99 on the button).

A few of the advantages are inherent in the disadvantages I listed above. For instance, people will often play back at me with junk, but I will have a hand and bust them sometimes; I just have to be able to figure out when I’m ahead, so I can call, and when I’m beat, so I can let it go. Also, people will call my pre-flop raises more often because they assume I’m raising with a lot of medium-strength hands. They’re right, except that they go too far in calling with hands like Q9, J8s, etc. If I hit the flop when they do, I’ll often get paid off well if I have them dominated. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I’ll sometimes be playing hands that actually play well in a multi-way pot. When I raise in middle position with 87s, I don’t mind three or four people calling me because I won’t have any trouble dumping the hand if I miss the flop, but my implied odds against that many opponents are huge if I hit the flop hard.

All things considered, I still think the 2.5 BB standard raise is a very effective and useful strategy in many situations. The tricky part is to recognize when it’s a good situation for a smaller pre-flop raise and when a tighter game with larger pre-flop raise is in order.

2.5 is the new 3!

DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt to read this if you don’t care about poker. In fact, even if you care a lot about poker, this will probably bore you to tears. I’ve written all this to get my general ideas on paper so I can scrutinize them and determine whether they’re sound or silly. Try reading this drivel at your own risk.

I recently changed up to a standard 2.5 BB raise, which I’m comfortable with and which I believe saves me chips in the long-run. Why? Basically, if I raise 2.5 BB, I can play more pots for the same money, and I feel that the more pots I play with the players I usually play against, the bigger my edge will be. The 2.5 BB raise is cheaper because it saves .5 BBs every time I open a pot and because it saves me 1 BB every time I make a continuation bet (c-bet), which is almost every time against typical, non-aggro players. Here’s how:

First of all, if my table will let me steal with a 2.5 BB raise, then I’m getting more bang for my buck. I’m putting in 2.5 BB to win 1.5 BB (BB plus SB), which means my play has to work about 63% of the time to break even. If I put in 3 BB to win 1.5 BB, it has to work about 67% of the time to break even. Of course, my raise won’t win the blinds nearly that often, but that’s ok because I’ll often be raising with hands that are strong enough that I don’t mind getting called. Also, when the antes kick in, I usually don’t increase my standard raise even though the starting pot is larger. With antes, a 2.5 BB raise will usually be getting close to even money pot-odds, which means it only needs to work 50% of the time to break even. In that case, it typically will work that often. This is a separate topic, but the reason I don’t increase my raise proportionally to the starting pot size is that players don’t adjust their play to the better odds I’m offering with a small raise. Players tend to start tightening up when antes kick in because they’re trying to survive. Because they’re (usually incorrectly) tightening up and not adjusting their calling range to accommodate the better pot-odds, they’re making a mistake which can be easily exploited by making many small raises to take down the pot pre-flop.

Second, it costs me less to make my “standard” sequence of bets–raise pre-flop, then make a c-bet if it’s checked to me post-flop–which I typically hope will lead to a fold on the flop. Say I raise from the button and I make it 3 BB. The BB calls, so there are now 6.5 BB in the pot. We see the flop, he checks and I make a standard c-bet of half the pot, or 3.25 BB. So far, I have invested 6.25 BB and my only goal has probably been to win what’s out there (ie, I’m not trying to build and win a big pot, I’m just trying to take down a small pot and add to my stack). Up till now, it’s unlikely that a slightly smaller or slightly larger bet size would have affected the hand. The BB probably would’ve called 3 BB just as often as he’d call 2.5 BB or even 3.5 BB because he either likes his cards or he doesn’t. So, if the same scenario plays out, only I use 2.5 BB as my standard, then I raise to 2.5 BB, he calls it, he checks the flop, I bet 2.75 BB and I’ve invested 5.25 BB to win a small pot. In fact, I’ve invested 5.25 BB to win the initial 1.5 BB offered by the blinds (after all, the hand began as a struggle for the blinds, so unless I’m trying to build a pot, every subsequent bet I make is ultimately an attempt to win the initial pot consisting only of the blinds) whereas with a 3 BB raise, I will have invested 6.25 BB to win that same 1.5 BB. Given this perspective, a 2.5 BB raise called pre-flop and followed with a post-flop c-bet of half the pot has to work about 78% of the time to break even, but a 3 BB raise with the same sequence would need to work 81% of the time.

