Saturday, June 23, 2007

Event 38

Today I was seated next to Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.

Fascinating character. The thing that surprised me the most was reading afterwards that he was born in 1981. To be that young and already in control of the table is impressive.

Mizrachi said that he hasn't cashed yet in the 2007 World Series.

The guy to his left asked him how many events he's played in thus far this Summer.

Mizrachi said he didn't want to count.

I mention this little tidbit because I've been hard on myself for not doing better this past month.

I am disappointed not to have gone deep in any of the tournaments.

It can be so easy to get results oriented at poker and of course it makes me question my game.

I'm too tight. I'm too loose.

I make my share of poker mistakes but mainly I'm just not running well in the tournaments.

And so it was probably real good timing for me to hear Mizrachi talk about having similar results without seeming overly concerned.

So I was in seat 8. Grinder was in seat 9. Seat 6 was Amir Vahedi. And soon afterwards Rene Angelil took over the 5 seat. This was a pretty good action table.

Amir and the Grinder both set the tone by playing real loose. The $50,ooo entry HORSE tournament was starting the next day so both players made their strategies real clear.

Either they wanted to get alot of chips in this event (Grinder was shooting for 200k by day's end) or else bust out so each could still be fresh for the HORSE tourney.

Amir showed us he wasn't kidding. He said "lets gamble" as he called off the remainder of his stack on straight draw and missed. Mizarchi lasted a little longer.

We had started with 3000 chips but I dropped down to 1000 and struggled in that range for two to three hours. I didn't give up. I actually got pretty excited about small stack play. I dare call it fun. The decisions are so black and white.

It was a good reminder for me in terms of psychological perspective. It's easy to get so caught up with Joneses. In this case the Joneses are the "must build up chips or bust out crowd." But I stayed in a good state of mind waiting for my double up or go home hand.

I showed such ridiculous patience in level 4 that despite blinds up to 100/200 and 25 ante I only had 650 chips remaining.

You're never supposed to get that low. Most poker players would have made a move while they still had at least 1000. But I ignore my M if the spots aren't right.

I made some crazy short stack lay downs. I actually laid down ace queen and pocket 3's. I had the small M. But in both hands I was pretty certain that the raiser who entered the pot in front of me definitely had me beat.

However other times I made moves with hands like queen,8 suited. My cards weren't that important. It had more to do with being first one into the pot as the small stack. As opposed to calling off raises with the remainder of my stack.

It might seem counterintuitive but against most players I'd almost rather push all in with 8,9 suited than call all in with king queen off.

So when there's a limp, a raise and a reraise in front of me, and the guy who reraised is shaking, I can comfortably throw away my ace queen. Even with a small stack.

I rallied back to 3000 which suddenly felt like so much. Even though I was simply back to the starting amount. On other days I might be concerned to be in level 4 and be so far below average. Yet today it just felt good to be alive.

I ended level 4 with 2900 chips. And I felt great.

Blinds for level 5 began at 150, 300 with the same 25 ante. Not too bad at 700 a round.

I think ahead. I can afford to burn off an orbit or two waiting for a hand. I don't mind going down to 2200. And me being me, I'll probably let it burn down to 1500. That gives me two orbits to find a hand. A sample of 20 starting hands. I'll find something to play with. I'm happy to win blinds. I'm happy to try to double up.

My favorite time of poker tournaments is when the blinds finally kick in. Play opens up. There finally becomes enough chips in the middle worth fighting for. And no matter what size your chip stack, the formula is simple: If you can win (steal) one set of blinds/antes per round, your chip stack will never dwindle. That's how I think about it. I look for one hand per round that's mine. One hand to come in for a raise with. And hopefully it's something that I don't mind showing down with if I get called.

I find that my table mates always accept the one hand per round formula. Anytime people start raising 2 or 3 hands an orbit, everyone gets suspicious that they're stealing. But raise and take the blinds only once per orbit and you're a model citizen.

