Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Caesars Noon Tourney

77 players. I came in 6th. Overall it was a good performance.

We started with 4500 in chips. At the first break after two 40 minute levels I had close to 6000. Didn't do anything too fancy.

My table broke and I got moved to a new table full of really weak tight players. I was able to build my stack all the way up to around 12k without ever showing a hand.

This the key to tournament poker. Avoiding showdowns. Any time you show down cards, any two cards can win. But any time you can bet and win a pot before the river, there's no risk. No sucking out.

No hand is a big enough favorite. No hand is unbeatable.

The ultimate goal would be to win a poker tournament where the only hand shown down would be the final hand of the tournament.

Once I got up to 12k I started taking on the smaller stacks in position with any two cards. This is usually the point where I can really turn into a chip monster. I've learned how to snowball. However on this day I just couldn't win any of these races and as blinds got up to 600/1200 I actually dropped all the way back down to around 5k.

That's the bad news. The good news is that I actually have alot of fun when my stack gets smaller because my decisions are way easier. If I have a medium stack I have to tread more carefully. But with a small stack it's actually kind of freeing. All in or fold.

I got moved to a new table and bullied my way back up to 24k by the next break. By now we were down to two tables and only 9 players were getting paid. The way life works, I went card dead for the next 45 minutes. I folded. And folded. At least my neighbors noticed and I was able to steal a pot here and there. But I was basically running in place. Or bleeding away chips. I couldn't find anything to play a big pot with.

When we got down to 10 players I had 18k and picked up ace queen on the button. By far the best hand I had seen in a long time. Blinds were 1000/2000 with 200 ante.

Now alot of players do the stop and go here (bet like half their stack and push in the other half on the flop) but I had a funny feeling the big stack would call a smaller bet. And if I missed the flop I didn't want to have him lead out from the blind and take away my position. But mainly I thought he'd call anything less than an all in. So I pushed.

Just like I expected, the big stack took awhile to decide. I finally looked him in the eye and said "Whatever you do is fine with me." And it really was. I was sick and tired of being a small stack. I was sick of not seeing any playable hands. I knew the final table was about to happen. I wanted to go there with some chips. I told him "Call me and double me up or else let me go to dinner."

I think he may have thought I was trying to talk him into folding because he obliged and called me with king 3. How's that for having too many chips?

And boy was I grateful my hand held up.

Now I went to final table with some chips and was back in action. I was back to winning pots without ever showing cards. This is poker.

Every tournament has one key hand and mine came against a Vegas kind of guy, an older gentleman who's face I've seen around. Basically there are two types of people playing poker at noon on a Monday. People on vacation. And guys like him. If he's not playing poker you'd probably find him at the track. (For what it's worth, I don't think of myself as a guy like him. I like to think of myself as retired and poker is simply my hobby. All I need to complete my biography is grandchildren.)

So this guy has been playing too many hands all day. He raises alot preflop and then fires out on every flop. Then the turn. And if you haven't gotten the message, he's gonna bet the river.
I know his style. I can reraise him to take away hands. But most of all I'm waiting for a big hand to really hurt him with.

At the final table he raised a few hands in a row. He's correct in his strategy. The blinds are way too huge (now 2000/4000/400) for everyone. But all I need is an inkling of a hand and we're going all in. He pushed all in again when I had the button but nothing to call with. On the next hand he pushed all in under the gun when I looked down in small blind and saw ace king suited. Bingo.

We both had 35k in chips. The winner of this hand would now be the table chip leader and have the inside track to winning the tournament. The loser is out.

Since he had been raising so much I didn't think he had a pair here. I put him on something like ace jack. Or even something as weak as king queen that's gonna be trailing any ace. If he actually has a pair we're gonna race. But I really felt good about this call.

(One more "For what it's worth": there are other players that I'd actually fold ace king against preflop. But that's another story for another day).

So I call and he turns over ace queen offsuit.

Thank you very much.

I'm a 73 to 22% favorite to win the pot. (We tie around 5% of the time).

Flop is all rags.

Turn a rag.

With only the river to come I'm now a 93.18 to 6.82 % favorite.

And then 6.82 happened. The river was a queen.

Poof. I'm gone.

I know those beats happen all the time. I live them.

What I want to take away from today is:

-I showed improvement in reading my opponents cards. There were a couple of hands where I just knew exactly what the other players had. Like on one hand I was sure that the guy had a medium pocket pair like 10's and not a big ace. In another hand I knew my opponent hit middle pair. Three years ago I had no idea how to tell the difference. Now I can smell it.

-I'm winning more pots than before without showing down cards. I'm really starting to think this is the secret to poker.

-My hands were better thought out. I tried to think through my options of what to do before each card came out of the deck. Each bet, call, raise or fold I made had a larger purpose.

-I switched gears as much as possible. It's becoming alot of fun to play like a maniac. I was going deep into hands with cards as bad as 6,9 knowing full well that my opponents had no idea what I held.

-I had a good feel for when to be patient and fold hands as strong as king queen. And when necessary I fearlessly turned it up and pushed with less impressive cards like jack, 9 and 5, 7 suited.

It's been a real strange year so far.

I haven't made much money overall.

But I feel like I'm getting my Masters degree in poker.

And then hopefully I'm going to get paid and take everyone to Sizzler.

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