Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'll have the chicken dinner, please

Took my third crack at our monthly live tourney last night - $50 buy-in, 48 players.

In November, I lead out with AT under the gun, got two callers, and proceeded to bet all the way down to the end when an A came on the flop as they called me down. Ended up busting out in around the middle of the pack when they both showed their A, one AQ for a higher kicker, the other A2 for 2 pair. I took 2 notes from that night:

1. Just like the books say and my online experience said - AT isn't good enough to play from out of position.

2. Watch more closely for passive players. If either the guy with 2 pair or AQ would have raised my opening bet on the flop, I probably would have bailed. However, they were both passive players and were content to call all the way down, and I wasn't aware enough to understand that these calls meant he could have been ahead of me.

In the January tourney, I ended up taking 12th place out of 44 (you can read about the key hand in that tourney here, if you like). Summary: somehow, I ended up with AT out of position again, but played it a bit better.

Last night, my game plan was to play absolutely nothing out of position unless I was reraising with it. I also wanted to try playing a few more hands in position, especially early, because there are many bad players who I thought might lead me to a double up.

This gameplan served me well in the second blind level - the player to my right, whom others call "Phil Ivey" because of his passing resemblance to him, made a 2x raise. I was in the cutoff, and looked down at 22. There hadn't been any three-betting at my table yet, this was not a very big raise, I had position on him, so I decided to take a shot and just call. The button also called behind me. Oops, so much for position.

Then, a sweet flop - T, 7, 2, three-suited. I hit my set! Phil Ivey checked, and I decided to check hoping that the button would fire out a bet with overcards or a T. To my delight, he did, and the Phil Ivey called his bet. I checkraised them both to high heaven (my first checkraise in a live tourney, by the way, apart from our home game).

Better still, both players called my checkraise.

Turn came a J, pairing one of the suits. Phil checked. Ok, 8-9 just got their straight. I didn't put anyone on this, Phil was too tight preflop to raise with 8-9, button seemed to be straightforward player who played broadway, but I guess the possibility was there. Also, with 2 of one suit on the board, I couldn't let the backdoor flush draw for free, so I fired out a nice size bet - over half pot. (big for this game). Both called, again! This was a big pot. I was wary of the passively played already made straight, as well as the higher straight and flush draw.

Most of that fear went away with the river, another J, giving me the underboat. Phil checked. I really sat and thought about this one. Could anyone be ahead of me here? Sure. JT could have called bets on the flop and turn and now have the overboat. Someone could have been slowplaying TT or 77. However, I've got a boat in a shallow-stacked tourney and I'm not showing weakness now. I fire out a bet, a bit bigger than the last one. Both players fold and I drag a big pot.

This hand had me well ahead for about 2 table orbits. I took down a few smaller pots and was feeling pretty good about my early chances, then came AA on the button. A good friend of mine, in early position, fired out a raise. His stack wasn't very big, so I reraised him all in - the first 3 bet of the night. I was basically telling him "I have Aces". Unfortunately for me, my friend didn't get the message. He called me, with Q8 suited! (there had been 3 different flops with QQ on them, it was like a running pattern at the table, he told me later he only called b/c of the Q). And, in the grand spirit of God protecting those who make bad calls, so that they will live to make more bad calls, the third spade hit on the river and he flushed out on me, knocking my stack in half. Right after this I got moved to a new table, with an M of about 10.

The rest of the tourney was pretty straightforwardly played - I was pretty short stacked almost the whole way, and had to take my shots. I was able to barely keep up with the blinds. It was exhausting, really - someone would limp in and I would push all-in with A3, praying they wouldn't call. They rarely did. The few times they did, I would get lucky or win a race, double up, then the blinds would go up and I was right back to an M of 5-7.

One player became aware that my only move left was all-in, and I think he decided he was going to play sheriff on me. Luckily for me, I found a QQ in my hand. Sheriff limped in, I reraised all-in, he thought for a moment and called me with Q9. I was still alive.

This went on the whole way, I was holding on, making moves when I could, and avoiding disaster. We got to 13 people left, and I considered it a milestone if I could beat my 12th place finish from last month. Soon there were 11 people, and my goal was to get to the final table of 10 (never letting my stack get so low that I couldn't recover, though). I made it there, then my goal was to get into the money (top 6 got paid).

The bubble was excruciating - 7 players left, me with the short stack. What worked in my favor was that there were no huge stacks at the table. After, me, everyone was fairly equal. This meant that my all-in move was still nearly half someone's stack. The bubble went on for an hour and a half. I managed to steal a few blinds and keep hanging on, but barely. Finally, 2 players butted heads, went to showdown, and someone got crippled to less than a big blind. He was big blind next hand and got knocked out. I was in the money!

Then, the most amazing thing happened - I started getting good cards. Really good cards.

A good, tight player, who seemed capable of making moves, lead out, but for only twice the big blind. I took this to mean he either had a monster and was drawing people in, or he had something like Ace-low or KQ. Didn't matter, though, I looked down and found KK. I was still shortstacked and pushed all in. He stared me down for a full 30 seconds to see what he could read on me, then finally called. Ace 5 of clubs. Yes! DodgeAnAceDodgeAnAceDodgeAnAceDodgeAnAceDodgeAnAce. I do and double up, this time with 18 minutes left in the round, giving me a bit of time to play poker again and not be so desperate.

A few hands later, I get AK suited in the small blind. One caller before me. I think about limping in then coming alive on the flop, but with my luck the flop will come QQ5 and someone will have played Q4 or somesuch. I opt for aggression and push all in again, this time with many more chips though. Nobody calls me and I earn a few more blinds.

Now there are 2 shortstacks at the table beneath me, and I decide I can tighten up and wait them out. I succeed. Down to 4. The player to me right makes a healthy raise, I look down at KK, again. I shove, he calls with AK and I knock another one out. 3 players left.

A few hands later, the player to my right, a very tight, good player, raises me up. I look at my cards and can't believe it - KK, three times in 20 hands!. Off I go, he calls with a lower pair and I take him down. Top 2 baby!

By this time, someone is dealing and asks if we want to chop. We look at our stacks - they are almost identical. I tell my opponent that I'm willing to chop if he is. One of the other players still watching says "c'mon play at least a few hands". My opponent says "'I'd like to play a few if you don't mind". I say sure.

We don't need a few. Very next hand I get dealt AJo, and push all-in. He thinks for about 10 seconds and calls with A2, and somehow I avoid the suckout. We line up the chips - he had me covered by 5 chips. He puts them in on the next hand and I call with JT, he's got KQ, but the J comes and I take the tourney. (I'll bet he's kicking himself for not chopping!).

All told, a very stressed out, hard fought, $1000 won. Looking back, I was probably all-in 12 times in the tourney. Sometimes I had good cards and was begging for a call, sometimes I had marginal cards and was just trying to hang on (one time, with 5 left, I had 2-4 UTG and needed the win or would have had an M of less than 1 after the blinds passed me). In every case, the right thing happened for me - people folded when I had bad cards, and called when I had monsters, and all those times I avoided the suckout as well.

My good friend (the one who cracked my Aces) stayed around for a cash game (and to put down about 13 beers) and was falling all over me with pride (he placed 2nd in this same tourney last month). He then honked his horn all the way back home at 2:15 am (we live .5 mile from the development party center where the game is played), then called me at 2:30 to give me more congratulations. When I answered, he said "hang up, I want to leave a voicemail", which I listened to this morning. It was hilarious, heartfelt, and maybe the best part of the weekend.

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