KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “tournament”

Ending Abruptly

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a strong preference for cash game poker over tournament poker.  When asked why I don’t like tournaments, the quick answer is “because they always end abruptly.”

I find that irritating.  Last night I made it to the final table of a private tournament that started with 33 players.  Seven remain.  There is a little extra at stake, as this is the final tournament of a year-long poker league.  The league winner is determined by points that are awarded based on each player’s finishing position in each tournament.  The points leader is also among the final seven, and I’m in second place overall.  If I finish two spots higher than him in this tournament, I’ll be tied for the points lead.  Winning the points title is worth a little over $2,500 (for larger tournament entry fees + travel costs), so I’m pretty motivated to win this game-within-a-game.

He’s trying to wait me out, folding virtually every hand and now severely short stacked with only two or three big blinds remaining.  I have more chips than he does, but also less than 5 BBs.

Everyone folds to the player on my right, who is on the button.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Gary.”  He raises.  In the small blind, I have pocket aces.  Then we are all-in.

Then I’m out.  Abruptly.

Gary also is one of my best friends.  After he wins the tournament, he says “don’t be mad, I’ll buy you a beer.”



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Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip… Uh Oh!

Dear Readers,
Sorry for the bad beat story to follow here, but you KNOW that’s how I get these out of my system.  At least I hope to get it out of my system, ’cause dammit it still hurts.  If you don’t like bad beat stories, consider yourself forewarned to stop now.
Last month I was at the Harrah’s Cherokee casino in western North Carolina during the WSOP Circuit stop there.  I had a really bad cooler in a cash game, as described here.  One of the guys traveling with me (I’ll call him “Chad”) said it was the kind of hand that leaves you restless and angry all night, such that when you wake up the next morning, the first thing out of your mouth is “Fuck!”
Yesterday Chad hosted a 18-player tournament.  This was a bonus event for some regular cash game players, essentially a free roll, with a prize pool of $2,770.  Other than $20 to add-on some extra chips at the first break, there was no cost to me or the other players.  The prize pool was to be divided among the top 4 finishers, 45%, 30%, 20%, 5%.
When we got down to one table of 9 players, we all agreed to take $100 each, then divide the remaining $1,870 among the final 3 finishers, 50%, 30%, 20%.  I thought this was a nice way to mitigate some of the risk.
At the first hand after the next break we were still 9-handed, with antes of $100 and blinds at 400/800.  I have about 25 BBs remaining, which is about 2/3 of the average stack size.  At this point, the play has tightened up and therefore I want to ramp up my aggression slightly.
In UTG+3, all fold to me and I look down at Ad 9d, and raise to 2,100.  The player to my immediate left (I’ll call him “Andrew”) 3-bets to 4,200 and everyone else folds.  Andrew’s stack is almost identical to mine.
I have not played in tournaments with Andrew, but have played with him frequently in cash games.  His 3-bet range is wider than many of the players, including 99+, AJ+, KQ type of hands, and he will C-bet a large percentage of the time especially in position.  Calling him here is debatable, but his 3-bet raise was rather small so he might just be hoping I was raising light and will go away.  I call out of position – in hindsight I should not be doing that for 20% of my tournament stack, but that’s what I did.
The flop was Qd Jd 3d.  I have an ace-high flush, THE STONE COLD FREAKING NUTS!
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day?
Plenty of sunshine heading my way.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!

Oh, Mr. Blue-bird – on – my – shoul-der.
It’s the truth, its actual.
And everything is satisfactual.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
Wonderful feeling.
Wonderful da-a-ay!

