Monday, January 21, 2008

Beau Rivage 15,000 Guaranteed Pool

I just got back from a weekend trip to Biloxi. I played in Saturday and Sunday's 15,000 guarantee tournaments. Saturday had 125 entrants, I finished somewhere between 25 and 20. Sunday's tournament had 75 entrants and I finished 9th, in the money for $600. Very nice. I played very tight (pocket 9's or better, AK, AQ), and caught very few hands on Saturday. I hit Trip Jacks holding J-8 offsuit, I had like 3 big blinds left and I had to do something. Very lucky, and it kept me in for a while. I ended up busting out with pocket 9's, lost to A-K. Sunday I played much the same strategy, I got a huge boost early on, before the first break. I 3X the blind with pocket K's in my hand. One guy calls, and the flop comes 3 blanks. I start counting up chips trying to decide how big of a bet will he call, we both have very close to the $6000 in chips we started with, and he tells me "I'm callin. I'm not going anywhere. I'll call all in". So with that settled, I push it all in and he calls and shows pocket 9's, and he got no help. So I doubled up very early, I knocked another guy out very soon after that with pocket Q's. So I had almost $20,ooo at the first break. I kept that big stack through most of the tournament until the final 2 tables when everyone started to catch up and surpass me. By the time I got to the final table, I was the second smallest stack. I strongly suspect that I may have been playing too tight--I didn't lose a single pot that I was in past the flop, I didn't see many flops, and I may have folded to lesser hands. I didn't see many hands shown at the last 2 tables, so it was hard to get a read on what people were playing. What did get shown was A-x and K-x, so I think that I may have been able to get away with playing quite a bit looser. I also think I may have played some hands too strong. One hand, I had pocket A's and I flopped the set, but the flop was 3 spades. The guy checks to me, and I was pretty sure that he hadn't hit the flush. But with 3 spades showing, I REALLY wanted to take the pot right there before the 4th spade hit. So I put him all in, he folds, I showed him my set of A's, he shows me he had A-6 offsuit. The 6 was a spade, so I was right to be worried, in this situation. But that kinda stuck with me on other hands, and I played them all very strong. Perhaps I could have slowplayed some hands and picked up a few more bets. I even noticed other players doing it, too. Pushing all in with big hands, top pair, and then showing them after the other player folds, obviously proud of their play. I remember thinking, "this guy just lost a couple of bets". The guy who folded might have called a smaller bet, but on the other hand he might have hit a flush draw, too. To slowplay, or not to slowplay........ I did well with the blind steal move, throughout both tournaments. Continuation bets on the flop got me a quite a few pots, some with absolutely nothing. Pretty much what everybody else was doing I think. I hit the money, my hotel room was free, so I'm very happy with the weekend. I think a few minor adjustments to my game could really pay off.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Online Tournaments

With time off of work, I've been playing tourneys quite a bit. Quick small ones that have let me really watch and see where I have trouble. There is a point in a tourney, after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the entrants are gone, where things start to really change. Maybe because the blinds start to pressure more of the remaining players, the tables for the first time in the tourney get down to 5 or 7 players instead of 9 and 10, maybe it's just stress. but play changes in some way, and that's a great moment to alter your play and change your whole style. I've been trying that, and it helps alot. The other thing that happens is every flop you see could put you all in unless you've got a deep stack. So I find myself trying to balance aggressive pre-flop play with careful post flop play. It's very hard for me to do, and when i don't pull it off, I usually get busted out trying to push a 4 flush, hoping a strong bet will win me the pot, trying a big re-raise maybe. When it does work, I feel like my play gets very mechanical and predictable---half pot bet on the flop, check on the turn means I don't have shit. Smart players will figure that out real quick, so I may need to find a way to mix it up, but it works real nice for a while. I can normally start building up a nice stack for the final table or two by just slowly picking up the blind steals.....3xblind raise, then half pot bet on the flop....if half of those work out, then i'm slowly building a stack....sometimes more than half work. I figure I start at about 40 players left, with about 20Xbig blind stack, I should be well off for the final two tables. Then it's time to change it up again for short-handed table. If you're number 12, and they can't get it down to the final table yet, you could be playing 6-handed or less. Then you make the final table, and it's back to 9 or 10 handed for a while, then change back to short handed. It's pretty straight forward getting deep. Once you're deep, though, the real challenge starts. I'll need to start figuring out how/if to loosen up for short handed tables.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

