Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hanging In at Commerce (Part 2)

This is the second, and final, chapter.  See here for part 1. We pick up right where we left off, after winning a hand with pocket Aces at level 4. 

I didn’t make a note of a single hand for the next two levels, I was that card dead.  But let me pause to make another comment, something annoying that was made worse by not being used to playing 20-minute levels.  There were a number of really slow players who held up the game at my table.  It got me pretty frustrated.  With the quick levels, it was more important than usual to get in as many hands each level as possible. One guy seemed to want to get into an argument with the dealer over the change he did or didn’t get for every ante and every blind he posted.  The dealer had to keep stopping to explain to him what the ante or blind amount was and how he had gotten the right change.  Then there was the guy next to me, who not only took his sweet time to make a decision but then would make an elaborate show of betting.  Like he’d count out the exact amount and then carefully stack his bet neatly by denomination.  And then do that thing where he’d use his index finger to flick one of the chips forward from the smallest denomination stack,  And if he decided to call a short-stack’s all-in, he’d never just say “call”, he had to count the chips and make sure he put the exact amount out there and we all had to wait while he did that.  Another player liked to throw his bet out in front of him instead of neatly pushing or stacking his bet. He wasn’t splashing the pot, he was too far from it to do that, but with the chips all strewn about you couldn’t see how much the bet was and the dealer would have to neaten it up to count it.   All these things were infuriating when time was of the essence.