I check, and Andrew bets 6,500.  I’ve got him!  He’s now invested more than half of his stack in this pot.  Maybe he has AA or KK or AQ.  I count my chips and have the 6,500 to call, plus 8,700 more. “All-in” I announce, after some theatrics with the counting and shuffling.
Andrew looks pained, and tanks for awhile, saying repeatedly “I have to call” and “if this how it’s going to be, then so be it” and finally calls.  He has me covered by exactly 100 chips.  The pot is just over 50 BBs and more than 1.3x the average stack size.  Winning this pot will put me  in a position to threaten the biggest stacks at the table.  Fan-damn-tastic!!!  Zip-a-dee-doo-dah some more.
Then Andrew turns over QQ and my heart surges up into my throat.  He has top set, with two cards to come that can make him a full house or quads.  This is much stronger than I was expecting given how long he was thinking before he called.  I turn over mine and stand up.  It’s like I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.  I’ve just been crowned King of the Prom and handed revolver with two bullets in it for a mandatory game of Russian Roulette in the same gesture.
Click goes the revolver.  The turn card is Ks.  Missed.  Maybe this time the movie will end differently.  77% of the time I will win here, with one card to come. He has 10 outs.
The dealer burns and turns.  3h on the river.  BANG goes the revolver, as Andrew completes his full house.  I feel like my brains just exploded all over the table.  I already know what the first word out of mouth will be tomorrow morning.
Next I have to exit stage right.  I try to do it gracefully, which is difficult when your FUCKING BRAINS ARE SPLATTERED ALL OVER A POKER TABLE.  Andrew has to wipe sweat off his hand before he can shake mine, which we do awkwardly, in the manner of combatants who both know an injustice has occured.  Of course, that is what we signed up for.
I walk straight out to Chad’s deck.  After a couple minutes, I text him – he’s only a few feet away, but inside the house – to request a bottle of water.  I cannot even walk back into the room to get my own.
Here is the thing:  I played well. Early in the tournament I lost a hand with straight < full house that took me down to less than 4,000 out of my starting 10,000 chips.  Patiently, I fought back, and doubled up to about 12,000 on the last hand before the $20 add-on gave me 5,000 more.
I look back at the remaining players, knowing I can play with any of them, knowing I could go deep in this tournament, knowing now good it would feel to bring home the extra cash.  Knowing the pain of being on the outside, looking in.
A few minutes later, Andrew is the next player to bust out of the tournament.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

On most lists of the Ten Commandments, not stealing is number eight, right between the prohibitions on adultery and telling lies.  (Perhaps more on those some other time, otherwise I digress…)

In Texas Hold’em poker, “stealing” is often used to describe making a bet into an unopened pot with a weak hand, in late position.  The hope is that the blinds will fold and you gain a few chips with minimal effort.  In the mid-to-late stages of tournaments, the value of this tactic is magnified, as winning the ever-growing blinds and antes reduces the pressure on the person stealing, and increases the pressure on the victims.

Last night I was playing in a 3-table tournament with a regular group.  We started with 30,000 chips and blinds of 100 / 200.  Mathematically, that means each player starts with 150 Big Blinds.  The cost of folding while the dealer button passes one orbit around the table is 300 chips, and there are 8 players per table.  No big deal.

After 2-and-a-half hours, the blinds are up to 1,000 / 2,000 along with an ante of 200 per player.  My table is down to five players, although we will consolidate from 3 table down to 2 tables as soon as another player is knocked out.  I’ve been playing very tight, won a few pots and lost some others, and now have about 25,000 chips remaining.   Mathematically, that puts me at about 12.5 Big Blinds. The dealer button is passing around the table quickly – every 5 hands – and each orbit is costing me 4,000 chips.  Ouch!

Now I’m in the Big Blind with T-8 off suit, and the first 2 players fold.  The villain in this hand – I’ll call him “Marco” – raises to 4,500 on the button.  I’ve played with him many times.  Right now, he has the biggest stack at the table, and I know from history that he will steal the blinds and antes in this situation with modest holdings.  This is not the first time he’s raised an unopened pot from the cutoff or button.  The small blind meekly folds.

Looks like an opportunity to Re-Steal.  By re-raising, particularly if I go all-in, I’ll show strength.  While Marco has a big stack, he certainly does not want to lose 25,000 chips to me.  Yes, it is possible that he has a big hand, but his range for raising from the button,  5-handed, in an unopened pot, is extremely wide.  The risk to him of calling is losing 25,000 chips.  The risk to him of folding is abandoning the hand and losing 4,500 chips.

The benefit to me of folding is losing my Big Blind (2,000 chips) but otherwise keeping my stack intact and hoping another player busts out soon so we can combine tables and play 8-handed again.  That alone would moderate the pressure as the blinds increase.  The benefit to me of raising all-in is I can gain 8,500 chips, increasing my stack by over 30%.  (I would win my big blind back (2,000), plus the small blind (1,000), plus 5 antes (1,000), plus Marco’s 4,500 chip raise.)  The potential gain to me is much greater relative to my stack size than the potential loss is to Marco.

The risk to me is busting out of the tournament.

I just don’t like playing with a short stack for long stretches.  I pretend to think long enough that Marco might decide I’m trapping him with a huge hand, then announce “all-in.”  He quickly calls.  Uh-oh.

I turn my cards over with the 10 showing but the Eight completely covered by the 10.  Okay, says Marco, and he turns over a Seven, with his second card similarly covered.  The flop is 6-2-8.  Bingo!  Now I have a pair of 8’s.  Hopefully his other card is another 7.  I spread my cards now to show my Eight and that now I have top pair.  All of a sudden, I feel good about this.

