Sunday, March 26, 2017

"You're Not an Ace Shover"

Last time (see here) I talked about deciding to play in the Bike Mega Millions tournament.  Here’s what happened when I played.

The afternoon flight actually started at 11:30AM.  Amazingly, I got to the Bike almost an hour early.  Inexplicably, there was unusually light traffic getting down there.  I expected there to be a line to register even that early.  The early flight on Friday had drawn 212 players I believe, and this being a Saturday I expected a bigger turnout.  But not only wasn’t there a line, the registration wasn’t even open yet!  Less than an hour before a big tournament?  I was surprised. I wandered around and came back and was probably one of the very first people to register at about 10:40AM.  I don’t know if the Bike allows registration before the day of the tournament so I suppose there might have been players registered from the day before, but I don’t think so.

I’m not sure they had even 100 registered when the tournament started.  And at my particular table, there were only three players (including myself) seated when they started.  Thus, they were not allowed to deal us in.  The rule is that you have to have a minimum of five players to begin.  I certainly understand that, I would hate to start the tournament with just three or four players getting dealt in.  That wouldn’t be fair.  But most of the other tables had 6 or 7 people and were starting to play—on time.  That wasn’t fair to us either.  I was especially annoyed because the levels were only 25-minutes long and time was a wasting.  And of course, the value of our chips would only decrease as time marched on.  They would never be more valuable (relatively speaking) than at the beginning of the tourney.

It was especially annoying inasmuch as I was probably the second or third person to register for the thing.  How the hell did I get stuck at a table that couldn’t start yet?  It seemed unfair, to say the least.  Fortunately, a few latecomers showed up soon and I guess we didn’t lose that much time. 

The first big decision I had was about the $100 add-on (remember, $160 for a 5K stack, and the $100 add-on gets another 8K in chips). There was never any doubt that I’d take the add-on.  I knew that going in.  But I had to decide if I should just take it right away or wait.

The argument for waiting is that you play aggressively (or perhaps “worry free”) with the initial 5K stack, knowing that you can reload if you bust (or get short-stacked) for more chips than you started with, at a lower cost.  While there is a certain appeal to that, I don’t think that’s getting the most value from you chips. 

Say I go along and am doing ok with my initial stack and then all of a sudden I lose a bunch of chips (or my entire stack) during level 6, which is the last level you can add-on (actually until the start of level 7, after the second break).   Well the blinds at that point would be 25/150/300.  The blinds for the first level are 25/50.  So that 8K in chips obviously has a lot more value during the first level, where it amounts to 160 big blinds, than in the 6th level, where it’s less than 27 big blinds (and really less, because of the antes).  If you’re gonna pay the extra $100, don’t you want to get the most value for your chips?).

But I was curious to see what the other players were doing.  Before the tournament started, I couldn’t get much information from my table since there were only two other players, neither of whom made any effort to buy the add-on.  I scoped out the other tables and found that at most tables, there was usually one or two players taking the add-on (from what I could tell) and the rest were not.  I was still holding onto my $100 for the add-on when the fifth player we needed to begin showed up at our table and he immediately handed the dealer a $100 for the add-on.  That was my cue to take the add-on as well, right before we started.

As it turned out, most of the folks at the table didn’t take the add-on until they either busted or were short-stacked.  As best as I could tell, they didn’t gain any advantage with that strategy.

One thing at this tourney that was interesting to me personally was, this was the first time I’ve ever played a tournament that was using the Table Captain software, which is sold by PokerAtlas, my employer.  I mentioned that software here.  And I have to say, it was pretty cool.  Later in the afternoon, the Bike had three tournaments going simultaneously—my 11:30AM flight, the 2PM flight (that was the $550 buy-in) and the 4PM flight.  Once the third tournament started, they actually were able to split the screen and show the clocks for two different tournaments on the same monitor.  I’ve never seen that before.  In fact, I’ve played in rooms that were running two tournaments at the same time and they were only able to show a visible clock for one of the two tournaments.  The other one had a manual clock that only the floor person could see.  It was really a pain.

And of course, you had access to all the info that was on the TV screen in the room on your celphone just by opening the PokerAtlas app.

That guy who came late and took his add-on right away was the biggest aggro at our table for a long time.  Although the tables were 10-handed. We were never more than 9-handed until deep into the tournament.  And the seat on his immediate right was open the entire time.  When he inevitably busted out, he was only gone a few minutes.  Late reg was still open and so he re-entered, and was re-assigned to our table.  However, he was assigned to the other open seat, the seat right next to the one he had busted from.  He didn’t last very long there either.