So, all other things being equal, reducing my standard pre-flop raise from 3 BB to 2.5 BB shows a 3-4% increase in equity both pre-flop (on the initial steal attempt) and post-flop (on the subsequent c-bet) each time I make this play. This is a substantial increase in expectation at lower cost that I believe compounds over time (ie, the course of a tournament). While I think that pure steal raises and c-bets show a negative expectation, reducing the pre-flop raise amount makes these plays less negative (in business parlance, I’m talking about cost avoidance, not cost savings).

Here’s another perspective: The whole point of a tournament is to be the last one standing, to survive longer than all the other players. There are basically two ways to accomplish this–accumulate chips when possible and conserve chips when necessary. Chip accumulation typically occurs when I have a strong hand, whereas I’m trying to conserve chips on my weaker hands. It is definitely possible to accumulate small amounts of chips with weak hands (by bluffing and taking advantage of situations), but weak hands typically lead me to try and save my chips (usually by folding). Raising to 2.5 BB allows me to save many, many chips throughout the tournament as I make small bluffs (steal attempts). Here’s an example:

Of course, it’s necessary to say that attempting to steal the blinds semi-regularly is absolutely necessary in order to make sure that I get action when I have good hands. It’s also necessary to survive and conserve chips while waiting on good hands. Any good tournament player will steal the blinds as often as he is permitted because it’s a necessary part of the game. That being said, steal attempts (I’m talking about full-on bluff-raises to take the blinds) typically show a negative expectation (my example above claims that, even with a small 2.5 BB raise, the steal attempt has to work 63% of the time to break even and it is not often that I am at a table that will let me get away with stealing two out of three times I try it) and I think it’s critical, when possible, to minimize the losses incurred by trying to steal blinds.

Say my standard raise is 3 BB and there are no antes, so my raise needs to work 67% of the time to break even on a steal attempt. Let’s say it actually works 50% of the time (very generous), so half the time I make this raise, everyone will fold, and the other half of the time someone will either call or play back at me. That means 50% of the time, I’ll increase my stack by 1.5 BB and 50% of the time I’ll decrease my stack by 3 BB. That means this play shows an expectation of (.5*1.5 – .5*3) = -.75 BB each time I try it. So, if I try to steal 100 times in a tournament under these circumstances (no antes), then I will lose 75 BB. The same calculation for a standard 2.5 BB raise yields that I will only lose 50 BB in 100 steal attempts. So, by decreasing my standard opening pre-flop raise, I can save as many as 25 BB over the course of a tournament. To take that idea one step further, if I’ve saved 25 BB over the course of a tournament and my standard pre-flop raise is 2.5 BB, then I can open 10 more pots than I could if with a 3 BB standard raise. The idea that I can play more pots (usually in position) this way is really the major determining factor in my decision to change to 2.5 BB. I’ll cover that in another post.

In my next post, I talk about my flawed assumptions and problems these ideas might have in the real world. I’ll also talk about other factors that may compensate for these problems.

$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.

Just busted out of $215 super sat to WSOP ME

Just busted out of $215 super sat to WSOP ME

Yesterday, I played a Party Poker $5 re-buy satellite to a $215 super sat to the WSOP Main Event. I just busted out of the $215 super satellite. 439 people were entered, top eight spots got a seat to the Main Event. By the first break, I had turned my 3K starting stack into over 11K through very solid play. I was mixing it up and getting my opponents to put their whole stacks at risk when they were often drawing dead or nearly dead. After the first break, I went totally card dead and didn’t win a pot for over 25 minutes. My 11K dwindled to about 4.5K and the blinds were 200/400, so I was in trouble. I caught some cards and made some good pre-flop moves to re-build my stack to over 11K. The blinds and antes went up to 300/600, so I was getting short stacked again when this hand came up.

READS: Really, the two significant reads are on the CO and BB. CO had been constantly open-raising for 5-8x the BB. BB had been regularly calling his (and everyone else’s) raises. CO and BB had been involved in many, many pots and had essentially been moving chips back and forth acrosss the table. The reason my stack dwindled to 4500 earlier was that I simply never had a chance to enter a pot. I didn’t catch any cards, CO opened almost every unopened pot and, if I was lucky enough to have it folded around to me, then BB would usually call my raise. This forced me to tighten up quite a bit.

That being said, the table would often walk to the BB on his blind (either because they didn’t want to play a maniac or because they simply didn’t have cards). Every time it had been folded to me, I had completed the SB or folded and he had yet to raise from the BB. Unfortunately, I hadn’t won any of these confrontations because he wouldn’t fold post-flop and I never connected. Lately, though, BB had been tightening up a bit (either because he was card dead–and it’s hard to imagine which cards he would deem unplayable–or because he had accumulated enough chips and he was ready to buckle down and play poker). I decided that if the table walked to us in the blinds again, I would raise his BB to 3x BB with any two cards. I needed chips and breaking even in the blinds for an orbit would buy me some time.

As for my post-flop read on BB, I noticed that he would bet small or call when he had nothing or a draw (depending on whether he was out of position or not). He would bet big or raise when he had connected with the flop. He would often call the flop and always bet the turn if checked to. I don’t think I had seen him check behind on the turn yet. He had folded once on the flop to a standard continuation bet I made after he called my pre-flop raise in middle position. This was a few orbits ago and, as I said, he seemed to be playing a little tighter since then.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold’em Tourney, Big Blind is t600 (9 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com (Format: HTML)

saw flop|saw showdown

BB (villain) (t13802)
UTG (t10614)
UTG+1 (t6872)
MP1 (t7393)
MP2 (t360)
MP3 (t240)
CO (t17261)
Button (t5670)
SB (Hero) (t10359)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Jd, 7h.
7 folds, SB (Hero) raises to t1800, BB (villain) calls t1200.

Flop: (t3600) Ts, 2d, 5c (2 players)
SB (Hero) bets t2000, villain calls t2000.

Turn: (t7600) 7s (2 players)
SB (Hero) checks, villain bets t2838, SB (Hero) raises to 6559 and is all-in , villain calls t3721.

River: (t14159) Kc (2 players)

Final Pot: t14159

Results:

villain has Ah 7c (one pair, sevens).
Hero has Jd 7h (one pair, sevens).
Outcome: villain wins t14159.

Although I busted from the tournament, I’m very pleased with how I played this hand. I think my pair of sevens is good here about 75% of the time or more. I made a good read and just got unlucky that 1) He connected with the board at the same time I did and 2) he called an all-in check-raise with second pair after I’d raised (for the first time) from the SB pre-flop, led the flop for just over 1/2 pot and then check-raised all-in on the turn.

Here are my thoughts, street by street:

Pre-flop: I covered this pretty well above. I decided to raise with any two if the table walked to our blinds. His call told me very little except maybe that he didn’t have 72o. I had been hoping that he was tightening up and I wanted to see what he’d do if I raised his BB.

Flop: I consider this a very good flop considering 1) His calling range pre-flop was very, very wide and 2) this is a very dry board. I’m hoping he called with a weak Ace, two broadway, maybe some medium suited connectors or one-gappers pre-flop and it’s very likely this flop totally missed his hand. I typically make a continuation bet of about 1/2 pot here, so I bet 2000. When I made the bet, I was obviously hoping he’d fold. I decided that if he raised I was done with the hand and if he called and I didn’t improve on the turn, I was done with the hand. Sure enough, he called.

I decided that he did not have a Ten since he was pretty aggro and would’ve likely min-raised with top pair here. Since there’s no obvious draw on board, I figure he either has a 2, 5, 34 (very unlikely) or air. I also allowed for the tiny possibililty that he had 22 or 55 and was slowplaying a set.

Turn: Viola! I made second pair on a dry board and I’m convinced second pair is good here. If he had 88+, he would’ve raised me by now. If he had a Ten, he would’ve raised the flop. If he had a 5 or 2, I’m ahead. If he called the flop with 34 (or any other “draw”), he just missed. If he had some kind of suited connectors (56, 67, 78, 89), I’m way ahead. If he has a set of twos or fives, well, then he has a set of twos or fives. If he had absolutely nothing, he likely still has absolutely nothing. I know that he’ll always bet the turn if I check to him and I know a small bet typically means he’s weak. My plan is to check-raise him all-in Unless he makes a pot-size bet, in which case I’ll have to re-evaluate.

I check, he makes a weak bet of about 1/3 pot, which is my cue to move in. My stack is a little more than 1/2 the pot and I want to get the money in now in case he has two overs or some kind of draw to two-pair or a straight. This is a value-bet and I don’t really care if he folds or calls.

Of course he insta-calls and turns over A7o and I’m drawing to three outs. That’s poker.