The turn card is a 3, followed by an Ace on the river.  (Shout out here for Barry Greenstein’s excellent book, “Ace on the River.”)  Marco slowly slides his Seven to one side, revealing an Ace underneath.

He eventually wins the tournament.

For me, it’s a short walk over to the cash game table, to join the other losers.  Every one of them has a story to tell about the tournament.  Every story ends the same.

Daily Debacle – Way Ahead / Way Behind

Last night I played in a live tournament with about 65 players.  The buyin was $50 plus another $10 bounty.  The starting stack was equal to 50 big blinds.

I was pretty card dead and uber-tight for awhile, whittling away about 20% of my stack.  Then the most aggressive player, an older guy, was on the button, with me in the big blind.  Not only was this guy aggressive, he was irritating.  A couple of times he was doing business on his cell phone while in a hand, including once as the dealer, and seemed oblivious to the rest of us.

Another time, he made a fairly standard-sized open raise and I called with 9-6 suited.  Not a premium hand, but folding all the time was getting boring, the blinds were still small, and I had position.  Two of my suited cards appeared on the flop and the old fart shoved all-in, about 5x the pot size.  Of course I folded, and he showed AA and said he was just happy to win what was already in the pot.  I made a mental note for future reference.

So this hand he is the button and I still have about 10 big blinds.  Everyone folds to him and he raises to just over 3BB’s, and the SB folds.  I have KT suited.  Not great, not terrible, not something I want to play out-of-position, not something I want to fold.  My image should be very, very tight.  I shoved and he insta-called, showing KK.  As I’m starting to walk away from the table, the river card completes a gutshot straight for me.

A bit later, the blinds are up again, I’ve won one more pot and now have 18.5 BB’s.  Everyone folds to me in the Hijack seat, and I have Ah 8h.  This is certainly good enough to raise, and I have to mix it up some or the blinds will begin taking their toll soon.  I raise to 2.5 BB’s, and the next two players fold.  Then the small blind 3-bets to 5.5 BB’s and the big blind folds.  The small blind made a strange play early in the tournament (first level of blinds).  On a monotone flop, he made the nut flush.  There was a bet and a call in front of him.  He shoved all-in and everybody folded.  He then showed his flush.  Really?  Why push everybody out if you have the nuts?  That seemed like such a perfect time to milk the pot for so much more.  Sure, it’s possible someone will have a draw to a full house, but you want to entice them to chase those draws.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen any 3-bets from this player.  His range seems fairly narrow, like JJ+, AQs+, AK.  For some reason I cannot explain, it seems that the JJ-KK pocket pairs are most likely.  He might call and trap with AA, might call with AK and evaluate the flop, etc.

Against this range, I have 30% equity.  The pot is now 8.5 BB’s and it will cost me 3 BB’s to call, so I have the proper odds.  My stack is 16 BB’s and I would have 13 BB’s after calling.  I will have position on this villain post-flop.

I hate giving up 20% of my remaining stack on a call here.  Any other ace will have me dominated.  Flushes don’t come around that often.  The size of his 3-bet is inviting a call.  Deliberately?  I don’t think so, as I am not very impressed by his prior play.

I decide to fold, but don’t slide my cards to the center.  Let’s think a bit more.  This is a short tournament.  There are only so many opportunities to accumulate chips.  I got a second life with my earlier suckout against the button’s KK.

TOO MUCH THINKING HERE.  “Fold!” I tell myself.

I call.

The flop is A-Q-4, with one heart.  Not bad, top pair with a backdoor flush draw.  He checks.  I check.

The turn is the 4h.  Helps my backdoor flush draw.  Otherwise, this card changes nothing, as he certainly doesn’t have a 4.  He checks again.

At this point, I’m either way ahead or way behind.  I’m ahead if he has KK or JJ – he would only have 2 outs.  I’m behind if he has AA, QQ, AK, AQ.  Against AA or QQ, I’m drawing dead as the turn card completed a full house.  Against AK I have 12 outs (hearts or an 8).  Against AQ I have 9 outs for a flush.  Based on my assessment of his preflop range, those are about the only options.

The only right play here is to check behind.  As I’m writing this, it is abundantly clear.  But last night I was tired, the result of a very late online session the night before (accumulating material for more blog posts!).  The flush draw got me excited, and I rationalized that the additional equity made it proper to shove.  Looking at it now, none of the hands that are ahead of me are going to fold.  Am I representing that I have a 4?  How silly.  None of the hands that are behind are going to call.

So I shove.  He calls and shows AK.  I have 12 outs, miss them all, and make the walk of shame, after starting this hand in perfectly good shape for a deep run in this tournament.

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