He was on my immediate right.  So at least I was on the correct side of him.  But I was card dead to start.  So let’s jump to level 5 where the blinds were 25/100/200.  I started the level with $10,600 (down from $13K, of course). It folded to me in the seat directly to right of the hijack seat.  Is there a name for that?  That meant my aggro neighbor had actually folded for once.  Now, I had looked at the first card when I got it—it was a deuce, I don’t recall the suit.  But before I had a chance to see my second card, I noticed everyone folding in rapid succession, I decided if it folded to me I would raise without even looking at my second card.  Yeah, I really did.  So when it did indeed fold to me, I opened to $500. However, the older guy on the button, a tight player, made it $2,500.  I looked at my other card.  Of course, it was a 7.  And it was a different color than the deuce.  I folded.

I did that partially because I had played so few hands.  When the small blind came around to me, I had 9-8 of clubs.  It was raised to $800 and two players had called so I called as well.  The four of us saw a flop of 9-7-6.  That 7 was a club. I checked, then called $2,200 from the initial raiser and we were heads up.  I really did consider other options—like re-raising, or even folding.  I think I should have raised, I suppose. The turn was the 2 of clubs.  I had top pair, a straight draw and a flush draw.  So I led out with a shove.  The other guy tanked for a long time and then folded.  I’m thinking he had an overpair?  Anyway, it was my first significant pot of the day.

Level 6 (25/150/300) $14,600.  But the only hand I played was King-10 of clubs.  There was a limper so I made it $1,100.  Just one caller.  The flop was Jack-high, no clubs.  And the guy led out with a donk bet so I folded.

Level 7 (50/200/400) $12,700.  The late registration period was now over.  I believe the final number of players was 225.  Twenty-two would be in the money, with the top 11 moving on to day 2 and getting a $1K payout.  One of the players at my table had played yesterday and made it to day 2 already, and he confirmed they give you the thousand bucks right then and there. In case you’re wondering, if you make it to day 2 from multiple day 1 flights, you take your best stack to day 2 and get paid an extra $2K for each stack you forfeit.  Players coming in 12th-17th would get $400 and 18th-22nd would get $300.

After two limpers, in late position I made it $1,800 with Ace-Jack of hearts.  There was one caller.  The flop was King-Queen-X, two diamonds.  I made a c-bet of $3,500 hoping to take it there but he called.  The turn was a blank and he checked.  I suppose I should have bet again?  I dunno, I didn’t think I could risk any more chips at that point.  I checked behind.  But the 10 I needed for Broadway didn’t show up.  It was a total blank.  He open-shoved and I folded.  That hurt.

Level 8 (75/300/600) $5,700.  I was officially desperate.  I found myself looking down at a couple of Jacks.  The aggro on my right had raised to $2K.  I had no choice but to shove.  Another player shoved as well (he was the second most aggro at the table).  The original raiser was not happy facing two shovers but he reluctantly called.   I had the shortest stack and I think the guy on my right was covered by the other guy.  Aggro #1 (guy on my right) turned over Ace-7 offsuit.  The other guy had Ace-Queen. I was lucky in that they had each other’s cards.  Still, there were two Aces and three Queens that would bust me.  But the Jacks held and I had a triple up.

That got me to level 9 (100/400/800) with $14,600, still a fairly short stack.  After one limper, I shoved with Jack-10 suited. No call.  Then after a lady limped in, I made it $3K with Ace-Jack of spades on the button. We were heads up.  The flop was Jack-high and she didn’t call my $6K bet.

Then it folded to me with pocket 3’s.  I raised to $2K and had three callers.  The flop was 9-5-3, two clubs. I bet $6K and one guy shoved.  His stack was pretty close to mine. I didn’t ask for a count.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I shoved and the other two folded.  I really expected him to show a flush draw.  But no, he had pocket 10’s.  My set of 3’s held and I really had a workable stack now.

Level 10 (200/600/1200) $45,500.  It folded to me in the small blind and I added $2K to my blind with some garbage hand.  The big blind had just been moved to our table and he folded.  I know I did look at my hand, but by the time I got to make of note of it, I had completely forgotten what it was.  But it was definitely crapola.

That lady open shoved, around $6K.  I looked down at pocket Jacks again.  There were still players left to act.  I shoved to isolate. It was heads up and she showed pocket 6’s.  The flop was kind of low, but was all diamonds.  I looked at her 6’s.  She did indeed have the 6 of diamonds.  I checked my Jacks.  Nary a diamond to be found.  Fortunately she didn’t catch her diamond and I took the pot.

I opened to $3,300 with 9-8 of clubs and didn’t get a call.

Only notation from level 11 was I folded pocket 6’s to a shove.  A big stack called and I would have hit my set and taken the pot.  But it was a good fold.

Level 12 (300/1000/2000) $51K.  I tried raising to $5k with 8-7 off, first in.  Two players behind me shoved and I folded.  It was pocket Kings vs. pocket Jacks.

