Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mirage Event 1

Yesterday I played in Event 1 of the "Mirage Poker Showdown."

$550 to enter. 537 players. Top 45 get paid. 2000 starting chips.

First place not only wins you also get a free entry into the WPT Mirage 10k event that occurs in a week or two.

I see many familiar faces at all these $550 events. There's this lower level of "poker pro" that travels around from casino to casino playing in under 1k events. They were at the Wynn in February. They were at the Venetian in March. They were at the Bellagio and Caesars in April. And today they were here at the Mirage.

These lower buy in events also bring out a certain "party poker" kind of player that wants to get all his chips in the middle as soon as possible. I'm not sure if it's the low buyin that encourages this strategy. Or facing a big field. But these guys seem to think they need to acquire all the chips in the first hour and of course they all usually end up on the rail.

In the first orbit at my table, in the 4th hand we played, a guy raised the 25/50 blinds in early position with 10, Jack suited. Another guy in the blinds reraised him all in with pocket 6's.
That was sort of strange. One of those bets that's going to win him a couple of hundred chips most of the time. But knock him out of the tournament at least half the times he gets called.

And then the punchline was the first guy with the 10 jack calls the all in!

Yep. We're 10 minutes into this tournament and I'm watching pocket 6's race 10 jack.

The 10 jack guy wins the race. The pocket 6's guy gets knocked out and gets to go tell a story for the rest of the day about how someone called his all in with 10 jack.

Later in the first hour the 10 jack guy gets it all in with pocket aces against a gentleman holding 8, 10 on a king, 10, 2 board.

And of course the guy with 10, 8 calls the all in.


Because he has a feeling that an 8 is coming.

He really said that.

Out loud.


At least have a king there.

But 10,8?

So what happens?

An 8 comes on the river.

He he.

Tournament poker at the Mirage baby!

I've seen people exercise more patience in an online 5 dollar sit and go.

During the 2nd level I get moved to a new table. I win one decent sized pot. I bleed away some other chips calling preflop with small pairs desperately trying to catch set and end level 2 up to 2850 in chips.

One part of tournament poker that I've written about before is how aggressive or passive to play when the blinds are small and there's no need to take huge chances. I find it freeing when blinds are huge and you just have to go with a hand. But when blinds are smaller the decisions get trickier.

For example, what the hell do I do with a hand like pocket 10's under the gun when blinds are 25/50? I don't care so much about winning 75 chips. I want to hit a set and win a huge pot. So I often limp here. But then end up folding when overcards hit. Hence the bleeding.

Or what do I do with pocket 9's on the button after someone has raised it to 500 in that spot?
I don't want to fold such a strong hand in position. I don't want to call and hope I get lucky and hit a set since that won't happen very often. I don't want to raise and be in a position where I'm playing for all my chips this early with only pocket 9's.

So between the bleeding and a cold deck I drift all the way down to 1300 chips.

I double up with ace queen versus king queen. Ace queen is another decent example of the above point. I certainly don't want to go broke with ace queen when I have alot of chips. I'd fold ace queen to a reraise in a heartbeat. It's way too easy for someone else to have Ace king. Yet to small stack a hand like ace queen feels like a monster.

The gentleman who doubled me up on this hand had been raising too often in position. So when I saw the ace queen I felt I was way ahead. Calling with king queen was pretty bad in my opinion. He had limped preflop and thus didn't have much $ invested in the hand. If I'm pushing there I have to have king queen beat. At worst I have ace high. And it's likely he's dominated.

An orbit later later he raised again in position and I had ace queen again. So with pure joy and glee I came over the top and went all in on him again. He mucked this time but gave me the whole "Next time I'm going to call you speech."

I always wonder what's up with that speech. Is that really going to make me scared to raise him in the future? Am I supposed to thank him for the "free ride" this time?

That line was used on me 3 times yesterday. I told him the classic "I wanted you to call" but that felt so hack. At some point I'm going to come up with a clever response. What I really wanted to say was "Why did you fold? You didn't have king queen this time?"

The key hand for me on this afternoon (in terms of poker confidence) was soon after at 100/200 when I smooth called on the button with 3,4 suited. There were 5 of us seeing the flop.