I get no playable hands so I fold for the first 9 hands of the orbit. I pick up ace king under the gun in the 10th hand and make the easy push all in for my last 2200. As a small stack I love to bet under the gun regardless of my cards in this spot. I've watched way better hands than mine in early position fold here because they fear coming into the hand and getting reraised behind them.

In other words if I push all in under the gun and some dude with 6000 chips calls my 2200 with his ace queen, he has to fear someone behind him reraising all in. And he doesn't want to play for all his chips with ace queen. So quite often the ace queen guy in early position will simply let it go. Let go the exact same playable hand that he would have called with in late position or from the blinds.

As tight as I had been playing I really expected the fold here. But the blind woke up with pocket 10's and calls. To make matters worse, the big blind tells me he folded an ace. And a guy in middle position says he folded king queen to my initial bet. This means that I've lost 2 of my 6 outs.

Incredibly I flop two kings and double up to 4k with 32 minutes left in level 5

I'm starting to believe that it's my day.

The guy to my right in seat 7 has around 15 to 20 thousand chips. He seems like a novice and from what I've seen he's been a luck machine all day. He actually says at some point that his secret is positive thinking.

I decide to try it for a hand. I think king and look at my first card. It's the king of clubs.

I think king again and peak at the second. This one is the king of diamonds.

Holy shit.

That's all I had to do?

Positive thinking?

And to think I've been sitting here this whole time thinking negatively.

On this same hand a guy had limped under the gun for 300. With blinds now at 150/300/25. there is already 1000 out in the middle when the action gets to me and my kings. I should raise here. I absolutely should.

But I also want to do something drastic with my tournament. I need to double up. I'm guessing that if I raise here everyone will fold and I'll only win 1000. However if I smooth call, no one will put me on kings.

I want to play big pot here and if I let the blinds in and I get sucked out on, oh well.

However by just calling here instead of raising I'm setting up two intriguing possibilities:

1- It gets reraised behind me and I can re-jam all in when it comes back around.

2- Later in the hand I take down a big pot because no one suspects I'm so strong.

Of course if an ace flops or someone hits two pair on me I'm not going to be happy. But it was just one of those moments where I thought "If I raise and they all fold I'll only increase my stack from 4 to 5 thousand. But if I call here I am giving myself a chance to double up over 8500."

So just like we learn in The Cincinnati Kid, I choose to do the wrong thing at the right time.

Intriguing option #1 fails when no one raises behind me.

In fact the small and big blind both join the party. Oops.

At least we still have intriguing option #2.

Flop comes out king, 9,8. Two spades. They all check to me. I bet 1000.

Both blinds fold and I'm probably just going to win a small pot.

But then the under the gun guy makes it 2500 and it hits me.

This is too good to believe.

He is slowplaying aces.

I push all in.

He instacalls and turns over aces. Everyone expects me to turn over ace king.

I surprise them all with my set of kings. How's that for not reraising preflop? Not that I could have probably gotten away from them on an undercard flop but that sure was pretty.

This hand put me up close to 9000.

Did I mention that I think it's my day?

We orbit around again and I'm down to almost 8000 in chips. But after where I've been most of this afternoon I feel like a big stack.

The next big hand I pick up is ace king in middle position. I raise it up 3.5x the blind.

Here's where it gets interesting. The guy in the big blind has been defending his big blind all day. Pretty much every time. He's really loud about it. He likes to taunt people and tell them he always wins his big blind. Over and over.

I've now seen him reraise multiple times from that spot (with medium range holdings) so when he reraises me here to 3000 I can't say that I fear him.

I absolutely do not put him on aces or kings. He does not need a hand that strong to make this move.

This guy was also talking too much the past hour about how he likes to race small stacks. I've seen him do it with medium pairs. I've seen him do it with ace queen. I am not folding here.

I go back and forth on whether to raise or call in this spot.

You call here with ace king because it is a drawing hand.

You raise here with ace king because it plays strongest when it sees all 5 board cards and raising will guarantee that.