7 Clans Main Event--Day 2

--Bad Beat Story I started with 28,100 in chips. I made some mistakes, no doubt. I tried a blind steal with 55's, a semi steal, it was the second hand in a row I'd gotten the 55's. 8 seat to my left re-raises me, and I called...wrong. Flop doesn't help me, I tried another bet, got raised and folded. I also got involved, in the SB, with 10-4 diamonds. I was getting like 9-1 odds, so I called with a half bet, why not? I end up with an open end straight draw, and a flush draw, lots of outs and calling an all in bet for like 1/3 of my stack, and miss the draw. So I find myself after an hour down to 8,000-10,000 with the blinds at 500-1000. Not quite panic time, but getting there. So I decide to shore up my game real fast, tighten up, and wait for a real hand and maybe double up before the blinds go up. Careful what you wish for. So I catch 99's in the small blind, I'm in seat 7, it's folded around to seat 4, a neurotic(based on her clothing) woman who limps in. I bump it up to 3,000, my standard 3x raise, BB folds, and she calls. Cool. The flop comes rainbow 9-6-5d. So there's no flush draw (not to any reasonable person anyway), to have the straight she'd have had to have called my raise with 7-8, which I doubt (again, assuming reasonable people here), and I've flopped my set. This is the best possible outcome for me, I am ecstatic about this. I'm back in this event if I can double up here. I look at her stack, she has a little over 15,000 left after calling my raise (remember that, called a raise). I look at mine, and I have 5400 left. With a 3,000 call pre-flop, I figure she might well call a 5400 bet, so I push all in. She calls!!! I'm ecstatic now, I'm gonna double up. Dealer says show, I flip up my 99's with pride, listen to the "ooohhhs" of the other players at the table, hear a "good hand" from somebody, see the crazy woman put her head down on the table in agony, I feel like the smartest guy in the room! Then....she picks her head up off the table, flips up her 4-6 of diamonds, and I'm just elated. She flopped a pair of 6's, middle pair and a low one at that, I've got TOP SET, and I'm all in, right where I want to be. Nothing can help her....except.....for............. The turn comes 10 diamonds, the river is another diamond, she draws a flush, and the first words out of her mouth are "I'm sorry". Her draw was so outrageous, that it surprised even her. I doubt seriously she ever even hoped it would happen. So I'm busted out. That hurt bad. Worse than the beat the other night in the 1 day $300 entry event. This was a 3-Day, $3100 entry event, a MAJOR event. My week is done, but I've learned some things about tournament poker. The bigger the event, the more I want to win it and the more stress and anxiety, body chemistry, it elicits. Maybe it's the better I play, too. I wish that when these beats happen, I could look at my play and be OK with it because I made the right move. The reality is, when I play it right I'm more pissed off BECAUSE I played it right. Poker players are gluttons for pain.

