Another Deep MTT Run (Finally!)
QUICK REMINDER: For those of you who have not yet transferred me your $10 to participate in the money pool for my Yahoo! NFL Pickem league, if you are interested in participating in the $10 buyin pool, please transfer me the money via pokerstars (hoyazo in New York City) before Sunday, September 10 at 10am ET. Please see yesterday's post for more details, or see this post if you want to join. There is still plenty of space available, and you can choose to play for free or for a $10 buyin, but of course only those who pay to play will be eligible for any cash prizes at the end of the season.
OK now on to something I've written about from time to time here at the blog: Poker!
As I mentioned briefly in yesterday's post, this was an interesting weekend of poker for me. As you know, a couple of weeks ago I won both the WWdN and the WWdN Not blogger tournaments. These were my first MTT wins of any significance in probably a good couple of months, as my large tournament game really deteriorated for some reason earlier in the summer, and I'd been struggling to get it back ever since. So I was hoping I could really parlay those WWdN successes into more MTT success generally, and I had some good MTT runs and decent cashes last week, but again nothing earth-shattering. $40 here, $80 there, that kinda thing.
Anyways, after busting out of the ftp 30k guaranteed tournament on Sunday night, I ended up entering another one of those $20 buyin, 180-person sngs on pokerstars at around 10:30pm ET, a format that I always find myself coming back to for some reason. I mean, all things being equal, I would rather play a larger, higher-payout tournament like the 20k, 40k, etc., but there is something "just right" about the 20x180 structure. 180 players is definitely large enough to get the full MTT feel going -- starting off with low blinds and careful play at full tables where the main goal is just to survive into the second hour, and then slowly progressing into that middle part of the tourney where most successful players will make some kind of a move, and then on into the late stages, ITM, etc. and down to a final table with very large blinds and lots of action. Yet, 180 people is small enough for a "real" MTT that any regular good nlh player can feel like he or she has a realistic chance of cashing, or even final tabling or winning on a good day, and with a little luck.
This was my story on Sunday night, as I entered the 20x180 on pokerstars, and at the same time fired up a $20 buyin limit hilo tournament on full tilt, the first hilo multi-table tournament I've ever played in. And the 180 sng started off good for me when I doubled up early with trips against another player's two pairs, getting me off to the all-important good start, and giving me some chips to play my aggressive game with. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the first hour of that tournament was spent by me making aggressive moves when no one else was in the pot, but otherwise making a bunch of big laydowns as I wanted to be sure to survive, as is crucial during the beginning of this tournament structure specifically. So, for example, I laid down this hand to a reraise after putting in my standard preflop raise as the first one in from middle-late position:
Similarly, I also had to make some big laydowns after the flop as well in my effort to make sure I survived and only pushed with the best of it during the first hour of play. For example, here was one where I made a (stoopid) aggro move at a super-scary flop against a guy who had raised it up preflop already as it is, but had then checked it to me on the flop:
I quietly laid my cards in the muck on that hand, cursing myself for pushing on a flop with Aces and Kings against a guy who had raised from MP preflop. Next was a laydown that bothered me even more, because I actually had a solid hand going, but the action to me on the flop was just too much to assume that my TPTK could be in the lead over both players, especially the guy calling the allin raise ahead of me:
If you're curious, here is what those two guys had, so good laydown for me. Again, this is my strategy of playing these 180 sngs -- you have to survive early, push with your great hands for sure, but otherwise, survive until the second hour, when you can often find a time to make your move to get in position for a run to the cash positions during hour 3.
