Saturday, August 29, 2009

unchangeable destiny?

I have found in my short poker career that there are certain hands that will stick with you for a long time. The hand that knocked me out of last night's live tourney is sure to be one of those hands.

I was at the final table. We had started with 40 players - eight of us were left. Five got paid. In the past orbit, I had raised the blinds and stole them with A8, then won a very nice pot with AK. I raised to 1800 with 300/600 blinds. The big blind called the raise. He was a decent player - one that would have reraised with a big hand. I put him on a medium pair that he couldn't fold, or a medium ace. The flop hit my ace, along with a 2 and a 4. No two pair for this guy. He leads into me for 1500 - less than the amount of my initial raise. Too small, buddy - you don't have it. I do. I put him all in and got a fold.

This put me at 11,000 chips - and third at the table. There were several players with 2000-3000 that were already shoving their way into staying alive. I was content to lock down and fold my way to the money, or at least to the bubble. Then the hand came.

Anthony, the guy who runs the tourney, minraised in early position, to 1200. Anthony is a hard player to read sometimes - I have seen him call preflop raises with pocket queens instead of reraising. He plays somewhat weak-tight preflop, but can also bluff occasionally.

I didn't know what to make of this minraise, but my initial inclination was that it was weak rather than strong. I didn't think he was trying to lure people in with aces - especially from early position. He would want fewer callers, not more.

Everyone folded to the minraise, which left me in the big blind. I had enough chips to call the minraise with a wide range and take a flop, or simply fold most of my hands and keep trying to punish the smaller stacks. Then I looked at my cards.

Pocket queens.

Ugh. A strong hand, and I was riding a nice little wave of aggression from the AK win 3 hands before. The first thing I did was check Anthony's stack - I was third in the tourney, and Anthony was second. He had me covered.

I had about 17 blinds left, and went through my options.

Fold. Seems pretty weak with the third best hand in the game. But I'm going against one of the only people left at the table who can knock me out.

Call. Also weak, but safe. Setmine, see a flop, make an easy fold if an ace or king comes. Also gives the ace-x and king-x a free shot to beat me.

Shove. Sure, I could do that. It might even look weak and get a call from 88-JJ. On the other hand, it would definitely get a call from AK and I would be racing for my life in a situation where I didn't need to race.

Reraise. I had enough chips where I could reraise for information. If he came over the top, I could fold to this player pretty easily, trusting in aces, kings, or AK minimum.

I settled on the reraise. I made it 1500 more - just barely above a min-reraise. My hope was that looked like aces that was begging for a call, and he would chicken out and fold. However, my reraise was simply too small - he had great odds to see a flop, and so in went the chips.

I had just put 1/3 of my stack in, and needed a plan. My plan seemed easy on the surface - commit if my queens stayed an overpair, bail if an ace or king came, with still enough chips to keep afloat. However, I was still worried about one thing - Anthony's calling of this raise, instead of shoving, might actually be pocket kings. He was careful enough preflop to also wait for an ace not to come before commiting.

I discarded this possibility. I had ruled pocket aces out once he called. If I was going to go out with pocket kings over my pocket queens, then the poker gods have spoken. I was ready to commit on an overpair.

The flop - 2d 4h Td.

Looked pretty good. I knew I was all in. I made one more move, though - I donked into him one more time with a normal bet. I figured this flop missed all of his AJ/AQ/AK type hands, so he would fold, and he would shove over me with AT and Jacks. I was calling his shove if it came.

It came. He put me all in.

My hand, and my plan, didn't look too good suddenly. Anthony's not a stone-cold-bluffer, and I'm not sure he would have the fortitude to put me all in with eights or nines here. Pocket tens were now beating me. I had jacks beat, and Ace-Ten, and of course I was still dead to kings or aces. Then I remembered one more thing about Anthony that I had forgotten - he was a flushmaster.

By his own admission, even. Anthony has played in our cash game 3 or 4 times, and we've watched him call/call/call trying to hit that third flush card. I got into a big hand with him one time with Ace/King. I hit my ace on a two diamond board, and he called my 2/3 pot protection bet. Then I hit my king on the turn and bet my 2 pair, even closer to pot. He sighed, shook his head, and called again. The river came black and he folded to my third barrel, but showed King-Rag-suited. As I dragged a $25 pot from him, he admitted "I just can't fold those flush draws, dammit".

I started to consider Ace-x, both diamonds into his hands range. I held the Queen of diamonds, so he could have Ace/King, Ace/Jack, Ace/9. I wasn't sure how far down the chain to go with his kicker based on the action so far. His minraise, and then just call of my reraise, lead me to want to put more diamond kicker cards into his range than fewer, but I also didn't think Anthony would preflop raise with Ace-Rag (though he might call).

Well, all this didn't matter. I already knew I was calling, so call I did. My first guess was that I was going to see two kings and all of this didn't matter, but I was wrong - he turned over...

Ace-Five, both diamonds.

Wowee. All hail the new flushmaster! I was happy to not be drawing to two outs, but the picture was only a bit brighter. Anthony had his flush outs, 4 threes to make a straight, and 3 aces over my queens. Take away the queen of diamonds, which I held, and I get 15 outs. We were in a virtual race for my tourney life - the one thing I wanted to avoid.

The turn ended my misery quickly - the three of hearts filled his gutshot straight, leaving me drawing dead. With a final twist of the knife - the river brought a queen, filling my useless set. I would have sucked out against kings, aces, and a set of tens. I could now beat every possible hand, actually, except for precisely ace-five and five-six.

Out in eigth place, left to ponder the possibilities. I slept about 2 total hours last night. What could I have done differently? If I shove preflop, does the flushmaster even fold Ace-Five suited? I think so, but I'm not sure now - he called a (small) 3 bet with it, after all. And, anyway, if I know he has Ace-Five suited, don't I want him to call with it when I have queens? After all, I'm basically 70% to win the hand.

Tony, after hearing my recap, suggested he would have shoved the flop instead of making the one last "try to look strong" bet - which I agree with by the way, but there was no way this player was folding this hand. His suggestion was a better way to play the hand, but wouldn't have helped in this case.

I think after all the analysis and could-have-beens, this just translates into one more bad call by a dominated villain who hit a miracle flop, then outraced me to the river. The irony is not lost on me that last weekend I was in the exact opposite race (me with the AK flush draw + overcards to a pocket pair of nines), and I lost that one too, to get knocked out of a live tourney.

1 comment:

diverjoules said...

Nice recap Matt. I have to say I too would have probably shoved after the flop with my QQ to try to stave off any flush wanna bees. But then again I can;t tell 88 from 99 so who am I.. LOL... Still love playing live vs on line. See you soon I hope.