I played in PokerStars' World Championship of Online Poker Event #5 yesterday. It was a $200 NL Hold 'Em rebuy tourney. Both GRob and I received free entries thanks to Nolan Dallas and the fine folks over at PokerStar. They know how to treat bloggers right! And I'm not just saying that because Otis is cashing a HUGE paycheck right now!!!!
2146 people entered and after the rebuys and add ons, the prize pool easily cracked a cool million. GRob finished in 940th when his AT lost to QT when a Q hit the flop. I was knocked out a little while later in 799th when my AJ ran into AK.
Those numbers don't really tell, the story, however. I was extremely happy with my play despite the disappointing finish. Amazingly, I can be taught... someone tell Felicia!
Back in that first December WPBT event, I was practically blinded off sitting between Max Pescatori and Felicia. I was scared, intimidated, unsure of myself. I was a wimp. I couldn't have been more of a rock if I had rolled off a mountainside.
But that was my game. I played tight. I didn't think I had it in me to play any other way. And frankly, with online poker rooms populated by idiots, tight was profitable. I had fun and made money doing it. ABC poker helped me cash in countless SNG's.
However, I lacked the creativity necessary to compete in multi-table tournaments. While my style often helped me accumulate chips early, better players took advantage of me, and I lacked the necessary skill to change gears. And frankly, things like the "gap concept" and "continuation betting" were just not part of my game.
But you finished 2nd in the WPBT Aladdin Classic!!!!
It was a fluke. I took advantage of a poor blind structure, played more aggressively than I might have otherwise, and caught just enough cards when it mattered. Remember my consecutive blind flushes? Not quite the stuff of Harrington and Chan.
So yesterday was tournament time. It would be the largest tournament I've ever been a part of. And I would miss the entire first hour.
Here's where I extend a huge thanks to Heather. I had hoped to get out of work in time to be online. I was due a break for working 17 straight days at the time. I don't get overtime... so I thought I'd sneak out early. It didn't work out so well. It's kinda hard to leave the station sometimes.
So GRob jumped on the girly-chatty thing and told me Heather was willing to play for me until I got home. I got her my info and crossed my fingers. I knew she'd play better than I would have, but I was hoping she got some cards. There was no way I was going to rebuy, so I needed to get to the first break with enough chips to make an add on worth it.
Heather did more than enough, getting me there with a solid 4060T, just below average stack. She probably could have done even more, but she got moved to a table with a guy who played about a dozen consecutive hands all in. I hate rebuys.
And It Begins...
I was about 175T below average when the second hour started. The rebuys and add ons were over, so I didn't have to worry too much about crazy all ins. That meant I could play my game.
It didn't take me long to establish my tight image, and with some continuation bet encouragement from Heather, I was accumulating chips.
An early key hand was the dreaded Hilton Sisters. I bet my standard 3xBB and got two callers. The flop came down K-9-3 rainbow. Ugh. I hate overcards. The first player checked and I threw out a bet about 2/3 of the pot, I think 500T. The player behind me called. The river was another undercard and I lead out with 1500T, and got called.
Now I was worried. When the river was another undercard, I wanted desperately to check, but that would have invited a bet that would force me to fold, whether he had the king or not. Or course, my 1500T bet at the river was its own sign of weakness, but I simply got called, not raised, and my pocket Q's beat A9s. It was a big boost to my stack.
Thankfully, I was moved shortly after that play because I think the way I played the hand gave my opponents too much information. And, frankly, there were some pretty good players at the table. At my new table, I was surrounded by a bunch of medium stacks, and considerably less skill.
Here's where I started playing the kind of poker I've never really played before. Sitting in the BB with K6s, it's folded to the SB who makes a good sized raise. I come right back over the top with a re-raise and he lays it down. I can't remember the last time I protected my blind.
A few hands later, I'm on the button when the glorious HAMMER falls my way. It's folded around to me giving me the opportunity to raise it up and take it down. Otis told me when I showed that Mrs. Otis exclaimed, "Hammer!"
The next break rolls around and I'm to 12060T. It was a strong hour for me and I'm suddenly a few thousand chips above average.