After entering the first break in 44th out of 73 players remaining, in Round 2 is where I like to start to kick things up a notch or two. The first place I look to do this is to become more active with steals and resteals from likely stealers before the flop. So, for example, on this hand around the middle of the second hour, I made this reraise after the button moved allin as first to act preflop:
Turns out I was ahead before the flop, and my lead held as I moved over 5000 chips for the first time in the event:
With a growing chip stack, I found time and the chips during the second hour to make some cheap calls with sooted and/or connecting cards that I would not normally advise others to make, in the hopes of hitting a flop hard and being able to bust someone. For example, here is me limping in with cripey sooted cards and scoring a nice flop to drag a big pot and jump to over 6700 chips:
At the same time, however, I knew I would not lose any more money into this hand if I had been called on the flop, which fortunately did not occur here. Even during the second hour of these 180 sngs, protecting your big stack is still a very important goal to keep in the back of my mind, especially once I've consciously begun being more aggressive with my starting hands. So, here is a good example during Round 2 where I laid down a hand preflop that I might otherwise normally have wanted to play against a player who might well have just been stealing from LP:
and here, an even better hand I also laid down preflop because of two raises in front of me:
Shortly after the second break is when I like to start throwing caution to the wind in these 180 sngs. I mean, for sure I can't play like a maniac or I'll be gone lickety split, but by the third hour, the blinds are ever-escalating and already way up there, and I find that one needs to either get incredible starting cards, or you have to start making some moves to get in position for a run to the cash. With this in mind early in Round 3, I made an aggressive move with a low Ace and a single Ace on the board, when it had been checked around to me on the flop and I felt that none of the other players was slow-playing a callable Ace themselves:
and when everyone folded to this bet, I was within a stone's throw of 10,000 chips, a very solid place to be for early Round 3 of the 180 sng format. And then I was faced with this situation:
Now whereas in earlier rounds you saw me fold hands like pocket 6s and pocket 8s to big action ahead of me before the flop like this, in this instance I thought it over but just could not find a way to get away from this hand against an allin from a fairly short-stacked player for this point in the tournament, so I called the allin and ended up with this:
vaulting me into the top 7 players out of 23 remaining, with 18 cashing in the event. Meanwhile, I also continued with my aggressive Round 3 theme by trying to see as many cheap flops as I can with cards with potential (suited cards, connectors, etc.) and hoping to hit a flop. At one point early in Round 3 I limped from MP with K4s and got a very favorable flop that not only gave me two pairs but also contained a single Ace for my one opponent to have hit. So, when he bet out about half the pot on the flop, I reraised him 3x his bet:
to which he folded what I will assume was some kind of a small Ace, given his preflop limp. Ten hands later, I got the chance to make one my favorite aggressive moves, the preflop raise with a high suited connector, finding just one caller:
When I made my flush on the turn card, I was lucky that the turn also paired the top card on the flop, and I think my opponent likely had trips of some kind because he called my roughly half-pot bet:
but then he folded to this bet on the river:
and I dragged another large pot, keeping me in great position as we made the money at the last 18 spots of the tournament, with me sitting comfortably in 5th place:
The action loosened up as soon as we were ITM as is common in these situations, but I still persisted with my aggressive strategy as I was determined to make the big money spots (spots 10-18 all pay just $43 and change here, and only the final table pays what I consider to be the more significant payouts in this structure). So for example a short while into the money, I called another preflop minraise with the high suited connectors that I love to play so much:
and then raised big on the flop with a flush draw and after a weakass bet from the original preflop raiser to take down another nice pile of chips:
Once we're getting close to the final table in these 20x180 sngs, I once again try to consciously force myself to be aware that other players will be trying to steal pots preflop to try to grow their own stacks and survive until the final table, and thus I focus purposely on restealing from the blind stealers, where it seems appropriate and prudent to do so. I did this early and often once we were all ITM in this tournament, starting with here:
Notice too that, with the blinds and antes so large, every time I can successfully resteal from a blind stealer preflop (as was the case here, when my opponent folded his hand rather than call my big raise with what was probably a very marginal holding he had), it amounts to a nice stack of chips. In this pot alone, for example, I managed to increase my already sizeable stack by about 15% just on this one resteal alone. Similarly, here is me stealing another pot preflop from the big blind when the small blind had just completed the bet to me:
These are the kinds of moves, if executed correctly, that I find helpful if not necessary to enable me to make a final table run in one of these 180 sngs. It's worked for me the other times I've managed to make the final table in this event, and it provided just the fuel I needed on Sunday night to reach the final 9 players once again here:
As I've written about in some of my big MTT posts in the past on the blog, at the final table is where I try to not be quite as aggressive as I have been for the hour or two leading up to making the final table. In other words, with the money payouts increasing, in some cases significantly, with every further elimination, it makes sense to me to be careful, in particular when calling allin bets from other shorter stacks at the table. So, for example, here was a laydown I made at the final table where I gave up on a lot of chips, but was more or less sure I would have been behind if I had chosen to call this large allin bet my my opponent:
Along the same lines, here with me in 2nd place out of just 6 players left at the final table, I made what was to me a fairly easy laydown with a hand that might very well have been the best at the table at that time:
in the hopes that one or more of these players would knock each other out, and I would gain $100 or so of cold hard cash by moving one spot higher in the big payout spots.
