Archive for the ‘Tournaments’ Category


Posted: April 23, 2008 in Tournaments

Only really dropped into the LC on Tuesday night as was wandering past on the way home from a work offsite along the river, glad I did though.

First the thirty minutes was a hilarious round of each – NL river of blood / PL Omaha. Won a few big pots, and in a fairly outlandish ROB hand saw my bottom two pair hold-up on a board of [3 5 6 8 T J K] showing two possible flushes! Won just shy of £70 in double quick time, so elected to stay and freeroll the £50+5 league game.

With the carefree/freeroll approach, I played fast and hard from the outset. Set myself two key rules of zero limping preflop (although I broke it twice during the whole tournament), and always putting the bulk of my money in with fold equity on my side.

Ran fairly madly well. Put a rather sick beat on Mike’s AA when my KK all-in pre-flop spiked; the hand played itself though, so although was a beat was not really a bad beat. After that went on to eliminate more than half the remainder of the 12 player field in the following confrontations:

  • 3-bet all-in with 52s preflop against Andrew’s KJo. Spiked a 5 on the flop. After opening for a raise, Andrew had folded to a reraise on a number of previous hands. Figured my push had decent fold equity.
  • Called all-in preflop with T9s against Tom’s 66. Spiked a 9 on the flop. Tom consistently reraises my initial opening raises with a wide range, knowing he can take me off most hands on the flop. My first open raise/fold early in the final table was with junk and to set expectations. I opened with T9s expecting to get put all-in and planning to either call or push any flop.
  • Called all-in on the flop with a set of 3’s against James’s third pair A8o. Believe this was a blind against blind confrontation. James was correctly playing back at me after I’d shown down some fairly random hands in the course of the evening.
  • Called all-in reraise preflop with QQ against Deven’s KJo to make the money. Tony opened for a raise, Deven pushed with a short-stack, I woke-up with a hand in late position. Bad luck mate.
  • Called all-in on the flop with Q3s on a [3 9 T] board against Tony’s QJs to get heads-up. Tony was also playing fairly aggressively, his pushing range was quite wide on the flop. I made a good call, and my bottom pair stood-up against his 11 outs twice.
  • Called all-in with 99 against Mark’s A7o to win the tournament. Mark was outstacked by about 10:1. Just had the bad luck of running into a big hand so early in the heads-up phase.

So, score a point for the first trial of a relentlessly aggressive approach, but noted that my combined odds to win all of these confrontations was in the region of 1.8%!! I could have survived losing any two of the six races, but would then have had to take my foot off the gas, and would probably have had a different result.

Whether this proves to be a winning approach long term will take a year or so to evaluate properly, however it is at least a hell of a lot more fun than my previous fold-fest style.

Cash vs. Tournament

Posted: April 11, 2008 in Cash games, Tournaments

Played the inaugural Wednesday night dealer’s choice game at LC this week. Only myself, Maltese Mike (nee Mike the Fish), Deven, Roy (the proprietor, lured off the bench by the offer of some old school stud action) and the dynamic duo – Tom & Jerry (James).

A fairly hilarious combination of games played, with Pineapple and Turbo Texas Hold’em standing out as the most chosen of the new games. Turbo isn’t strictly another variation, it’s just regular hold’em with a 10 second clock on every action. Made for some crraazzyyy loose play, especially given that James was hammered enough that he’d have to spend the first 5 of his ten seconds standing over the table just trying to figure out what cards were on the board.

With a run of good cards and one fairly bad beat struck on Tom I finished the night the big winner, but I won’t dwell on the game other than to highlight how I noticed some of the guys were playing the cash game like a tournament. Their too frequent all-in moves whilst deadly in a tournament, are rendered somewhat ineffective in a cash game – where a second best hand can just reload. It didn’t help that a number of these pushes were against Roy holding the nuts every time!

Thursday night was League Night, now reduced to a £50+5 from the previous £75. Despite bubbling last week, I’ve still not cashed in this event. It’s a pretty poor showing given the number of sessions I’ve played. My play yesterday was appalling, one of the most clear tournament mistakes I’ve made in a while.

