Sunday, August 23, 2015

It Sure Didn't Feel Like Winning

This is part 2 of my tournament summary, you can find part 1 here. We pick up at the new table I had recently moved to, level 8 (100/600/1200) with about $64K in chips. I had10-5 of diamonds in the big blind.  No raise, three of us saw the flop, including the guy who had a set of Queens to my set of Kings, who was to my immediate right.  The flop was all bricks, but nobody bet.  I called his $1,200 bet on the turn which was a 10.  And I called his $2,200 bet on the river, which was unfortunately a 9 that gave him a straight.  I suppose I had that coming.

Then I got pocket Aces.  A lady limped in so I made it $3,500.  She called.  On a Jack-high flop she bet and I made a big raise (didn’t note the amounts).  She tanked for a bit and folded.

Level 9 (200/800/1600) $71K.  After a three limpers, I made it $10K with pocket Jacks, and no one called.

It folded to me on the button, so I raised with Jack-4 of clubs.  The embarrassing thing was that I lost track of what the blinds were and put out $3K thinking the big blind was $1,200.  So I had to make it $3,200 and that got both blinds to call.  I missed the flop completely but when they both checked, I tried to steal it with a $7K c-bet.  And it worked.

With pocket 4’s I raised to $4K.  A guy shoved $11K and since it folded back to me, I thought calling was the right play.  He had pocket Queens and I didn’t improve.

Level 10 (300/1000/2000) $66K.  I lost $20K or so on a hand I can’t quite figure out from my notes.  I had Ace-King and called a short stack’s shove for $3K.  Not sure why exactly why I didn’t raise to isolate since there were players behind me, including the button who had a huge stack and a lady who had limped in. Anyway, that big stack called and the lady who limped shoved for around $20K.  Probably should have shoved or folded, but I just called, as did the big stack.  The two of us with chips left checked it down when nothing hit.  The short stack had some crappy hand that somehow caught two pair, and the lady took the big side pot with pocket Aces.  The limp/re-raise with AA worked out well for her.

In the big blind, I had Queen-8 of clubs, there was no raise, it was 3-handed.  The flop came Ace-Queen-8 and I led out with a shove.  I just figured no one had a decent Ace or they would have raised pre.  No one called, but one of the guys who folded said, “I would have shoved if you hadn’t.”

On the button with King-Queen off, I made it $10 after one limper.  No call.

In late position, I opened to $5,500 with King-10 off and didn’t get a call.

Level 11 (300/1200/2400) $70K.  A guy raised to $4800.  I was in the small blind with Ace-Queen off and three-bet, putting $15K on top of my small blind.  He shoved around $55K.  Ooops.  I folded like a cheap suit.

I opened raised to $7K with Ace-5 off suit in late position and took it down.

I raised to $7,500 with pocket 9’s and had two callers.  The flop was King-Queen-5.  Second to act, I c-bet $15K and didn’t get a call.

From the small blind I completed with Ace-2 off and it was three-way.  The flop was King-Queen-10, giving me a gutshot, so I called $2K.  But I missed and had to fold to a big turn bet.

Open raised to $7K with Jack-10 off and took it down.

That got me to level 12 (400/1500/3000) with $78K.  Level 12 is crucial because it’s the last one before dinner break.  Since it was part of the Binion’s Classic, this tournament had a half-hour dinner break.  The regular tournament (same structure) doesn’t have a dinner break and if I make it this long I have to gobble down a couple of hot dogs during a 10 minute break.  This time, I would have 30-minutes to relax and enjoy those fine hot dogs.  But the dinner break is kind of the line in the sand for me.  If I bust before then, oh well, on to the Strip and a regular dinner and a cash session in the evening.  If I make it to the dinner break, I have a crappy, hurried dinner and at that point, and to compensate for that—and the time I’ve already put in—I feel like I damn well better cash.  Having to rush thru a crummy dinner and still leave empty handed is unacceptable.

So I was, in theory at least, looking to make my stand there, go big or go home.  Trouble is, I didn’t get cards that would cooperate with this strategy and I’m not just going to shove with 7-deuce or some other garbage hand.

After a limper, I raised to $12K with Ace-10 off.  One caller.  The flop was all bricks, but my $20K c-bet took the pot. 

In the small blind, it folded to me so I made it $8,500 with Ace-2 off and the big blind folded.

