Saturday, July 07, 2007

Event #148. The Mega Satellite

The World Series of Poker's Main Event began on Friday July 6th at 12 noon.

My Mega Satellite occurred that same afternoon at 4 pm.

It's sort of strange to play in a tournament, to get into another tournament, while that second tournament is already going on.

Like I'm watching people walking out of the Rio having already been eliminated from their Main Event.

And I haven't even started.

They gave us 3000 chips and the blinds jumped up every 30 minutes to a bigger level.

The blinds may have been fast but the players were real slow. They took forever to act. Most of them would go into the tank for a few minutes every time they had to make a decision. This delay often felt torturous because whenever I glanced at the clock it seemed like the blinds were about to go up again.

And of course there's always one or two guys who anoint themselves Table Captain and insist on doing the dealer's job. This tactic just slows the whole game down. I haven't seen poker played at this pace since the 1780's when we were writing up the Constitution and still playing internet dial up poker with a paper cup and a string.

Lets play some hands people! Can we get 20 in every hour? Is that too much to ask for?

380 players entered. Top 18 got seats .

Lets get one thing straight. I don't have to acquire all the chips. I don't have to win.

I only have to outlast 362 players. Thus no need to go crazy early on.

Raise and reraise in front of me in level 1? That just means I throw my ace queen into the muck.

In level 2 I made some moves and picked up some chips. I got a little carried away and raised it to to 300 (at 50/100) in early position with 5 8 suited. I got 3 callers.

Once again I present for you the joy of raising with 5 8.

I mean it.

With aces I'm nervous right now. But with 5 8 suited against 3 opponents I say "Show me the flop!"

The 3,4,6 offering gave me an encouraging open ended straight draw.

One of the blinds led out with a 300 bet. I called. Other 2 guys folded.

A blank turn came and the blind checked. He might be giving up.

Sure I should be happy to take a free card here but I'm also into being aggressive anytime I can find place.


Because I don't think I play aggressively enough.

So it occurs to me that he's shown weakness here. He led out at the flop and now his check might mean he's giving up. Perhaps he has a small piece of the flop (or ace high) and I can win the hand right here right now with a bet. Lets try to get this over with. So I bet out 600.

In hindsight it's an embarrassingly small bet into an 1800 pot. But it can look like a value bet and it's mainly giving him a chance to get off his hand if he hasn't actually hit yet.

He took his shot on the flop. He got called. And now he's behind and being charged 600 to continue. At least I hope that's what's going on here.

Much to my dismay he calls and the river misses me too.

Again he checks to me.

There's that old saying "When the tide goes out we'll see who's swimming naked."

For me "swimming naked" is sitting here on the river in the mega satellite tent on a 115 degree day with my 8 high.

But what are my options?

I could shut down here. And if I knew for certain he'd call my river bet, there would be no point in betting.

But if I don't bet I can't win the hand. Period. So my job is to bet enough to make him fold.

The problem is he only has 1000 left. So he's getting great odds to call me. Even with a small piece.

However he showed passivity on the turn and the river so I thought there was a chance I could take it away. Maybe he has something like bottom pair here with a busted straight draw and will fold to a big bet. To stay alive in the tourney.

So I bet 1000 and put him all in.

I convince myself that he isn't going to call me unless he holds the nuts.

Unfortunately that was exactly what he has.

5,7 for a flopped straight.

Now as strange as this is going to sound, this hand was a confidence builder. Most players don't have the courage to keep firing bullets at the pot. And even though my play didn't work, it felt like an advanced move. To keep betting.

Sure I rationalized the choice as well because it was my only way to win. But I'm proud of the the courage it took. It didn't work. But it felt like something a professional poker player does.

So despite this big drop in my chip stack, I kept at it. I kept on raising. Just like the pros do. Small raises. Staying in the betting lead. And even with a smallish stack I was able to push these players around. I got back up to a healthy 3650 by the first break without ever showing down a hand.

My table broke soon after and I moved across the room. At this new table I played a key hand in my first orbit. A woman in early position raised to 800. I called on the button with ace queen.