Playing tight and holding AKs under the gun on the third round of the table, I limp for 100, Tom in seat 4 calls behind me, table folds around to Jody on the button who makes it 500 to go. The blinds pass, and it’s back to me to act.

Now, with a pot of 850, and 400 to call from my remaining stack of about 3,000 I think the deep stacked play is to call, and hope to pick-up top pair top kicker on a king or ace high flop. This is the right play in a cash game, where typically you’re calling for 3-5% of your remaining stack. However in a tournament situation, calling for nearly 20% of my stack out of position, the right move is clearly to push all-in and give Jody a decision. Although his range includes AA and KK, there are many other hands he’ll play the same way that I’m either dominating or 50/50 against. If I can buy all 5 cards up-front I’m getting my money in good.

However in a move of brilliant stupidity I just call. I hit my ace on the flop, but it turns out that by letting James in with 22 I’ve allowed him to hit his set. All the money goes in on the turn and I’m effectively done for the night.

Last week’s lesson was zigging when I should have zagged. This week’s lesson is remembering to play cash like cash (not a problem), and to play tournament like tournament (big problem).

After ten years of almost exclusively playing cash games, it’s proving to be an uphill battle to tune in my tourny instincts. A more arduous and expensive journey of discovery than I expected when I set out to ‘change my game’ about a year ago…

Zig / zag

Posted: April 1, 2008 in Tournaments

Played the £50 Better Poker £3k guaranteed tournament at Loose Cannon last night. After the long weekend reading and revision session, I made two adjustments to my game that proved to be rather profitable almost immediately going into the game. Quickly ran my starting stack of 3,500 chips up to about 8,000 with a couple of good plays, and a bad call from a frustrated looking guy in the seat to my immediate left.

However my tournament came to an untimely end after a pair of bad plays in the following two hands.

Hand 1:
Blinds 300/600 playing off of a stack of about 11,000.

My BB, relatively new player to the table in seat 4 makes it 1,800 to go. Folds around to me. He only has 3,000 behind, I look down at a pair of red 9’s. His early position raise seems suspicious, with only 3,000 left behind he’s essentially committed himself to the pot. Technically having bet a third of his stack, he should have just pushed here, I suspect he’s trying to get heads-up with a big pair. There’s little chance he’s made this move with 88’s or Ace-rag, so at best I figure I’m a small favourite with my nines. I flip them face-up and fold hoping to elicit a free look, but he mucks his cards without showing. Hmm, I suspect I had the best of it there after all (and yes, he confirms after the tournament that he’d raised with AJo).

Hand 2:
Blinds 400/800 playing off of a reduced stack of 9,000.

Is only on the next rotation that I pick up black 66’s UTG. The table had been relatively passive in the last few hands with quite a few unraised flops seen, so I elected to limp and hope to flop a cheap set. In retrospect, with the blinds now making up 13% of my stack I should have passed this small pair from early position, as I really can’t stand a raise; and only moments later the raise comes, this time to 3,000 from the same guy, leaving him another 3,000 behind. The table folds around to me, and I’m left with a tough decision that I really shouldn’t have given myself.

Again his raise of half his stack should really have been a push, but this time I just get the sense that he’s not playing a made hand. My prior laydown has validated his previous weak raise, and I think he’s more likely to be playing ace-face than a big pair. Either way there’s no fold equity pre-flop, so I elect to flat-call and then push any flop that doesn’t show an ace.

Flop: 57T two clubs

I push and he calls all-in showing Jacks. I miss my set and don’t hit the unlikely backdoor straight or flush draw, and am reduced to a stack of about 3,000.

Shortly after my tournament fizzles to an end getting it all in short-stacked with 53s against KJo.

Looking back at the game, my real mistake was zigging when I should have zagged, and vice versa.

On both hands, facing a likely range of TT+/ace-face, my nines are not much more of a hand than my sixes (they just have a bit more going for them as possible straight blockers). However on the first hand I’m facing a call of 1,200 with 3,000 more to win, and on the second hand I’m facing a call of 2,200 with 3,000 more to win. There’s just more EV to [call/push a non-ace flop] in the first hand than in the second. In addition to making a bad call with the small pair from UTG, I folded when I should have called, and then called when I should have folded.

