Aria Post-Christmas Tournament, Part 2
It folded to the small blind who completed when I had Ace-8 off in the big blind. I made it $4K and he folded. Then, after a limper, I raised to $4K with pocket Jacks and had one caller. Low flop, I c-bet $6,500 and took it down.
In late position, I opened to $3K with 8-7 of diamonds and didn’t get a call.
Level 9 (200/800/1600) $66K. I opened to $4200 with King-Queen off and took it.
In the small blind I completed with King-2 of hearts after it folded to me. The big blind checked behind. The flop totally missed me but I bet $2,100, and again the lady folded face up. She had 7-2….but there was a 7 on the flop.
After many limpers, I made it $7K with Ace-King of diamonds and no one called.
I opened to $4,200 with Ace-8 and took it.
Level 10 (300/1000/2000) ($82,700). I opened to $5,500 with pocket 4’s but folded to a shove.
Next hand I had pocket 8’s and tried again, opening to $5,500. I got two callers, including the guy who shoved in the previous hand. The flop was King-Queen-3. I made a $10K c-bet and didn’t get a call.
I opened to $5,500 with Ace-3 off in late position. One of the blinds shoved for a total of $9K. It folded back to me so I called. He had pocket 9’s. I caught my Ace on the turn and his tournament was done.
I opened to $5,500 with pocket Jacks and had 2 callers. The flop was 9-8-6, two diamonds. A player who had me covered donk-shoved and I folded. Well, that’s what my notes say. At the time, it didn’t seem so remarkable to me, and I mentioned it much in my notes without comment, but now it looks like a really weird play. If he had me covered there was really no reason for him to shove if he had a big hand, he had plenty of chips. So my notes might be off a little, maybe he only made a big bet. Maybe he didn’t have me covered but had too many chips for me to risk it. Or I suppose maybe he had the flush draw and was semi-bluffing? I dunno, I wish I had made a better note about it.
I took pots uncontested from the big blind and small blind by raising with Ace-King off and Queen-10 of spades.
Level 11 (400/1500/3000) $101,500. I open to $8K with King-Queen and no call.
I raised $8K with pocket 9’s. A short stack shoved for a bit less than $10K. Another guy asked the dealer if I could raise if he called. Assured I couldn’t, he called. I called. There were two Aces on the flop and no one bet any street. The short stack had pocket 8’s but the other guy had pocket Jacks.
I threw $4K on top of my small blind when it folded to me with King-10 off and the big blind folded.
Level 12 (500/2000/4000) $98,500. We were down to 19 players and it was starting to look like I had a chance at cashing. If only I could get enough chips to avoid the dreaded min-cash.
And in fact Level 12 was the key level for me, as it turned out. I was in the big blind with Ace-10 off. It folded to the small blind who just completed. I raised to $10K and he called. The flop was Ace high, two diamonds. He checked, I shoved, he snap called. He had a similar stack to me, I had a few chips more. He turned over Ace-9, but both were diamonds. He whiffed on his draw. That was a timely double-up.
The very next hand I had Ace-King. I raised to $10K and a guy shoved for $28K. I called. He had Ace-Jack. There was a Jack in the window but the flop also had a King. I took the pot.
By the time I finished counting all my chips—$246K—we were down to the bubble. Someone at the other table proposed paying the bubble $10 each, which would basically be a refund of the buy-in. But before my table had a chance to vote, someone at the other table said no. I heard him say, “I never make deals.”
I opened to $11K with King-5 of spades and didn’t get a call.
Fortunately, we weren’t hand-for-hand for very long. Unlucky player 13 busted and we were now in the money. And with my sudden big stack, I was no longer thinking I was probably going to have to settle for the min-cash. I figured I could break into the top 3 and get some real money. I think I may have had the biggest stack at our table at this point.
Late in level 12, we were down to 10 and assembled the final table I noted that I had $241K chips at that point. I was still pretty much at that stack when we started level 13 (500/3000/6000).
Just before we were down to the final table, they had to move a player over from the other table for balance. The player they brought over to me was obviously the biggest stack of all, he had a massive pile of chips. The guy was a big, burly, hairy guy and for some reason, when I thought about him later, I realized he kind of made me think of a lumberjack. So let’s call him The Lumberjack, or LJ for short.
When he moved over to my table, he was seated directly to my left, which I certainly wasn’t very happy about. He had clearly not gotten all those chips by playing timidly. He liked to enter pots and he rarely limped when he did. He was definitely using that big stack to bully everyone.
However, during the brief time he was on my left, he didn’t really affect my play much because I didn’t get any cards to play. Then we drew for the final table and I thought I was fine with the fact that I was now on his immediate left.