And I had a pair of deuces that I limped in with.  I missed, folded to a big bet, then saw a deuce hit on the turn. Ugh.

And that was all I could play that level, so I took my dinner break and now for sure I had to cash in this damn tournament.

Level 13 (500/2000/4000) $92K.  Hmm, that seems kind of high for only winning two pots.  I may have left out a couple of blind/ante steals I pulled off but no big hands, I’m sure.  First hand of the level I raised to $11K with King-9 off, no call.

I opened to $1,100 with Ace-Queen and didn’t get a call.  Very next hand, I got Ace-Queen again.  A guy in front of me with a slightly smaller stack than I had raised to $20K.  He had been raising a lot and I thought he was likely raising light, so I decided to shove. He went into the tank and when he came out, he tossed away his cards.

Level 14 (500/3000/6000) $113K.  In the big blind I had King-2 offsuit and after two limpers, I checked, The flop was low and had a deuce.  I bet $15K but then had to fold to a shove.

During this level we got down to 4 tables.  All told, there were 213 players.  Top prize was around $6,600.  The total prize pool was $27K. They were paying 27, which seems like too many for that number of players.  What you really want to know is what the min-cash was, right?  Well it was $305 and the last 9 places got that.  Note that $305 is less than double the $160 buy-in, which is what I think it should always be (see here). Even though I expect that, it still pisses me off whenever I see it.  The next step up was $345. You had to get to 7th place or so to get over $1K.  Fourth place was a tick under $2K. So I had to outlast 9 more players to get what I considered an inadequate payout.  If you ask me (and no one ever does), the whole pay scale was way, way too top heavy.

Last hand at the level, at my new table, I raised to $16K with Ace-9 off.  No call.

Level 15 (500/4000/8000) $104K.  With Ace-Queen on the big blind, it folded to the small blind, a big stack, and he just limped in.  So I shoved.  He said, “so much?”  Yeah, not really so much at that stage of the tournament with my stack.  He folded.

I was card dead most of the rest of the level, and as the bubble was approaching, I got a lot pickier about the hands I was playing.  Yeah, I didn’t want the min-cash, but I wanted the no-cash even less, it was getting close to 11PM  It was the point where the thought of walking away empty-handed after all that time was revolting.  As we had neared the bubble, someone brought up paying said bubble, but it was immediately vetoed by a player at another table.  So we were going to play down to 27 before anyone got any money.

At this new table, I was sitting next to two guys who were obviously buddies.  Interesting that they ended up sitting next to each other.  They kept making jokes about one of them busting and leaving the other one stranded, as they had come in one car.  One of the first hands I saw at this table involved the two of them.  Buddy #1 made a big bet on a flop, and buddy #2 went into the tank for a long, long time.  He insisted his pal had nothing and was trying to steal.  He asked his pal the immortal question “Will you show if I fold?” His pal said nothing.  “You won’t show if I fold?”  The guy said nothing. This is where he teased the guy about leaving him stranded.  He was in totally agony and finally called the clock on himself!  And even then, he asked one more time if his pal would show, and finally, the guy said he would.  So the guy folded and his pal showed two pair, which shocked the first guy (who just had top pair).

So on this hand, I had Ace-Queen off in the big blind.  It folded to buddy #2, who raised to $30K.  Buddy #1 took a bit of time to call.  We were down 28 or 29 players. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when the first guy made it $30K.  But when his buddy called—reluctantly, it seemed—I thought this was the time to go for it, bubble be damned.  I shoved.  Buddy #2 was again in great pain.  “Why would you do that…..we’re on the bubble….why…You have me covered….Why….”  This lasted a little while and it’s true, I did have him covered.  He finally folded.  And then his buddy did the exact same thing, totally agony over my bet.  Unlike his pal, I had a little less than him.  He asked the dealer to pull in the bets and he had around $97 to call, he didn’t have all that much more than that.  After some more agony, he finally folded.  Of course they both asked me what I had and of course I said nothing.  But that got me a lot of chips and my gamble there paid off.

A bit later we got down to 28 players, and since paying the bubble had already been nixed, we were just about to go hand-for-hand.  Our table was stopped waiting for the action at one of the other tables to be completed.  But before the official announcement was made that we would actually go hand-for-hand, two players busted on the same hand at another table.  They had to determine who had the biggest stack on that hand before it was dealt, one player got the min-cash and the other player was the official bubble boy. So we never suffered through the hand-for-hand portion of the tournament and I was officially in the money.

My stack was pretty short, but there were plenty of shorter stacks among the 26 of us left (plenty of really big stacks too).  I was determined to work my stack up into a decent pay day.  I knew the odds were against me, but honestly, I really felt that this time I was going to going to do it and last a lot longer.  I guess it was really just wishful thinking on my part (which is pretty odd, as I’m a pessimist by nature).

Level 16 (1500/5000/10000) $147,500.  The level changed right around the time the bubble broke.  We were down to three tables and mine was the table they broke.  First hand at the new table, I was got pocket 10’s and open shoved.  No call.

I raised to $25K with King-Queen off, no call.

Level 17 (2000/6000/12000) $150K (takes a lot of stealing to keep up with the blinds and antes at this point). 

I was trying to find the right balance between aggression and caution.  Yeah, I was in the money, but I really wanted to move up that pay scale, and do a whole lot better than the min cash.  Players were busting with some frequency.  I kept looking to see how close I was to the next pay bump.  And so when this hand started, there was one last person who would get the min cash before the person busting after that would get a whopping bump to $345.

And I looked down at pocket Queens on the button.  Before I could act, a lady with a big stack (of chips, ahem) made a fairly big raise ($40K or so).  I had played with this woman on and off all day.  She was a solid player.  She hadn’t been overly aggressive, but she was often raising if she could open a pot.  It folded to me and I of course shoved.  There’s only two hands I’m behind, and if she has one of those, well, sucks to be me.  Otherwise I’m a big favorite or it’s a race and in my situation, I could of course live with that.

Back to her, she tanked for awhile, studying my stack and looking at her chips (she had at least triple my bet).  She didn’t ask for a count, and finally announced call.  She’s snap calling with Aces or IKings so I thought I’d be in decent shape, and I was.  She flipped over Ace-Jack.  So much better for me than Ace-King.  I was a 70/30 favorite.

Of course, two days earlier, in the Aria WPT 500 tournament (here), I had Aces vs Jacks and was an 80/20 favorite and lost.  So of course, there was the ugliest looking Ace you could imagine on the flop.  Nothing came along to save me.  I was done.

The one lucky break was that, during the play of my hand, while the lady was tanking, a player from another table had busted.  This meant I did move up on the pay scale, and was the first person to bust out with (slightly) more than the min-cash--$345.

I was not at all happy.  In fact, for a guy getting $345 I was damn miserable.  It was close to midnight and I had played nearly 10 hours and was barely getting double my buy-in back.  Just didn’t seem right.  I was extremely frustrated.
And then…of course getting it in as a 70/30 favorite and having it not hold irritated me as well.

I was pretty unhappy the rest of the evening.  Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been more upset if I had busted an hour earlier and left empty-handed.

I know that sounds crazy.  But like I said….poker tournaments drive me crazy.


  1. At least you got a cash Rob. I do think you should look back through the hands you posted and evaluate your play as I think you could have made a lot more chips on the way. Shoving when you flop 2 pair and shoving good starting hands are things to look at.

    I think you should start working on 10BB rather than M counts too when you get deep into a tournament. As the average chip stack decreases in terms of BB, 15 bigs can be a playable stack.

    Just my 2 cents....

    1. Thanks, some very valid points. Obviously one of the "advantages" of shoving (either pre or on the on the flop) is it simplifies life, I don't have to worry about how to play the later streets. Perhaps my post flop play has improved enough now from when I first started playing tournaments to where I can better extract value from my good hands.

      Also, to be honest,the books I studied on tournament play are now all at least 10 years old. Perhaps tournament play--like cash game play--has evolved over time and I need to study more recent books?

  2. this morning the only thing that comes to mind is: motorboat

    1. I do see your point Lester. Although the lovely Ms. Tilly is clearly playing poker, she may very have her mind on water sports.

  3. If a motorboat is necessary, there is only one man for the job: Captain Rob!

  4. theres been many days ive played 10 hours and wouldve been very happy with $135 profit for the day

    1. Well yes, Tony, true. You could easily lose $1K (or more) if are playing cash for 10 hours. But tournaments are a different mentality. At least for me, You're only going to cash a small percent of the time and it kind of needs to count for all those hours.