For grins, I gave my opponent a reasonable range of hands (for him) on the turn to see what my equity against his range of hands was. Basically, I gave him any Ace, all connectors, any two broadway and small pairs 22-66. I think I was pretty generous with this range since it includes several unlikely hands that have me crushed (AT, KT, QT, JT, T9). According to PokerStove, I had 70% equity against this range of hands:

Text results appended to pokerstove.txt

142,956 games 0.090 secs 1,588,400 games/sec

Board: Ts 2c 5c 7s
Dead:

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)
Hand 1: 29.4713 % 29.47% 00.00% { 66-22, A2s+, KTs+, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, 43s, 32s, A2o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo, T9o, 98o, 87o, 76o, 65o, 54o, 43o, 32o }
Hand 2: 70.5287 % 70.53% 00.00% { J7o }

I don’t know if any poker players read this thing, but if you do and you have any thoughts on this hand, let’s hear ’em!

EDIT: The guy that busted me ended up winning one of the seats to the $10K WSOP ME. I watched a bit of the final table and I literally couldn’t believe what I saw. This was one of several “interesting” hands that I saw in the 10 minutes I observed the final table:

They were down to 9 players and 8 players win a $10K seat to the WSOP ME. There is no other prize. The only goal is to finish in the top eight. On the last hand, the short-stack called all-in UTG for about 1/4 the BB. A few players folded, two players called, another player folded, another player called, the SB completed and the BB checked. The flop came down Q92 with two clubs. Everyone checked. The turn was a Ten of spades. Everyone checked. The river was a blank. A couple players checked, a player min-bet, a player folded, two more players called. The min-bettor turned up JJ, one of the callers showed KK and won both the side- and main-pots.

Unbelievable! These people just won a $10,000 seat into the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. I’m not sure I really understood the term “dead money” until now.

$55 tournament recap

$55 tournament recap

There’s really not a whole lot to report, but I’ll try to put up a recap some time tomorrow. There were 36 people and I finished 6th, just after the bubble burst. I was very happy with my play and I made some very good reads tonight.

Here’s my long, rambling recap:

This tournament seemed to be less about particular hands and more about surviving and taking advantage of situations. That being said, there were a few significant hands:

This time, we started with 6K chips, the first level of blinds was 25/50 and we played 20-minute levels. As it turns out, the 6K starting point would be significant.

First hand of the tourney, I picked up KTo in late position. There were two or three limpers in front of me, so I limped right along. The pot was 275, and I think five of us saw the flop of KT5 rainbow. I felt very good about this flop since the only hand that really scared me was a set of fives. The BB bet out 100 (pretty small bet that made me think he was drawing or had a weak King and wanted to know where he stood), two people called and I bumped it to 500. The BB and one other player called, and I had position for the rest of the hand. The pot was now about 1875 and the turn was a Queen, but I was only moderately concerned. At this point, I’m thinking I’m against a King and some kind of draw. The Queen did fill a draw, but it would’ve been to a gutshot straight and I know both players in the hand well enough to know they probably wouldn’t try to draw to a gutshot against me (they’d know their implied odds were low and that they’re not seeing a cheap river card). Both opponents checked to me and I bet out 800 (in retrospect, this bet was a little small, but I was mildly concerned that KQ may’ve just outdrawn me and I wanted to leave myself some options if someone came over the top for a big raise) and only the BB called. Now, I put the BB on either KJ or QJ as both hands would explain the betting so far. Many opponents will make a little bet out of position on the flop with flush and open-ended straight draws, but they will also make that little bet with something like top-pair, medium kicker. Also, if he had QJ or KJ, I could see him calling my raise on the flop, so he could re-evaluate after the turn. Both hands would also explain a call on the turn since he would have a pair and an open-ended straight draw. The pot is now 3475 and the river was a 9, making the board KT5Q9. The two cards I did NOT want to see were a Nine or an Ace. The BB checked and I quickly checked behind and said something like, “Let’s see it.” He showed QJ and his straight took it down.*

So, after the first hand, I was down to about 4500 chips. The good news was that we started with 6K chips, so I had some room to operate and try to get back in it. Unfortunately, the next few hands I played didn’t help me too much. Twice, I flopped the nut flush draw (once with a gutshot straight-flush draw), I flopped an open-ended straight draw, top pair and a few of other good hands, but I didn’t win any of them. I found myself down to about 3750 near the end of the first level. I was also realizing that I had a calling station to my left, which was going to make it difficult for me to make many moves using position. He liked to cold-call raises and he liked to min-raise regardless of his position (he min-raised several times out of the blinds with mediocre hands). The up-side was that I felt I had a good read on him, so I thought I could outplay him after the flop.

