Monday, May 14, 2018

Folding My Way Up The Ladder

(Second of Two Parts)

Part 1 is here.

We pick up at the Commerce tournament after I mentioned I went levels 12, 13, 14 and 15 without writing down a hand.  Now things got confusing for me because it turned out that the structure sheet that Commerce had for this tourney had an error on it.  There was a level missing.  I was really surprised that they made a mistake like that.  I meant to comment/ask them about it but I never got around to it.  Also, the structure sheet was really only for day 1 and they didn't even have a structure sheet for day 2.  And another error….it turned out that for day 2 the levels were 30-minutes, but this information wasn't listed anywhere.

Anyway, from here on out, I'm not really sure what level I was at or what the blinds were.  I'll do the best I can.  According to my notes, we are now at level 16 (2,500/1,500/2,500) with $20,500.  And I opened shoved with pocket 8's.  I got called by the big blind with Ace-Jack.  The board was all bricks and I got a double up.

That got me to $48,500 but by the time we got to level 17 (3K/2K/3K) I was down to $41K.  I shoved Ace-Jack of spades and was called by a shorter stack with Jack-10 off.  A Jack hit the flop and my kicker won the pot. 

I didn't make any notes about how close we were to the money.  This flight ended up with 520 players, it was the biggest flight of the series (because it was the last one and also because it was Saturday). There was a print out that showed 50 players advancing to day 2.  I didn't realize until I got home that it was only for the first three flights, it didn't include the Friday flight. Turns out there were 72 players who had previously advanced.  For this flight, 64 would be paid and 42 would survive to day 2.

So I'm not sure what level it was but I had $53K and that was short.  I needed a double up.  I peaked at my cards one at a time.  The first one was a King.  Believe it or not, I was so desperate that I was actually hoping the other one was a King too.  Yes, I was praying for the dreaded pocket Kings.  And my prayers were answered.  Even better, a big stack had raised in front of me.  I shoved and it folded back to him.  He tanked for a long time. As long as he didn't snap call I was happy.  I wanted him to call. I figured I'd either have my double up or I'd had have another dreaded pocket Kings story.  But after a long think, he folded.

Then the last hand of whatever level it was, I got Ace-King and shoved.  A shorter stack called and turned over pocket 7's.  There was a beautiful King in the window. That got me up to $115K.  And I had to post the blinds as the next level began and that brought me down to about $100K so the blinds must have been 5,000/2,500/5,000. 

I opened to $10,300 with Ace-5 suited but had to fold to a big stack that shoved.

But somehow, without any cards, I was outlasting a lot of players.  As we neared the next break, the player count dropped below 70.  I can't recall exactly what the last count I saw when we went on break, but it was really close to the money.  Maybe 66-67.  I assumed we would be hand-for-hand when we came back.

As best as I can calculate, we were going to break before level 19 where the blinds would be 6k/3k/6k.  And my stack as I left for the break was $89K.  But right before we started that level after the break, they announced we were in the money!  Hooray!  Not only was I gonna cash but we avoided the whole dreaded "hand-for-hand" play which is so excruciating.  And it happened so quickly I didn't even have to have the debate with myself about whether to go extra nitty for the min-cash or try to take a few risks to build up the stack.  I was just playing the game as the cards dictated—which was almost always to fold cuz I was getting such crap.  I overheard one of the floors or players saying that two players busted on the same hand—last hand before the break—which means they weren't keeping up with running count accurately on the clock.  I think they were busting too fast to keep up.  It's almost like they did that intentionally so all the players wouldn't see how close we were to the bubble and go into survival mode.  I don't think it was intentional, just a function of the size of the tournament.  I guess.

Anyway, that was one worry out of the way, now I had to try to get some chips so I could survive and come back Sunday—hopefully with enough chips to actually play with.

But still most of the hands played themselves—instafold.  But the first hand back from break and in the money I looked at King-Queen and opened to $15K.  No call.

I called $12K with pocket 9's and it was heads up.  Whiffed the flop but he didn't bet.  Blank on the turn, still no betting.  There was an Ace on the river and this time he bet $22K.  Sure it looked like he had a big Ace and caught it on the river.  But I had a feeling he saw the Ace as a scare card for me and was trying to steal it.  Still not sure my 9's were good but I made the call.  I was right, he said "good call."  He had a couple of Broadway cards that the board had missed.

A guy with a ton of chips opened to $15K and I called with Ace-King.  I guess I was at a point where I should have been ready to risk my tournament life with A-K, but I thought I had enough chips to play poker with.  I probably should have three-bet shoved.  The flop was Queen-Jack-X and neither of us bet.  On the blank turn, I bet $4,500 with my gutshot, hoping to take it down there.  But he called.  The river blanked and this time he made a big bet, and with Ace-high I of course folded.  He showed King-Queen.  I guess the preflop shove was the right play, although in this case he had enough chips to call and would have hit.