The board came 2,3,5 and a big stack in the blinds fired out 500. There's 1500 in the middle. I have around 3500 chips in front of me. I have plenty of chips that I don't need to force anything. But at some point I have to get out there and get some ammunition. More importantly, what kind of hand could have that would want to play a big pot against me with?

If he has something like 4, 6 and woke up with a straight then I'm in alot of trouble. But if he doesn't have a straight I'm in pretty good shape. There are four aces and four 6's to make me a straight. I also think I win the hand if another 3 comes. Thus I assume I have 10 outs, twice. But more importantly, if I raise big here I don't think there are many hands he can call me with. He ain't calling with top pair.

And so I do it.

After taking a minute or so (which is an eternity for me, I play pretty quickly) I decide to raise. All in. He quickly folded.

Yes I win some chips here but more than that I break through mentally to the other side. When playing tournaments I need to get comfortable with the idea of elimination. It's only once I've gotten my feet wet that I can play correctly. Fearlessly. And as soon as I'm dragging in the chips from the pot I know this hand will help my play the rest of the day.

And it did. From now on I was raising most of the hands I played. I won multiple pots reraising preflop. By the time we complete level 4 and go on our second break I'm up over 6000 chips. We're down to 137 players. The average stack is 7800. I'm where I want to be.

Level 5 brings us to 200/400. I think the ante was still 25. I'm writing down notes for the blog and I sort of miss out on the action in a hand involving a dead button. I look up and start to argue that the blinds should be in a different spot. A player in the small blind disagrees with me. And while we're sorting this all out I get dealt pocket kings. I raise and throw out 1200 chips but somehow it feels like a steam raise.

I've just been arguing. I was wrong. And now I'm raising.

The guy who I just accused of trying to skip the big blind reraises me. We get all our chips in and I knock him and his ace queen out of the tournament. Maybe that whole sequence happens anyway. But part of me thinks he got more aggressive with his ace queen specifically because it was me raising after our encounter. It wasn't like he was short stacked.

Then a hand or two later I pick up ace king and knock a guy and his pocket 7's out the tournament. I'm starting to feel it. These are the kinds of hands I need to win to go far in this tournament. And so far today they're holding up. I suddenly have alot of chips.

I limp under gun with 9, 10 suited. Guy in middle position raises to 1200. Everyone else folds but with the blinds and antes included I'm now in a spot where I only need to risk 800 to win 2400 chips in the middle. And I got chips. Lets play.

Flop comes 9 high. Perhaps I should fire out a bet here. I do have top pair. And I can bet to test the waters. However the guy who raised to 1200 hasn't played a hand in an hour. And I was playing 9,10 suited to flop a straight or flush draw. Not top pair. So I check.

Tight guy bets out 2000. For me this was an easy fold. If I play this one to the end and he turns over a pocket pair bigger than 9's I won't be able to forgive myself. That's not how I want to give away my big stack. If he won the pot with ace king then good for him. I decide I'd rather use 2000 chips to try to win blinds and antes a couple of times.

(But back to earlier discussion- if I'm small stacked there boy am I psyched to get all of my chips in with top pair! Yet in same spot with plenty of chips I see no need to mess up my stack. There will be better opportunities.)

My table image was excellent. It seemed that I only ended up showing cards when I had big hands. No one ever saw any of the suited connected stuff. This all came to a head on a hand where I raised from middle position with 6,8 suited. It's one of those "gee I haven't played a hand in awhile" moments. I expect everyone to fold. But if I get called it's also a fun hand to see a flop with.

It gets folded around to the big blind. An older gentleman who starts asking me if I'm stealing.
He tells me that he can tell I either have a really big hand or nothing at all.

I ask "What?" and he repeats his speech to me.

What would I say if I held a big hand?

I say "Sir I'm bullying you. I'm stealing your blinds."

And he folded.

We finish level 6 and go on break 3. I have around 12k in chips after being up to 15k. However I went card dead near the end of the 300/600/75 level and gave some of the chips back. There are 68 players left.

Here's an interesting hand for those of you playing along at home.