The Ups and Downs
Despite talk from Heather and Otis that I'd eventually have to change gears, all agreed now wasn't the time. I still waited for cards, looked for opportunities to attack medium stacks, and bided my time. I had gotten myself up to roughly 14000T and I was feeling good.
When I looked down at KQo in early position, I made one of my loosest plays, and raised to 3xBB. I suppose I hadn't played many hands, and, frankly, I was rarely getting called. This time I did, by the BB.
The flop came down AKx. My opponent bet just 600T, less than a third of the pot. It seemed to be a pretty good sign of weakness, so I raised it up to 1500T. He called.
The turn was a Q giving me two pair. He lead out again with 600T and this time I raised to 2000T. He called again. The river was a blank, and, yet again, I was faced with a 600T bet. Heather's advice to just call didn't come soon enough, because I raised to 3000T and got called by AQ. I figured the guy for an A, but I didn't put him on two pair. In fact, the way the guy had been playing, I barely gave him credit for an A.
The call was clearly the better play there. The guy was only going to call my raise if he could beat me. The raise was not likely to make me any more money. It was a 3000T lesson. Here was apparently some chat between Otis and Heather:
Otis: What did CJ put him on? AJ?
Heather: No, he put him on STUPID.
That about sums it up. Later the same guy took a shot at a pot with 84o, and sucked out on AK. The guy was not very good, but I still lost a big part of my stack to him.
Sitting at just 8435T I was now back below average. Not a place I like to be. That's when I looked down at a couple of handsome Cowboys. A player in early position raised it from 200 to 500. When it got to me, I pushed it to 1500. I wanted to see where this guy stood and I didn't want a weak ace sticking around.
Unfortunately, as Heather lamented, the raise wasn't big enough because I got a caller before it got back to the original raiser. He, however, immediately pushed it to 3600. That really left me two choices. Assume he has Aces and fold, or push all in. If he had Aces, so be it. I pushed. The third player folded and the original raiser went into the tank.
He used up almost his entire time bank before finally deciding to call and showing JJ. I was a huge favorite. The flop of KQ8 made me a virtual lock, although the J on the turn worried me slightly. The 7 on the river doubled me up and I was back at 16216T, well above average.
I hit a little over 17000T by the next break, my second straight hour in which I added 5000 chips to my stack. I was feeling great.
And It Comes Crashing Down
I'm in the BB (100/200/25) when I see Big Slick. The hand had actually been pretty good to me so far in the tourney. I knew I should have seen it coming.
A solid player in MP raised to 1000. A substantial raise. At that point, I had to see where I stood. I raised to 3000 and got called. The flop was about as good I could hope, A72. I suppose it was a Hammer flop.
I bet about 3/4 of the pot, throwing in 6000. Almost immediately, my opponent raised all in to a little more than 10000. Unless I figured him for Aces (which I didn't because he would likely have reraised me pre-flop), I would have to call his all in. I did, and, unfortunately, he flipped A7o.
Ugh. I never improved and was down to just a thousand chips.
Heather and Otis agreed I "played it perfectly" and said it was a "bad beat," but I wasn't so sure. I was reluctant to call it a bad beat because I was well behind when the money went into the middle. And perhaps I should have raised more preflop or played it differently after the flop.
Of course, I don't really believe any of that second-guessing. I got caught by a guy who called a big raise with A7o. I want him to make that play every single time. Once he makes that call, I put him on a big pair or a big Ace. If he has the last two Aces in the deck, so be it, I'm going home. Otherwise, I'm ahead or tied in the hand.
But he made an ill-advised pre-flop play and then out-flopped me. It was soul-crushing.
A few hands later, I looked down at AJo and reluctantly made my move. Two players got money in the pot before me making my hand that much more vulnerable. A promising board of 554AQ wouldn't be enough to overcome Big Slick, and I went home in 799th place, well out of the money.
The New Tricks
I'm not sure my boring, clinical discussion of my play really explained what I was feeling throughout the tournament. I felt really good about my play. I could sense when people were making a move or when they were showing weakness. I took advantage of openings and easily accumlated chips without putting much of my stack at risk.
I did everything I wanted to. It was probably the best I ever played. I have to give Heather a lot of credit for that because she provided the pushes where I needed them. Now, I just have to make this style a more permanent part of my game. Maybe next time I won't get drilled by A7!