Still, another good lesson learned, this time for the bargain price of £50, less the free dinner sponsored by the excellent folk from Better Poker! Am pleased anyway with the other earlier adjustments that I think are going to make a significant improvement to my game (and no, I’m not going to summarise them here for the delectation of my compatriots/opponents!!)

Return to form

Posted: March 27, 2008 in Tournaments

Despite a three week vacation to Thailand, it seems I haven’t quite slipped the noose of my 2008 bad run just yet. Last night played a £30+3 NLHE tournament at the Loose Cannon, finishing 13th out of 18 runners.

Russian Michael and myself were slightly late starters, filling the last available seats on the two tables. Michael look slightly baffled at my offer of a £10 last-longer as we sat down into our respective seat 9’s, but accepted nonetheless. Was a well timed offer as it turned-out, as he only survived about ten hands, and was the first player eliminated!

In first round of the match, I limped from late position with J7o after three others players flat called the 50 big blind.

Flop: J97 with two diamonds. BB bet 100, one caller, I raise to 400, BB calls, other folds.
Turn: (J97)K. BB bets 500, I call.
River: (J97K)K putting three diamonds on-board. BB checks. I check. He shows AA.

I could have bet the turn, but when he flat called my flop raise and bet-out on the turn, I suspected he may have picked-up one of the straights or a better 2-pair, so elected to keep the pot small. Knowing his hand in retrospect I should have moved-in, but he was asking for big trouble checking his BB with aces and four other players in the pot, and I believe it’s likely he’d still have called me with just the overpair. I guess I was just lucky to lose the minimum after being outrun on the river.

About 90 mins later, rather short-stacked after a long stint of tight play and just one or two well timed steals, I picked-up JJ on the button. Managed to get it all-in pro-flop against Mike Conway’s 66, but am outdrawn again and eliminated to the third 6 on the flop.

C’est la vie, I guess all I can do is to keep plugging away and trying to ride-out this run as the year progresses.

Anyway, thankful that I had only done £20 rather than the usual sorry 2008 three figure story, I decided to invest some of my funds saved in a couple of new poker books. Should make for a good weekend study session.


Posted: January 19, 2008 in Tournaments

Sodding WordPress ate my posting. My lengthy posting.

Shen’s thoughts

Posted: October 23, 2007 in Tournaments

Had a bit of a think about stories from sunday tourney, but couldn’t think of any good hands worth describing in detail (I guess if you don’t make a specific note of recording them you won’t remember)

I did think it might be interesting to describe the state of my chip stack and no. of all-in’s throughout the day.

1430hrs: Tourney start – Table 8 (9 tables x 10 players)
– Chip count 1000
– 1 hr till end of rebuys
– Blinds started 25-25 (M=20)
– Played conservatively (not as instructed by Luke) and only played 2 hands !!
– Only 1 all-in and won showdown
– Doubled chip stack to 2400 by break and 5th chip stack on table
– Bought top-up

1600hrs: Restart – Table 8 (9 tables left)
– Chip count 3400
– Equal 4th on table chip stack (chip lead ~7000)
– Blinds 100-200 (M=11)
– Still playing conservatively, no all-in’s
– Chip count 6500 when table carved up and left as 2nd chip stack on table

1715hrs: New Table – Table 2 (6 tables left)
– Chip count 6500
– Joined as equal 3rd on table chip stack (chip lead ~12000)
– Blinds 300-600 (M=7)
– Played a bit more aggressively, lots of low chip stacks
– 3 all-in’s, won 1 showdown
– Chip count 11000 when table carved up and left as 2nd chip stack on table

1815hrs: New table – Table 4 (4 tables left)
– Chip count 11000
– Joined as equal 4th on table chip stack (chip lead ~22000)
– Blinds 600-1200 (M=6)
– Played fairly aggresively, again 50% low chip stacks
– 5 all-in’s, won 3 showdowns
– Last showdown won a race with AJo vs 55, 23000 all-in pre-flop as 3nd chip stack vs 22000 4th chip stack
– Chip count 45000 when table carved up and left as chip lead on table

1930hrs: Stage 3 – Final Table (9 players total)
– chip count 45000
– Equal chip lead (~chip stack distribution 1&2=45000, 3&4=40000, 5=30000, 6=25000, 7=15000, 8=10000, 9=5000)
– Blinds 2000-4000 (M=7.5)
– Playing super aggressive for me
– No idea how many all-in’s, but won 1 significant showdown against 30000 chip stack
– Lost in 3rd place, Blinds at 6000-12000 when left table @ 2030hrs

Shen’s first final table

Posted: October 21, 2007 in Tournaments

Shen made his first final table at the Sunday Empire £10 rebuy today. I sat over his shoulder the entire time, making on the spot notes on the blackberry, thought I’d drop them here for posterity…

Don’t look at your cards yet. Watch players to your right not left. Tough in seat 9 tho, view is restricted. I’d be watching Chinese dude opposite, he’ll have position on you five hands a round, this info is valuable.

Second hand – A5s you raised mid pos. Won it. Good bullying with your big stack.

AJo you move all-in. It’s too big a bet from 4th position, too much chance of deadly AQ/AK with 4 players to act behind you. You win against 88. I would have made a normal 4-5x BB raise, that gets you enough info. If a massive stack raises you, you can get away cheap. If 88 raised you, you’d prob call anyway, as have enough left behind if you lose.

Heads-up to blonde chick. She flat called from SB. You checked 94o. Flop all big cards. Check check flop, you should have bet your better position here. She takes it down with bet on the turn.

Down to 7 players.

Folded round to your button. You fold 92o, I would have raised 4x BB, they both have medium stacks, are not going to take a chance at not moving up. Always punish the mid stacks, keep out of way of big stacks, they can hurt you, small stacks are liable to call you with junk out of desperation.

Down to 6 players. Blinds are 3000/6000, you are joint chip leader with about 60k. Avoid the woman with the big stack like the plague.

Your SB, folded to blonde’s button, she raises to 12k. Is probably a steal. Tough move, but a resteal here may pay. She has a mid stack, can be pushed around. Your 84s is irrelevant. She makes a comment next hand (which she raises again) about good hands going in phases, this makes me more inclined to think she has nothing. She raises third hand in a row, I feel this one is genuine, she’s now raising from early position which means more. She is called by chip leader. 6TJ all diamonds. Check, blonde moves in, leader folds. Blondie shows AA no diamond.

Blonde no longer has a small stack, watch out for her. She’s now playing off 80k.

Interesting, two small stacks get it in preflop with JKo against ATo. Jack wins, down to 5 players, you’re second chips. With position on blondie you’re in a great spot.

Folded around. You have 36o in BB. Blonde raises 9k from SB. You’re correct to lay it down, don’t tangle with her.

Your SB, you raise and win it with A3o. Correct play. Notice that the table has tightened up a lot now that it’s down to worthwhile money. Many hands going to blind against blind.

Your button, you raise 20k more with 68s, sweet move. Blinds fold. Notice the guy in seat 2 is now low on chips and likely to make a move with any ace this round.

Low and behold, he moves from the button just after I show you this update. He shows AK when called by blondie. A lucky big hand. He wins against her 75o, notice that blondie is correctly calling to eliminate players and reading the situations well. She is an experienced player.

Blind against blind. Blonde flat calls. You apologise (!!!) and raise 88, she folds. Note that when she’s flat calling the small blind to you she’ll fold to a raise. Use this info to experiment a little later and take pots off her.

Your SB, you announce raise, chinese chick moves in before you can put it out there. You have A6o. The house calls it wrong, says you can take back your raise. You take this option, which I think is correct, she’s been quiet for a while and could easily have a bigger ace.

You’re UTG, you fold K7s. Correct. Play that when down to three handed.

Blinds are 4000/8000, with about 70K you have an M of 6. However not a lot of play left at the table, so it’s now more about relative stack sizes. Still though you can’t play drawing hands, big cards and medium pairs are more powerful at this stage.

Still 5 handed, chips quite even among the bottom 3. Is a good time to think about stealing, as they’ll all want to outlast each other. You fold 75o from cut-off with blondie big stack out. I think this is a good spot for a steal.

You’re UTG again, you raise to 20k with KTs. Woman and blondie fold, you win the blinds.

