Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is Queen/Jack the New Deuce/Four?

As I explained in this post,  I haven’t been having much luck in tournaments lately, and I decided to play in them less frequently.  So for my August trip to Vegas, I only played in three tournaments.  Here’s the story of the first one I played, the 1 PM Aria tournament, mid-week.

I like this tournament; it’s deepstack (10K in starting chips), and has 30 minute levels.  Pretty good value for $125. The competition is not easy, there are a lot of locals who play it regularly, they can be tough.  But there’s also plenty of tourists of various skills.  I’ve cashed in it a couple of times (see here and here).
When I first started playing deepstack tournaments, what I wanted was a long run, ie, getting a lot of play for my money.  I didn’t expect to cash, but I wanted to play hours of poker and hopefully learn from it.
No more.  These days, I have enough of a reasonable expectation of doing well so that I’d rather not play a long time and end up with nothing to show for it.  I’d rather bust out early than play for hours and not cash or just take a min cash.  Obviously one of these times I’d like to win the damn thing, but finishing in the top 3 or 4 or even doing a chop (like I did at Binions last year, see here) is the real goal, and I don’t think too unrealistic.
So although I am a nit tight player, I am starting to look for places where I can make a big score early, and am a lot less concerned about an early bust out than I used to be.  If I do bust out early, I’ll have the afternoon and early evening to play in a cash game, or whatever.  Not a problem.
But I’m a long way from perfecting (or even attempting) the loose-aggressive style where you keep making raisings with weak holdings and hope to make enough steals to make up for the times you get caught.  I’m still more comfortable waiting for a good hand, and try to make a few moves and steals along the way by learning other players’ styles.
Now, on this particular day, I started out extremely card dead.  I know I’ve claimed to be card dead before—name me a poker player who hasn’t—but this time it was really extreme.  I am absolutely certain this was the worst run of starting cards I’ve seen for an extended period in my entire poker playing experience.  For the first hour and a quarter, I was dealt not a single pocket pair. Not even a lousy pair of deuces.  Never saw two paint cards at the same time.  Aces?  Yeah, I had one of them a couple of times. With two exceptions, never with anything higher than a 7.  Yeah it was that bad.
The best two hands I had during this period were AQ and A10.  I raised with the AQ and had no callers, that was the only pot I won.  With A10, there was a big raise in front of me by a tight player, so I folded it.  And that was it for my “good hands.”
Yes, I was looking for places to steal, but I’m pretty careful (probably too careful) early in a tournament.  Until there are antes or the blinds start to get big, trying to get too fancy with a lousy hand in position seems too “high risk/low reward” for me.
But by now, I was getting somewhat antsy.  And I figured I had played so few hands in all this time, I could use my image to grab at least some chips, right?  When the button came to me, I vowed I would raise with anything if it was limped around.  I believe the blinds were 100/200, no ante.  Indeed, it was limped to me, only one caller, a tight player, female, in the hijack seat.
My hand was actually one of the better hands I’d seen so far, Ace/four offsuit.  A monster compared to most of the crap I’d been seeing.  I raised to $700.  I swear, I would have made the same move with 7-2 offsuit.  The blinds folded but the lady called.
The flop missed me and was King high, not particularly draw heavy. She checked and I made a continuation bet of $1K, praying to take it down there.  She thinks for a bit and calls.  Shit.
A blank on the turn and she checks again.  How many bullets do I want to shoot here? Well, I decided she probably wasn’t going to go away this time, so I checked behind her.  A blank on the river and she checked again.  I thought about betting there, thought about it a lot.  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I checked behind her and she flipped over….Ace Queen.
Ace Queen?  Really?  How do you not raise there with Ace Queen?  I mean in a tournament; in a cash game, I can see it. In a tournament, in late position, no raises, you just limp with Ace Queen?
And why the heck did she call me on the flop?  With one lousy overcard?  Seriously.  And against a player who had played one hand all day prior and had raised preflop for only the second time that day?  Maybe I gave her too much credit.  Maybe she wasn’t a good enough player to notice how tight I had been playing.