I was hanging in there, picking up the occasional small pot when I picked up 44 in early-middle position. The blinds were 100/200 and I limped because the table hadn’t been raising a lot, but there had been a lot of calling, so I thought I might encourage several limpers behind me to increase my potential set value. My plan back-fired when the guy to my left min-raised it to 400. I wasn’t too thrilled about the raise, but at least it was a min-raise, so I could see a relatively cheap flop. Everyone else folded, so I was heads-up with 44 out of position against the min-raiser. The flop came down KJx with two clubs. I checked and he checked. Initially, I checked just because I hated that flop and I didn’t want to go putting chips into a pot against a calling station when I knew he’d call with all kinds of hands (gut-shot, flush draw, any pair, etc.). Basically, the chances of my bet causing him to fold were extremely low (in fact, he would be correct to call any bet with many of his drawing hands, although he couldn’t necessarily know that) and I was prepared to give up on the hand if he bet… but he didn’t, which made me think I was ahead. Before this hand, he had always bet and raised with hands like top-pair, but he’d called with call kinds of draws. I figured my 44 was good, so I was hoping to see a safe card on the turn. The turn was another King and a club, making the board KKJx with three clubs. I considered this a very good card since I knew he would’ve bet with top pair on the flop and I figured it very unlikely that he had two clubs in his hand. Sure enough, he did the ol’, “Let me check and see if I have a club in my hand” routine, which told me he wasn’t suited and did not have two clubs. I decided to bet out. I figured if he folded, that was a good result since there could be a lot of scary cards to hit the river, but I figured if he called, I was still ahead and could re-evaluate the river. Sure enough, he called (I bet about 500, which was close to half the pot). When he called, I put him on AQ with one club. That hand would explain all the betting in the hand and I’d seen him call bets with nothing more than a gutshot several times already. The river was a non-club blank, but I decided I couldn’t bet for value because even a crazy calling station isn’t going to call bets on the turn and river with air. I decided to check and call a reasonable bet if he took a shot at it. He checked behind and showed AQ (no club), so I took the pot. Not only did I get a few chips in this hand, but my confidence level increased significantly. I guess to more experienced players, putting this guy on AQ would’ve been no big deal, but it seemed like a very good read to me. Also, my read on the BB in the first hand had given me some confidence.

The rest of the night was pretty straightforward, short-stack poker. I made some moves, got lucky, (mostly) got unlucky and found myself at the final table. Once we hit the final table, my cards dried up. I eventually lost count, but I had Q2, Q3 and J2 something like seven or eight times before I busted. I got lucky to outdraw 88 with A6o (straight on the river), AJ with KQ, and I busted with KT vs. AJ.

This tournament was more about psychology than technique. I was short-stacked early and seemed to be missing every draw, but I kept telling myself that I had plenty of room to work and I just had to keep my head. I don’t think I made a bad decision for a significant number of chips, and I made some difficult (but good) laydowns and crucial times. I also made some very good moves to keep afloat, and I was reading hands very, very well. There were also a few hands that, had they gone my way, would’ve given me a legitimate shot at winning the tourney (specifically, I lost an all-in against a shorter-stack with AK vs. AQ, and at the final table, it seemed like the short-stack always doubled-up regardless of how big a dog he was).

So, I bought in for $55 and won $70. I also got some points in our “TOC” race, so I’m currently at number 11, and the top 10 get a seat to the TOC. Basically, if I make another final table in the next two events, I should get a seat at the TOC.

*Later, this same opponent lost a pile of chips when another player hit his open-ended straight draw on the river. What was interesting was how upset this guy was that the other dude had outdrawn him. The betting was very similar to the betting in our first hand, but he didn’t seem to think it was such a great play now that he was the one losing chips. After the hand, the guy to my right said, “Ouch. That was a big pot.” I replied, “Yeah, but that’s exactly how he got most of his chips, so I guess it goes both ways.” Oh, and there was one big difference in the two hands: I didn’t put any more chips in the pot after he’d outdrawn me, but he put quite a few chips in the pot when he paid off a value bet on the river.