Your BB with 92s. Chinese chick and blondie call. Flop ATT, all check, turn 7. All check (you definitely should have bet here). River 7. You put out a desperation 8k mini-raise. Get called by king high from Chinese chick. You bet too little too late. Betting the turn looks like it may be a slowplayed flop, betting the river just looks like a steal.

Your SB, raise by woman, all in from blondie, you correctly fold 75s. Woman calls with A6o against TT. Ace hits the river. That sucks, you want blondie to your immediate right to take the chips. Blondie is out.

You move across on my advice to her seat. You can now see the whole table. Watch them look at their cards. Watch them look at the flop when it is revealed.

Your button, you raise A8o to 20k. BB deliberates and moves in. You have to call. He shows same hand, after a scary three heart flop it’s chopped.

Your UTG, you raise to 20k again with K7s. All fold. Good, be the bully.

We’re playing four handed. Chinese chick is low on cash, she’s going to make a play next few hands.

Woman is chip lead, she raises her SB to 20k, you fold your BB 87o. Marginal, but against the big stack is correct.

Small stacks go head to head. Chinese chick goes out. Three handed, you’re about joint second chips. Smart move to leave your chips in a messy pile but only if you know how much you have. Do you??!

Blinds to 6000/12000. You’re third chips.

Your BB with 96o. SB woman raises 21k more. Alb and I think she’s stealing, maybe moving in here works, but you’re quite low.

Your SB Q5o, raise 15k. All fold. Good. Aggression very important at this stage, cards almost irrelevant.

Your button, fold J4o. I’d have raised from position (and lost a stack to woman’s JJ!!)

Your BB, J4o again. SB raises. You fold. I think you have to play back at her from position. You only have one move, all-in, is touch and go now.

J4o three times in a row!!! Argh. Woman raises her button. She’s definitely bullying, and you’re giving it all away. Take the initiative man!!

She gets called by AJo, shows A3o. Remember that she’ll raise any ace now (which is correct). A bad result as bloke wins the hand and is now chip leader. You’re now quite a dog in third place. However he’s playing too tight for three handed, and you can take advantage of that by putting pressure on him anytime woman has folded.

You fold T6o from button, should have moved-in with position.

You have 73o. SB flat calls for the first time, be wary. Flop 8JK two hearts. She checks, you move in. She deliberates for a while, calls and her J3o wins. You were unlucky that she caught a little bit of the flop, in position I think you played this hand right.

We all agree however that you definitely should have raised the previous hand.

Good play, you won £320 and gave Alb and I 10% each. Best finish we’ve had here yet after our series of fourths!

Still looking for my winning session, been playing loads of cash games, and neglecting the tourneys, confidence is running low, very low, non existence to be honest. Albie and Luke agreed to play the $150 tourney at Ceasars, both had enough of grinding out in cash game, I had enough after the first day.

Started the tourney late been stuffing ourselves with sushi, good for the brain apparently, me and Albie sat on the same table, and Luke on a different table, was drawn on seat 8 (my lucky seat) and Albie seat 7. Within the first minute, Luke yells, fumbles and he’s out, unbelievable, he caught his set 4s, but got rivered with a higher set, very unlucky.

So it’s up to me and Albie, both playing the table well, taking pots down without a challenge. Eventually I lose a decent size pot going against the American Asian chick (the Asian Rock), the tightest player in the world, only playing with pairs and aces high. Full houses Vs Nut Flush, should of gave her more credit thinking she might of misread her hand, going in with a Set and not noticing the Flush.

Albie, loses a big hand, getting out drawn by the southern Kentucky house wife (KFC) who has just joined the table, she has been playing aggressive with premium hand but fell into Albie’s trap by going all in with KK against Albie’s AA, AA v KK, it’s quite hard not to call with KK really, short stack Albie.

Thinking OMG, Albie could be out very soon now as well, anyway we both last to the final 3 table, after the second break I explain the M theory, basically Albie has only one play, and that’s to double up, all in or fold.

Few hands in after the break Albie goes all in, in late position, my small blind.  I have a medium stack with K 10o, thinking this can be easy fold for me, but Big stack would definitely call, poor Albie will be knocked out.  Being a true friend I call with K 10o, hoping to pushing out Big Blind, which worked.  The logic behind this move was I could double up, or donate some chips to my investment, I had 10% on Albs.