If I just call and I miss the flop then I have put 37.5% of my chips into the middle without knowing where I am at in the hand.

The advantage to calling when I miss is I can fold and get away from it on the flop. If all my chips are out there my tournament life is on the line.

The advantage to raising when I miss is I get to see 2 more cards without having to make a tough decision.

The advantage to raising when I hit is the other guy will not be able to fold on the flop when he sees an ace or king come out.

One other thing to consider is that he will act first on the flop. If I acted first then maybe I could do a stop and go. Call now and then push on the flop. But since I have to act second what do I do if the flop misses me and he bets? Leave 37.5% of my chips out there?

One final thought on calling. If I miss the flop I still have 5000 chips left. Compared to where I've been all day that feels like plenty to keep playing.

However in the end raising felt much better than calling against this specific opponent's range of hands. I thought there was a very good chance I was either way ahead versus a weaker ace or racing against a smaller pair. Thus I didn't mind getting all the money in as soon as possible against this type of opponent: A guy who plays alot of hands and is good at getting away from them post flop.

So we get all the money in there. He turns over his pocket 10's. If I can hit an ace or king I become a legitimate contender. I'd have an above average 17k stack with around 75% of the tourney field gone. Of course the downside is if I miss I'm out of the tourney.

I missed.

Walking out of the Rio I thought about how I could have just called the preflop raise and fold if I miss on the flop. But it also wouldn't be good poker to call off 37.5% of my stack.

Ace King versus anything but aces or kings is not a terrible way to go out. If you told me beforehand that in level 6 of this tournament I'd be racing AK vs pocket 10's for a $17,500 pot, I'd gladly take that proposition.

Winning this pot would have put me in a position to make the money.

For lack of a better conclusion, I think this is just another day at the office in tournament poker. In a cash game it would be an easy fold. (Although not necessarily against this specific player). But in tournaments at a certain point you get your chips in with the best hand you can find and hope for the best.


FreeFormCoder said...

Great entry, your poker writing is certainly improving. But let's talk about this statement:

"But it also wouldn't be good poker to call off 37.5% of my stack."

That isn't about poker, that's about ego. You had just spent that first 2500 words of the post telling us how you were playing great from the small stack, and now you're worried about a percentile?

I would put it this way: Good tourney poker isn't about not making mistakes, it's about not letting those mistakes knock you out. And it's certainly not about what you lose in a hand, it's about what you have left to play with (over 60% of your chips left!). But you know all this, I'm not telling you anything your shrink wouldn't tell you.

Keep rockin.

Robert said...

Free Form Coda:

Calling off 37.5% of your stack is rarely a good poker play. I stand by that statement. No poker player could do it regularly without going broke.

However I am happy to reconsider the alternative strategy.

From what you wrote I'm assuming you would have called the preflop raise but then folded on the flop when you missed.

Here's a further explanation of why I didn't do that.

If I call off 37.5% and then fold on the flop I am left with 5000 chips. Yes it's 62.5% of what I had but it's still only 5000 chips.

So what is my strategy moving forward with blinds at 200/400 and 50 ante?

Well that's 1100 a round. And I'd be sitting with 5000 chips. With my M under 5 this basically means that I'd be moving all in if I played a hand.

So I'd be waiting for a hand. Something like ace king to push in with. Which is exactly the hand I am holding right here right now.

Yes I agree that calling and folding guarantees my staying alive. But whether it happens now or in 15 minutes, at some point I am going to have to survive a race and double up.

But staying with the hypothetical. Lets say I got lucky and picked up ace king again the very next hand and now pushed all in.

I will either hit or miss. Just like now. But by my waiting, if I now get lucky and double up I'm only up to around 11k.

By playing right here right now I gave myself the chance to increase my stack by more than 50% (to 17K+ instead of 11K) by going for it in this spot. It's probably going to be a coin flip whenever I race. Thus it's logical to race when there's more chips in the middle.

(Not to mention versus a loose opponent).