$50 re-cap from tourney on June 3

$50 re-cap from tourney on June 3

  • 1st hand is AKo, I raise, get one caller. Flop is rags, I bet he calls. He bets turn, I fold.
  • 64o, limp in late position. Flop is K6x. All check to me, I bet, get one caller. Turn is blank, goes check check (I put my opponent on a stronger 6 than mine at this point). River is 4. He bets 3/4 pot, I call and win with two pair.
  • AQo in SB. Two limpers, I raise to 5x BB, only button calls. Flop is K-high, I c-bet, he calls. Turn is a T, I check, he bets, I fold, he shows T8o (nothing on the flop… no draws or anything else). Button was a very, very loose calling station.
  • TT UTG+1. UTG (loose calling station) calls, I raise to 4x BB, everyone folds to UTG who calls. Flop is King-high. UTG checks, I c-bet, he folds after much “thought”.
  • I’m in SB with 95o, there are two limpers. Flop is T65 with two spades. I bet 1/3 the pot, two people call. Turn is 9 (not great, not awful). I bet 2/3 pot, BB min-raises me, everyone else folds, I call. River is a blank, we both check, he takes the hand with T6o for a bigger two pair.
  • I’m BB with ATo. Everyone folds to SB who completes. Normally, I raise to try to win this right now (this same hand comes up later), but against a calling station, I’d rather see a flop. I check. Flop is three rags, we both check. Turn is a King. SB bets out for 1/2 pot. By now, I have a good read and a few tells on him. I watch his bet, watch his mannerisms, listen to him for a second and raise to 3.5x his bet. He thinks for a long time and folds AQo face up. Normally, I don’t bet against a calling station like this, but I knew he was bluffing and I’d seen him make laydowns when he had absolutely nothing on the turn.
  • Nothing happens for a while and I get moved to another table.
  • I fold about five hands and then get Q2s in BB. Everyone folds to SB who completes. I raise to 3x BB, he calls. Flop is JT6 rainbow. He checks, I c-bet 1/2 pot, he raises to a about 2.5x my bet. I “think” for a minute and fold. He shows 66 for a flopped set. Against this player, this play will win the pot (either pre- or post-flop) about 75% of the time.
  • I get moved back to my original table. First hand, I get TT in MP1. I raise to 3x BB, both blinds call (this is for about 20% or so of my chips). Flop is A3x. Blinds check, I c-bet 1/2 pot, SB calls, BB raises to 2.5x my bet, I fold, SB folds. BB shows 33 for a flopped set (I have to assume was playing for implied odds against the calling station loose guy because I didn’t have enough chips for him to try to hit a set. SB showed A7o for a pair of Aces on the flop. I’m officially short-stacked.
  • Next time I’m UTG (about 10 hands later), I get AA and move in for about 5x the BB. Everyone folds and I take the blinds. Sometimes, I’d get cute here and min-raise or limp, but with a couple guys still to act who I knew would call with Axs, two broadway (especially if suited) or any pair, I like the all-in.
  • A couple orbits later, I get Q6s in the BB. Calling station limps, everyone else folds, I check my option. flop is J29 with two of my suit. I move in, he folds. I would’ve made the flush and doubled-up if he called. Oh well.
  • Next time I’m in BB, my M is about 5, and I have T8s. After much ado, calling station min-raises, everyone folds to me. I make a big mistake and call. He obviously has a very big hand here (I put him on AA, KK, QQ) and I simply didn’t have enough chips to call even a min-raise here. I knew if I hit the flop hard, I’d double up for sure, but I still shouldn’t have called. Flop was AJx all hearts, he puts me all in out of turn and I fold.
  • Next orbit, I’m in SB with 57o. Two players (calling station and button) limp, I complete (getting 7:1 even though I’m very short on chips) and BB moves in. Everyone else folds, I count it down and realize I’m getting 2.5:1 to call. I figured I had to call if I had two live cards. I decided that before I put my chips in, I should try to get a read on BB. He’d been playing VERY tight since I sat down and I knew he wasn’t just making a move. He had a hand and I had to figure out how strong he was. I decided that if I took a read that he had a bigger pocket pair than my 7, I’d fold. I looked at him and immediately knew he was very strong. I decided to keep my few chips and see if I could get them in before the next BB. I folded 57o face-up and he showed QQ. This is NOT normally a laydown I will make. The only reason I completed the SB instead of moving in was that I knew I’d get called by at least the calling station and I just didn’t like my hand that much. I was getting 7:1 before BB’s raise, but only 2.5:1 after BB’s raise and I put him on an overpair. I like the fold, but I know a lot of players would really hate it. It wasn’t an easy laydown.
  • Next hand, I get 67o on the button, UTG limps, I move in (for less than 2x BB), BB calls and limper (calling station) calls. I miss the board, BB pairs Jacks on the river, I’m out.

All that took almost 3 hours and 8 levels of play. I was shocked at how much time had gone by. It just wasn’t my night. I also played a $40 buy-in tourney the next day, but I forgot to re-cap it.