Sunday, July 21, 2013

Almost as Dead as the Norwegian Blue

This is the story of my most recent tournament experience in Vegas, the Saturday, Binions 2PM deepstack tournament.  I already hinted about this tournament and told about one unusual hand from it, when I got a walk with the dreaded pocket Kings (see here).  Now I can fill in the story around that hand….what happened to get me in that awful position, and what happened after I got the walk with those Kings.

After being totally card dead and not really participating during the first level of the tournament, things changed for the better once we got to level 2.  In middle position, I found Ace-10 spades, one limper to that point.  Tired of sitting there doing nothing, I raised to 700 (blinds were 100/200).  One guy called, a guy in late position who had played less hands than I had, but he had that young, aggro look about him.
The flop was Ace high, two clubs, no spades.  I bet out 1500 and he called.  Queen on the turn, not a club, so I bet 2k and he called again.  A red King on the river, and I decided to value bet.  Too often I play it safe in that situation, but I figured his most likely hand was a busted flush draw.  I also didn’t want to give up control of the betting.  I was afraid if I checked he might bet more than the 2k and put me in a difficult predicament. I just had to hope that, if he had an Ace, my kicker was good.
He looked at the board a long time and thought for a bit and finally folded.  He didn’t show, but he said he had King-Jack of clubs, so he missed his draw, but the King on the river made him think about calling.  But he was wise enough to put me on an Ace.
With the blinds at 150/300 there was a crazy hand.  Under-the-gun limped, I was next to act with pocket Queens.  I made it 1500.  Everyone at this table, the next table, and across the street at the Golden Nugget called!  Seriously, there were six of us seeing that flop, which was Ace-4-5. 
With the Ace on the board, it was hard for me to believe that my Queens were good against five other hands.  I decided to cut my loses and check.  When one guy after me bet out and another guy called, I folded.  The turn was a 7 and the guy who bet the flop put out another bet, and was called.  The river was a 6.  The guy who had led out the last two streets checked, and this time the other guy put out a big bet.  Reluctantly, the other guy called. 
“I got there,” said the guy who bet the river.  He flipped over Ace-8 for a straight.  The other guy was quite upset, showing Ace-4 for a flopped two pair.  He actually criticized the other guy’s play, and said something about hoping he would keep playing like that.
Hmm, if you ask me, they both played badly, calling my early position raise with weak Aces.  But what do I know?
First to act in middle position, I raised with Ace-7 of spades and didn’t get a call.  A few hands later I raised with Ace-Jack and got one caller.  I whiffed on the flop but took it down with a continuation-bet. I was starting to build my stack now.
A few hands later, in the small blind, I got Ace-Jack again, this time both diamonds.  A guy made a raise and the button called.  That’s probably a good place to fold, but I decided to call and see the flop.  It was Ace-high, one diamond.  I was of course worried about a bigger Ace, especially from the guy who raised.  But I am trying to be more aggressive in tournaments now, so I decided to lead out and see what happened.
They both called my bet, which was about ¾’s of the pot.  Did they both have bigger Aces than I had?  The turn card was the second diamond, giving me the nut flush draw.  No point in slowing down now, so I bet about 2/3’s of the pot.   The preflop raiser reluctantly folded.  The button took a few minutes more and then folded face up—Ace-Jack.  “I assume you could beat that?” he asked me, and I said nothing as I took in the pot.  The other guy said, “I hope so, I folded Ace-Queen.”
Heh heh.  Aggression pays!
After the break, at the start of level 5, I had 31K in chips (starting stack 20K), with the blinds at 300/600 (no antes yet).
In the cut-off seat I had Queen-10 hearts. It had folded to me so I bet 1600, one guy called. Flop was 10-9-6, 2 hearts. (Edited to add, this has been corrected, as cokeboy99 pointed out in the first comment below, I obviously had the flop wrong initially). I bet out 3K and he check-raised to 6K.  Too many outs to fold there, so I called.  Jack on the turn gives me an open-ender.  This time the guy bets first, and shoves for about 6500.  No way I’m folding both the straight draw and the flush draw there, and I had him well covered.  I figured I was behind and I needed help, but no, all he had there was Queen-2 suited!  He had made that move with just a straight draw, the exact same draw I had.  Fortunately, I missed my draw and my pair of 10’s was good.  Nice chip up there.  Everyone at the table, including me, was surprised he had made that move there.
At the start of the 7th level, with blinds at 500/1000, I had a stack of about 42K.  I lost chips when I called a raise with pocket 6’s and missed, and when I raised with King-10 off and had to fold to the chip-leader’s three bet (he showed QQ).  Then I was moved to a new table when our table broke.  First or second hand there, a short stack shoves with 2100.  I had pocket 8’s with plenty of players behind me.  I decided to shove there to isolate, and hoped that no one behind me had a big hand.  My stack was pretty big so no one called.  He flipped over Ace-Queen but my 8’s held.
Still I bled chips a bit, and at the start of the 8th level, with blinds 100/600/1200, I had around 34K.  That’s when disaster hit.  Early in the level I had Ace-Queen of spades in early position.  I raised to about 3500.  A guy I had covered repopped it to 8K or so.  I could have easily folded, but I thought long and hard about my decision.
In the old days, I would have folded quickly.  Now, not so fast.  The guy who three bet hadn’t been particularly active since I’d been at the table.  But I was getting to the point where I felt that if I could get a big score there, I’d have a really good chance to finish well into the money, instead of just barely cashing or worse, playing like forever and missing the money completely.  And if things went badly there, I would have the whole evening free to play a cash game.
Then too, I think I miscounted his remaining stack when I was considering my action.  I really thought I’d have more chips left if I went all in, was called, and lost.  And I thought he was low enough in chips to be trying to make a move.  But mostly, I just kind of decided to roll the dice there.  So I shoved, and he snap-called.
Ugh.  Of course, of course, he had the dreaded pocket Kings, and I was the one who dreaded seeing them, as usual.  I was less than 2 to 1 to take it down, and I didn’t beat the odds.  In fact, not only did an Ace not hit, but he flopped his set for good measure.
I went from a decent stack to being crippled.  But I guess I got what I wanted.  Looked like I’d have plenty of time for that cash game in the evening.  In my mind, I was dead, tournament-wise.  I was as dead as a certain parrot in a certain Monty Python sketch.

