Saturday, September 27, 2008

monthly tourney - job well done

Last night was the monthly tourney in our housing development clubhouse. Anthony, the guy who runs the tourney (and does an excellent job, BTW), anticipated a smaller than usual crowd, and he was correct - we ended up with 32 on the night - 8 players at 4 tables.

My cards were horrific early on. This tourney features quite a few limp/callers in the early levels, and I know these guys are chipping their stacks away with JT/K9 type hands. I would not fall into the trap. My Q6/J2/T4 type hands were thrown into the muck, even from the small blind.

I played exactly one hand in the first three blind levels. I got 78 offsuit on the button, limped in with one other limper. The big blind raised it up, but only a minraise. The original limper called and so did I. I actually hit my 7 as a middle pair, but the big blind lead out and the original limper called, so I threw away my pair with no draw.

My first raise came from under the gun - I had a whopping A7o with 6 players at the table. Very weak, but the table was well aware that I wasn't playing anything, so I popped it up. Everyone folded. The guy to my right, a decent player, said "I thought about calling you, but since you hadn't played in forever...." I replied "so you're saying that by this time I've established my tight image?" He laughed.

My first decent hand came with about 1300 chips left of my starting 1500, but it was not an ideal situation. Blinds were 50/100. I had AJo in middle position, and 2 players limped to me. I felt trapped in between - there were enough good, aggressive players behind me to raise up a bunch of limpers, and raising it up myself would commit my entire stack to this pot. Did I really want to die on the hill tonight with AJo? Ugh. Folding was not correct, either, though. Double Ugh. I limped and didn't feel very good about it. There were 5 to the flop... which came J 2 3 rainbow. Ok, then, this looks pretty good. I've got top pair/top kicker on a weak board. Sure, there could be the hidden set out there or a crummy 2 pair in this limped pot, but there could also be JT/J9 type hands that will pay me off, since my AJ is pretty well disguised by my limp. I decided that now was the time I could die on the hill with AJo. I lead out 350 into a 500 pot, and everyone folded. This bumped my stack up to 1800.

Soon after I get TT and pop up a limper with a big stack, he calls. The flop came all under ten - something like 7 5 3. He checks and I lead out almost a pot size bet, and he calls. The turn comes another undercard, putting a small straight draw on the board, but no flush draw. Another check, I lead out again (half pot this time), he calls again. "Oh great, I'm walking into a set" I think to myself. The river couldn't have helped his draws (I don't remember what it was), and I actually still have an overpair to the board. He checks. I rule out a big hand, but maybe he's weakly playing JJ, or has a goofy two pair, so I check behind. He calls and shows A3. He must have decided I had nothing and he was going to call me down with bottom pair, and I win a nice pot with a TT that doesn't improve.

I then hit some nice flops. I got 68s and a free play from the blind vs. 2 opponents. Flop comes gin -457 for the hidden straight, with 2 diamonds. Do I check or bet here? I decide to lead out and hope someone's got an overpair or even a set. I get one caller - from the same guy who I beat with my Tens early. I know I'm ahead now, but I still need to be cautious.

Of course, the turn comes the dreaded third diamond, a Jack. I check and so does he. His check is pretty quick - but I can't decide if he's slowplaying the flush or or he is as afraid of the flush as I am.

The river bricks all draws. A tricky situation - the pot is 1200, I've got a straight out of position on a flushy board. I choose a 400 chip bet - big enough to get some value, small enough to get away from if he raises me up. When he announces "call", I breathe a sigh of relief - even if I'm beat by a baby flush, I know that I played this hand well and didn't lose all my chips overplaying a straight. I announce "small straight" and flip my cards over, and he disgustingly tosses his hand into the muck. I still can't decide what he called me with on the flop and river (maybe JK/JQ?).

