Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Man Who Never Shows Down a Hand

I left work a little early today to play in the afternoon tournament at Casino Arizona. It's a very convoluted buy in process, but the simple description is I paid $85 for $3,800 in starting chips with the blinds at 25-50.

We started with 90 runners today and I got off to a good start when I raised KQ after two limpers who called. The flop looked innocent so I made a continuation bet and they both folded.

I also made a nice steal in the first level when two other players meekly limped into the pot. The small blind called and I raised on the big blind to 300. They all folded like the weak tight sissies I thought they were.

For most of the first 3 levels, I did not have any great starting hands. All the pots I won were from stealing the blinds or raising preflop and making a bet on the flop to take it down. I believe I had 5,900 in chips at the first break.

While I was heading outside for some fresh air, I ran into my friend Noah at another one of the tournament tables. Noah has had pretty good success in these tournaments and I have been anxious to play with him, to study his play. We said a quick hello and we were back to our separate tables.

Slowly and surely the field was whittling away and we were down to 3 tables. When they consolidated to three tables, I was moved to Noah's table where I noticed that he had a pretty big stack.

Noah played like I expected from our previous conversations. He was very aggressive in that he raised frequently preflop and was always evaluating how to take the pot away from someone. He really does try to play the man more than his cards. That is something I wish I did more of in my game, but it can also come back and bite you in the ass if you are not schooled in some of the fundamentals of the game.

For instance I noticed that Noah would get himself pot committed often when he could have sized his bets differently. He was also raising some strange amounts preflop and I could not figure out if there was a pattern since nobody was really playing back at him.

I ended up doubling up off of him when he raised his AQ into my pocket Kings on my big blind. I was pretty short, so he was going to have to call my reraise with darn near any two cards. I flopped a King so that was a good double up.

A couple of rounds went buy and we ran into each other again. This time he raised in middle position with 66 and I reraised all in from the button with Ace-8. He called and I hit an 8.

Noah eventually went bust with around 25 players left. It was here where I started a very interesting streak. For the next 3-4 levels of play, I was all in somewhere between 10-12 times and not called once! I may have had a decent hand like KQ suited a couple of times, but most of them were well timed raises against players who were tight or it was folded to me at the button or small blind and I just played the odds that my opponent(s) would not have the cards to call me. These were truly some of the tighest players I had seen at a tournament in Casino Arizona.

This strategy kept me between 7 and 13 times the big blind and eventually got me to the final table.

Once we got there we had the inevitable discussion about a chop. The table decided to pool the prize money from 4th to 10th and split it evenly among all of the players. This gave me a guarantee of $342 versus 10th place money of $108.

It was soon after that I finally picked up Aces. I raised to 2.5x the blind and a relatively short stack behind me, raised all in. I called to see his AQ. My hand held up and I finally had a comfortable stack.

It did not last long as the very next hand I raised again with pocket 5's. Another short stack moved all in. I was priced in to call and he turned over Ace-King. I was hoping to win yet another race, but he flopped broadway and I was drawing near dead. A five binked off on the river just to rub a little salt in the wound. I was back to short stack shove mode again.

We lost a couple more players and got down to 7 handed. The players started talking about making a deal again since nobody was a big chip leader. I had chipped up a little to about 10x the blind which put me in 2nd place. This time the amount would be over $700. I was adamant that I was not making a deal now. A tight russian player on my right began to plead with me to make the deal. "$400 is a lot of money...You don't know what will happen....You still have to eliminate 4 other people...blah blah blah". I finally insisted that he shut up because I was not changing my mind.

To make things interesting, I soon had a hand I felt was worthy of a raise. I counted out my chips and the Russian starts chirping again, saying "now there is a big target on you." His bitching did not motivate anyone else to call my raise and I won the blinds again.

I found this to be an interesting psychological dynamic because usually I am quiet and friendly and do not want to draw attention to the fact that I am trying to rape other players blinds. This guy had forced my image out into the open and was encouraging others to take shots at me.

I made a small adjustment and tightened up a little and made sure I only raised hands that I was comfortable calling a reraise with or I just moved all in and hoped they were not frustrated enough to make the spite call. Luckily the Russian was on my right so I was able to act after him during most of the hands and could avoid any direct confrontations.

During this stretch of the tournament I continued to find the right times to raise and win the blinds as nobody wanted to mess with me. We finally lost the Russian when he went all in with JJ and another player woke up with AA.

The blinds were now getting humongous at 2000-4000 and they rolled up to 4000-8000 when we finally got down to 4 players. At this point the chip leader had 135,000 and I was second with 65,000. The other two players had approximately 40,000 in chips. Now I was ready to take a deal. We gave the guy with first place chips $1,200 and the rest of us split up $923 each.

It was one of those tournaments where almost all of my "moves" worked and the other times where I was ready to make a move, someone else would beat me to it and end up saving me money because I ended up folding a losing hand.

I'm sure there was a lot of luck involved, but this tournament really felt like I won it with skill. I was never all in where I was more than a 44% dog and the fact that I was almost never called when I raised says I did a very good job of picking the right spots to steal. The boost to the poker bankroll feels really good.

No comments: