My Big Night
I am thrilled to report that last night was a banner night for me in the realm of online poker. I entered the $10 buyin large tournament on pokerstars, the third or fourth time I have done this tournament, to limited success thus far. Although my recent history in the ps big tourneys has been pretty solid -- 3 cashes in my last 5 tournaments, against an average of probably around 1700 players apiece, two of which I managed to finish in the top 100. I knew it was going to be a good night right from the get-go, when, while surviving my way through the first round, I actually averaged 23% of flops seen during that time, a solid 7-10% higher than my flop percentage at ANY point during the previous 5 weeks or so on ps. During the first break, which took us down to around 330 of the 873 entrants in the tournament, I got a beer (Sierra Nevada, my new lucky poker drink!), and came back ready to open up a bit more in the second session, and I did just that. I executed a few big bluffs, including one play where I raised 5x preflop with the hammer, got one caller and then moved in on him following a fairly suggestive KQ8 flop with two clubs. He folded, and then I waited until the last possible second before showing my hammer for all to see (obviously this inflicts maximum psychological hammer damage, needless to say).
Anyways, I survived to the second break, which was right around the money cutoff of 162 people, with me in around 50th place. After officially reaching the Money early in Round 3, the play in the tourney opened up quite a bit, allowing me some chances to make some moves. Unfortunately, my dearth of good cards continued. Fortunately, I was able to use a number of well-timed bluffs, many preflop, to steal some good blinds and bets and stay in the game, even gaining steadily in chips throughout the third period. I recall commenting to my friend V shortly after making the money that, interestingly, I had won 22 hands thus far in the tournament, but was 0 for 0 in showdowns, having won Every Single Hand on a fold by all my opponents. You know the others who had been at my table for some time were thinking I was utterly full of cripe, a fact which I was determined to use to my advantage as the third session came to a close, with me in 34th place out of 50 remaining players, each of us well into the money payouts at this point and all just jockeying for position and hoping for some big cards.
I don't have much to report about my fourth session in the tournament, other than that my card deadness continued, with my tournament flop percentage steadily dropping from the 23% in round 1 down at this point to 17%. I did record my biggest hand of the tournament near the end of round 4, where I held pocket 2s and got in with one caller for a 3x raise. When the flop came an AJ2 with two diamonds, I knew it was on. I checked, drawing out a bet from my opponent, which I just smooth called after "thinking" for agonizingly long. When the third diamond came on the turn, I crying called a smallish bet from my opponent, who was definitely giving off vibes of the flush, but who basically bet 3x the BB into a pot that already contained about 10x the BB by that point. When a second Ace came on the river, I felt very comfortable from the betting that my full house was now good, and that my opponent was probably sitting on a made flush. I led out for the first time in the hand, moving in my last 10,000 chips in an attempt to look desperate and beaten. The guy thought and thought, waiting until his timer was down to 0:01 before deciding to call me. He showed me the nut flush with K9 of diamonds, and I flipped my well-disguised boat for a huge pot, one which vaulted me into First Place among the 18 players remaining at that time. This was already the furthest I had ever gotten in a large tourney on ps or otherwise online, and I was thrilled to be doing as well as I was by this point.
After break #4 (my first time ever seeing this break in any online tournament btw -- and I can verify that break #4 is not a myth but, in fact, really occurs in reality late in these large tournaments), the rest of the time is basically a blur. I know I still didn't see much in the way of playable starting hands or good hits on the flop, but I managed to bluff a few guys off of big bets preflop by representing big pairs in smart situations. I was in first place from 18 players left until 12 players left, after which point two people on the other remaining table in the tournament both hit massive pots against others over there, knocking them out and surpassing my chip lead. Before I knew it, I was at my First Final Table ever in an online event of more than 60 or so entrants. Here is a picture of what things looked like when the final table began (I am Hoyazo, and you can click on these pictures to enlarge them to actually be able to read them):
Early on at the final table I continued my great luck of picking off weak players with well-timed bluffs and excellent reads of my opponents, but also unfortunately coninued not getting good starting hands. I finally went out in 6th place when my 77, the first playable had I had gotten in the last 43 hands dealt to me, ran into the chip leader's 99, and before I knew it, I was done:
Nonetheless, I am absolutely THRILLED about this outcome and to be able to share these pictures with you. Sure, the $344 payout on my $10 buyin is huge, but much more than that is the confirmation that all my hard work and practice is beginning to pay off in a very real way. This is all the more meaningful to me because I really did not get the quality of starting hands that one would want in order to make it far in a large tournament -- by the time I was knocked out in 6th place, my flop percentage had dwindled from 23% in round 1 to a paltry 11% of flops seen overall in the tournament, out of a little over 500 hands. Not to mention, it is barely the middle of January, and I am already very close to completing my primary poker goal of 2006, to win a MTT for the first time. It was a total thrill for me all the way through, and I am psyched to be able to share it with you all, my fake internet friends. Look for more of the same in the future as I expect to springboard from this psychological boost and get my first official MTT win sometime in the near future. You'll definitely be the first to learn about it right here!