Whatever, it really steamed me and also cost me some chips.  I was really feeling an early exit coming on.  So on the last hand before break I was on the button again with 9/3 offsuit.  No one had entered the pot, so I went for the steal with a raise.  The small blind calls, big blind folds.  Lucky for me, the flop came K93!  Small blind checks, and as I start to reach for chips, he mucks his cards before I even get a chance to bet.  Too bad I couldn’t get more value for that lucky flop.
After the break, my run of bad starting cards continued.  This time, by necessity, I took more chances and nothing worked.  I wasn’t quite in shove-or-fold territory yet, but I was close. So with Queen/Jack offsuit on the last hand before the second break, I figured I could take a chance, and if I busted out there, at least I wouldn’t have to wait through the break to start the rest of my day.  So indeed I shoved and someone called me.  With a pair of Kings.  Ugh.  Now of course, KK is my cursed hand, but when someone has it against me, it usually holds up.  And it without an overcard, it sure didn’t look good for me there.
So I was practically out the door as the dealer put the flop down.  No King but there was a Jack so I had hope.  When a Queen hit on the turn, I started to sit back down, but was internally betting that a King would be the river card.  Nope, it was a blank.  I had survived against the dreaded pocket Kings.  He had me well covered so it was a nice double up and gave me some chips to actually start playing some poker again with.
But I bled some chips and needed to make another move.  So I shoved with Q/J again.  A deep stack with Ace rag called.  Ace on the flop made things rough for me, but I hit runner-runner for the straight and doubled up. Again.  Starting to love that Queen/Jack!  Perhaps Queen/Jack could become my own personal deuce-four?
This was right before our table broke.  At the new table, directly to my left was a youngish guy with a ton of chips, and I soon saw why.  He was a very good player.  Running low on chips again, I found Ace/Jack of diamonds in late position.  I didn’t think I had to shove there, but I thought about it.  Instead I made a pretty decent raise.  Aforementioned player on my immediate left shoves!  He has a huge stack, has me covered several times over.  I was sure he could make that move with a lot of hands, just hoping to take the limpers’ chips and my big raise.  Since I was thinking of shoving there anyway and I thought his range was wide, it was a fairly easy call for me.  Besides, if I busted there, there was still time to do something else before heading over to BSC for the evening.
He flipped over pocket 10’s and was greatly relieved to see my A/J of diamonds.  No way he put me on that hand, he thought I’d have to have a bigger pocket pair to call him there.  He didn’t know I had evening plans :).  To his absolute horror—and my total delight—there was nothing but diamonds on the flop, three of them to be exact.  I had flopped the nut flush!  He now needed a miracle and didn’t get it.  I had doubled up again.
But boy was he pissed.  How could I make that call?  Really, how could I make it?  It was a sick call. I just smiled and stacked my chips.  No sense bothering to tell him I thought seriously about shoving first.  Meanwhile, someone else pointed out how lucky it was to hit the nut flush on the flop (no shit) and quoted what he thought the odds of it happening were.  I don’t recall what he said and have no interest in looking it up.  Look, I was of course incredibly lucky to flop the flush there, no doubt.  But the reality is, I had two overcards to his pocket pair, the classic “race” or coinflip.  He only on a slight edge preflop.  All I needed was a Jack or an Ace (and no 10); the flush was gravy.
Finally he said, “nice hand, sir” trying not very successfully to hide his sarcasm.
Just a few hands later, right before another break.  By now I’m starting to think my late afternoon plans are shot, I might as well cash in this thing.  In late position I had K-10 suited.  Thanks to my buddy to my left, I had enough chips so I didn’t have to shove there.  I could have raised, but decided with that iffy hand to just call and see what happened.  I thought a raise would too likely have been called the way the table was running.
My pal to my left raises a fair amount, but not a shove.  I don’t remember the details but it was a hefty raise; but with all the chips the guy had just passed me, I felt it was ok to call (and certainly not shove there).  Maybe I’d flop the nut flush again!  No, it was just the two of us to see a flop of K-Q-J, rainbow.  Not bad.  Top pair and an opened-ended straight draw.  I announced “all in.”