Under gun guy limps. Second early position player goes all in. Then the player to my right in the cutoff seat goes all in. I look down on the button and see ace king.

What do I do?

I don't think this is such an easy call.

I want to be the aggressor in the hands I play. Just like the hand where I laid down the 9,10 top pair, I don't want to play a big pot against someone who has convinced me they are strong.

In this case I am scared of ALL 3 players. The first guy limped under guy which in some parts of the world still means he has aces. Second guy liked his hand enough to push. The third guy liked his hand enough to push EVEN AFTER SEEING THE ACTION in front of him.

These guys have around half my chips. So I can call here and my stack would double if I can beat both their hands. And if I call and lose I'm down to a danger zone of around 6k with blinds now at 400/800/75.

I also think that if 3 people have shown strong interest in playing a hand there's a decent chance that 1 or more of them is holding some of my outs. Like even if I'm dominating one of them (lets say the first all in guy has ace queen) I'm still losing an ace out against someone who has pocket queens here.

So I do the unthinkable. I muck ace king. There's got to be a better opportunity. (Yet another small stack vs big stack example. As a small stack I wouldn't be able to get my chips in there fast enough with ace king. Yet as medium stack to me this becomes a reasonable fold.)

And low and behold the players turn over their cards and one of them has ace king. We're taking each other outs and would only split the pot if we win.

And he didn't win the pot either. Queens did.

Now one of the main reasons I fold there is I want to be the aggressor not the caller. My chance came an orbit or two later. Early guy limps. Asher Derei sitting directly to my right also calls. I chatted a little bit with Asher and he seemed like a pretty nice guy. I was amused when he told me he was surprised that I'm from America. Even when I travel abroad people always assume I'm foreign.

So they both call the 800 blind in front of me and I look down and see pocket jacks. My time has come. This is exactly the kind of hand where I limp at 25/50. Yet at 400/800/75 with over 3000 chips in the middle I happily push my approximately 10k left in chips all in.

If the under gun limper has aces well then unlucky me.

But otherwise this is a very strong move. We're getting close to the bubble. There are 60 players remaining. My image is impeccable. Ace king probably isn't calling me here.

The blinds immediately fold. The under gun limper gives me the "next time I'm calling you" speech and folds. Asher tells me "good move" and folds. Guy to my left says "I don't think he just did that with 2,7."

This hand was significant though because I think it got personal with the under gun limper guy.

How else do you explain what happened a few hands later?

I'm under the gun and pick up pocket aces. Now normally I love to limp here. Just like everyone I love to limp hoping it gets reraised behind me. But one of the reasons I also limp is if it doesn't get reraised and we just have a bunch of limpers seeing a flop then it becomes much easier for me to let go of my aces post flop. I feel less attached to them. If I've entered the hand as the preflop raiser I'm compelled to bet the flop and suddenly I'm playing a big pot with only top pair.

But in this case I thought a raise was clever. I had just squeezed everyone out on the Jacks hand. I wanted it to seem like I was stealing. Like I was bullying. I'm happy to just win the blinds and antes there. We're going to the money soon. And of course if I get reraised I'm more than happy to be the bubble boy and play for all my chips.

So I make it 2500 from under the gun and the guy who I described as the "limper under gun" (from the previous Jacks hand) smooth calls my 2500 bet. Both blinds fold.

There is now close to 7k in the middle. We both have around 10 to 11k behind the line.

Flop is queen, queen, 2.

I have to act first.

What do I do?

I can fire out a smallish 3k bet. It's good news if he folds. If he calls I still have no clue where I'm at in the hand.

I can fire out a pot sized 7k bet. Same as above. Only difference now is I'm definitely committing my entire stack on the turn since I'd only have 3k left. In theory I could fold on the turn if I only bet 3k on the flop. I'm not saying I would. But I guess that would be a "positive" of betting smaller on the flop.

I can push my 10-11k all in. If he folds I'm happy to win the 7k in the middle and get up to a very healthy 17-18k. If he calls and I win I'm up all the way to 28ish. Obviously if he calls and I lose I'm out of the tournament.

I can also check the flop but for me that's only acceptable if I'm planning to fold here. Otherwise all that does is give him the chance to bluff me off the hand. And of course if he checks behind me and somehow hits a set on the turn I'd never forgive myself for giving him a free card.

