Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Min Cash is Better than No Cash

I’ve talked recently about trying to play more aggressively in tournaments, particularly deepstack tournaments, so as to avoid playing a really, really, really long time and leaving with nothing to show for it.  Two recent posts (see here and here) told about how I played the Bininons 2PM twice, each for approximately seven hours, and walked away without cashing.

It seems that, try as I might, I was getting stuck playing like forever and walking away empty handed.  I was tempted to stop playing deepstacks.  Alternatively, I considered a strategy where I would just shove every hand preflop through the first level, and either make a very early exit or build up enough of a chipstack so I could really improve my chances of cashing.
Of course, I didn’t really consider either of those options.  But as I once again played in the Binions 2PM recently, the day after I played those back-to-back tournaments at M Resort (see here)  I was once again was dedicated to doing my damnest to put myself in a position to make a big cash or leave early.

So early in the first level, I had Queen/Jack offsuit under the gun.  In the past, at that stage of the tournament, with basically my starting stack (20K), I would have folded. Instead, I raised and got a caller.  I lucked into a great flop, Jack-10-8, so top pair plus the gutshot.  I bet, he called.  Turn was a meaningless looking 6, I bet, he called.  I was beginning to wonder if my top pair wasn’t good enough.  A beautiful 9 hit the river, completing my straight.   I bet, he called, and mucked when he saw my straight.  I asked if he was ahead until the river but he didn’t respond. 
A few hands later I was dealt pocket 10’s, raised, had a several callers and nobody called my bet on a 9 high flop.  Then I had pocket deuces in the big blind, checked behind several limpers.  It was a low flop that I thought might have missed everyone, and since nobody had raised, I led out with a bet.  One guy called.  I caught my set on the turn, so I bet again, he called.  He didn’t call my river bet.
I got several hands in the right situation to be aggressive with, and it mostly paid off.  I had a nice chip stack for so early in the tournament, about 40-45K.   Then came the hand that I misplayed, and took away that early advantage.
I was in the big blind with Ace-King offsuit.  A guy raised in middle position.  Hmm…..I just called.  I’m not a big fan of three-betting with Ace-King, as I’ve explained elsewhere.  My gut instinct there is, well, it’s early in the tournament, I have plenty of chips, no sense risking much.
I think that’s the wrong attitude.  I had a good amount of chips more than the guy who raised, and I should have been thinking about putting those chips to work to bully the table a bit. 
But all I did was call.  The flop came K-10-9, rainbow.  I liked that flop of course, although it was possible he had flopped a straight.  I led out with a bet about the size of the pot. I didn’t want him getting decent odds if he had the straight draw. 
He made a min raise, twice my bet.  I thought long and hard about what to do.  All I had was top pair, top kicker, He could have the straight, a draw to it, or maybe a set.  A set of 10’s or 9’s were very possible.   That was really my biggest fear. 
I had him well covered and here was where I made a crucial error. Looking at his stack, I thought if we both got it all in and I lost, I’d still have a decent stack left.  So I figured this was a good place to really chip up.  I shove, he folds, I get a nice pot.  I shove, he calls, and if I’m ahead or catch up, I get a really nice pot.  I shove and lose, I’m still a long way from being short stacked.  The player had been fairly aggressive and I hadn’t seen many of his hands, so I had a feeling there was a good chance he was just being aggressive and that my hand was good.
I never considered calling or raising anything less than an all-in.  So I thought for quite a bit, and figuring his stack wouldn’t hurt me that much, I shoved.  He snap-called, which I didn’t like.
When he first flipped over his hand, I thought he had 10-10 for a set of 10’s.  But no, he had 10-9.  He raised preflop with 10-9 and flopped two pair.  The board ran out blanks.  All I could think of there was, would he have called (or even re-popped) if I had three-bet preflop?  I’ll never know for sure, but I’m thinking not.  Although, to be honest, because I was being pretty aggressive myself to that point, I didn’t have my usual tight image.  He might have thought I was just making a move there and bet back at me.   
That was my first error.  The second was, I had mis-estimated his chip stack.  He had quite a bit bigger stack than I thought.  When the counting was done, I didn’t really have a short stack, but I now had less than my starting stack, down to about 16-17k.