I get the feeling that this guy's getting frustrated now - I've taken 2 big pots from him and knocked him from a bigger stack to an average one. This frustration leads to his demise soon after. A new player joins our table. This guy is an occasional player in our home game - and I know that he will never fold if he has any type of a hand. Never. Tonight he's playing every pot and hitting some hands, and his stack is in the 5000-6000 range.

Mr. Frustrated gets into a hand with Mr. Neverfold - the ending board has an Ace and a Queen and a Jack, 3 clubs, and
Mr. Frustrated brings out a pot size bet on the river. Mr. Neverfold calls - with pocket fives. Mr. Frustrated turns into Mr. Tilt and chucks his King-high hand into the muck. "How can you call that?" he grumbles. Mr. Neverfold honestly doesn't know what he did "wrong" - he looks apologetic as he scoops up the chips. The two guys to my left, both younger guys with online experience, look at each other and start talking mumbling to each other. "How could he call that?" one says to the other. I look at them and say - "I know this guy - he doesn't fold". Each glances at the other - I think they're about to make an adjustment.

One of them takes a big pot from
Mr. Neverfold with Q9 when he hits his queen from a blind. Mr. Neverfold had bottom pair. Then the other goes all-in with his 1000 chips and 2 pair and Mr. Neverfold calls him with a gutshot draw, but it doesn't come in. Mr. Neverfold is below average again.

My home-game friend John puts his last 500 into the pot under the gun, without looking at his cards. Folds around to me, I peek at my cards and find a lovely KK. I shove over him. We get heads up and he turns over K3. I'm 94% to win and I do.

Soon after we get seated at the final table - 10 left out of 32. My stack is average, maybe a bit below. There are 2 shorties and one bigger than average, then the rest of us around 4000-6000. I've still got some work to do. Mr. Neverfold overplays a hand in his typical way and bows out, then the 2 shorties go out. I'm stealing a blind or two. The player to my right is personally knocking out each player in turn, and his stack is growing and growing. He seems to be getting good cards and making all the right moves, until one possible badly played hand. We're on the bubble with 6 players. My home game friend Kevin has less than the big blind, he puts all his chips in. Bigstack calls from the small blind, as do I of course. I've got A4s. The flops come 88A, and Mr. Bigstack bets the pot into me! We're trying to bust the bubble here. I've got a decent piece of this flop, but of course he could have an 8 or have me outkicked. Do I raise here? Just call? I decide to drop the hand, and say to him "boy I hope you've got an 8". He doesn't - he's got complete crap - 96o. Kevin's got QT and his hand holds up - he triples up. My Ace would have knocked him out of the tournament.

Bigstack make a mistake there? There is some argument. One line of thinking is that the big stack at the tournament actually wants to keep the shorties on life support on the bubble - but I don't buy this at all. What if that guy goes on to hit some big hands and double through you a few times - how do you feel then when your big stack becomes average from a guy you could have knocked out with almost no risk to your stack?

Unfortunately, my good friend Tony falls victim to the bubble - based on a very poorly played hand. Tony's got A7 under the gun, and the guy in the big blind has a tiny stack. Tony thinks that he doesn't even have enough to cover his small blind next hand - so he limps in, figuring this guy will automatically push his last couple chips in and Tony, whose stack is pretty small himself, will have a decent chance to win with his Ace. and knock the shortie out. Before we get to the blinds, though - Mr. Bigstack limps in behind him. The shortie big blind checks his option, the flop comes, both shortie and Tony check and
- Mr. Bigstack leads out. Both players fold. Then Tony reaizes what he's done - shortie posts his small blind and has a single 100 chip left. He can survive another orbit! Tony, on the other hand, now also has a short stack and has to post both blinds, which will leave him with almost nothing. He fails to catch cards and gets knocked out on the bubble, pushing Mr. single 100 chip into the money.

