Saturday I played a $45 buy-in tournament. We started with 10K in chips with 30-minute levels and 25 players.
This tournament was very difficult for me both physically and psychologically. It began exactly 12 hours after Friday night’s tournament ended, so I had very little time to sleep and refocus my mind. Early in the tourney, I was splashing around a lot more than I usually do, but I was playing very well post-flop. I made some good laydowns, some strong bluffs and was generally making good reads. Because I was messing around so much pre-flop and because my table was playing pretty loose poker, my stack constantly fluctuated for the first couple hours or so. Usually, my stack will slowly increase as the tournament progresses, so this was a pretty unique tournament for me. It turns out one downside to being tired in a tourney is that I can’t remember a lot of the hands I played, so I’m only going to highlight the significant ones here (there weren’t too many).
After the first couple hours, I was down to about 4/5 of my starting stack and I was looking to make a move to accumulate some chips. The blinds were starting to creep up on me and I didn’t want to get short-stacked. I think the blinds were 150/300 and I had about 8500 in chips. A couple players limped in front of me and I limped in the CO with QTs. The button and both blinds came along as well. The flop was AQ3 with two hearts, giving me middle pair, medium kicker, second-nut flush draw and a backdoor straight draw. Everyone checked to me and I decided I wanted to get all my chips in, but I had to figure out the best way to do it. The pot was around 1500-1800 chips, so moving in (for about 8200) would be a huge overbet. I could check-raise, but 1) I wasn’t sure the player behind me would bet, even if he hit the board and 2) if he only bet about half the pot, I would be overbetting if I moved in. I decided the bet/three-bet all-in would be my best option, and I could always push the turn if he just called my bet and didn’t raise. I realize this sounds contradictory–I didn’t want to check-raise because the button may not bet; I was betting hoping he’d raise so I could move in–but I put him on an Ace-rag and he really liked pretty much any Ace that he flopped. My reasoning was that he would probably check behind to trap with his Ace (never mind that it was a multi-way pot and that his kicker probably wasn’t any good), but he would raise for value if I bet. Anyway, I had to pick the right amount to bet so that if he raised me 1) my re-raise all-in would be significant enough that he’d have to consider folding if his kicker was trash and 2) he’d be making a mathematical mistake if he folded. I decided to bet 1200 (leaving me with about 7K), figuring he’d raise to about 3600, so I could push another 3400. Given the stack sizes, this last 3400 would actually be pretty significant to him because it’d be the different between him having a short-to-medium stack and him being crippled. So, I bet 1200, he raised to 4000, I moved in for about 3500 more and he called pretty quickly. Turns out my read was right, but his kicker was a three, so he had Aces up and I was only about 40% to win the hand (maybe a bit less). I got luck to spike a heart on the turn to double up to around 17K.
We broke for the final table not too much later. The first big hand I played at the FT was a pre-flop semi-bluff gone wrong, then being salvaged. I was in MP3 with 89s and made the standard raise to 3 BB (I had been playing pretty tight, so I thought I could steal the blinds). Both the CO and button cold-called my bet and we had three to the flop. Obviously, I’m not thrilled that both of these players called my bet, but I do have a pretty 89s, so I could flop pretty big. Flop was TT7r, giving me an OESD. Still, I didn’t like my hand against JJ or QQ, so I checked it to see what they’d do. I was prepared to exercise each of my three options (call, fold, raise) depending on who bet and how strong I felt he was. Both of them checked. Now I’m thinking 1) Sweet! I get a free shot at my OESD and 2) Both of them must have a couple big cards, which means I can steal this on the turn if a blank rolls off. The turn was an 8, making the board TT87r, and giving me middle pair and an OESD. I bet out 1/2 the pot and both players folded. I think I added 30% to my stack this hand.
