Sunday, November 27, 2011

Go Bigger or Go Home

I had promised myself an adjustment in my recent tournament play - when I found a hand that I was willing to go with, I wanted to lean towards a bigger bet size than a smaller one. If they fold, fine - that's not a bad result in any tourney. But when they call, the benefits are enormous.

I didn't have much chance to use my adjustment in the past 2 live tourneys, but this month's Waterbury Open (31 runners with a $50 buy-in) finally afforded me the opportunity to test out my adjustment.

This tourney has been brutal to me this year - shoving into pocket aces twice, pocket kings, getting three bet preflop, getting aces cracked by Jack-Four. You know, the usual stuff. This month's tourney started much like the others - a cavalcade of folding garbage for three levels, down to about 15 big blinds.

My first real hand came on the button - a nice little king-queen suited following 2 limpers. I raised it up - knowing they would probably fold their garbage, but Walt checked his cards from the big blind, thought a good 10 seconds, and then called. I know Walt from my weekly cash game - he loves him some pocket pairs and tries to flop sets, even when the math says it's not profitable. I had him on all pocket pairs, ace-king, and ace-queen. He saw how tight I was playing and wouldn't defend with a connector or a queen-ten in my opinion, not this late in the tourney.

Fortune hit me hard with a flopped straight - an ace-jack-ten board. There were two diamonds, but most of Walt's cards couldn't be a flush draw. Plus, I didn't have enough chips to consider folding after flopping a straight. There was no question I was going with the hand. Walt checked to me and I remembered my adjustment. The pot was around 3000, I bet 2800. I thought it likely Walt couldn't find a fold with either ace-king or ace-queen - a top pair and gutshot to go with it. He might also have a set with pocket tens or jacks. None of the smaller pairs were calling any sized bet, so it didn't matter if I made it big or small. My opinion of his range fit well with my big bet size - he had either pretty strong holdings or nothing.

Walt thought long and hard, then decided to fold. He said he had ace-king, but felt like I flopped a set or a straight with my actual holding. Nice read by him, and maybe my big bet size helped give it away, but I had still won a nice pot and stayed above water for a bit.

Later, at the final table, I found another opportunity. One player had brought over a big stack but didn't know what to do with it. Instead of punishing the table, he felt like his extra chips gave him license to limp into lots of pots and try and hit straights and two-pairs. Those hands are hard to hit, of course, and he had begun leaking chips badly.

He limped into my big blind as the small, and I checked my cards to find an ace with an offsuit three. This was normally a raise, but I had raised legitimate hands twice this orbit and chose to check this one. The board came all three hearts, matching the ace of hearts in my hand. My opponent checked to me. He wasn't the checkraising type, so I didn't feel he was strong now. But he could have top pair and check-call a street or two, and I didn't have a deep enough stack to bet two streets and then lose the pot. I checked behind, giving myself the free card.

No help on the turn - a black low card. He checked again, and this time I decided to try a bet. This guy had checked twice and looked like he wanted to give me the pot. My opponent called, though, and I had to decide if I was going to try another barrel with a weak hand on the river if the flush didn't come.

But then the river brought the flush, and also paired the low turn card. My opponent appeared to think about betting, but checked. I felt like maybe he had hit running trips. He could have a full house now with the paired board, but once again I didn't have enough chips to bet and then fold. I was going with this hand. He had way more smaller flushes or the trips for me to try and coax a call out of than the sandbagged boats.

I counted the pot and it was about 5,000 chips by now. I chose a bet of 4,400. He looked at me for a second or two and then made the call - with a WAY weaker hand than I expected - a middle pair that became two pair with the running low cards on the board. I guess he decoded my big bet as a bluff, or maybe he wasn't experienced enough to try and decode the bet at all. His hand improved from one pair to two pair on the river, and he was calling.

Either way, the big pot made me the chip leader, where I remained until we made the money. At four handed, we went for an even 4-way $300 chop, and then left the last $50 of the prize pool back to continue the game and name a winner. I started the four-handed game with the fewest chips, but out-carded everyone and eventually took the thing down - my first cash in the monthly tourney this year. My bet-sizing adjustment was one reason for my success.