As soon as I saw how few chips I had left, I started hating myself for taking such a needless risk there.  Having over 30K chips there would have left me plenty of maneuvering room.  Now I had virtually none.  In fact, I was so low in chips that I stopped making notes of the hands I did play, because I was so sure this tournament wouldn’t amount to anything to blog about!
I’m pretty sure that I had more chips left than the 4800 I noted when I got the walk with my own pocket kings, in the post I linked to at the start of this one.  And I know I did shove once or twice at that table and didn’t get called.  But somehow, I dropped down to 4800 from whatever that disaster hand left me with (it was under 10K for sure, that’s all I can say with certainty).
Anyway, I was moved from that spot to balance tables.  The move put me in the big blind within a hand or two and you already know what happened with that big blind….I got the walk with Kings.
Then Audrey pushed into to deal and basically, a miracle happened.
So maybe with around 5K in chips, maybe a bit less, I got King-Jack offsuit and in my situation, that’s an easy shove.  Only one guy called, a big stack with Ace-4 off.  A Jack on the flop kept me alive.  One or two hands later, I shove with King-Queen, same guy called me.  This time he has Ace-9, which I think was sooooted.  The board blanked until the river, which was a King!
Now with a bit over 20K in chips, just a hand or two later I get dealt pocket 10’s.  I felt I had enough chips to play poker with, so I raised (a pretty big one, I think, but I didn’t note it cuz I still thought my tournament life was soon to be over)  but didn’t shove.  Only the guy on my immediate left called.  The flop was a beautiful Ace-10-4 and the other guy leads out with a bet.  Nice.  I suppose there I could have smooth called or raised just 2X his bet, but I didn’t want to take a chance.  I just shoved.  He had me covered and could have called I suppose, but he let it go.  Still, a nice chip pick up.
A few hands later, I shoved with Ace-King.  I didn’t have to shove, but having gotten lucky with a few lousy hands hitting the board recently, I didn’t want to have to have the flop hit me again in order to survive.   No one called.  Since everyone at the table had seen my last two all-ins, I flipped over my hand there and said, “That’s the best hand I’ve shoved with.”
I had enough chips now to limp with pocket 7’s.  Three others limped in and the flopped totally missed me, and had a high card or two (no Ace).  It checked to me so I bet the flop and no one called.
Again, my notes were not kept up, and I when I finally realized I might have something going there, I tried to catch up and probably missed a lot.  I did write down that I had 58K in chips at one point, and I think that was soon after Audrey left the table.  I know when she left, I had gone from the short stack to the chip leader—at my table, that is.
I’ve heard of people coming back from the dead in a tournament like I had, but it had never happened to me before.  I couldn’t believe it.
I continued my assault for awhile.  I was raising preflop with hands like Ace-4 and pocket deuces.  I wasn’t getting called.  I did get called when I raised with King-Queen suited, and even got called when I made a c-bet on the flop, which missed me.  But I picked up a flush draw on on the turn and hit the flush on the river (he didn’t call my river bet). 
I think my high point, chipwise, was 93K, probably when the blinds were 300/1200/2400.  Then my aggression starting costing me chips and it got whittled back down to about 85K.  Then I got some bad luck.  I was at a table where my stack was among the biggest, but they needed to balance the tables and as the big blind, I was moved.  Damn if I didn’t get sent to the table where all the huge stacks were.  Seriously, my 85K stack seemed tiny all of a sudden.  Especially compared to the tournament chip leader who was on my immediate left!
Oh, and by the way, that tournament chip leader?  He was the guy who I had doubled up when he had the KK and I had the AQ.  Yeah.  I wasn’t the only one who had made a nice recovery.  He was all in against me, held on, and now he was the goddamn chipleader.  He nodded hello, but didn’t thank me for sending him on his way to being chipleader.  I guess he had indeed put my chips to good use.

Making moves with the chipleader to my left proved costly.  With blinds now at 300/1500/3000 I rased to 9500 with Ace-8 offsuit in late position.  Only the chip leader to my left called. The flop came Ace-7-6.  I bet 15K and he made it 30K.  Gulp.  What do you do there?  I decided to fold.  I didn’t like my kicker.  But of course he might have been making a move on me there too.  Another error was limping in from the small blind with Jack-5 suited and spewing chips chasing a flush draw that didn’t come.
With all those big stacks bullying me around, at the start of the 400/2000/4000 level I was down to 47K.  I picked up blinds and antes being first in a pot with pocket 9’s.  Then I got AA in the small blind.  Damn, it folded to me.  I made a small raise hoping the chip leader would try to use his stack to make a move.  Nope.  He folded 5-2 face up.  I showed my Aces.  I guess that was basically the same as the walk I got with the KK earlier.
So it was at next level (500/3000/6000) when this hand happened.  We were down to three tables, I guess about 24-25 left.  Thirteen were going to get paid.  The bottom five slots were getting $220 (it was $125 buy-in).  It was late, after 8PM, maybe later.  I had already stuffed a couple of hot dogs down during the break that was going to pass for dinner.
I had about 50K, or a little more. It folded to me on the button with Jack-10 offsuit.  At that point, it was a fairly obvious shove, so I went all-in.  Of course the chipleader/BB/KK guy to my left called.  He could easily afford to lose 50K in chips, he’d barely notice.  He flipped over Ace-Queen, ironic, since that’s the hand I had when I doubled him up.  His wasn’t even suited.
Three bricks on the flop, another one on the turn.  I stood up and started reaching for my sweatshirt behind me.  And from a standing position I saw a beautiful Jack hit on the river.  I was alive!  It turned out the guy the chipleader was a really nice guy.  As I was stacking my chips, he just shrugged and said to me, “Well, I owed you one.”
And then I went totally card dead, and as we got closer and closer to the bubble, I had even less incentive to make any moves.  Down to 14 players, we agreed to pay $150 the bubble, so I had made it into the money.  My stack had whittled down to 85K as we started the 1000/4000/8000 level, in other words, I was totally desperate.  A few people had busted after the bubble and I needed to outlast about two more players to get more than the absolute min cash of $220.
When I looked down at Ace-9 clubs, the first Ace I’d seen in a long, long time, it was an easy shove for me.  Unfortunately I was called by one of the big stacks who only had Ace-King. But no clubs, and no 9, hit the board to bail me out and I was done.
It was one hell of a fun 8-hour roller coaster ride.  At one point earlier, I was full of confidence that I would cash.  Just a little while later, I would have bet the deed to my house that I wouldn’t.
As I got up, the chipleader still, the guy I doubled up with his KK, reached out to shake my hand.  As I shook it I couldn’t help pointing out that if that King on the flop had only been an Ace, he would have been done a long time ago (I said it very politely and very friendly, believe me).  He laughed and agreed.  He probably finished in the top 3 of the tournament if he didn’t win it outright.  And he came awfully close to busting out to me there.  Yes, yes, I know, he was better than a 2 to 1 favorite on that hand.  Still, there was a better chance of an Ace hitting than there was of a King hitting.  And yes, I’m reminded of one of my father’s old sayings, “If my grandmother would have worn pants, she would have been my grandfather.”  Yeah, I know that’s an incredibly outdated saying, but back when he first heard that saying, it really was unusual to see a woman wearing pants.
But then, I had my share of “if only a X didn’t hit”s and I would have been gone hours earlier too.
Poker is a silly game.


  1. "In the cut-off seat I had Queen-10 hearts. It had folded to me so I bet 1600, one guy called. Flop was 10-9-8, 2 hearts. I bet out 3K and he check-raised to 6K. Too many outs to fold there, so I called. Jack on the turn gives me an open-ender. This time the guy bets first, and shoves for about 6500. No way I’m folding both the straight draw and the flush draw there, and I had him well covered. I figured I was behind and I needed help, but no, all he had there was Queen-2 suited!"

    This confuses me, as you would have both had a straight....I'm guessing your recollection of the flop was wrong? Maybe a 7 instead of an 8?

    1. THANKS, cokeboy! Appreciate the great catch. Yeah, I think it was a 6 not an 8 on the flop. Obviously I didn't have the straight on the turn, we would have split the pot, and he was calling for the straight. Sometimes I can't read my own handwriting the next day! Usually, actually.

      I've corrected the post, always appreciate it when my readers call this goofs to my attention.

  2. "The flop was Ace high, two clubs, no spades. I bet out 1500 and he called. Queen on the turn, not a club, so I bet 2k and he called again. A red King on the river, and I decided to value bet. Too often I play it safe in that situation, but I figured his most likely hand was a busted flush draw."

    If you figure his most likely hand is a busted flush draw, then what does betting accomplish? Having him fold that busted flush draw? Why not check and give him the opportunity to bluff with that busted flush draw?

    1. Good point, Anony, and I did consider it, especially when I was writing the post. I think I was more concerned that if he bet, he'd bet an amount I wasn't comfortable calling for. My thought was I don't want to have to call a big bet there with top pair, weak kicker.

    2. If that is the case, then you were not making a value bet. By leading out for a smaller amount then you were comfortable calling you were making a blocking or blocker bet. I agree that your new more aggresive approach will pay dividends in the long run.

    3. Thanks, and you are correct, M, I know at the time I was thinking more of it being a blocking bet, and I pointed that out (without calling it that) in my post. I probably shouldn't have even mentioned the phrase "value bet" in the post but it being so rare (until lately) that I make a river bet in a situation like that, I threw it in there!

      I'm looking forward to the day when I only have quick bust-outs and long, deep runs (and actually WINS) to blog about, tournament wise. Piece of cake, right?

  3. Rob's Obsessions:

    1) Breasts
    2) Pocket Kings
    3) Vaginas
    4) Breasts

    1. So, aside from the Pocket Kings, how does that differentiate me from any other man alive?