Perhaps you'll remember what happened last time I visited the Coushatta. I thought I played well in the tourney, but didn't make the money. Then I dropped more than a grand playing the big game.
I came home with a crushed spirit.
In just a week, I'd be taking my game onto the biggest stage I've ever played, the WSOP Circuit. I don't think I was ready and I was questioning myself. That's what happens when your bankroll takes a hit.
"Go play! I've got a good feeling about this," Change100 told me Friday night. That's the sentiment that got me out of bed at about 10:15am, leaving me less time than I'd like to get there for the Noon start. As you can see by the picture to the right. I'm sure glad I listened to her!
I barely made it before Noon, thanks to having to stop for gas. And thanks to the hit my bankroll took last week, I had to hit the ATM to cover the $230 buy-in. When I got to the cage, I was crushed to see an alternate list. I got my name on 3rd. I didn't want to play a cash game. I came for the tourney and the open face roast beef sandwich.
Of course, this story would be rather boring had I not made it into the tourney. When they got enough alternates, they opened a 10th table, and it filled up giving us 100 players to start.
I'll remind you why I love this tourney: T8000 to start, 25/50 starting blinds, 30 minute levels. For a little casino poker room, you're hard pressed to find a better structure.
I sized up my table and pegged myself as the best player at the table. There was one 20-something guy with sunglasses on his hat that I thought might be okay. There was an old guy who looked like a grinder that was probably pretty solid. I didn't consider anyone else to be a threat, especially the guy sporting the sunglasses/radio combo.
It took exactly two hands to pick out the worst player at the table. When he called a guy down with JT and no pair and now draw, just to catch the J on the river, I knew he was a guy I wanted to get into a pot with.
Flying American Airlines
It happened when I got my first rockets about 6 hands into the tourney. I nearly went home here.
I raised it up to T250 (5xBB) because there were already a few limpers in front of me, and I didn't want to play against any more than two players. Four people called my bet. "I appreciate the respect," I told the table.
The flop was T87 rainbow. Ugh. It's checked to me, and I severely overbet the pot, throwing out T2000. I wanted to crush the draws. I got three callers. THREE CALLERS!!!!.
The turn was a K. At the time, I thought it might be a bad card for me. Remember, American Airlines is just a pair. And when you've got three people calling you down, there's a wide range of hands they could be holding.
It's checked to me again and I push all in. I decided I was likely still ahead at this point and I wanted someone to risk every chip they had to hit their straight draw.
The woman at the table folded, reluctantly. The JT calling station through the rest of his chips in. "I can't believe some donkey is going to cripple me," I thought. The 20-something guy I was a little worried about laid his hand down, saying he would have called if the donkey had folded. Both he and the woman said they held a 9 for the open-ended straight draw.
The donkey flipped K4. That's right, K4. He called a T2000 turn bet with an overcard, and hit it on the turn. He must have felt like he won the lottery, until he saw my Aces. The river was a 6, which would have completed the straights. Instead, I had a huge stack in front of me, and I had the donkey's chips.
My second pair of rockets came in the third level (100/200). A players to my right had just cracked Kings with A5o, inexplicably pushing preflop with a couple thousand chips. The Ace on the flop was very lucky for him. The very next hand, the 20-something guy I thought was solid threw his T4000 into the pot pre-flop. I hadn't realized we were at the desperation level.
I looked down at two black aces and pushed my chips into the middle as well. The woman who laid down the 9 last time was conflicted again. She had gotten a bit shortstacked, but still had plenty to play with at this point. She finally laid down her Big Slick figuring I was on Kings or Aces. She was right.
The guy flipped ATh. There was a K on the flop and a K on the river. My hand held up and the woman had to step away for a smoke break. Twice, she made a good read and the correct decision based on that read, and twice she would have won the hand.
AK is Evil
Does anyone really like this hand? It's probably the most over-played hand in NLHE. I'll give you my donkey-like performance as an example.
There's an UTG limper at the 100/200 level before it gets to me. I have Big Slick on the button and raise it up to T850. The solid old guy who limped re-raises to T2200.
It was a limp, re-raise. Anyone want to give me a read? I think it's on page 1 in "Poker's Easiest Tells to Recognize." If you don't know, the limp, re-raise screams MONSTER!!! Since I loved my hand, and played it too fast, I immediately put him all in. It took him two seconds to call with his Cowboys. Ouch.
When our table broke a few hands later, I was still smarting from that play. I quickly chipped up at the new table, winning the first two hands after I sat down. There was a HUGE stack at our table and I thought he'd be playing loose enough to give me a few chips, but I wanted to avoid any crazy confrontations with him.
I limped with pocket 7's in MP. A player a few seats behind me raised to 4xBB. It's folded back to me. The raise meant I would commit a little more than 10% of my stack. Usually, 10% is the cutoff for me. I was close to folding, but decided I would make the call to see if I could hit my set. I knew the payoff could be big if I did.
J-7-6. That's pretty.
