The drought is over. I have my first substantial live tournament cash of 2007.
It came in the $1,000 buy in event at the Harrah’s WSOP Warmup yesterday. This tournament was seriously under advertised, and the 1k event drew only 58 players. The field consisted of mostly Atlantic City regulars and young internet pros (no fewer than three fielded calls from their mothers in my presence), with a smattering of dead money types. I have a small edge in this situation, as I’m both a quiet player and a relative nobody, but one that knows the names, repuations and playing styles of many internet players. I’ve played with all of them online and know who they are. But they have no idea who I am.
I came in fourth in the tournament. In light of that, the following were unusual:
-I showed down only one hand before the final table. At the final table, other than situations where I called an all-in, I showed down exactly one hand.
-I was never dealt pocket aces, pocket queens, or pocket jacks. I was dealt KK once and got no action. I held AK twice. The classic chip-accumulater, where someone runs into your monster hand, never happened.
In other words, I won no huge pots. I won many smallish to medium sized pots with continuation bets. I bluffed postflop more than I typically do. A few interesting hands and situations:
At my first table, at the 100-200 level, a TAG player limped in middle position and I overlimped right behind him with the KdJd. Both blinds called. The flop came Q-J-4 with one diamond. It was checked around. The turn was the six of diamonds. The blinds checked to the MP limper and he bet 600. I put him on a jack, a middle pair, or some kind of a draw and raised to 1400. The blinds folded, MP limper said “queen-jack, eh?” and folded. Thus began my ascent.
Ari Engel, a.k.a. ‘Bodog Ari’ was at my first table. He’s an amazing tournament pro who until recently was too young to play live events. He’s a nice jewish kid from Brooklyn with a very quiet, semi-nebbishy demeanor. He’s too young to grow a beard, but he’s trying. The result is a scraggly little mess that he nervously plays with. His vocal announcements at the table (e.g. “raise,” “reraise,” etc.) are barely audible. It’s his play that establishes his presence. He gets leverage in many pots by raising in position, especially if a player or two limps in front of him. He’s also very dangerous after the flop and will test his opponent, even if he isn’t holding much of a hand. Thankfully he was two seats to my right, so I had position on him. We never really tangled. I did see him make an amazing call later in the tournament:
When we redrew for seats with 2 tables left, Ari once again ended up at my table. We were down to around 14 players with the top 9 making the money. Ari was on the button, and it was folded to the cutoff, who made a very large openshove for about twelve big blinds, or around eight times the pot. Ari just barely had the cutoff covered and contemplated for around a minute and a half before silently reraising all in and turning over Ah7h. The cutoff grimaced and tabled KQo. In Ari’s position, I’d fold without much thought, because my tournament would be on the line and I’d assume that bigger aces are a major part of the shover’s range. But i’m not Bodog Ari. The flop brought a king and Ari was out of the tournament a few minutes later. A few players at the table were critical of Ari’s play in this hand, but in my opinion, it was an amazing call. Ari obviously plays tournaments to win, not to cash, which increases his overall equity. He somehow correctly deduced that he was a favorite against the shover’s range, and he was in fact favored to win the hand. The detractors criticized the concept of calling off all your chips as a 60-40 favorite, but an edge is an edge, and it is safe to assume that Ari would have been very difficult to deal with if he acquired a big stack on the bubble.
Another interesting hand I played occurred when we were down to three tables. The blinds were at 100-200 with a 25 ante, and I was on the button. I called a raise from a player I recognized as “Hoodini2810” from Pokerstars on the button with the 54 of spades. The blinds folded and we played heads up as the flop came A-8-3 rainbow. My opponent bet 1000. I knew he’d fire at this flop with or without an ace, so I floated and waited to see what the turn would bring. The turn was a deuce. My opponent checked, and I took down the pot with a bet of 2500. It was only after I had thrown the chips into the pot that I realized that I had hit a gutshot wheel draw and was holding the current nuts. Oops. I probably would have bet the turn either way, as we were both relatively deep stacked.