I feel bad for Tony - I know he'll beat himself up for aweek over this - but hey, I've made it into the money myself! I'm thinking to myself that any result after this is gravy - but my stack is fine and I've still got a good shot to win this thing. About two hands after the bubble breaks, I'm in the big blind and Mr. single 100 chip, under the gun, puts his last chip in. I haven't looked at my cards yet, but I know I'll be calling. Then Kevin shoves over him for 3600 more. Hmmm, that sounds like a big hand - I suppose I have to check my cards now. I look down and find my old friend KK. Oh damn. Can I really fold KK here? If I call and Kevin's got Ax (
or God Forbid AA) and hits his A, he knocks my stack in half. Do I just let him win the one 100 chip and move on?

no way - I'm not folding KK here. If Kevin beats me with KK, then the poker gods have spoken. I call. Mr. single chip has 99 - I'm crushing him - then Kevin flips over - J T! Ok, then, that was a nice call. I'm 70% to win vs. both of them, and the Poker Gods actually oblige and my kings hold up. I knock out 2 players and we're down to 3 - Mr. Bigstack, me, and a guy named Jason who has the amazing (to me) ability of knowing everyone's exact stack size at all times. More than once at the final table, when someone has asked how much Player A has left, Jason has immediately said the amount. Most of the time, he was dead right or off by one or two chips. I was impressed. His wife also plays, and she's a good player as well.

The next two orbits, I raise it up from the button. Once I actually have a hand- QQ. The other time, I think I had crap - something like T7. Both times both players fold. After the second time, Jason says to me "by the way, I'm not letting you steal my blind the rest of the night". I like this information - if I can get lucky enough to get one more good hand from the button - I'm overbetting and hope he calls thinking it's another steal.

This doesn't happen, though. Instead, I play J9 from the small blind. Jason checks his option. The flop comes 2 9 T and I lead out with middle pair. Jason calls. The turn comes another 9, and I bet the pot. Jason says - "damn, you looked a little nervous when you bet the flop, then you relaxed right up when the 9 came on the turn, I can't believe you hit that 9. He folds in disgust and shows T7. Holy cow - he can read me like a book! I say "it seems I need to work on my body language a bit". Tony, who has taken over dealing for the last 3 of us, jokes "no, you don't - please don't".

Then, I get stuck in another tricky spot and get very lucky. Jason raises it up. He has been complaining about horrible cards since the final table was set - and I'm pretty sure his raise represents a decent hand. Bigstack calls. From the big blind, I look down at JJ - oh great. The standard play here is to overshove and see how Jason likes his cards, but in the end I play it conservative and call. I know right away that this is the wrong, weak play with a premium hand...

...but I quickly forget all of that when the flop comes A J x. I've hit my set, and Jason goes all in. He's got an Ace, of course. (AA? boy I hope not). I call. He says "I've got an Ace", along with a 7. I reply "I've got 2 Jacks", which briefly raises his sprits, until he glances at the board and sees that there's a third one on the board. He looks up at the sky as the turn and river come with no help and knock us to heads up.

Heads up is anticlimatic, actually. My opponent raises every time from the small blind, but only twice the amount of the big, giving me 2-1 odds to call. I call several times but never hit my hand. He fires out a bet almost every time I check. I know that half of these are bullshit but there isn't much I can do about it. One time, I decide to minraise with nothing (and an Ace on the board) and get him to fold. Another time I try this and he calls and I have to give it up. I don't hit a pair for about a dozen hands, and soon he's got a 5-1 chip advantage over me. I start shoving as my only move, which keeps me alive for awhile. He finally calls my K3 with a JT - my hand holds up until the river when a Jack comes and ends the tournament. Second place for me and a $350 purse.

All in all - I feel like I played extremely well. My few mistakes were strong hands that I played too weakly - certainly better than overplaying weak hands and losing lots of chips. I stayed disciplined and rock-tight early when the cards weren't coming - took a few shots when I was pretty sure they would work, and most of them did. I didn't get my money in when behind the entire night, and when I got my money in ahead, I avoided the suckout.

A Job well done, I would say.

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