He turns over KJs, and take the pot down, Albie laughs and accused me of being cheeky, but I’m sure he understood why I did it. Few hands later Albie raises the pot again, this time I have the nuts, rockets..  this is hard, I need to push him out hoping he doesn’t calls. I go all in, But Albie calls with big slick suited.  My AA stood up and he’s out. Oooops.

After taking few more big pots, my stack was pretty decent.

Final table, in the money, worked my stack up to 2nd big stack (70K) after doubling up with JJ Vs AK against Billy the kid, great player, loves to play the player and being taking pots down with mediocre hands. I am feeling great, at last I have made the money, The Asian Rock and KFC both made it as well,  this could be a great opportunity to win it.

After the break chatting to the other guys, go for glory, try and win it, is all I hear from them!!!

First hand, 6 players left, I picked up AJs under the gun, been playing aggressive, the blinds are 6000/3000 with a 200 ante, so raised it up 15k.  The KFC moves all in, she was short stack, hmmm, maybe a small pocket pair.  Just under 15k to call, getting 4 to 1, decent odds for my money,  I eventually called, she turns over AKo, I’m losing, completely misread her, lost almost half my stack, after a few more rounds my stack is looking short because of the blinds, still dwelling on the previous all in with AJs, maybe I should of limp instead and got away from the all in.

Eventually I picked up A Qo, this is definitely all in hand.  I go all in, everyone folds except the big blind, he calls with KK, I’m out. Came 6th, feeling sick. Should of limp with AJ, and could of got away from the hand. But a great result!!

My first winning session, $550, decent prize, paid Albie and Luke 10%.

Day 8 – three way action

Posted: September 25, 2007 in Las Vegas 2007, Tournaments

Our last day in Las Vegas, but having spent sooo many hours at the poker table during the week I just couldn’t stomach another full on session. Instead we hooked-up with Duns and Taij for a goodbye lunch, then hit the strip for a bit of shopping. After almost clearing out a branch of Guess, Hing Albert and I left Mike to the mercy of the Mirage 10/20 game and wandered over to Ceasars for a last stab at the $150 freezeout.

Hing (the tournament Master) had cashed in fifth place the night before, a great result and an inspiration to the other two of us, especially after my exceptionally poor showing going out on the first hand previously. At 90:1 odds Albert drew exactly the same seat as the night before, however Hing and I ended-up on the same table, him in seat 1, me in 3. The rest of the table was fairly non-descript other than seat 4, containing Michael, a professional cash game player who frequented the Bellagio. I have to admit that he was a slightly sinister fellow, however sitting in a seat with such a tough opponent to my immediate left really proved to be quite instructional.

With blinds of 25/50 for the first 40 minutes and starting stacks of 4000 chips, the play started fairly tame, with initial raises being of the sensible 3x to 5x the big blind variety. Michael I noted would be in a lot of pots, always coming in for a raise, and always being the aggressor on the flop. Hing was the first of us to fight back at this approach, raising pre-flop and successfully check-raising Michael post-flop and inducing a fold. I noted that Michael would frequently fold to raises of his tester bets, so it wasn’t long before I got my own shot in playing 78s for a mid-position limp and call of his raise. There was a very intense moment that solicited a laugh from the other end of the table as we stared into each other’s eyes, both of us unwilling to inspect the flop. However out of position it was me to act first, and so having established that I was unintimidated by his play I broke his gaze to note a flop of TJQ with two diamonds. I didn’t have the diamonds, but I did have the ignorent end of a gutshot straight. Normally not playable on such a connected board, however I checked to allow him to step into the trap. His bet was met with an immediate and planned raise of half the pot. He deliberated for a few seconds before backing down and folding. Another home-run for the London boys!

Several levels later and the tournament had been reduced from 90 to about 60 players. With a run of rather nice cards I busted three guys in quick succession, to take my starting stack up to an intimidating 20k.