One or two hands later, I was dealt pocket Aces and pocket Queens, back-to-back.  Both times, no one called my raise preflop, and all I got was the blinds.  Bummer.
So I had to be even more aggressive, and I was.  I raised in early position with King-Jack offsuit, and had two callers.  Lucky for me, there were two Jacks on the flop (also two hearts).  I bet big, one caller.  Blank on the turn, I bet again, another caller.  No heart on the river, but a 9 made a flukey straight possible.  I bet, got called, but when she saw my hand, she mucked.
Then, in the blind, I got Ace-King again, this time suited.  Someone raised first.  Remembering the earlier hand, I three-bet it.  He just called.  The flop missed me completely, but was very low.  I led out with a big bet.  He folded. 
I raised another time with K-J  and on a Q-10-x flop, no one called my continuation bet.  I limped with pocket 6’s, no one raised.  Flop was King high, no 6.  I bet it and everyone folded.
Against a short stack I called an all in with pocket 10’s.  Short stack had Ace-King offsuit, better than I thought.  I hit my set on the flop and didn’t have to worry about the King on the turn.
And for a long time, that was the last decent pot I won.  My aggression got me small pots, but I couldn’t win anything big. Whether I had good hands or bad hands, my raises were seldom called, or maybe I’d win a few chips with a continuation bet on the flop that no one called.
And of course, every now and then I’d get re-raised or called when I was betting light and had to let it go.
So, with the blinds going up and the antes kicking in, I got to the point where almost all of my raises were all-ins.  Note, I usually go to this move earlier than most people.  That’s especially true now that I’m trying so hard not to play 7 hours without cashing!  Sometimes I shoved with really light hands, knowing I was likely to bust if anyone called.  And I was ok with that.  There was still time left to do something else for the day! 
But I went hours really without getting into another all in vs all in situation, where my tournament life was at risk.  Really, I didn’t face a situation where I could have busted out—or been totally crippled—for many, many levels.  It was weird.  It kept me alive, but it prevented me from building a serious stack.
I had been originally assigned to one of the first tables that they break, and it seemed, every time I was moved, by chance, I kept being sent to the next table that would break.  So I was moving a lot. Rather bad luck—I had no chance to learn the players in a situation like that. 
Somehow, I was hanging in there, and we were down to four tables (there were over 120 entrants).  At that new table, I did my all-in move about three times, causing one guy to say, “You should have played in that ‘All-in or shove’ tournament they had at Caesars.  That would be perfect for you.”  I chuckled. This is not the reputation I usually have at a poker table!
There was a brief period where I’d built my stack up enough so I had chips to play with, so I could actually play poker again.  But I got three bet a few times there or saw a dangerous flop, and it didn’t really last long.  Still, I survived until we were down to 20 players, two tables.  They were paying 12.
Now it was really getting late.  And I had been playing a long time.  And I didn’t have a lot of chips.  But I while I was short-stacked, I wasn’t the short-stack.  And I had to rethink my philosophy.
Did I want to stay aggressive, and have a higher risk of busting out before cashing?  Or should I tighten up and see if I could hang on to finish in the money, even though I wouldn’t have a good chance of getting a big cash that way?
Well, to a large degree, the cards kind of made the determination for me—I mostly wasn’t getting any.  But I also had to rethink my position.  It was long past the time where I could put in a short day of poker.  It was already getting towards 7 hours, and I was either going to play a long time and lose $125, or I was gonna play a slightly longer time and maybe get a min cash. 
The min cash was starting to look good.  As I reflected, I had to look at it differently.  I had now played more than 7 hours and still hadn’t secured cashing in the tournament.  So what I was trying so hard to avoid was staring right in front of me.  And as frustrating as min cash would be, at this point, playing 8 hours for a $90 profit sure sounded a lot better than playing 7-½ hours for a $125 loss.  I couldn’t look at it as just the profit above the buy in, I looked at as the difference between losing $125 and winning $90, a $215 difference.  Looked at that way, a min cash sure sounded nice. And besides, that $125 I paid to entered was gone.  It was no longer my money.  That was gone whether I got anything back or not.
Truth is, most of my hands didn’t give me any choice.  Unless I wanted to take a huge risk with a garbage hand, I didn’t have anything to play.  In fact, I did make one semi-reckless play.  In the small blind, it folded to me with 8-4 offsuit.  The big blind, an older gentleman, had not been even remotely aggressive.  I figured he would fold to a raise.  I just had to hope he didn’t wake up with something.  I made a big raise, and he folded.  Phew.
Another time I got pocket Aces.  That was nice.  If I had any other big hand there, even Kings, I would have shoved.  But I made a 2-½ times the big blind raise.  I did that not to play it safe but to try to get someone to call with a lesser hand.  Sure enough, I got a caller.  I planned to shove on the flop no matter what it was, barring something freakish.  Nope, it was a unassuming flop, so I shoved, and the other guy folded.
Other than that, I played very tight, but again, it wasn’t like I was folding AK, or QQ, or even 10-10.  I hung on until there were 13, which led to the inevitable discussion about whether or not to pay the bubble.  It was now past 10PM, and we’d started at 2.  The last few places on the cash list were going to get $220.  So, do we pay the bubble, and if so, how?

I stayed out of the discussion.  I think I was the short stack at my table, but there looked to be a shorter stack at the other table. In that situation, I don’t want to say anything other than that I was ok with paying the bubble, which of course I was.  After quite a few minutes of discussion, it was settled that we would pay the bubble $150 by taking $50 each off the top 3 places.  So bubble boy would make $25 (less if he tipped the dealers out of that whopping profit).
One thing that happened there surprised me.  Since the bubble was making less than last place finisher according to the posted prize pool, they still went hand for hand.  I thought the whole reason to pay the bubble was to avoid the absolute agony of playing hand for hand after 8 some hours of poker!  For a discussion of “hand for hand”, see my post here.  I don’t recall doing this at the Aria when we agreed to pay the bubble.
Fortunately, it only took a couple of hands for someone to bust out.  I was ready to play poker again.  The problem was now, I was so short stacked, I didn’t really have a lot of fold equity.  But at least I was assured of $220 back for my efforts.  I tried to find a reason to shove before the big blind came to me, but my cards were pure crap.  Finally on the big blind, I had Ace-9, offsuit.  The big blind, whatever it was, as about ¼ or more of my stack, so I was likely to shove there with almost anything.  I suppose I could have folded a garbage hand if there was a lot of action before it got to me. 
But Ace-9 was fine with me.  It folded to the small blind who raised 3X the big blind.  It could have been a move, for sure.  This guy had been the short stack when I first got to the table but was a good player who had really effectively worked his short stack up a decent amount by now.
I didn’t take too long to announce all in, but he took his sweet time deciding what to do.  He asked for a count of my chips.  That made me feel pretty good, because if he didn’t snap call he couldn’t have been too strong.  I’m thinking medium to low pocket pair? 
He did call and I was right.  He had pocket 6’s.  I was behind, but I had two live cards.  Unfortunately, neither of them hit, and I was out, 12th place, with a $220 cash. 

It was 10:30PM and I had played 8-½ hours of poker.  It sure as hell beats 7 hours of poker and a $125 loss.  I didn’t look at is a $95 profit for 8-½ hours.  I looked at it as $220 turnaround.  I’ll take it. 


  1. when i have a $95 profit for 10 hours of poker, i feel good

    1. Thanks Tony. Your math there makes it $9.50 /hour. Min wage is $7.25. So it is better than that.

    2. When I play for 10 hours I've probably been drinking for the last 3

    3. So what you're saying, grrouch, is that, even if you bust out, you're still way ahead if you count all the free booze, is that it?

  2. Hey -- sounds like you did what you needed to do. And yeah -- being the bubbleboy is the worst.

    1. Thanks, Lightning. Being the bubble is the absolute worst! This was definitely a helluva lot better than that!

  3. Was it fun to play more aggressively or did it make you nervous? Do you plan to play the same way next time?

    1. It was fun but perhaps it did make a tad more nervous, but not really very much. Until we got close to the money, I was fine with risking it all and leaving. I looked at it as, if I bust out early, that's less than a full buy in at a cash game, so I had no problem spending the rest of the day/evening playing cash games. I'll definitely try to duplicate that style again, in fact I did exactly that the next weekend (details to follow) but of course, to some degree it's table dependent.

  4. "It's better to win a small pot than lose a big one..." I think that applies to cashing also - well played at the end I say... :)

    1. Thanks, Coach. You're right, of course.