I’m getting comfortable with Atlantic City, NJ. Maybe a little too comfortable. AC on a January weekday is a strange place. Away from the boardwalk, AC is always a quiet depressing place, but never more so than during the middle of the week in the wintertime. Midweek, even the boardwalk and hotels, which are bustling on the weekends, are quiet. The streets are barren, and so are the casino floors, save for the slot machine areas, which as always are entertaining a steady stream of retirees in sweatsuits, fresh off the bus. As for me, I have developed a little AC routine. Mostly it consists of driving from parking garage to parking garage, using my free transfers, and dining at the White House Sub Shop.
One very notable exception to the prevailing quiet in Atlantic City this past week was the scene at the Borgata’s convention center area. The turnout for the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open has been astounding. If anyone is wondering whether the poker fad is dying out, the answer is no. If one were to judge by the record attendance during the opening days of the event, the poker wave is actually cresting. So while the US Government is currently doing everything in its power to kill online gambling, this country’s citizens want to play poker more than they ever have. The $500, $750 and $1000 events that kicked off the Winter Open drew a ridiculous 1370, 610, and 630 players, respectively. On weekday mornings, no less.
I think it’s neither bravado nor an exaggeration when I say that these three events offered me the biggest overlays of my career. The fields were that bad. Guys came out of the woodwork for these tournaments. Virtually every type of bad player was on display: Scared nits, good time Charlie’s, brash young punks…. I’m very disappointed that I only managed to cash in a $200 second chance event and could not crack the money in any of the three larger events I played. I owe it to myself to go back to the Borgata this week.
On this trip I came up with a special innovation. I call it my CBO Log. It’s my Cripple/Bustout Log! (patent pending)
No Limit Hold ‘Em, as we all know, is a game of mistakes. We try to limit our own mistakes and take maximum advantage of others’ mistakes. One place where mistakes are common in tournaments is the hand that cripples or busts you. I therefore have resolved to take notes on each hand that cripples or busts me in all my tournaments, review what happened, and try to learn from my mistake, if any, in each instance. Maybe some of you will follow suit. I’m sure CBO Logs will be all the rage in due time.
My actual CBO Log is a bunch of shorthand mumbo jumbo, but for my blog readers, I will expand on the CBO entries for each of the Borgata events I played. Here they are:
Tourney #1, $500 NL
Blinds are 300-600 with a 50 ante. My stack is approximately 10,500. About half the field has been eliminated. My table has many inexperienced players who overplay hands preflop. I am dealt AK offsuit under the gun. I limp. It is folded to an aggressive, inexperienced player in the cutoff, who makes it 2500 to go. He has me covered. The button and small blind fold, and the big blind, who also has me covered, calls. I go all in for 10,500. The cutoff folds. The big blind thinks for awhile and calls with 77. I get no help and am busted.
Critique: I think I played this exactly right. My stack was at the very peculiar size (7.5x the pot) where open-pushing and standard raising were both –EV plays. Open-pushing would have been an overbet that would only get called by JJ, QQ, KK and AA, open-raising would leave me in a spot where if I missed the flop, a continuation bet would commit my entire stack. The limp-reraise all in was probably my best play here. The big blind made a daring call that worked out.
Tourney #2, $750 NL
Blinds are 100-200. My stack is approximately 4200. It is still fairly early in the tournament, but I have already lost almost half my starting stack. I pick up AQ UTG+1 and raise to 600. I am called by the player to my immediate left, who has been playing tight-aggressive poker, and I also get called by the cutoff and the button. Both blinds fold. The flop comes K-K-8 with two hearts. I check, and all three other players check. The turn is a black four, and all four of us check again. The river is another 8, putting two pair on board. I check, the player to my left bets 2000, both late position players fold, and I reluctantly call. My opponent shows KQ suited and I am crippled, left with around 1500 chips.
Critique: This one is harder to defend than CBO #1, but here is what I was thinking. When both the flop and turn was checked around, I ruled out middle pocket pairs for all three of my opponents. There was just no way they wouldn’t try to find out where they were at with a pair of kings and a flush draw on board, given two opportunities. So the only hand that was beating me on the river was a hand that had a slowplayed king in it. After the bet on the river, I tried to put the player to my left on a hand. I had raised from 2nd position, and he had been playing tight preflop. So the only hands with a king in them that he might call with were AK and KQ suited. But why would he give two free cards on a flop with two hearts? I was somewhat concerned that he held 88, for a flopped full house, but when the second 8 arrived on the river, I reduced the chances that he held that hand. It was really looking like he held AQ or AJ, or possibly A10 suited, which is why I chose to call. The big problem with this line of thinking was that I was calling to merely chop the pot when I had only 600 invested. If I was beating any of his possible bluffing hands, this call would make a lot of sense, but since I was calling to merely chop the pot, I think I made a bad call.
Tourney #3, $200 NL
Blinds are 1500-3000 with a 500 ante. My stack is approximately 15,500. The bubble has burst and the field just made the money. I have J6 offsuit in the big blind. Everyone folds to the small blind, who completes. I don’t know much about this player, except that he’s conservatively dressed and in his 50’s. I push all in and my opponent gleefully calls with pocket kings. He has me covered and I’m gone.
Critique: It looks silly when you bust out with J6 against KK, but this is the biggest no-brainer of the group. If you don’t know why, you need to read Harrington or buy yourself a PXF subscription. As a matter of fact, in one of the PXF videos, Johnny Bax says something like “if you want to bust me, slowplay aces from the small blind when I’m in the big blind and short stacked. You’ll bust me every time, good for you.” Same here.
Tourney #4, $1000 NL
Blinds are 1000-2000 with a 500 ante. My stack is about 40,000. There are 87 out of 630 players left, with the money bubble lurking at spot #63. I have been playing aggressively, open-raising a lot of pots. I have two black sevens on the button of a ten-handed table. It is folded to the player in 7th position, who has about 30,000 chips, and he raises to 6000. He seems to be a tight player, and I have made him fold by reraising him all in once before. I reraise all in. The player in the small blind folds. The player in the big blind thinks for a long time, then reraises all in for approximately 50,000. The original raiser calls immediately. The big blind has JJ and the original raiser has AA. The aces hold up. The original raiser wins a huge pot, and the player in the big blind wins the side pot. I am busto.
Critique: I was overaggressive here. My image at this table was not ideal for this move. I had been playing very fast and loose for the 30 minutes preceding this hand. That said, I had taken a look at the payout schedule for the event and noticed that it was extremely top-heavy. The first few money levels for the tournament paid only a few hundred dollars in profit, while first place was something like $175,000. I decided I was going to play to win, hence this shove. But in retrospect, the original raise did not come from the cutoff or the button, so it represented strength from a tightish player. Also, I was on the button, not in one of the blinds, so I had to get through two players to my left. In light of my stack size, I think this was a close decision, but it was proper to fold here (not call, incidentally). That’s a shame, because I was up against aces.