I checked and he checked behind me. The turn was an Ace, which I hoped would be a good card for me. I checked and he bet T3000. I thought for a moment and re-raised to T7000. He quickly called. The river was a blank and I pushed. He called so fast I thought I was beat. I showed my set of 7's and he showed his Big Slick. It's the hand that pushed me toward the chip-leaders.
Before this table broke, I took a nice stack off the big stack when my AJ and his QJ both straighted on the river. I hit broadway, though and won the pot.
Getting Lucky to the Final Table
In case you haven't noticed, there have no bad beat stories so far. I haven't sucked out once. In fact, I haven't even had to race. Every time I got my money into the pot, I was a big favorite. I gotta tell you, it's a much easier way to play the game.
Down to two tables now, I was the chip leader at my table. There were two all-ins in front of me and I was in the SB with A5o. It didn't cost me that much to call and I wanted the chance to knock two players out. The BB also called. I knew he would check them down unless he hit a hand.
The flop was rags, the turn a rag and the river a 5. The BB flipped AJ. The first all-in flipped A9. The second all-in flipped A7. I flipped over the worst hand of the bunch, and took the pot. That was a lovely, and profitable river.
That's all I got. The closest thing to a suckout I'd seen so far.
In the Money!!!!
When we finally busted the last shortstack, it was time to move to the final table. That's where we got paid. Fifth through 10th got $550, and 1st through 4th received 50%-25%-15%-10% of the remaining prize pool.
I got to the final table third in chips, but first and second both had more than twice as many chips as me. In fact, they combined had more than T400,000 of the T800,000 chips in play. I was just hoping they knocked out six players so I could get into the real money.
I didn't play many hands, but it wasn't because I was scared. I didn't see any cards. The dealer made it exceedingly easy on me to fold. The first to go from the final table with the woman who folded to my Aces twice at the first table. We soon lost two others and were down to seven. I was now about 4th in chips, and the blinds were getting ready to hurt me.
Dropping the Hammer and Doubling Up
I'm an idiot. I know that. With 7 players left in the tournament, it's folded to me on the button when I look down at the HAMMER. I hadn't played it all tourney and this was no time to start. Except I raised from T10000 to T30000. The SB folded. The BB had just T37000 and already had T10000 in the pot. I immediately feared my tactical error would cost me. It's not like he could fold. Except he did. And I showed it. The HAMMER. The crowd buzzed and I loved it.
That small stack was out a few hands later.
When we got down to six, there had been three consecutive walks before the BB got to me. I mentioned that I'd appreciate that trend to continue. "But if it doesn't, I defend my Big Blind with a suckout," I told the table.
It's folded all the way around to the SB and as soon as he put his chip on his cards, I knew he was betting. He always stopped as though he was thinking about betting, but when he folded, he never put his chip on his cards.
He raised me up 4xBB. I looked down a KJo. It was decision time. If I fold here, I'm in 5th or 6th in chips. I almost never call with this hand, and didn't even consider it here. That meant fold or raise, and raising meant pushing.
That's exactly what I did, putting my tournament at stake. I'm not sure what I put him on or what chance I gave myself, but I thought there was a slight chance I was ahead, and, at worst, I figured I was in for a race.
"He raised with 7-2 offsuit earlier," I heard a woman say from the rail. I smiled on the inside, while yelling "FOLD!" to my opponent.
He was in the tank and I considered calling for the clock. "Do you have a bigger pocket pair than me?" he asked. My heart sank. I knew there was no way he was laying down a pair. He called and flipped 6's.
It was time for the Luckbox to make an appearance. However, I was 46% to win the hand pre-flop, and, frankly, that's not nearly far enough behind. So when the flop missed me (8-5-2), I felt much better about my chances. Suddently I'm just 24% and, predictably, I found my J on the turn. The river was a blank and I was in great shape. In fact, I had jumped to 2nd in chips.
Finishing It Off
The hand crippled my opponent and he lasted just a few more hands, putting us on the big money bubble. There was a short stack to my left. I tried to put him out once with K9 from the SB. He woke up with A8 from the BB and I didn't see any of my cards. He doubled up.
When the next orbit came around, I went after him once again with JTo. Again, he had a better hand, calling with K8o. This time, however, I found my J on the flop and we were in the big money. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.
When talk of a deal came, I was put in a tough spot. The chip leader had about T350,000. I had T200,000. Third and fourth each had about T125,000. There was $16700 in the prize pool, so a chip chop at this point would have looked like this:
3rd and 4th $2609
In the end, we gave first $6000 and the rest of us chopped the rest for $3566. I suppose in 2nd I could have pushed for something closer to the $4000. I think the deal was necessary because the blinds were about to jump again and at T15000/T30000, I would be holding just 6x the BB. The first time I made a bet, I'd be risking almost half my stack. Basically, I gave up $600 to secure myself $3500. I suppose I could have said "No" and tried to win it all, but I was ready to eat!
An open face roast beef sandwich on texas toast with red mashed potatoes later, I was head home with a wealth of confidence headed into next weekend.