Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hitting the big time

Well my first foray into the world of tournament poker was an unadulterated success.

The tournament was a $50+$10 buyin satellite for a $100k event at the end of June. The top four players qualified for the final, with $600 for 5th.

I played a pretty good tournament, and had a pretty nice run of cards at a critical time and found myself in the unfamiliar position of tournament leader with two tables remaining. I maintained the lead or thereabouts until about six players remained. After a short stack busted out, I loosened up a little too much and very nearly found myself busted out in 5th - which would have been ok, but a bit painful. Fortune smiled, and I made it to the final four - a theoretical profit of $950 for the night.

My co-conspirator 'Mac' also played pretty well, but busted in 11th just short of the final table. We will both play another satellite in about a month to attempt to qualify a second place for the final.

Here are a few recollections from the long (nearly six hour) night:

For the first hour or so, I saw very few playable cards - even on the blinds. The table was playing really loose, but I couldn't cash in without playable cards. I think I played maybe two hands in the first couple of rounds, a blank AQs the best cards I saw. I must have made a few late position steals, because I managed to (just) keep my head above water.

I had a huge piece of luck in this early stage when I raised AQ with two callers. Flop came down something like J94. I pushed my luck with a raise, and the shortish stacks both went all-in, and I was forced to call for a significant percentage of my stack altogether. I was astonished to see both hands had gutshot draws or worse, and my ace high held up for a huge pot. That piece of luck gave me enough chips to start playing.

I played pretty tight straightforward poker for a while, but got caught on the steal and found myself somewhat short stacked. I was moved to a seat next to 'Mac' (he was doing rather better than me at this point), and was there very briefly before moving to what eventually became the final table. At this stage, there were probably 30 or so runners remaining, and I suddenly found myself seeing a rush of cards. My first hand at the table was AK, with which I won on a blank flop. I saw AK a couple more times, as well as KQ twice, JJ a couple of times, and some midsize pairs like 88 and 99. I rapidly found myself the biggest stack on the table, and was suddenly in the position to be able to start bullying the other players, most of whom were relatively short stacked and just trying to hang in for the final table.

I also hit some flops: KQ hit KQ9 and won a big pot. Another KQ (called preflop) hit J94. I bet, was called, and saw a turn Q. This time he bets, and I figure I have him beat. I just call, and the river is a 10. I cannot put him on AK, so when he bets I reraise him all-in. He folds.

I made the mistake of starting too aggressively on the final table, where firstly we were back to 10 players (from the previous 5), and secondly I was no longer a dominant stack. I dropped back to maybe double the average stack, and tightened up again. After a couple of players dropped out, play became very cagey indeed as the payoff loomed. Again I saw some reasonable cards in good position and won a few rounds of the (now very steep) blinds. With 6 to play I again had a substantial chip lead.

With five to play, everybody relaxed a bit knowing that $600 at least was in the bag. The table as a whole made the mistake of failing to gang up on the short stacks. There was rather a lot of mid-stack vs mis-stack action.

I had an idiot moment at some point, playing K2 in the blinds (two callers). On a flop of AK6, I insanely called an all-in bet from a shortish stack - both players had aces of course, and I was back with the pack. On the big blind, I then found myself with JJ. The short stacked SB raised all-in with 44 and I called - he hit a 4 on the flop, and suddenly *I* was the short stack.

A little while later I saw my first pocket rockets of the night. Thanking my lucky stars, I limp in to be heads up with the old codger in the BB. Flop is T33, and he puts me all-in. I call, and he turns over J3 - I am gutted! Turn... 10, river..... 10!! This miracle full house saves my bacon and puts me back to an average stack or better. I'm still convinced that calling with the aces was the right move.

The unfortunate old codger was left with a single chip remaining, and the table commiserating with him over his imminent departure. The tournament director started writing out his $600 cheque. That one chip went in with 86o against three players - he made a straight on the river to quadruple up. He went all-in twice more, doubling up each time to suddenly find himself about 3rd in chips.

After this there were some see-sawing fortunes, and the aforementioned failure to gang up on short stacks. The end finally came when the old codger, sitting about third in chips busted himself against the chip leader with a modest hand like A8. The player to my right, who would not have survived the blinds, thanked his lucky stars.

No comments: