It's the nature of tournament poker. You can play perfect poker for hours, but find yourself in trouble because of a single decision. Perhaps you've lost your concentration because you're tired. Perhaps you misread your opponent. Perhaps you set your opponent up for a certain play but when the time came, your timing was off.
There's a lot of reasons why it happens, but to win a tournament you either have to avoid this big mistake or hope you're left with enough chips to come back.
My mistake was costly.
There were 64 people entered in the tournament at the Coushatta Casino. The casino has a gorgeous poker room with 17 tables. My biggest complaint is that smoking is allowed. I can't stand cigarette smoke. Thankfully, smoking was not allowed on the tournament side of the poker room.
We were seated 9 to a table and I got seat 6 on table 12. My tablemates were rather non-descript. They all seemed like grizzled men in thier 40's or 50's except for one 30-something guy who seemed like he hadn't escaped his fraternity days. I was the youngest player at the table.
We all started with T7000 and blinds opened at 25/50. They would go up every 20 minutes with our first break after level 4.
Things started off well enough. I think it was about hand 4 when I looked down at American Airlines. I did my standard 3xBB raise and got three callers. It was a rainbow flop of A-K-4. I was first to act and I checked. I wonder if I could have gotten a little more out of everyone if I had put in a small bet. I was hoping someone else acted, but everyone checked.
The turn was a 7. The pot was T675 and I figured I'd throw out a bet to see if anyone was going to play with me. I tossed in T200 and got just one caller, the overaged frat guy who seemed to play every hand. The river was another 4 meaning the only hand that beat me was pocket 4's. I threw out T500 and after a little deliberation, frat guy folded.
I slid my cards to the dealer and the guy in seat 4 said, "What did you have?" I smiled and told him I had two cards. No one pressed the issue.
I actually found myself catching a lot of premium hands in the first couple levels. One time I got Big Slick and had a couple of callers. The flop was rags. I put a good sized bet into the pot and got two callers. At that point I decided perhaps I should slow down. The turn didn't help me and I checked. So did the other two. Maybe a big bet there wins the pot, but this was a table of calling stations. The river ended up filling another guy's nut flush.
I won a few more pots with the Hiltons and pocket Jacks. I only limped once with A6s, but saw the wrong color on the flop. Once I almost limped out of the small blind only to miss out on flopping two pair. Another time, I folded A5o, again missing out on two pair.
By the time we got to the break, I was sitting at T11400. There were 44 players left with the average stack at about T10200. I had played a handful of hands and won every hand I showed down. I only got into two pots that I ended up folding (that Big Slick and my A6 limp). I thought I was playing pretty well, but, frankly, with my premium hands I felt as though I should have had more chips.
After the break, the cards were cold. I couldn't find a hand to play. I kept reminding myself that I had to avoid marginal hands. I wasn't about to get involved in pots when I was holding a loser. I was still around the average stack and did not need to panic.
When we finished the 300/600 level we raced off our T100 chips. I was sitting at T12500. I had barely moved since the break. Suddenly blinds were up to 500/1000. I was praying I saw a hand soon. I was getting bored and tired. I had to fight those feelings or I was going to make a bad play.
Pocket 9's in the small blind helped me pick up a little pot. I was up to T15500.
That's when it happened.
I still feel like an idiot looking back at my play.
The dealer begins throwing out the cards and the second one he tosses me flips over, showing the 8 of spades. I quickly glance at my first card to see if I would have wanted that 8, but I see a 5 of clubs, so I wasn't disappointed. When the second card comes, I find the 5 of diamonds.
For some stupid reason, the superstitious part of my brain (that's about 75%) began to think that the exposed card was providence. I was supposed to get pocket 5's. Presto would be a magic hand!
I'm in early position and I raise to T3000. Everyone folds to the big blind who calls the extra T2000.
The flop comes K-4-2, two diamonds. Just one over card, not the worst flop I could see. My opponent checks. He's a younger player who moved to our table a few levels earlier. He generally played as though he was confused by the cards in front of him. I saw him chase a few pots only to fold on the river. In my mind, I could outplay this guy no matter what he was holding.
After the check, I threw T5000 into the T6500 pot. My opponent pauses before taking another look at this cards. After another moment of deliberation, he called. I immediately put him on the flush draw. I figured him for A-x of diamonds. The K of diamonds was on the board so I didn't put him on K's.
The turn was a 6. It was another overcard, but not one that necessarily scared me. My opponent checks again and it's decision time. If he's on the flush draw, like I believe he is, I don't want him to see another card. There's T16500 in the pot. My opponent has just T6000 left. If we're both pot committed, I have to push and just hope he doesn't have the K.
I push T7500 into the pot, and as soon as he calls, I figure I'm beat.
I show my 5's and say I guess I need a 5 on the river. He flips over K6 for two pair. There was no 5 on the river and I was down to just T1500.
Looking back, I suppose it makes sense. I'm not sure I make the first call preflop if I'm him, but that's his choice. He told me after the hand that he almost didn't call after the flop because he was worried he was outkicked. When he caught his two pair on the turn, he was no longer worried. Had he missed on the turn, he likely wouldn't have called. Does that mean I should have pushed all-in after the flop? Or perhaps I should have just checked the flop and if he bet, folded my small pair.
The bottom line is that I misread my opponent and it cost me.
I was just one hand from the T1000 big blind when I got dealt K4. I thought it was as good a hand as any so I threw my chips in. The table chip leader raised to T3000 so it was just him and I. I thanked him for isolating me figuring I'd at least have outs. Then he flipped pocket rockets. Good night, everyone! I was out in 30th.
I still wonder why I played those pocket 5's the way I did. I guess my explanation sounds logical, but there's just something wrong about it. If a small pair doesn't hit a set on the flop, it's no good, right? I'll just chalk it up to a lesson learned. I had a big enough stack at that point that I didn't need to outplay anyone. I just needed to let the cards do the work. I'll remember that for next time.