They finally broke our table and I moved to a new one, seat 5 at a table where there was no room for me to squeeze in, between how tight the tables were packed, the fact that on one side of the seat was a very heavy man and on the other side was an older gentleman whose cane was in the way.  Plus there were drink carts on either side.  I think it would have been easier for me to have crawled under the table to get to my seat.

By this time I got to the new table, we were down to just one or maybe two players left to bust before we'd bag for day 2.  And I realized my stack was really too short to be a contender on day 2.  I didn't get any cards, but I should have found more risks to take to either get a double up or bust then, take my $360 and avoid a long drive back to Commerce on Sunday.  It really was a mistake to play that Ace-King hand so timidly.

With only one or two hands left, I had to make my move. I was in early position and if there was any possible way I could put all my chips in the center, I had to.  Fortunately, UTG +1 I got lucky and found pocket Jacks.  There was no way I wasn't getting it all-in there.  The huge stack on my right made a normal opening raise, and I wasted no time in saying "all-in."  I actually wanted a call, maybe two.  A double up, or maybe a triple up would have made it worth it to return the next day.  If I busted I saved myself a Sunday and still would leave with a profit for a long day of poker.  The old man on my left talked a whole lot (he had a good hand, etc), counted his chips (he had me way covered) and I was sure he was gonna call…but he finally let it go.  Quick fold around the table until it was back on the guy on my right.  I was sure he'd call, he could afford to lose what I bet.  But I guess he was betting light.  Remember, I had just gotten to the table, didn't have any idea what he had done to get that impressive stack.  He didn't take long to fold.  I was actually disappointed.

As they dealt the next hand, they announced that we were done, this was the last hand before we'd bag.  UTG, I looked down at 9-2 off.  I suppose if it was suited I might have shoved (just kidding) but I couldn't do anything but fold.  I started counting my chips.  It was $111K.  The big stack after the first three days was $582K.  There 14 players on that sheet with less including the ultimate short stack who had $17K.  But remember there were players advancing from day 4 that weren't included on that sheet, which I didn't know at the time.

The bagging procedure was a bit different, and a lot simpler, than the times I've bagged and tagged in Vegas.  We just took the bags and wrote our names, home town, and player's card # on the bag.  The times I've done this before, they give you a two part slip to fill out, one part goes in the bag and you keep one part which is your receipt.  I realized after I left the room I didn't have a receipt for my chips—or the money I was entitled to!  I had nothing to show if there was some dispute, and they owed me at least the day 2 min-cash, which I assumed was more that the $360 that they were paying this day.

I was a bit ambivalent about the results.  On the one hand, I was really proud of the way I (mostly) played all day (over 8 hours) to have made the money, made day 2, especially considering how card dead I was all day.  On the other hand, I had probably an hour's drive back the next day, a beautiful Sunday, and was feeling like I'd most likely play one hand, bust out, and head back home for another hour's drive, just to get a few extra bucks than I could have left with that night if I'd only had the good sense to bust ten minutes before we broke for the night.  I guess the key would be how much the day 2 min-cash was going to be, because that was what I was expecting. 

But it was great getting all the tournament practice in before heading to Vegas for all those series tournaments I expect to play there.  That was invaluable. 

Fortunately traffic was not bad on the way home, and when I fired up the ol' PC I saw that Commerce had already listed the chip counts and the seating assignments for day 2.  That's when I figured out that there was a flight missing from the hand-out they were giving out that day.

There were 114 total playing day 2 (plus 4 stacks taken out of play because players played multiple days and qualified twice).  The biggest stack was still $582K and the smallest stack was still $17K.  My stack was tied for 82nd, obviously not good. 

Of course first I had noticed the payouts.  The total prize pool was $292K and first place was worth $46K.  But I was looking at the bottom.  The day 2 min-cash was only $470.  Really?  I have to say I was (as usual) disappointed.  I mean when the day 1 min-cash is so measly—a mere 50% above the buy-in, it seems to me you could at least figure out a way to give everyone who had to come back for a day 2 the double the buy-in I think should be mandatory for the regular min-cash of a one-day tournament. It just seems that with that big prize pool spread out over 118 players (not counting however many players got the day 1 min-cash and were gone), I think that min-cash should have been $480 at the absolute minimum.