At the final table I drew a very good seat, in only 5th position in chips but seated to the immediate left of the two chipleaders. We reached the money when I made a big blind math call against a shortstack (the aforementioned ‘Hoodini’) with Q3 and sucked out against Q9. We then played two full levels (over two hours of poker) 8-handed before the next elimination. This was a grueling period during which I played normal ABC poker, picking up chips by stealing from the tighter players, and staying out of the way of the aggressive guys, with an occasional resteal against them. I had a tight image and used that to my advantage on a couple of occasions where I made continuation bets with nothing against tight guys, and one large resteal with nothing against the most agressive player at the table. Then, with 6 players remaining, I won my first and only classic race of the tournament with 1010 against a shorter stack’s AQs.
Eventually, the tournament worked its way down to four players: 1) the very tough, very solid Joe Brooks, a.k.a. ‘JOEYTHEB,’ who was second in chips; 2) the shortest stack, a young, very LAG-y player named Kyle, seated to my right; and 3) the chipleader, seated to my left. More on the chipleader: I mentioned earlier that there was a smattering of dead money in the tournament. Well, one of the dead money guys managed to have the chiplead when we were four handed.
This guy was one of the funniest nits I’ve ever played with. He both resembled and had the mannerisms of the character “Milton” from the movie Office Space. Yep, the guy who loves his stapler and ends up blowing up the building. He had super-thick glasses that made his eyes appear very large, a strange nervous stutter, ill-fitting clothes, and a habit of involuntarily rocking in his chair (think Leo Mazzone) whilst muttering to himself. I hadn’t sat with him until the final table, but he apparently had engineered a huge suckout to get there. Then, at the final table, here is how he acquired the chiplead: first having played about 2% of the hands for three hours, he was down to about 10 big blinds and was seated in the big blind when I was in the small blind. I had J10s and shoved him, presuming no resistance. Instead, he checked his hole cards and practically spilled his drink getting his chips in. He had pocket aces, and they held up. For his next trick, after folding his big blind to the LAG-y player’s raise about ten consecutive times, he finally reshoved Mr. LAG and was instacalled. This time LAG had a hand: QQ. Milton had A7o. But the flop came 7-7-x, and voila, new chipleader.
Unfortunately, I did not have position on Milton, and I was card dead. Not a good combination. Both Brooks and the LAG recognized that Milton was a total nit, and began to reshove Milton’s hesitant steal attempts. Each time, he’d pause, say “I know I have the best hand,” and then toss his cards into the muck with trembly hands. I really needed him to call these shoves with his monstrous stack, but he was not experienced enough to realize that neither Brooks nor the LAG had to have a hand to make their shoves. So he slowly leaked chips to them until I was the lone shortstack. On my final hand, I was down to about five times the pot, was seated in the big blind with KQo, and I beat LAG into the pot on his obvious ‘any two’ shove from the small blind. He had a live J7 and flopped two pair. Adios. On Cardplayer, the nit is listed as the winner, but i’m not sure whether or not they made a deal after I got bounced. If not, Milton is one very unlikely tournament winner.
I cashed for a relatively paltry $4,400, which is not a big payout in a $1,000 tournament. But I feel this cash might turn out to be an important one. The schneid is finally over. It is very hard not to be results-oriented in tournament poker. The correct way to measure your ability and progress is by examing tournaments on a hand-by-hand basis, and digging for weaknesses in your playing patterns. I have been doing this all year, and despite having no cashes to my credit, I honestly felt that I was playing well. I never sit there blinding myself off. I adapt well to the other players at my table. I have put my money in as a favorite in almost all of my elimination hands. The one place where I didn’t love my game was in my lack in inventiveness in postflop play.
For the most part, it’s been a pretty simple diagnosis: I’ve run bad. That’s the unfortunate thing about tournament poker: you’re always a dog to cash, and droughts are simply part of the landscape. Still, no matter how well-adjusted, rational and analytical you are, continuous failure is bound to toy with your confidence, and I’m afraid that I’m no exception to this rule. The most important thing I am taking away from yesterday’s tournament is the knowledge that I still know what I’m doing.