This woman had been at my first table as well and I thought I had a pretty good read on her.

She liked to act like she was a beginner. She gave off the image of someone who only played big pairs and maybe ace king.

And she talked it up too.

"I always hope everyone folds whenever I bet" she said.

But she would do moves, like leading out on the flop from the blinds or betting in position when it was checked to her, that made her seem more savvy that she claimed.

So when she came in for 800 from middle position in an unraised pot, I didn't necessarily fear I was in trouble with my ace queen. She sure didn't have to have ace king here. She didn't even have to have a pair.

I had position. I had ace queen. I called. Lets play poker.

Flop was 7,8 ace. She led out for 1200. I'm either way ahead or way behind and we're about to find out which. I shove my stack out there.

She calls. And turns over 5,8.


Yes 5,8!

And you know what I think?

Good for her!

I love that she played it that way. I mean it.

I'm sure her plan was that no one was going to call her raise preflop. And of course when the ace flopped, her bet still makes sense. Like if I held a pocket pair I'd probably fold to her bet after seeing the ace flop on the board.

(Meanwhile of course I'm defending her play. Since I misplayed 5 8 as well earlier in this same tournament. )

When the chips got in the middle I was way ahead in the hand. But I still had to survive two more cards. The fact that there were still two 8's and three 5's left in the deck. And if either of them comes out I'm out of the tournament.

So you know what's going to happen here right?

Of course the 5 is going to hit.

And then I'm going to come home and turn on the computer and whine to you about how my hands never hold up in tournaments.

But not today.

She didn't improve. The Aces held up and suddenly I had some chips.

By the time we got to level 7, I built up to 10,800. The 112 players remaining had an average stack of 10,178. I was raising 1 or 2 hands per orbit during this time. I was getting playable hands and never limping in. Other players generally stayed out of my way.

With blinds at 500,1000 and 100 ante (2500 an orbit) I got up to 13k. With these blinds I can only last 5 orbits around the table and yet I genuinely felt healthy.

I moved to another table where I raised from middle position with pocket 9's to take down a pot.I raised because a guy had limped in under the gun for 1000 (with pockets jacks) and I was just trying to find out how strong he was. To see if he had limped with aces.

I really wasn't reraising to get a hand like pocket jacks to fold. But it's a great reminder of the power of aggression. I expected a call but I guess if you're holding pocket jacks you're also scared of bigger pair there. (It's also worth mentioning that the guy who folded the jacks made the final 18 and got a seat.)

A level later I grew even more up to 18,000.

I moved to yet another new table. My first hand there I called a 4900 all in from the big blind with queen nine suited.

Why? Because queen nine is the hand that I've never seen lose.

The guy who pushed in only had jack ten so I was actually the favorite. But you already knew the queen nine would win.

Blinds were now 800/1600 and 200 ante and I stole them twice in position to get up to 28k.

There were 80 players left.

I get out the calculator and do some math. I compute that by the time we reach 18 players the average chip stack will be around 63,000.

I'm in great shape. But I still have alot of work to do.

I get king queen suited under the gun and mini raise to 3200. This is a good time to make a point about starting hands. When I play super tight and very few hands I hate getting burned with something like king queen suited because it's at the bottom of my hand range.

But when I'm playing a wider range of hands I love getting something like king queen suited because it's a stronger holding that what I might usually have.

Does that makes sense?

In other words when I'm playing tighter I don't want to be holding king queen because people expect me to have a better holding and thus will be stronger than king queen themselves.

But when I'm playing alot of hands someone might play back at me with a weaker holding.

As in with something that king queen suited can actually beat.

So I raise with the king queen suited but before I can sweep in the chips, the small blind pushes all in on me. I'd fold to a big raise here but he only has 3700 more so I call.

He has pocket 5's and I fully expect to win.

I lose.

This race sets me back slightly since the entire pot was worth 16,600. I'm back down close to 20ish instead of being up close to 40ish.

Big difference. If I had won this pot I could have really snowballed with my aggression since most players were just trying to survive. However one of the benefits of my earlier aggression was that it got me enough chips where I could afford to lose a race like this and still have some chips. But now I had to become more careful.

