Final Tabling the Full Tilt 17k
It is with a sad soul and a heavy heart that I report to you that, after a mere three days on this big blue marble hurtling through space with us, my Full Tilt 17k Challenge that I started this past Tuesday is over. Its brief time with us included three cashes in three days for me in this, the largest of the daily guaranteed tournaments available on full tilt, exactly one week to the day after my $10,000 triumph in the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament.
In the interest of time, let me start by saying this. In true multi-tabling fashion, last night I sat down at 10pm ET, and, all at the same time, (1) went out on a river 2-outer suckout in a pair-over-pair situation about 90 minutes into a $3 rebuy satellite to the party sunday millions (this is a tournament that I suspect you'll be hearing more about shortly), (2) dominated an $8 turbo paris hilton token sng on ftp (for google searchers of course), for use with what I thought would be Friday night's 17k tournament, (3) had a great run and bubbled in the WWdN Not blogger tournament, and (4) took on my third full tilt 17k guaranteed tournament in three days since officially beginning my FTP 17K Challenge to final table this mainstay of evening poker on ftp, following up on last week's big win in the party 40k nightly event.
So needless to say, I had my hands full for a while there. Even I don't normally run four tournaments at once. That really is too much for me to provide proper attention to each. But I knew I needed to start accumulating horse sex (google) tokens again to most cost-effectively manage the assault that the 17k tourney was about to withstand from me, so I jumped into a turbo token sng before the other three events, and that one only lasted for a short while I was also in the other three tourneys. My partypoker satellite ended badly and too was over about an hour or so into the ftp 17k. And let's be honest, for those of you who regularly frequent the ftp 17k like I do, that first hour is pretty much a flipping joke anyways, so it was ok to have something else to focus on for the boring doldrums that are first-hour nightly guaranteed events.
Fairly early on in the ftp 17k last night, I limped in late position with 33 and a few other callers, who all proceeded to drop out ahead of me when the SB pushed in the rest of what was really a short stack (under 500 chips):
I debated, but being in the very early stages of a large MTT like this, I decided to go with the likely odds and see if I could win a race with a guy who I did not figure to have an overpair here, since his extremely short stack would necessarily relax greatly his starting hand requirements. I called, and promptly my 51% favorite became a significant dog, close to 9 to 1 after the flop:
As I was left to contemplate going out so early in my quest to cash in this major MTT for the third straight day, this happened:
Gotta love the suck-resuck. My boy Smokkee was railing me almost the entire way last night, and he took to calling me the "resuck master" at one point after my second or third instance of suck-resucking on someone to win a pot that was rightfully mine but had almost been snatched away from me on the flop or the turn by the poker gods. Anyways, as I've written about a lot in the past week or two, the importance of an early double-up cannot be understated in the large MTTs, and not so much because it allows you to bully the table and create more good opportunities for yourself, but rather because it provides you the big stack to withstand the inevitable beats you will suffer if you play a consistently aggressive style such as I do, and still live on to start building up your stack once again.
I won another nice pot by making a good play at a guy after I had already charged him a hefty price preflop to see the flop against my pocket Kings. The flop of course contained a single Ace, the worst possible card for my pocket Kings, but when my opponent led out at the 1300-chip pot for just 250 chips, my observation of him led me to believe that he was not a slow-player. He was just genuinely not happy with his hand, and not smart enough to work to hide that fact from me. Instead, he pussily laid a post-oak bet on me, and I like to think I reacted with the same fury that Doyle would have in this situation:
He folded, and I won another 1500 chips. And I made all of these chips count, because about 20 minutes later, with about 10 minutes left in Round 1 of the 17k, I got allin preflop with 99 against my opponent's 88, but then watched in horror as the luck balanced out for me somewhat with this 2-out suckout taking my breath away for a second:
Isn't it funny how the suckouts against you always seem to hurt a little more than the good feeling when you suck out on someone else? That's how it is for me anyways, and this one was no different, and in fact threatened to tilt me as I watched over a third of my hard-earned stack disappear just like that. Dammit. Two minutes later came the first break, with me at just under 2900 chips, having plunged significantly from the top 100 players that I had been in just a few minutes earlier:
It was actually good that the break happened just then. I had a chance to cool off a bit after the 2-outer against me, and to kick some blogger tail at the WWdN Not which was still going on at the time (including watching Waffles donk out early and often), and I entered Round 2 feeling much more calm, cool and collected, and determined once again to extend my streak to cashing in all three days of my 17k Challenge so far.
Round 2 started off well, as just 6 or 7 minutes in brought me another near-double with a preflop allin pair-over-pair situation that did hold up:
followed a short while later by this hand, which exemplifies better than anything why you need to take a cue from Doyle and at least think seriously twice about calling AQo allin preflop:
and suddenly, not even halfway through Round 2, I had nearly 8000 chips and was good for near the top 10% of outstanding players at that time:
I sat around the 8000 chip level for a good long while there, weathering through a bunch of unplayable cards and unplayable situations, sitting largely on the sidelines rather than being stoopid with people. I made up for this by making a couple of quick hits for significant pots. I even made my first big laydown of the tournament, something I am trying to focus more and more on of late as I further refine my macro MTT strategy:
Here, this guy called a preflop raise from me, then check-called my bet on the flop which contained a single Ace. Then, when he bet out fairly large on the turn, I started getting the AK vibe, or, worse yet, the AT vibe for top 2 pairs. When I raise with AJo preflop, I'm looking for information as much as anything else. Holy_Cheppa told me he had something good. Then, when I bet around the size of the pot on the flop with one Ace on the board, again Cheppa told me he liked what he had. Then on the turn, he really made his point with a large lead bet after check-calling the flop. So I thought and thought, and then I laid it down. I'm fairly sure I was beat, and I'm even more sure that I made the correct move, given the information that I had. Don't ever forget one of my central mantras of nlh MTT play:
Fish get eliminated by calling with AJ and AT. Don't be one of the fish.
So, my card deadness continued throughout the round, and with the blinds growing, and the antes kicking in near the end of Round 2, my stack had dwindled down back to 7500 chips, and was getting close to average once again, when I find QJs on the button, and it's checked around to me. Feeling very frustrated after not having anything to play for nearly an hour, I put in a substantial raise of around half of my remaining chips, expecting to steal the blinds but, of course, not really wanting a call. Then, unthinkably the guy immediately to my left reraised me allin. Now, I had pegged this guy early on as the highly observant type, the kind of guy who would be willing to resteal from you in the right circumstances. So, since half my stack was already in the pot, I did have 2 face cards, connectors and sOOted, I went ahead and made the call for my last 3000 or so chips, expecting to either be somewhat (but not terribly) behind to higher high cards, or be slightly ahead of a middle pair. Instead, it turned out this guy really had been putting a move of his own on me, when he flipped up:
I still believe that I made the better play of the two of us here, in that I correctly put this guy on a resteal semibluff type of hand, where he could not possibly have wanted a call from me there (I mean K9s after a sizeable raise? Come on.) Anyways, I guess the poker gods agreed as well:
and that's when my opponent in the hand went ballistic in the chat. He was so funny -- sadly, he reminded me very much of myself, about 6 months ago, still trying to learn the ropes of online poker and how it differs in some key ways from the live game. I believe I fucked this guy off pretty good right here in the chat, when I gave my standard answer for the clowns who call me donkey after I correctly read them for a bluff and proceed to beat them at their own game:
In any event, although not quite rising to the level of a "suckout" in my book, this was another situation where a dog hand of mine before the flop ended up on top. As I've discussed many times, you almost never go through an entire MTT without some luck going both ways. The trick is just to be in the pot when the luck hits for you, and have enough chips to withstand it when the luck inevitably moves in the other direction.
And speaking of luck moving in the other direction, 8 hands later saw me lose this pot after getting all-in preflop with a guy who had turned into a total pushmonkey, probably moving in preflop in five of the previous ten hands for no apparent reason other than a somewhat short stack:
Another third-of-my-stack loss, but followed by another chance to start reaccumulating chips, thanks to all the pots I'd stolen and won legitimately along the way so far in this tournament. And reaccumulate I did, bluff-raising on the very next hand when a guy to my right made what looked to be an obvious move to steal the pot:
That steal-reraise attempt worked, and I had already made back close to two-thirds of what I had just lost in the previous hand. This is the way to play proper MTT poker -- there are simply always oppotunities to chip up, if you are willing and able to supply the aggression and strategy needed to go
Unfortunately for me, I continued not receiving anything playable through the early stages of Round 3. Fortunately, however, I was able to steal and resteal enough pots to stay afloat, and 21 minutes into Round 3, I made the cash (90th place) for the third consecutive day out of three attempts, in my mind making a real statement in my 17k Challenge:
I was psyched. It really is noticeable how much quicker the cash spots arrive in the 17k tournament, with its 900 or 1000 players, as compared to the party 40k, with its 2400 or 2500 players. Basically, stay alive for 2 1/2 hours, and you make around double your money just like that in the 17k. In the party 40k tournament, it takes more like 3 1/2 hours to cash, and when those cashes occur in the early stages, you're looking at probably a whole other hour of payouts that are just 50% or less above the original buyin amount for the tournament. The ftp MTT payout structure makes much more sense to me, I believe it more accurately awards significant money to players whose performance really warrants it, and I was thrilled to have made my third cash in three days of my 17k Challenge, and to do in while sitting in around 35th percentile among the 89 remaining players in the tournament.
Right around the middle of Round 3, I finally got dealt a premium hand, and I decided I had to slow-play a bit. I would never have done this if I had not cultivated an image of someone who always bets his good hands, as I had been sitting at this table for almost the entire tournament, and even still, regular readers here know what I think of slow-playing in online poker generally. But here it seemed like the right thing to do, and much as I did in the middle of my victory run in the party 40k last week, I basically felt compelled to slow play a little to help ensure (hopefully) that I got some value out of the first really strong starting hand I had gotten in around two hours in this tournament. So, I limped in from MP for 800 chips with my Kings, and when the flop came Q-high, my opponent across the felt made an aggressive move:
I had to call here, and I had observed and noted that this particular player had bet out strongly on the flop in a few other recent situations at this table where it turned out he hit the flop good. So, I moved in, hoping and expecting he would call with KQ or something like that here. He obliged, and my read was right on:
enabling me to double through Cheppa, at whose hands I had folded a big pot some 60 or 90 minutes ago. The nearly 23000 chips had me in great shape, in 19th place of 72 players remaining in the tournament.
9 hands after this big double-up, I eliminated another short stack who moved in prematurely with poor cards for an allin:
bringing me to a total of nearly 30,000 chips, and a few minutes later we crossed the 50-person threshold, with me still going strong:
A few hands later, the same luckbox who had bested me earlier when he actually picked up a good hand (Pooch72) now turned the tables on me, sucking out on my Queens (those mugga fugging bitches!) with his powerhouse K9o, which dropped me back down to the middle of the pack of the remaining 50 players:
But I got Pooch72 back but good just 2 hands later, when I ended up moving in with horrible cards after putting Pooch on a steal-raise from the cutoff position. Turns out this was one of my few poor reads of the night:
But then the poker gods finally decided to let me send Pooch home, in a delightfully painful way for him I'm sure:
The runner-runner inside straight hits on the river. Talk about turning the tables!
Nearing the end of Round 3, for some reason the guy across the table from me, who had just doubled up with pocket Aces, pushed into me at the wrong time, and got caught playing another dog of a hand:
This hand netted me another 9000 fresh chips, as I climbed to a new tournament high for me of close to 60,000 chips, and as the 40-person threshold came, I was still in the top 10:
And, as another example of why it's so important in the big MTTs to amass chips whenever possible, just before the third break, I ended up allin with AQ, but unfortunately I ran it into KK, and no help on the board, costing me about 45% of my chipstack at the time, and completely deflating my spirits temporarily:
Luckily, the break came two hands later, and for the second time I lucked into having a 5-minute rest period to clear my head and focus back on the task at hand -- final tabling this muthafucka. I entered Break #3 in 14th place out of 30 players left, and I was approaching my previous all-time best cash of 21st place, which occurred on the first night of my 17k Challenge just a few days ago, and which has been blogged about extensively here.
Round 4. Or "Pushfest Time" as I affectionately call it. This is where everyone tries to steal every chance they get, and the vast majority of the hands are settled by preflop folds, or heads-up showdowns, often allin before the flop is out. As I've described previously, it's a very different kind of poker from early-stage MTT play, and yet it uses all the same skills -- reading your opponents, judging pot odds, etc., and it is fortunately something which I have gotten more and more comfortable with as I have played in 10 true MTT final tables since the New Year. So I stole, stole and stole some more, slowly chipping back up to over 55000 chips, when I suddenly find QQ in the small blind. The first position bettor raised it 3x, putting in nearly half of his short stack, so I knew he was committed and went ahead and hoyed his ass:
He called, as I knew he would, and flipped up A9o. A weak holding, but he was a short stack so it's not a terrible play by any means. And it gives me a nice solid favorite hand and a chance to climb over 60,000 chips for the first time in the tournament. Then the flop comes:
I was furious. I stuck my foot straight through the wall of my bedroom and into the neighboring apartment, at which point I tossed a dirty bomb into the neighbor's apartment, killing them instantly. That made me feel better, and I looked back up just in time to see this river hit the board:
And I jumped back up to 8th out of 24, inching ever closer to my 21st-place finish from this past Tuesday. After a few more rounds of stealing and folding, stealing and folding, the 21st player was eliminated, and I had made the top 20 of the ftp 17k for the first time in my short online poker career:
Now this is where survival mode starts to kick in again. At some point near the end of these large events, you have to suddenly start tightening up your starting hand requirements whenever you're facing aggression from any other player already in the pot ahead of you. Nobody wants to go out with 99 against an all-in move from EP. Even if it would normally be the "right" call, why risk a chance of being either a big dog or a tiny favorite to two overcards, and possibly a realistic run at several thousand dollars, under those circumstances? So, while most of my chips won continued to be from steals, around 20 players left is where you do want to start considering a bit more before you call or raise after anyone else has already entered the pot, under any circumstances.
Now, for a perfect example of what happens when you don't heed this advice, look at this play here. I raise preflop with 66, acting exactly like I have on every other steal attempt with nothing that I've made over the past several hours. Late position reraises me allin. I know I should have folded here, but this particular player had been making little stabs at the pot from late position again and again throughout the tournament, and something about it just screamed out "weak" to me. So I went against my own advice, and called his allin reraise for nearly all of my chips:
Guess that "weak" read I had on this guy was just a wee bit off. Shit!
The amount of times I run into Aces within the last, say, two or three tables of major MTT events, is Just Plain Shocking, I have got to say. It seems like someone hits me with bullets at least once during the final hour of play of every single tournament that I end up doing well in. It's infuriating, but I guess lately I have gotten my share of AA's dealt to me in big spots, so I shouldn't complain. But it happened again here. And once again, the poker gods gave me my final real gift of the evening:
And instead of being on the brink of elimination, I ended up taking down a pot for over 146,000 chips. And best of all, you scoreboard hounds out there will be pleased to see the new standings after this pot:
First place, less than two tables left. Could I really be on my way to final tabling this event on the one-week anniversary of my huge party 40k victory? Could I possibly take down these two events both within one week of each other? These thoughts started running through my head, and I made myself focus on just sticking it out, stealing with abandon, and making sure I didn't do anything idiotic to ruin my now very real chance at ending my 17k Challenge somewhat unceremoniously after just three days of attempts. With all this in mind, I more folded than stole my way through the next several hands, as a few people were eliminated along the way until finally I decided to call an allin stealy-lookin thing from a guy I had noted to be a button stealer, and my strong hand held up to beat his really crappy one:
putting me back in first place as the number of players remaining continued to dwindle ever closer to that elusive final table:
Here is me about 10 minutes later in first out of 12 remaining players:
And I remained atop the leaderboard as we moved down to 10 left, the final table bubble on ftp, with me just one measly player away from fulfilling my commitment when I started the 17k Challenge:
This truly was one of the longest bubble periods I have ever been through, as we probably played a good 30 or so hands on each table without anyone being eliminated. I had taken a stab at knocking out the short stack with a pair of 6s, which he sucked out on, and a few similar attempts at the other table had resulted in similar results. Then this happened at the other table, something which normally makes me sick to hear about (as you all well know), but which in this case was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen:
The Aces held up (man, how pissed is that guy with the Kings this morning?!), and I had done it! My first final table in the full tilt 17k guaranteed tournament. And just three days into my 17k Challenge:
Notice I entered final table play with the largest stack at the table, a good sign usually that I have not been playing too passively as I often used to do when I started playing in the large MTTs online. I'm trying hard to focus, but I am just so psyched that I've made it this far, and I will say it became a real struggle to keep my eyes on the prize, the possibility of winning this entire tournament, but I persevered as best as I could.
My first big play of the final table was when I found AKo in middle position. I raised it up 3.3x:
and only the chip leader across the table called my preflop raise. The flop helped me:
and I checked it to him, feiging some weakness and hinting that maybe the Ace was a scare card for me, but he checked right back. Then when the turn gave me top two pairs, I bet out a modest amount, hoping for a call or a raise:
and he folded. But I did pick up a 54000-chip pot here, so this was a good start for me at the 17k final table. By the time the fourth break arrived about 7 minutes later, we had already lost 2 players from the final table:
guaranteeing the rest of us still at the table of making at least the $600-some prize for finishing in 7th place, with 6th receiving just over a grand, and the payouts just climbing from there up to the $5200 prize for first place. Five hands into Round 5, 7th place also went out when he pushed a nothing hand into a pocket pair in an attempted steal, and I was 2nd out of 6 remaining:
A short while later in Round 5, I severely crippled 6th place when he reraised my preflop raise with his AKo against my 7s, which held up if you can believe that:
But unfortunately, on the very next hand, I was the one getting crippled, when my 77 ran into TT and did not improve on the board, costing me about half of my stack at an obviously crucial time. This is the kind of move you have to avoid if you're going to survive to the very end of the final table, and I just got nailed here:
Sixth place was eliminated about 10 hands later, pushing with pocket 5s into a higher pocket pair:
Unfortunately, my chips had run short by this point, after the pair-over-pair beating I had just taken, so when it was folded around to me in the SB a few hands later, I auto-pushed, truly without regard for the fact that my hand was 53o:
and unfortunately, my one remaining opponent in the big blind took exception, calling me with his own pocket 7s, and I got no help on the board:
and IGH in 5th place overall out of 928 entrants into the Thursday night ftp 17k guaranteed tournament:
good for a nice payout that looks absolutely smashing in my ftp account, especially when combined with the even bigger party 40k payout from last week:
In all, although I wanted to and felt I should win the whole event, I recognize that these things are not always going to happen at every final table. I don't like going out of any tournament with a 53o, but suffice it to say that I wouldn't have been alive anywhere near as long as I had been in this event if not for repeatedly being willing to make aggressive moves at pots without any regard whatsoever for my starting cards. And I was able to survive until 5th place, climbing way over the four-figure dollar plateau for my payout, which is always exciting. And about that $1392 I made in this event -- it's funny how quickly things can change, in that one week ago, this would have represented my single best dollar win of my entire like of playing poker, either live or online. So it is a very significant thing for me. The actual dollars kinda pale in comparison to the 10k award for taking down the entire party 40k, but I am totally thrilled to have won this money, done this well, and to be able to tell you all about it. I am still kinda shell-shocked about having launched and completed the entire FTP 17k Challenge in less than three days, and I imagine I will have some more to say about that whole thing in my next post(s). For now, I'll have to do the same thing as I was faced with last Friday -- spend the next few nights aimlessly wandering around my online poker sites of choice, trying to find what my Next Big Thing will be to play and to conquer. Rest assured that you will read all about it all right here in the coming days. Thanks for continuing to be interested in hearing about my MTT success, and another special callout goes to Smokkee for railing me the entire way through this thing, including until the wee hours of the morning East Coast time, with his words of encouragement and congratulations.
More to come on this topic I'm sure!