Level 13 (400/1200/2400) $49K.  Open shoved with pocket 10’s, no call.  Opened to $7K with King-9 of clubs, but folded to a shove.  Open shoved with Jack-9 off, no call. I open shoved with Queen-Jack off in early position.  Guy on my left tanked for a long time, then finally folded, saying, “I figure you have something like pocket 8’s.  You’re not an Ace-shover.”

Level 14 (500/1500/3000) $55K.  We were now down to four tables, it was the first time I’d moved all day.  Unfortunately they were bad at updating the “players remaining” count.  But since we were now playing exclusively 9-handed we had no more than 36 left.

But at this table, there was a guy with a mountain of chips and he opened a lot of pots.  I had to be real careful about being too aggressive as long as he was in a hand because he likely would have called me pretty light based on how he was playing.  He was probably the chip leader for the tournament. Then to make it worse, another huge stack was moved to my table, one player to my left.  Same story.  Made it very difficult to try things.

I open shoved Ace-2 of hearts.  A guy open folded King-Queen of hearts.  He said, “You’ve got pocket Jacks, right?”  I said, “Something like that.”

Level 15 (500/2000/4000) $55K.  I open shoved with pocket deuces, no call.  I was the big blind and it folded to the small blind who just completed.  I checked with Queen-7 off.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x.  He checked, I bet $6K and took it.

After the guy on my immediate right limped in, I shoved with Ace-King.  Folded back to the limper, who asked for a count, decided I had too much to call and folded.  He didn’t show, but a minute later told me had pocket Jacks!  So I wondered why he would have limped in?

Level 16 (500/2500/5000) $63K. History repeated, folds to small blind who completed, I checked with Queen-7.   Ace-Queen-x again!  He checked, I bet $10K and dragged it.  Weird.

Now we were hand for hand, and it was an excruciating 30-minutes.  They didn’t freeze the clock and run two minutes per hand like they do at some places.  The clock kept running, which I think is bad.  We actually had a break during hand-for-hand, and I raced to the snack bar to wolf down dinner (two slices of pizza).  Don’t ask me how it was; I ate it too fast to taste it.

Even though the min cash was a joke, I still played tight, like I usually do on the bubble.  I dunno, when I get to that point, I always find myself thinking I want some money back for all the time I put into it.  But I couldn’t find a hand or a spot where I would have moved in with anyway.

Level 17 (1K/3K/6K) $58,500.  Finally, the bubble broke.  As it happened two players busted (from two different tables) on the same hand.  I believe they split the $300.  So they got $150 each.  If they both took the add-on, that’s a loss of $110 each!

I hung on and survived a few more bust-outs, still not finding a spot. I moved again as we were down to two tables. And we were nine-handed at each.  Meaning if I could survive one more bust-out I’d at least get the pay jump from $300 to $400.  I looked down at King-Jack of hearts in early position and no one had entered the pot yet.  This was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.  I shoved. Unfortunately I was called by two players.  One had Ace-King and the other one had a crappier Ace.  The flop was all red—but diamonds not hearts.  Nobody got a pair and I was out (the crappier Ace was the big stack so I was the only one to bust there).  I took the last $300 payment for a sweet, sweet $40 profit for the day’s work.  Eight and a quarter hours.  Hey, try to beat that $4.80/hourly.  I dare ya.

But I didn’t regret playing and min-cashing at all.  I was glad I played. There’s a certain level of fun and excitement in a tournament that you don’t have in a cash game.  It’s like a war rather than a series of battles.  I wouldn’t like playing nothing but tournaments but every now and again they are a nice change from the cash-game grind.

Note on the pic below.  I was trying to find a pic that depicted "Mega Millions" but I came across this pic depicted "Mega Cleavage" instead.  Hope you don't mind the substitution.

(Edited to add:  for more on the Mega Millions tournament and the payouts, see the follow up post here).


  1. It folded to me in the seat directly to right of the hijack seat. Is there a name for that?

    I don't think there is an official name, but I have heard it referred to as the 'lo-jack' several times.

    Gratz on the black day! +$40 > -$260 always.


    1. You know, now that you mention it, I do think I've heard the term "lo-jack" to refer to that seat. I believe you are correct.

      Yes, when you do the math like that, it's a definite win. Thanks.

  2. A win is a win, even if it's only gas money.
    When i'm feeling kind of blah, you always come thru with the beautiful boob babes. thank you sir.

    Big L

    1. Haha. Thanks, and you're welcome my friend!

    2. Ray tells me he admires u, because of your love for women.

    3. Haha. Thanks, Tony. And Ray.

  3. Good job on cashing. I too have heard that seat to the right of the Hijack called the Lojack as well. A post from 2014 from Reddit for what it's worth.

    "In a 9 handed game going clockwise; SB, BB, UTG (under the gun), UTG+1, UTG+2, lojack, hijack, CO, BTN"

    1. Thanks, FD. Good find, I'm calling it lojack from now on.

  4. Rob, this is what tournament poker is all about...survival. Very nice post.