So we’re now at level 7 (50/200/400) with $12,300.  I opened to $1K with Queen-Jack offsuit and didn’t get a call.
That was it for levels 5,6,7.  I reached level 8 (75/250/500) with $12K.  After two limpers, I made it $2,500 with King-Jack off.  No call.
That was it for 8.  You see, with 20-minute levels I was lucky to get one hand to play each level.  Got to level 9 (75/300/600) with $13K. By this time I was pretty sure my tournament was nearing an end.  Getting no cards, the levels going up so fast, it just didn’t seem like it was my day.  I was kind of resigned to busting, honestly.  So when a short stack raised to $1,500 and I had Ace-Jack, I shoved.  I guess he had around $6K and I thought he might fold but if not, I had a decent hand to gamble with.  He snap-called and showed Ace-Queen.  Nothing hit and I was now really short-stacked. 
There was a break after level 9 and I figured I’d shove and bust out soon after we came back from break.  My stack was down to $6,400 and the blinds were 100/400/800.  After a limper I shoved with Jack-10 off.  I was called by two players; one had pocket 5’s and the other had Ace-Queen. They both had me covered. The first four cards were blanks for all of us.  The river was a Jack.  I had just scored a triple-up and was very much alive.
Next hand I called $2K with Ace-10 of hearts but had to fold on the flop when it missed me by a mile.
So I had $13,700 to start level 11 (100/500/1000).  I shoved with Queen-Jack off and didn’t get a call.
Last hand of the level I shoved with Ace-2 of spades. I was called by a smaller stack with 9-8 of clubs.  Ace high won the pot.
That got me to almost $22K for level 12 (200/600/1200). I open shoved with Ace-10 off and no one called.  That was the only hand of the level I could play.
Level 13 (200/800/1600), $20,800, During this level, they broke our table.  My first hand at the new table, I posted my ante of $300, which is what we were posting for this level at my old table.  The player next to me corrected me and told me it was only $200.  “Really?  We were posting $300 at my last table.”  Obviously that dealer at my original table had made an error. Hmm.  Should I have said anything?  I considered calling the floor and insisting that the entire tournament be replayed from the start, but decided not to.  On top of that, I had just posted the blinds at the original table and had to post the big blind immediately upon arrival at the new table.
Another one hand level.  I shoved with Ace-10, no call. 
Down to $19K at level 14 (300/1000/2000).  After a normal raise, I shoved with pocket Jacks.  The raiser called.  He had Ace-10 off.  My Jacks held.
That got me to nearly $44K.  Just a hand or two later I opened to $5K with Ace-Jack of spades.  There was one caller. The flop was Ace-high, I bet $8K and took it.
Very next hand, Ace-Queen off.  I opened to $5K again, this time I had three callers.  The flop was Queen-high, two clubs.  I bet $15K.  A lady shoved for around $24k, the others folded.  There was no way I could fold for that, easy call.
She had King-Queen, both clubs.  The turn was a blank but she caught her flush on the river and I took a big hit.  Ugh.
The fellow next to me said, “Nothing you could do.”  Yep.  We both played it right.  That, as they say, is poker.
Level 15 (400/1200/2400), $18K.  I shoved with pocket 4’s, no call.
I think the break was after that level.  I finally got a chance to get close enough to the clock to see the pay schedule.  Because we were in an area not normally used for tournaments, there was only one clock, and though I could see the time, I wasn’t anywhere near close enough to see the payouts.  So I had to walk over to the clock to see pay schedule.  Now up until this point, I really hadn’t been paying any attention to the payouts anyway, or paying attention to how many players were left.  Honestly, this entire time, I never really considered that I would cash in the tournament, let alone make it to day 2.  It just didn’t seem like a real possibility to me, I was so card dead and so short stacked pretty much the entire tournament. 
But after my table broke, and I could see that there weren’t all that many tables left, I wanted to check it out to see just how close I was to the money, as unlikely as my cashing was.  And of course I wanted to see the prize distribution, and in particular, what the min-cash was, since, with my pathetic stack, I couldn’t possibly hope to get any more than a min-cash.
Thus, the pay structure, or how close we were to the bubble, had never factored into any poker decision I had made up to that point.
This was the final day 1.  I knew that they had gotten approximately 220-240 players each for the first two day 1’s.  I was sure this day would be a lot bigger and it was.  There were 390-some odd players.  The math was easy.  The top 20 spots just showed a “$” sign and no amount.  That meant they’d go onto day 2 and fight for the biggest portion of the prize pool with the survivors from the previous day 1’s.  There were 30 spots after that with actual dollar amounts. And I swear when I first looked at the numbers, I read the board as showing all those final 30 spots would get the same amount.
And that amount was…..(drum roll please)…..One hundred and twenty-five dollars (U.S.).  Yes, that’s right, the min-cash—which was (I thought) for all thirty paid spots—was $125.  A cool $25 profit! 
I was actually more amused than upset.  Actually, I wasn’t upset at all.  I was familiar enough with this format (all day1’s have their own individual money bubble) to know that the min cash on a day 1 would be nowhere near the “double the buy-in” amount that I have been campaigning for here on the blog (see here).  I was mentally prepared for the min-cash to be really small.  Although I have to say, I was a bit shocked that it was that low. I suppose if I had had to guess, I would have figured it would have been at least $140-$150, although now that I think about it, I should have known that was too high.
I really wasn’t thinking of that min-cash when I decided to play in the tournament.  No, what I really liked about the format—that 12% of each day 1 got paid and that 5% made it to day 2—was that if you made 2, you were in the money.  That return trip to Commerce the next day would be to pick up some cash—and oh yes, play some more poker, too. 
So now, seeing that rather modest payout, I knew there was really no reason at all to worry about the min-cash.  I mean, once we got down near the bubble, there was no way I was going to tighten up just to get a little bit of cash.  It made no sense.  I would use whatever chips I had the best way I thought possible to try to get to day 2, and not worry one bit about whether I got that $125 payout or was the bubble boy.  And in fact, I can assure you, I never made one decision all day based on trying to hang on for the min-cash.
I think when I first saw the payouts, we were down to about 72 or so players, so not that far from the cash.  And with the blinds going up every 20-minute, the players were dropping like flies.  But I had no intention of passing on a single opportunity—even when were down to 51 players—to get more chips and try to survive to play a day 2.
So I started level 16 (500/1500/3000) with $20.5K and got to play one hand.  I shoved with Queen-10 of hearts, didn’t get a call.
Near $27K to start level 17 (500/2000/400), and the tables were breaking fast. I couldn’t see the player count, but I figured we must be nearing the bubble, especially when, early in the level, they broke another table—mine.  I got to see the number of players when I moved…..it was 52.  But as I was getting situated, they told all the dealers to stop.  They were going to go hand for hand, it appeared we were down to 51.  The action stopped for quite awhile—they must have been double checking the player count.  And when they were done, guess what?  We had only 50 players left.  We were all in the money, and we had avoided going hand-for-hand. A win-win.
I shoved with Ace-7 off and was called by a shorter stack with Queen-7 of diamonds.  No Queen or Ace came, but four cards of one of the suits I had did.  I didn’t even notice which of my cards had caught the flush, I actually thought I won with Ace-high.
Then came some levels (I think it was more than one) where I just couldn’t find a place to shove.  My cards were just too bad and I pretty much never had the chance to open a pot.  There was a shove on just about every hand.
While I was waiting for an opportunity to move all-in, we were discussing the payout structure and the fact that anyone busting then would make a $25 profit.  I said, “Yeah, well at least it pays for the gas to get down here.”  Another player said, “Yeah, and it will pay for parking.”  Huh?  I thought this was Commerce, not MGM.  I hadn’t paid to self-park.  I asked him if he had used the valet, and he said yes. “They charge you to valet here?”  He said yes, $5.  “Plus you gotta tip the guy.”  So remember, if you ever drive to Commerce, self-parking is free but the valet will cost you five bucks, plus tip (if you’re so inclined.)
Anyway, when we were talking about the $25 we’d “all” get if we didn’t survive to day 2, someone said something about $75.  He was implying that there were actually two different pay outs for those that didn’t go onto day 2….$175 and $125.  I said no, it was all $125.  He insisted that there was another pay jump.  So, between hands I went over to the clock again.  Sure enough, he was right, and I had just missed it.  Hmm…I wonder if it’s too late to get my money back on that cataract surgery?  Turned out that 21st-35th did indeed get $175, and that 36th-50th got the $125.
I believe there were still over 40 players left when I learned of my mistake.  And it really didn’t make any difference to me.  The fifty bucks didn’t really matter, my only goal was to somehow, someway try to last to day 2 so I had a shot at winning some real money.
But the blinds and antes were just eating up my stack and as I said, I wasn’t even getting the chance to steal.  I actually got down to under $10K.  I lost track of what level we were at, but the blinds went up when I was under-the-gun plus one and for sure I would be pot committed for the rest of my stack when I posted the big blind.  So my shoving range was a mile wide. I believe the antes were up to $1K so even that was a significant hit to my stack. 
Turned out my UTG+1 hand was King-9 of clubs, which was more than good enough to shove with, considering my situation—even though I would have zero fold equity.  Under-the-gun raised to more than my entire stack, and so I just put it all in.  No one called the original raiser, so we tabled and he had Ace-Queen.  At least I had live cards, plus the clubs.  The flop was all blanks, but one club.  A Queen hit the turn and it wasn’t a club and only a King could save me.  Instead, it was an Ace.
Well, I was done.  I hadn’t been paying attention but as I got near the podium and saw the clock, I realized I had somehow made it to the $175 payout.  It showed 31 or 32 players left so I had just passed the pay bump without even realizing it.  It was about 6:45 so I I had played nearly 7 hours and somehow cashed—and not even the min-cash—even though I hadn’t really had a workable stack for hardly any of the tournament. Somehow, I had just kept hanging on.
It was late enough for me to take advantage of the $7 food coupon they’d given me.  I got a hot dog (which came with fries) and a diet Pepsi and still had $1.50 left over.  Unfortunately I didn’t see anything on the menu for a buck and half.  I just forfeited the buck and change.  But the meal I had probably would have cost over $15 at a Vegas strip casino.
Before I took off, I checked the tournament.  It was close to 7:30 and they still had three tables going, and 23 players left, fighting for 20 spots to day 2. I later learned the day 2 min-cash was $300 and first place got $12,000.  I settled for $75 and a free dinner. 