After paying some blinds I was down to 17ish and my M was suddenly under 3.

I waited.

I paid blinds again and was down to 12ish.

The table was nine handed and it was costing 5700 chips a round.

The next hand was folded to me on the button and I pushed all in (with ace 10) to take down the pot.

It got folded to me again the very next hand in the cutoff seat and I pushed again to win the blinds and antes.

The back to back steals (for 11,400 chips) got me up to a healthy 23ish again. But I mention these two hands because I'm so aware that if either blind wakes up with a hand, my tourney could be over.

Blinds were now 1500/3000 and 400 ante. 8500 a round.

40 players left.

Guy to my right goes all for like 12k. Half my stack. I fold pocket 5's. Even if he doesn't have a pair I don't want to race two face cards. If I'm playing pocket 5's tonight you'd better believe I'm raising with them.

With 38 players left I had 23k. I bleed down again to 16.5 after paying blinds.

I gotta push with a hand in the next orbit.

Guy under gun pushes all in for his 29k.

I look down at the ace and king of hearts. I push all in as well.

I assume I'm racing something like pocket 9's or pocket jacks. You know, one of those hands that doesn't want to see an over card on the flop. So he's just trying to take it down now.

This is also the last hand of the level. We're going to 2000/4000 blinds and 500 ante so I need to double up and get some chips. I would have preferred to be first in but with ace king this is my chance.

But before we can race, the game gets held up because the big blind can't decide what to do. He's mulling it over for a few minutes. He has both of us covered in chips. So basically he's trying to decide if he thinks he's getting the correct odds to call.

There are probably two answers to this question.

Mathematically (pot odds) the answer is probably yes. He is probably going to win the pot more often than the percent of chips he has to put in.

But in a satellite the answer might really be no. Because unless he is instacalling with a big pair, he has to be trailing here. A guy moved all in under the gun, so you know he has something. And I called all in, so I obviously wasn't putting my chips out there hoping to get anyone to fold.

We both have to be somewhat strong.

On a personal note, the troubling thing for me about him taking this time was that I figured this guy probably had an ace and was taking away at least one of my outs.

Incredibly, the guy eventually decides to call, and turns over ace queen.

And perhaps more incredibly, the all in under the gun guy also turns over ace queen.

I pound the table with my fist. For the first time in a year.

I'm a 4 to 1 favorite but we all know what's going to happen next right?

There are two queens left in the deck. Or they could flop a straight draw.

The flop is all low diamonds. I couldn't tell you the numbers. I was just looking for face cards.

I glanced at the double ace queens sitting face up on the table.

Neither guy has a diamond. This is really too good to believe.

Last week I got knocked out ace king vs ace queen.

But not today.

Ace king beat ace queen. Like it's supposed to.

We go to break and I have 55k. Average stack is 32k. 35 players remain.

Suddenly this seat is mine to lose.

I come back from break with a plan. I just need to win 1 pot per orbit to stay in the 50-60k range. It's much easier said than done. But still, it's a plan.

We're nine handed and blinds are at 2000/4000 and 500. 10,500 a round. No one is safe.

I pick up queen jack suited under the gun. Hard hand to play from this spot. I can't limp. But I also don't want to commit too many chips. I raise to 10k. Guy to my left pushes all in for his last 10k. It gets folded around and we showdown.

He turns over 9,10 off.

Huh? Why? He wasn't even going to be the big blind the next hand.

My queen jack wins. And I don't take it for granted.

Even against a small stack like him that pot was just for 30k. (10k was mine so 20 profit).

That ain't small change at this point.

Then two hands later a guy makes it 14k from the button. I look down in the small blind at ace king. He has another 25k behind the line. I push all in. With only 30 players remaining lets put him to the test. If he has anything other than aces this is a tough call. Even with kings or queens.

He mucks his hand.

These two hands helped get me up to the 90k range.

I was at 87.5k when we got down to 3 tables and 27 players and redrew for new table spots.