But no one cares what I think.  What that $470 represented was $110 extra I'd get on day 2 than if I'd busted in the money on day 1.  That's not a lot when you consider the time on a Sunday and of course the gas to make that drive back to Commerce. 

Places 109-118 would get that min-cash.  Places 100-108 would get the next pay level, $530.  91-99  was worth $590.  82-90 worth $650.  73-81 $710. 64-72 $770. 

Now something I didn't realize until just now…the sheet showed places down to 118.  But that included the four duplicate stacks (players who made day two twice).  So there were only 114 players left.  So I only had to outlast six players to make the first play jump, not 10.  I should have seen that at the time.  But even without realizing that, I was kind of thinking that players were busting really fast the last few levels of day 1 (so fast that we blew right by the bubble) and with the stacks what they were, I could very likely fold my way to at least one play jump.

And that was significant to me, not for the money (though that didn't hurt) but for the principle of the thing.  I wanted that (at least) double my buy-in payout!

So the next day, Sunday morning, I set the alarm and made sure I was back at Commerce well before the 1pm restart time.  Although I did consider the possibility that even not showing up and getting blinded out, I might very well have made at least one pay jump!  It might even be better to get there late, get blinded off, make a pay jump than get pocket Aces and having them cracked on the first hand of the day!

It all depended on where I was in relation to the blinds.  Remember, with the big blind ante, there are 7 hands per orbit at a full table where you don't pay a thing unless you want to.  Of course when you are the big blind, that really hurts, cuz you post the equivalent of two big blinds on one hand.  The small blind would usually be one-quarter of that.

The dealer at each table of course had to see a photo I.D. before you were allowed to open your bag of chips and play them.

We played two hands at 6K/3K/6K and then the blinds went up to 8K/4K/8K.  And the first hand of the new level, I was going to be the big blind, costing me $16K.  Still, that would leave me with chips for another orbit, and for sure by the next time the blinds came around I'd be up one pay jump, maybe two.  I was hearing "seat open" pretty rapidly at first, a few busted the first hand.  Some of that may have been not realizing that there were four players less than I thought for reasons I've already explained.  But I decided there was no need to take high risks.  I wasn't about to fold a really playable hand to make a pay jump but I probably folded a few marginal hands.  Especially because at this table, every pot was opened with a raise, there was no limping, and unless I was UTG, there was almost always a raise in front of me.

So I folded a couple of really bad hands, got a really bad hand in the big blind and folded to a shove.  Same when I was the small blind, and though I was down to $91K I was alive and had seven "free" hands to try to find a shove.  I didn't make a note of when we past the pay jumps but for sure when the blinds passed me the first time I was up to the next level.

When the blinds started approaching me again, I was UTG +1 and I got my first chance.  It was pocket Jacks and after a fold it was an easy shove.  But no one called.

I guess I posted those blinds and antes when it was my turn and by the time the next level came around, I was still at $91K.  Now the blinds were $10K/$5K/$10K.  UTG +1 with pocket 9's, I open shoved with pocket 9's.  Again, no call.

Then next orbit I was UTG and shoved with King-Queen of hearts.  Again no call.

Then the blinds jumped to $15K/$5K/$15K.  I was still around $90K.  So if I didn't get any more chips, I'd be putting a third of my stack in play next time I was the BB.  I'd pretty much be pot committed no matter what I had.  There were less than 80 players left, I was now guaranteed at least $710.  Not bad considered how I had started the day. 

So when I was UTG, and I looked at King-10 offsuit, I thought I didn't have much of a choice.  I could open the pot with a shove, and who knows what my BB hand would be.  Besides, no one had called one of my shoves yet at this table.

It instafolded around the table until it came to the big blind, who tanked.  He asked for a count, looked at his stack (he had a lot of chips).  Finally he said OK and called.  He turned over pocket 9's, which was about the best I could hope for—a race.  I didn't catch anything on the flop but by the turn I had a gutshot—all I needed was a 9.  The board wasn't paired so I had never been hoping for my opponent to catch a set this much in my life.  Unfortunately I whiffed, and I was done.

I'd lasted a about an hour and a quarter on this Sunday and folded my way up the ladder from $470 to $710 (a $470 profit).  I'd treaded water for all that time by winning a round of blinds and antes once an orbit, but I couldn't get the double up I needed to be able to play poker.

But still, it was good experience for next month in Vegas.


  1. Congratulations on a great blog and run. May all good things continue for you in Vegas.

    1. Thanks very much, Dale. Appreciate it.

  2. Great post Rob! Gotta feel good about the cash!


  3. Well done Rob, at least they didn't suckout on you to knock you out.

    1. Thanks, Ace. Yes, I guess it was nice to bust on a coin flip rather than a suckout!