Oh, and free parking.  Go that too.  It wasn’t a bad way to spend a holiday weekend that I couldn’t be in Vegas for.
Note: the picture above has absolutely nothing to do with my post, or poker, or Commerce. But I just came across and I rather like it, so I decided to go with it.  Hope you don't mind.


  1. "Ace-Queen off. I opened to $5K again" I don't like the open... 6K already in the pot. I would open 8 to 10K and it's an all-in if you get raised.

    1. Thanks, Ace.

      Do you play many tournaments? Pretty standard to open a pot for 2.5x the big blind (assuming you don't have to just shove). In fact, at that point in the tournament (late), a raise of just two big blinds is common an very often not called.

    2. Yes, played one this week and will write a post about it. I don't play as many now as I used to. The reason I would open bigger is beacuse you want to price out hands that are worse than yours. Also, position matters...not sure where you were in this hand? I think you'll get more callers when asking them to put in $5k to win $11k then putting in $10k to win $16k. Just my opinion.

      Congrats on cashing! Really enjoyed the post!

    3. Thanks again. I was in early position. I understand your reasoning and respect it. As I said, my play there is pretty standard, the hand before I made the exact same raise and took it right there. The idea is to raise small so you can get away from it, depending on the action. Suppose I had a two all-ins following my raise? Suddenly my hand doesn't look so good and I can get away from it without much damage. I had chips to play with at that point, didn't have to risk it with that hand.

    4. I understand. Early position is a little bit different. With 20BB you had time to wait for a better spot.

    5. Another fantastic pic (and post). The short levels as the level goes up are consumed with all in(s) and calls - and time spent matching up chip stacks, totals, side pots ect. With 20 minute levels, you rarely see more than 10 hands an hour.

      I don't play a lot of tournaments, but when I do and I get to later levels, I remember why I don't play many tournaments..

    6. @Ace--actually, a shove wouldn't have been terrible there.....but I had a bit of room to maneuver there for the first time in a while. And as I said, it worked the hand before.

      @westfred: Thanks. Yes, really very few hands played each level.....all the things you mentioned and don;t forget all the player tanking, players moving and tables breaking.... Makes it tough. It is an argument against playing tournaments!