At my new table I was the initially the biggest stack. However the medium stacks were idiots and playing pots with each other. I stayed out of their way and still managed to steal one hand per orbit to stay in the 80-90k range.

By the time we reached the next break there were only 21 players remaining.

Top 18 get 10k seats. 19th place gets $700. 20th and 21st place get nothing.

I'm still raising one hand per orbit and no one challenges it.

Blinds are now 5000, 10000, and 1000 ante. We're 7 handed so it costs me 22,000 chips every 7 hands. Even with a healthy above average 78.5k stack my M was less than 4. Sure I could fold once or twice around the table but at some point I might have to win another pot to survive.

I'm in great shape. But still very concerned.

No one can stomach the idea of playing this far and not getting the seat.

And it never ends well.

The guy who went out 21st had pocket kings.

His opponent king, 10.

The flop had a 10.

The turn was a rag.

The river a 10.

So gross.

When we got down to 20 players we went to hand for hand play. A guy with 25k in chips was in the small blind. It got folded around to him. Like I said, the blinds are 5000, 10000. So when he shoves his remaining 20k in the middle, it's "only" 15000 more to the big blind who was a big stack. (At this point I'm sitting there praying the big stack guy calls. He obviously has pot odds. And the chips. But most importantly, here's a chance to get rid of someone).

Big blind has 5,6 off suit so he's really thinking about it. Maybe he's not sure what to do.

He finally decides to call. Small stack has king, 6 off suit and looks like he's bound to double up.

Flop is 3,4 something. Turn blank. River a 7.

Boom. The 5,6 big stack makes the straight.

King, 6 guy starts yelling at the big blind. "How the hell could you call me with 5,6?"

(Answer: It was only 15000 more.)

When the King, 6 guy stops yelling, someone should tell him that it's not unreasonable to fold in that spot in a satellite tournament. Yes he was down to 25k but he had JUST paid his blinds. So he was good for at least 4 more hands. And there were 3 stacks smaller than him.

Why not wait and see what happens?

I took advantage of the smaller stack to my left in this manner. One hand when it got folded around to us I didn't even look at my cards. I just shoved my chips out there. Even if has aces he shouldn't want to race me. I could survive losing a race to him. But if he loses a race to me it's gonna cost him a seat.

With the king,6 guy on the sidelines we were finally down to 19 players. The action turned to the next table where there were two very smallish stacks. From here it only took one or two hands. But they eventually got all in and it was over.

The 18 of us who remained all won seats into the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event.

I signed up to play this Monday. Starting day 1d.

I'm very excited to play some deep stack poker. Deep stack poker is much more like playing a cash game. With 20,000 chips and blinds starting at only 50/100 you get alot of play.

In the smaller buy in events I can't call my opponent's preflop raises as much as I'd like to with my small pairs and suited connectors and other assorted junk hands. I don't have enough chips to see flops. But with 20k in chips when someone makes it 300 preflop with his big pocket pair, I'm more than happy to give him action.

Just like at the cash tables, I can call and see a flop. Like a human being.

The past few months as I've been planning my WSOP agenda I've thought that spending $10,000 on a seat for a single poker tournament was a waste of money. At my financial level I'd much rather play ten $1000 tournaments.

But for me to win a seat for 550 bucks completely takes the pressure off.

If I get dealt pocket kings in the first hand I won't be scared to play back with them if I get raised. For 10,000 bucks I'm scared I'm facing aces. But for 550 bucks I'll beat you into the center of the table with my chips.

And live to write about it.

It's all free rolling from here.


eric said...

Rob, Nice One. I'm excited for you -- but I'm more excited for us. You have become like a Fantasy Footbal fix for your boys back east. Now your in the BIG DANCE and you know we are all waiting for the next play-by-play!

Rob said...

Congrats on the Main Event Seat.... been enjoying your blog since the start of the series... Great stuff.
Best of luck this week, maybe you will get your picture on the real winners wall of fame at binions

FreeFormCoder said...

rock it Cohen, and once again, great writing this week. c

Check Raise Chin said...

Great Job Rob. Take it down and ship those chips!