He tanked and I could pretty much see the steam coming out of his ears.  He had me covered but there was no way he wanted to risk losing the number of chips I bet.  He said, “King-10?  You have King-10?”  He thought for awhile and he said a few more times that he put me on King-10.  Then he folded.  Now, I normally never do this, but I felt like I had to “reward” him for calling my hand exactly right.  So I said, “Wow, for being dead on, I’ll show you” and showed him my King-10. He said, “that’s the only thing you could have had there.”  If you say so.  So he didn’t show but I asked him what he had and he said Ace-jack.  He couldn’t call my shove with bottom pair and a gutshot.
For the rest of the time he was next to me, he pretty much folded everytime I raised and called me a “luckbox”.  I didn’t care.  I was enjoying the thought that I might just cash now.  And although I left him somewhat crippled, he chipped up nicely.  As I said, he was a very good player.  But he kept saying that I was the one player at the table he couldn’t beat.  And credited it all to luck, which was, frankly, hard to dispute.
It was a weird tournament for me.  I was still mostly completely card dead, but it seems that on those rare occasions where I got a hand to play, the board hit me almost every single time.  Can’t complain about that!
By now the final table was in sight.  There were 85 runners—a dealer told me this was the smallest turnout in months—so nine would be paid.  I did indeed make it to the final table and we immediately agreed to each pay $15 to the bubble.  So I was assured of cashing.  Unfortunately my stack didn’t make it too likely I would get into the real money.  But bubble boy busted fairly soon, and then 9th and 8th place left.  I needed one or two more really lucky hands to do some serious damage.
And it seemed like now, someone was always shoving or raising before me, making it hard to try anything cute. But shoving with AK isn’t cute, right?  A lady who had a big stack when the table started but had been bleeding chips called me with K/J.  She had me covered.  Only thing that hit was an Ace so that gave me a little more life.  Still, being card dead was now risking me getting blinded off.  Then, suddenly 7th place was settled and I was one of 6 left, so a pay day of $371 was the worst I could do.
A couple of orbits where I was just losing blinds and antes definitely left me short stacked. I was looking for a place to shove. A British bloke raised in late position, and I had Queen/Jack again. It had paid off nicely twice before, could I go three for three? Since this was the first two paint cards I’d seen together in some time, it was an easy decision to shove there. The British guy who raised called and showed 66. Two overcards, so could Queen/Jack save me again?
No.  Although there was a Queen on the flop, there was also a 6.  Ugh.  The other cards were meaningless and I was done.  It was a bit past 9PM when I got my $371 6th place prize and headed off dinner.
So much for any late afternoon/early evening plans.  But even though it wasn’t the pay day I was hoping for, it was still nice to finally have some tournament success again.

((Edited to add:  For an explanation of what I should have called this post, see the follow up post here.    For a final report on this Aria tournament, and more on the bloke who busted me out of it, see here))


  1. Yeah, QJ CRUSHES 2 4... :) Nice write-up, and that guy just likes to chirp. The 10's have all kinds of overcards to them, and AJ doesn't dominate K 10... Nice cash!

    1. Despite is comments, I really kinda liked the guy. He was definitely a good player, I think he just let the cards get the best of him. But to his credit, despite his comments, he didn't go on tilt, and I later heard he went on to chop 1st place.

  2. You really can not be too angry at the woman with AQ when you pussied out of the hand... Grow a pair and maybe she will fold. You were lucky your AJ was so good vs TT... the reason people hate that call is because you have such potential to be totally dominated. I HATE the call of the 66 guy too.. I mean you could have 78 and be in good shape against him. Moronic call for him. Would not mind him shoving that.

    1. Thanks, Waffles. One thing I meant to put in the original post about the lady with AQ....when she showed AQ I just mucked. Obviously I was bluffing but I think it would have been better to show the hand and show the bluff. OTOH, I was thinking at the time....almost 90 minutes of building a tight image to take advantage of and I threw it away on one hand.