Saturday, February 10, 2007

Back to Back

I played tournaments the past two days at Caesars and my sanity improved tremendously by two back to back final table performances.

Thursday I was in a groove. This feels silly to write but my strategy in many spots was to think "what would a great player do here?" and then follow that advice.

We got down to 10 players but only 9 got paid. As usual everyone wanted to finish in the money. I was so proud of how I bullied the table at this point. Reraising the preflop raisers, stealing the blinds, and making the occasional good laydown.

It does wonders for the soul to lay down ace jack and have your opponent show you ace queen.

I also laid down pocket 3's in a blind on blind situation when the other guy had pocket 9's. I dare to say that something told me to do that. Not sure if it was sensing strength from my opponent or foreshadowing bad omens from the universe but whatever it was I'm glad to have followed it.

Friday night I went back to Caesars fully expecting to bust out early and play cash games. The luck involved in going far in these tournaments is extraordinary. Like even if you're always a 70% favorite to win the hand, the odds of winning two hands in a row is only 49%.

Think about that. You win back to back hands LESS THAN 50% OF THE TIME even when you are as strong as a 70% favorite!

That's insane.

But it all worked out again. When I was ahead in hands my cards held up. And when I was drawing I seemed to hit when I needed to. I'm learning to play the big stack much better and taking on alot of opponents when I have the chips. However unlike the night before this time the smaller stacks wouldn't let me run over them. I was rereaised all in alot by small stacks and faced alot of tough close decisions. This caused alot of variance in my chip stack. However when all was said and done I still managed to go to the final table as the tourney chip leader. The only problem for me was that the guy in 2nd place was seated to my left. And he was drunk and aggressive and reraising me alot. This forced me to make some laydowns with decent but not great cards because I didn't want to flip a coin with him with 8 players left.

We eventually got down to 3 players. Drunk guy, me and a woman who was a good player but having the card run of her life. It was one of those typical tournament situations where she was small stacked but just kept doubling up. She also kept flashing me her cards when she'd fold and in no particular order I saw queens, kings, ace king, ace jack suited, etc.

Meanwhile I seeing stuff like 3,8 off. 4,9, etc. I think my best hand three handed was ace 10. It was a tough spot for me. I was itching to play aggressively and take over the table but never got the cards to do much. And since she was showing me her big hands it wasn't like I felt I was being bullied.

An hour later I'm down from over 100K to just around 60. Other guy also has around 60. But now she has 137K. It was 5am and they both wanted to cut a deal. However for the 2nd night in a row I refused to do a deal unless it benefited me. I felt like I was the best player at this table and despite my bad run of cards I could still easily win this. It could all flip on one hand.

I turned down her offer but then made a counter offer and she accepted. I had mixed feelings driving home. Part of me was proud of cutting two favorable deals the past two nights. But part of me is so competitive and simply loves to play that in a sense I feel like I cheated myself of the experience.

Of course if I had lost a coinflip and gone out with 3rd place money I'd be whining here instead about how I should have been math smart and taken the deal.

I still think cash games are what will eventually make or break the Vegas year. It's the way poker players make a living. There's so much luck involved in winning tournaments. Still, after the past two nights and last summer at the WSOP it probably couldn't be any clearer that my strength right now is tournament poker.

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