7 Clans Main Event--Day 1

--my personal starting hand strategy --blind stealing at a tight table --begging players for action --recap of the day I won the mega satellite event and got $1070 cash, and paid entry into all the events in the 7 Clans Poker Series, including the main event. As an added bonus, I got a mention at How cool is that? Money, freerolls, and media coverage :) So I've been playing all week, soaking up as much knowledge/experience as I possibly can. I've also been meeting a bunch of people, too. I've settled on a standard playing strategy that I think pretty much guarantees I'll get deep in any tourney I enter--provided I don't get sucked up in the moment and make a bonehead play. That strategy being pocket 9's or higher, suited AK, suited AQ, suited AJ. Fold everything else. Tight and aggressive. I get one of those hands, I come out with a raise. Yesterday, after playing all week, and seriously wrung out from a solid week of stress, I started the main event. I was at the tightest table I've ever seen anywhere.....including the Hi/Lo Stud game I used to play in with the old men in Crowley. For the first 2 hours of the first day, I didn't see one hand shown at all. Very few hands even went to the river. 3 or 4 players tops, and this went on all day long. With 90 minute rounds, this game seemed like it crawled. Of the 10 players, only two of us were under 60. Mix in the fact that I was catching NO cards at all. Almost totally card dead. I played 27 hands all day long. So I folded MANY hands. We started with 20,000 in chips. We played 6 levels 90 minutes each. The blinds started at 100-200, and went up to 400-800. Most of the hands I played didn't measure up to my original starting hand requirements. Almost all of the hands I played were because it was folded around to me, and I figured I'd raise for a blind steal. I played middle pairs (6's, 7's, 8's) 3 times. I played A-10/A-J alot, 9 times, which I normally avoid like the plague, just because I read I should loosen up a bit if it's folded around to me pre-flop. My stack went as low as 15,000 and I ended the first day with 28,100. I have a friend, sort of a poker mentor, and I talked to him about the evening. He sounded as though he would have loved the situation. He thought it was prime for a lot of easy blind stealing. It was so tight, that of the 3 times I caught KK's, I limped with them twice because I was scared I wouldn't get any action. The next time, I'll hit the gas a little and really work the blind steal angle. Although I grinded out a 40% increase in my stack size, I still ended up a little below the average stack size of 49,000. Maybe I could have milked the situation a little more and had a bigger stack to show for it at the start of Day 2. Another interesting move from one of the other players came up, too. The last 2 hours, after a day of this slow, tight, grinding play, the player to my left in the 10 seat starts in with "man, I can't catch 2 cards", "man this is boring, I'm ready to gamble", "any 2 face cards, I'm gonna gamble boys". But his actions don't match his words. He's still steady folding hands and playing tight. Then he raises my $800 call in the small blind (SB) to 4,000. I fold, and he shows the table Jx offsuit and says "I'm gambling now, boys". But that's it, no more hands, no more activity out of him, just talk, like he's fishing for a call from somebody. Begging somebody at the table to play at him. One of the players across the table told him "if you wanna gamble, just throw in a bet, you know how". "go ahead, just call in the dark if you're bored". He never did it, though. I hit him back with a 4,000 raise pre-flop a little later on, and he caught the significance of it, but he dumped his hand. Maybe I wasn't the one he wanted action out of:) The day ended with 14 tables left, we started with just under 300 entrants. More than half the field gone, I'll have 28 big blinds when we start tomorrow morning, and I'm bathed in the usual tourney stress.

Some Background...

I've been playing Texas Hold 'Em since the early 90's. I quit about 3-4 years ago because I got tired of the madness of low limit games, and kept reading the advice of poker authors saying that it was unwise to move up to higher limits without first mastering lower limit games. A few months back, after years of not playing, I happened into the Horseshoe in Shreveport and just ran over a white chip game, left with $400. A few weeks later, me and my wife went to Biloxi for a weekend with some friends, and she suggested I play in the tournament at the IP. It was the first serious tournament I'd ever entered, and I made it to the final table, and won $440 when the players all agreed to chop. It lasted like 5 hours, no buybacks, there were antes, I don't really remember being too nervous or even caring about how it turned out. Then a couple of weeks later, a neighbor told me about the Acadiana Series of Poker being played in Lafayette. I figured it was worth a shot, I'd done well in Biloxi, maybe I was better at this than I realized. I played, as well as I could, and made it to 29, just 9 seats out of the money. That's when I realized that I could consistently get deep in these tournaments, and if I could get deep, maybe with a little fine tuning I could get the money. That's what this blog is all about--all the ups and downs that go along with getting deep in poker tournaments...and getting deep into tournament poker.