But actually, that was really bad luck. You see, at this stage of the tournament, being first to act is often a lot better than being last to act. It was now almost always raised before it got to me. I never had a chance to open a pot. I was pretty much reduced to sitting there waiting for a big starting hand. I soon realized that I was going to have to think about three-betting him light since he was clearly opening the pot with pretty weak holdings. But of course, I still had to worry about the players behind me. It was really a bad situation for me.
He was also a really good player, I was sure he was a regular tournament grinder. He could call chip stacks more accurately than any dealer. And I was virtually certain that he was the guy who said that he doesn’t make deals at the other table.
It was really a pisser because when the final table was formed, I was second in chips behind LJ. So I sure wanted to keep that position and get a really nice score. And I realized that if I was one of the last three players with him—or even heads up with him—we were never going to make a deal. We’d have to play it out. I envisioned playing heads up with the guy for the first place money.
One of the issues there was that I had earlier decided not to try to stuff a really fast dinner down during one of the breaks. I figured I was doing too well to afford risking missing hands for it, and also, we were dropping players fast enough (unlike the week before at Binion’s) that I figured I could play it out and have a late dinner. But when I made that decision, it was under the assumption that if I was fortunate enough to make the final three, we’d cut a deal. Now it was looking like that wasn’t gonna happen. Ugh. In the meantime, during the last two breaks I had munched on the big bag of peanuts I had with me so I wasn’t worried about the lack of fuel.
Anyway, I got pocket 10’s and LJ had made it $17K in front of me. Now maybe you don’t consider re-raising with pocket 10’s “three-betting light” but I do, and did there. I made it $47K. He tanked for a long time, and sized up the rest of my stack and realized it wasn’t all that much less than his. He finally folded. I needed more opportunities like that.
I got to level 14 (1000/4000/8000) with $296K chips. I noted that the average stack was $155K. We were down to 8 players. Next player out would get $331. But I was still in good shape to get top two money if I could just figure out how to play back against LJ—and/or if I could get some cards.
I picked a really bad time to go card dead.
In the small blind, I had Ace-7. After one limper, I was shocked when LJ, from the button, just limped in. I completed and four of us saw the flop. It was Queen-7-2. No one bet. The turn was a blank, and this time I led out for $25K. No one called.
It folded to me in late position with Jack-9 of clubs. One of the rare preflop folds from LJ, so I made it $18K. Just one player called, an older gentleman. The flop was all low, two hearts. I made a $25K c-bet and took it.
I was able to open to $18K with Ace-3 off, but I had to fold to a shove.
Those were the only three hands I was able to play that level, between the cards I was getting and LJ opening almost every pot. So I had $293K at level 15 (2000/6000/12000),
During that level, I was probably the chip leader for awhile. LJ was calling short stack shoves with fairly light holdings and for awhile, the short stacks kept hitting what they need to remain alive—and drain chips from LJ. But he kept at it and busted a few players and got his stack back to bigger than mine.
I had Ace-10 off and good ol’ LJ had opened to $24K. I figured this was a good time for another light three-bet. I made it $60K. But a player shoved for less. Then that older gentleman shoved for $106K. LJ tanked forever and finally folded. I felt there was no way I could fold so I called. Winning that hand would have been awesome. Too bad I didn’t.
The shortest stack had Ace-Jack and the $106K stack had Ace-Queen. Ugh. The flop was all blanks, although LJ noted that it hit him as he had raised with 9-3 of spades. He was regretting folding. He said he would have called me but couldn’t call the $106K. But he was glad he folded when a Queen hit the turn. I was drawing dead and lost over 1/3 my stack. Very harmful to my tournament longevity.
At least the short stack was gone and we were down to 6 players. Worst I could do was $541 prize.
With the blinds and antes killing me, I started level 16 (2000/8000/16000) with $136K. We lost another player and it was just the 5 of us, with my stack being the shortest. On the button I had King-3 of spades. When it folded to me, I shoved. One of the blinds had a big stack—it was that older gentleman who I had helped out on the Ace-10 hand earlier. He called with Ace-rag. The flop was blank but he caught an Ace on the turn and my tournament was over.
So I settled for fifth place money, $710. It was 8-1/2 hours of poker, just about exactly the same as last week when I didn’t cash. So that was of course a major improvement. Still, it was pretty frustrating—not so much because of the pay scale but because at the final table I was second in chips most of the time and was probably the chip leader for awhile. Sigh. I felt at that point I had a pretty good shot at the really meaningful first ($3,900) or second place money $2,500). I felt that I had played really well all along, and obviously had gotten some well-timed luck along the way. But I went card dead at the end and then had the bad fortune of being directly behind the aggro Lumberjack.
When I was back at the Aria the next weekend, I picked up the results sheet. I’m pretty sure that LJ ended up third. It looked like the first two made a deal after that, with first getting only $3,500 and second moving up to $3K. First place, I’m sure, was the older gentleman who crippled me when I three-bet Ace-10 and he shoved with Ace-Queen.
By then, I had figured out my hourly for the tournament was over $67. So there’s that.