Around 10pm I had an opportunity to get one last quality play in. Had been scrutinising the player in seat 1 for most of the tournament, as he was playing tight but quite aggressively. I felt there had to be an element of continuation betting to his flop play, so was looking for a chance to pick him off with a well timed bluff. My opportunity came when I pinned him as someone with a reliable gaze pattern. He tended to study the flop when he had nothing searching for some sort of draw, when he had a big hand he’d look at the flop and then quickly away. I caught him on a big slowplay with top-pair top-kicker against another player, and knew that I just had to get heads-up with him to have a shot at taking down a worthwhile pot. Sometime later he made a move pre-flop, raising the 200 blind to 700 from early position. A glance to the left suggested a general lack of interest from the players still to enter the pot, so I called with something horrific, may have been 74s. My insta-read proved to be slightly off as one other player limped behind me, and the three of us saw a flop of 9TK. As I’d hoped, he stared and stared at the flop for what seemed like an eternity before popping out 1000 for a pot sized bet. I gave it a little deliberation for show, and pushed all-in, with enough of a stack to cover both him and the player behind me. I’m gambling that the third guy doesn’t have enough to call a huge raise, and am paid off when he folds. The original bettor considers the action for a while, asks me if I’m “playing the man rather than the cards” (yes I am buddy), and finally throws his cards into the muck as well. I’m pleased to see Hing tip me a wink as I rake in a pot that took quite a bit of setup and preparation.

My only really serious mistake of the whole tournament came up just before they broke our table at 11pm. I’m in the big-blind and it’s folded around to the small blind who raises 3x the blind. I look down to see my tenth and last pair of beautiful aces of the week, and elect to limp rather than push or re-raise. It proves to be a terrible error, and I let him in for free to flop a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. All the money goes in on the flop, and my opponent makes his flush to double-up against me with 86s, whittling my final stack down to a still impressive 17K.

Our table is broken third from last, and Hing moves over to join Albert on the one of the last two tables, while I take a seat at the other. My new table has one or two huge stacks to rival my own, the biggest being held by a Chinese guy with Triad look sunglasses and a rather hot albeit medically enhanced young lady sitting behind him. This guy clearly has the measure of the table, and is fairly ruthlessly raising most pots. It’s getting close to the bubble, so with a chance of all three of us making the final table I really don’t want to get in his way. Allow my chips to be stolen for a few rounds (which is expensive now that we’re playing with a 50 ante every hand on top the 300/600 blinds), and only play premium hands to try to stay afloat.

Sometime later Hing is moved over to join me once again, as the tables are being kept level as players are eliminated.

Later still Michael rejoins, now holding a huge stack of about 40,000. He immediately takes charge in a way that I felt unable to, staking a claim over the Chinese guy’s action by simply getting his frequent raises in first. I know his style, but don’t feel the latitude in my play to get too involved against such a big stack. I do however continue to study the table hard and to try to exploit the weakness of the middle sized stacks. “Too focused. You concentrate too much.” I overhear Michael whisper down the table at me after being forced to show a semi-bluff move at one point. A high complement indeed, but I definitely felt on this occasion it was justified. I’d been playing A1 poker for several hours by this point and still felt extremely sharp.

[and so onwards to the final table…]

Impressive indeed. Managed to go out on the first hand!!! Quite a feat for such a deep stacked tournament. It’s a really good structure, $150 freeze-out, with 4000 chips to start and 40 minute levels, giving some great opportunity for complex drawn-out poker, rather than the usual luck fest that these cheap buy-in events tend to be.

So how did this marvel occur? I guess in a nearby Sushi bar, where Hing, Alb and I elected to grab a quick bite of pre-game brain food. We were late sitting into the game, but given the 40 minute levels a little time lost at the start was considered no big deal.

As I was approaching the table, I could see my empty seat (among the 90 something occupied) and the dealer about to scoop-up the cards I’d already paid for. I dashed in and dropped my Borgata chip marker onto the cards to claim them while I made myself comfortable. Nice, a pair of black 4’s, mid-position and an unraised pot, a good spot to limp in for 50 and try to make a set (a 7:1 shot). Unfortunately get a raise to 150 from the seat immediately to my left. Folded around, including the blinds, but heads-up with 100 to call into a 325 pot there’s still value.

Flop comes 459 rainbow. Sweet. I can’t put the raiser on any kind of straight draw with his mid position raise, he most likely just has big cards that have completely missed the flop so I decide is a safe spot to slowplay my set. He makes it 400 to go, indicating either an overpair or a continuation bet, and I call.