Now aside from how much to bet the more important thing that's running through my head here is what is he holding. He has cards that he deemed worthy to call off 2500 preflop. That's a decent percent of his stack to call with near the bubble.

I don't necessarily put him on a queen. In fact it's my thinking is that unless he has quads he's unlikely to be holding a queen. Sure he could have ace queen. But even that's a hard hand to call 2500 with preflop because I could easily have ace king. Same thing goes for him calling me preflop with king queen. It's way too easily dominated.

I think it's far more likely he has a medium pair hand like: pocket 9's. Pocket 10's. Pocket jacks.

And if this is true and I bet it will be a tough spot for him. What does he do with jacks? Perhaps I have ace king and just bluffed at the queen, queen, 2 board. He might call here with a hand like that.

Thus I decide to put my chips in the middle. It almost looks desperate since I might check or bet small if I held the queen. I certainly don't think he's put me on pocket aces. I think he has no idea how strong I am here.

If he has pocket 2's I'm beat. And if he's holding one of the two remaining queens in the deck then I'm in big trouble as well. But otherwise I like my chances. Winning this pot and getting to either 17k if he folds, or 28k if he calls, will catapult me to big stack status.

I'm not here to make the money. I'm here to win 80k. I push.

What follows was sort of strange. He thinks about what to do for a minute which is a good sign. Then he calls which is fine by me. Then he tells me I'm drawing dead. Which of course I know is impossible. Like even if he has queen, 2 for a full house I can still win the pot with another ace.

And then after telling me I'm drawing dead he turns over....

Queen 9.

Hmmm. Where do I begin?

The real genius would have been if I held pocket 2's. Or even king queen.

But I'm not sure I can understand why he called me preflop with queen 9 there. Sure I understand that if he hits like he did he can win a big pot. I absolutely understand that part.

But risking 20% of his stack on a call near the bubble seems very strange to me.

And of course what the hell does he do on a queen, 5, 2 board? Do I win all his chips or does he shut down with top pair there?

The other thing I've been going over and over in my head is whether or not I can shut down in that spot when the board pairs on the flop.

On the one hand...I can check and fold there because I still have 10 thousand chips. It's the same amount I had before I pushed with the pocket jacks to jump up to 13k. It was plenty of chips to make the money. I wasn't feeling short stacked 5 minutes earlier with the 10k. Why should I feel short stacked now?

On the other hand I can't fold there because I can't just be folding my pocket aces anytime the board pairs. I estimated that there was less than a 25% chance he held a queen and I took that chance. I can't fold there because I'm trying to win this tournament (and win 80k) and winning a hand like this is what is necessary to win a tournament. Folding this hand means I can sneak my way into the money and make a couple of hundred bucks. And if I never get another decent hand to play and bleed away my chips I'm looking back on it and thinking damn I play weak.

So this was a tough one to stomach. Sure there comes a time in tournaments when you get all your chips in there and if you're beat, you're beat. But I absolutely hated getting all my chips in there with the worst hand and only two outs. That's 7.5 hours of hard work down the drain with one bad hand.

I'm also sick of writing bad pocket aces stories. That's how two of my April Caesars tourneys ended. And I can remember whining here about losing money at cash games with them as well.

Walking out of the Mirage yesterday I thought to myself that poker is all about getting up off the mat and coming back the next day and playing well again.

And of course having deep pockets.

1 comment:

dave said...

Its funny, I have been struggling with something similar lately.

Been playing the 10 dollar rebuy on pokerstars every night. Been cashing pretty regularly, but never breaking through to the big $$$.

So as part of that I have ramped up the aggressiveness level. Obviously still switching gears, but trying to pull in more pots.

Trying to avoid having a middle stack. Because then you end up in those situations for most of your chips.

So either build a big stack, or get me the hell out of there. Not right away in the tourney. But in the hour or two after the rebuy period is over.

Still hasn't led to me breaking through to the final table. But I feel like I am a shark circling its prey.

I probably fold the AK as well. But I also wonder if the right move is to play there, going by the big stack or go home theory.