I folded for quite a while and occasionally stole the blinds to build my stack to about 27K. Then I got AKs (clubs) UTG and raised it to 3 BB (2400 chips at the 400/800 level). The CO called and everyone else folded. The CO could have a pretty wide range of hands here–ATs+, 66+, KTs+, QJ–but I have most of them dominated, so I wasn’t really worried about his call. I also knew he was an aggressive player, so my plan was to check-raise the flop if I hit it, but just lead out at the flop for a standard c-bet if I missed. Flop was KQ7 with two spades (KQ). This is good news and bad news because it’s a good flop for my hand, but it hit KQ perfectly and KQ is definitely in his range. I decided to stick with my plan, but if he re-raised me all-in on the flop, I’d have a decision to make. I checked, intending to raise, and he bet out for about half the pot (2400). I raised to 9K total and he thought for quite a while before calling. Now, I’m pretty sure he’s either on a flush draw, a straight draw, has a weak King, weak Queen or he has KQ. I really didn’t feel like his call was very strong, so I pretty much discounted KQ. My plan was to push if a non-straightening/non-spade hit the turn. The turn was the 3c (perfect card for my hand), so I moved in (I had him covered, so my bet was reduced to about 13.5K). He went into the tank (obviously he doesn’t have KQ), and took a long time to think it over. Several times he said things like, “Y’all will think I’m a donkey if I show this hand.” Eventually, he made the call. “Spade draw?” “No.” “King Queen?” “No.” And he turned over KJo, meaning I was about 94% to win the hand. The river was a Jack and we have our new chip leader; I’m crippled with about 4.5K remaining. He said he put me on a flush draw. I’m going to break this hand down a little further because it was a big hand on a lot of levels.
First, I just want to look at it from a purely theoretical poker standpoint. This was my seventh tournament with this group of guys and this was my sixth final table. They’ve seen me play and I have a generally tight, aggressive image. It’s true that I play a lot of junk from time to time, but I rarely show it, so they normally see me show good cards. So, my table image should be pretty tight-aggressive and I’m UTG at a full (9-handed) table. I raised it to 3 BB and everyone folded to him. Now, I assume that he’s putting me on a range of hands here (this may not be a valid assumption), and I’d say my range is probably AJs+, 88+ and that’s about it. Really, that’s probably a little loose… I’m not sure I’d raise with AJs UTG in this situation, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. So, there are 10 hands I could have and he’s totally dominated by six of them, but he has a race against four of them. This is an easy fold unless he’s sure I could be making a move and raising with junk. Ok, so he calls and we take a flop of KQ7 with two spades. This is either a very good or very bad result for him. He’s either just won a race against 88-TT, gotten lucky against AQ, AJ, JJ or he’s in very bad shape. The one exception would be if I had AJ of spades, which would’ve given me a royal flush draw with an overcard (15 outs), and would make me a slight favorite. So, I check (good for him) and he bets 2400, which is 1/2 the pot, and I check-raise him to 9K (about 3.5 times his bet). This is very, very bad for his hand. I’m saying I have him beat and, if I’m telling the truth, he’s drawing very slim. I’m representing AA, KK, QQ or AK, and the best-case scenario is that he has 5 outs to beat my AA. Worst case, he’s drawing dead to KK or to runner-runner Kings against QQ. So… he calls. At this point, he has to put me on a total bluff or a semi-bluff (as I mentioned earlier, the only legitimate semi-bluffing hand I could have is AJ of spades). The turn was the 3c, which was a total blank. I gave it a little thought, then moved all-in. So, what do I have? My range of hands pretty much has to be AA, KK, QQ, AK or AJ of spades…or a total bluff. He’s drawing live against AA and AK (barely) and he’s in decent shape against AJs although he’ll still lose about 30% of the time if that’s my hand. I feel that, even though he has top pair, decent kicker, this is a pretty easy laydown. I’ve had lots of opportunities to back down and show weakness and I’ve shown maximum strength on each occasion (raised pre-flop, check-raised flop and moved in on the turn). I guess he had just decided I was on a flush draw and he called off all his chips as a 94% dog.
Second, this hand was very interesting to me on a psychological level. I had a very good read on my opponent throughout the hand and I went with my read until all my chips were in the pot. I read him as having a moderate hand all the way, and I was confident that he wasn’t trapping me. Also, I think my success in this hand (up until the river card) came from me playing the player instead of the cards. Once he called my pre-flop raise, I had a plan for the flop–I’ll check-raise if I make top pair; I’ll c-bet if I miss the board. I knew he was aggressive and I knew he over-valued paint and medium Aces. I did well to follow through with my plan on the flop, but I also added a caveat on the fly after I saw the board–I decided that if he re-raised me after I check-raised, I would allow myself to fold the hand and concede that he had either KQ or QQ. I played the hand cautiously, but perfectly and got myself into a huge +EV situation. Finally, I kept my cool after he hit his three-outter on the river. I didn’t make any comments, I didn’t berate him, I didn’t give any snide looks to the other players, I just knocked the table and said, “Nice hand.” I didn’t go on tilt or allow it to affect my play. After the hand, I had an M of less than 4, but I managed to last another hour through solid short-stack play.
I doubled up a few hands after the beat with AK vs. AQ and that put my M at about 7. I busted about 50 minutes later when I ran my AJ into the BB’s 99 and I couldn’t outrun him. I finished 8/25 and didn’t cash.