Turn comes a black Ten, putting two clubs and another straight draw on board. Definitely time to bet. I pop-out 600 for a half-pot bet that should deny him the odds to draw at his straight or flush. He raises to 1200. I deliberate for a moment or two then move all-in, figuring he’s probably semi-bluffing with the draw.

We both flip up our hands, me to show bottom set, and him to show his rather overplayed over-pair of Jacks.

Inevitably he hits his two outer Jack on the river to send me packing on the first hand. Hey, that’s the breaks. You’ll never hear me complain about getting it all in good.

Left Hing and Alb to it and took my game over to Harrah’s to jump slightly late into the 7.30pm $100 buy-in event alongside Duns and Taij. Only two tables in play, so rather less to play for, however had a reasonable run of cards and made the final table with a decent stack to show. Taij had been knocked out earlier, but Duniya was making a good show on my table.

Having watched her play, I’m starting to think that she’s got a real blossoming talent for tournament poker. She’s aggressive in her early and mid-game play, and is just lacking some of the basic end-game theory to improve her results. A good illustration is the hand that she took me out on (!!!).

I had been playing slightly loose, to take advantage of our table of rather too tight opponents. Duns has played with me many times before, and knows that I’m able to make a move with any two cards when the time is right. I know she knows this, as with blinds of 100/200 I open for a raise to 600 from mid-position with 97s. There are two callers behind me, and then from the button Duniya raises to 1200. It’s folded to me, and with another 600 to call with a suited one-gapper I hang-in. The two players caught between us both fold, indicating once again their weak playing style – as if they can legitimately call my original raise they really should be able to call the final 600 getting almost 5:1 from the pot, especially the last guy who doesn’t need to fear a re-raise (if they put me on nothing they really should be re-raising themselves rather than limping).

The flop comes a rather delightful 58A with two clubs, giving me the flush draw and a gutshot straight draw. I check my big draw, Duns bets 1500, and I move all-in for a final 700. Duns calls (as she has to with almost any cards given the odds), and shows A8o for top two pair.

The turn comes the 9 of hearts, giving me an open-ended straight draw to go with the flush-draw, but unfortunately the river isn’t one of the 15 cards remaining in the deck that I need to win the hand, and Duns takes down a big pot and the chip lead.

I’ll leave Duns to write-up her thoughts on the end-game of the tournament, as from some close observation of her hole cards over her shoulder I was able to point out two major improvements that would help her results no-end.

One that I will highlight in this posting though was my comment to her on the pre-flop minimum raise that led to my demise in the tournament. There are really only seven fundamental reasons to raise in poker:

  1. To get more money in the pot when you have the best hand.
  2. To drive out opponents when you have the best hand.
  3. To bluff or semi-bluff.
  4. To get a free card.
  5. To gain information.
  6. To drive out worse hands when your own hand may be second best.
  7. To drive out better hands when a come hand bets.

[copywrite David Sklansky, The Theory of Poker]

With a rather mediocre hand like A8o and three players already in a raised pot, I think the right play is either to fold, or to try to win the pot right there with a decent sized re-raise (as Duniya intended). However her small raise of 600 into a pot of 3300 just isn’t sufficent to achieve this end. The appropriate sized raise would be more like 1500 to 2000, but this much would pretty much commit her to calling if I re-re-raised with a premium hand.

In my view, this is really the defining problem with playing these cheap short-stacked poker tournaments. Beyond level 2 (which is after 30 minutes in this 15 minute/level shoot-out structure), the ratio of stack size to blinds (what Harrington refers to as as players ‘m’) puts everyone at the table in the yellow or orange zone. It’s just not possible to play small ball poker, as any pre-flop re-raise usually needs to be an all-in to be at all effective. In this format, you really just lose the ability to play long range tournament moves, which is part of the challenge of the game, and what separates the average from the good or great player. After all, any fool can move all-in pre-flop with any two cards (and frequently does), but it takes experience to read and out-play your opponents once the flop is out.

So, all in all a rather sad effort taking me into the red on my tournament play for the first time in the trip.

Tournaments: -$25 in 8 hours and 1 minute
Cash games: +$42 in 21 hours