It just didn't work out. I don't want to let the actual results defeat the logic behind the play. We can't play scared. If I win this pot I'd have over 17K.

It's also worth noting that that if I just call preflop there will actually be more chips in the middle than in my stack.

Thus this pot becomes really important for me to win. I don't want to be folding to the automatic continuation bet on the flop with all that money out there.

Especially versus an opponent who could very well be dominated holding something like ace queen.

I got all my money in with ace king. The only thing that wasn't good was the result. But I'm not playing results. I'm playing situations. And with the amount of chips in the middle, and against this specific opponent, this seemed like a pretty good one.


Berg said...

I can’t let this absurd post go without comment:

First, I love freeformcoder’s moxie. It’s a little known fact that the last 5 WSOP Main Event winners were computer code writers.

Second, let's take freeformcoder's passage: "Good tourney poker isn't about not making mistakes, it's about not letting those mistakes knock you out."

He presumes that Rob getting all of his chips in there, preflop, with A-K against a guy defending his big blind all day with anything from small to middle pair to nothing is somehow a mistake. Leaving to one side that freeformcoder does not attempt to show -- at all -- how Rob's play was a “mistake,” freeformcoder's fallacy in argument, exploits his mistaken perspective analyzing the hand exactly backwards.

This may seem obvious, but for freeformcoder: The player doesn't actually have the benefit of knowing the other guy's whole cards, the flop, the turn, and the river first – before passing judgment on how to play the hand -- like you do when you watch Hold 'Em on television. If he wins, he’s at the final table for sure. If he loses, he will have lost a full fledged race which I think you always have to win to make a final table (though, I concede I’m no expert having never made it to a final table in a WSOP event, unlike Rob and presumably freeformcoder). In short, Rob’s play was not a mistake.

Third, let's take these combine statements: "Your poker writing is certainly improving .. But you know all this, I'm not telling you anything your shrink wouldn't tell you." What kind of sanctimonious drivel is this? I guess if one “writes code” then one is, by definition, a writer. And because “computer code” involves ones and zeroes, then one is an expert at poker, you know, since both involve numbers.

The logic is all coming together now.

FreeFormCoder said...

Berg, you're mistaking the tone of my post as critical when it was intended to be supportive. You're also mistaking a joke about a therapist as something more than it is. Also, you're suggesting I can't compliment someone on their writing because I'm not a writer, or a tourney poker player? What kind of logic is that? I'm a reader, and a reader of this blog and poker books in general, and I certainly have every credential to compliment my friend's writing.

Yes, I would have stuck with the 5000 chips, yes I probably would have lost it anyhow. I don't think that what you did was a mistake and I apologize for using the word, I was trying to make a general point contrasting your earlier play with your later play, and I thank you Robert for your explanation, I think it makes a good coda to your post. You know I don't do the math on these things...and it certainly makes more sense now that you frame it against how quickly you were bleeding chips at that point.

What I was trying to suggest is that you made it seem as if earlier in the tourney you were playing better, from a similar spot, by not making those calculations. It's that simple. Of course, that probably was the best place to make the play. We'll never know.

I just hope the best for you Robert, and hope you hit big in some tourneys. And for Berg, I hope you are able to find happiness. Maybe gambling will help! I hear craps is good this time of year. ;)

Berg said...

I forgot, in this crowd we are supposed to never say we are being critical when we are unquestionably being critical. Forgive me, I'm out of practice. In that spirit, then, I would say I was just trying spice up the blog. Don't be offended.

Thanks for this "I hope you are able to find happiness." Skipping the passive agressive assumption underlying that sentence, you know me, I'm at my happiest calling people out when they say one thing and mean another.

dave said...

Not that I could do that, but any chance you might lay down ak there?

My big push lately is to try and find ways to not race for all my chips. Or at least do it as infrequently as possible.

I hate his call of a rereraise with 1010, but the problem is that you are going to run into those idiots all the time in tournament poker.

jeckyl said...

freeformcoder is obviously anti-semetic