With me still in 2nd out of 5 players remaining, I was dealt two Kings, and got another short stack to move allin on me with what turned out to be J4o, for third pair and crappy kicker:
but then I was about ready to kick the dog again when just take a look how I got phucked here:
But I managed to keep my cool, and in this case at least I didn't actually lose any chips in the hand. But in my mind, his chips were already at the top of my stack, and so to me it felt a whole lot like a loss. But as I said, I kept my cool as I knew I was in good position to make a big MTT score here and a very welcome boost in my pokerstars roll. Eventually, the 4th place guy managed to eliminate the 5th place stack, and we were down to 4 players remaining in what was one of the most even-stacked 4-way matchups you're ever going to find:
with less than 7000 chips separating 1st and 4th place, all in the 60,000's range. So it was literally anyone's game, with no one starting the final 4 with any significant chip advantage over anyone else. I knew that whoever won the next big pot was going to be in great position to take this thing down, and I really wanted that person to be me. And I was willing to be as aggressive as it took to get there.
Five hands later, I got my chance as I limped in to see a flop with the lofty hand of 52o. But one of my favorite kind of flops hit the board -- all middle cards, with one pair -- so I led out with a pot-sized bet on the flop:
He called my bet, but did not raise me. So I had to be worried about trip 8s here, but then when I checked to him after a raggy 4 on the turn, he checked it back to me, and that simply didn't seem like the actions of someone with the third 8 in his hand. If anything it sounded more like an AT or KT kind of guy who just didn't think I necessarily had his top two pairs beat when he called my bet on the flop. So, after he checked back at me on the turn card, when the river came and made two pairs on the board, I figured I would lead out big, and he would have to fold unless he had a boat, or maybe an Ace if he was crazy (never mind that I was playing the board at this point with my crappy 52o holding):
And my opponent's response to this move?
That's right. He folded like a good boy, and I had a slight chiplead for I think the first time in the entire tournament. Two hands later, I took on the second-largest stack when he minraised preflop from the small blind, a move that I took as a blatant steal attempt, so I put in a resteal with a suited two-gapper:
He called me, which worried me a little, but then on this flop when I bet out big once again, representing strength:
he wisely had to lay it down, and suddenly I was over 100,000 when my other three opponents were each between 44k and 69k. I had gotten that initial separation I was seeking, and now I just wanted to guard my chip lead, but at the same time use my stack to bludgeon my opponents, all of whom also wanted to be extra leery of calling any allin bets since they, too, were looking to gain cash by moving up just one more spot. Remember, at this point, 4th place in this event pays in the upper 300s. Third pays around $500. Second pays $720 and first place pays $1080, so each individual spot one can move up from here translates directly into a noticeable jump in the payout schedule.
By bullying my opponents with my now large stack, I was able to increase my lead to this point as we neared the end of the third hour, about 3 to 1 over each of the other players remaining in the tournament:
Finally, about 12 hands later when I found pocket 7s in the small blind, and it was folded around to me, I saw the chance to get one of the short stacks committed where I was likely the favorite. So I just minraised, trying hard to give off an impression of weakness and hopefully get this guy to do something ill-advised:
It worked, as he responded by pushing allin:
and I, of course, called, knowing that I was probably only a slight favorite to his two overcards. But at this point in the tournament, with the chip lead that I had, this was exactly what I was looking for:
and I had my biggest chip lead of the day, down to just three players left, each of us in line for at least a $500 payout. And then, just five hands later, I once again got the current short stack to move in on me when I was holding a pocket pair, where I opted again to take the slight advantage in a race situation to try to get this thing down to heads-up right away:
This time, I was not so lucky though:
as the flop brought an Ace, creating a new big chip leader and sending me to a distant 2nd place in chips with just the three of us left playing. I fought hard not to lose my cool, but it is really hard when you know you have to win your races in the key spots in order to succeed in any mtt. A win on that hand, and I basically have first place in this tournament in the bag. Now instead I'm down near the bottom and need to create some opportunities for myself if I want to get back in it against the big stack.
I got such an oppotunity two hands later, when I won a $10,000 pot with this powerhouse hand on a preflop steal:
Oh how I love the final table Hammer! No one commented when I showed it, but I like to think that a move like this always has some effect, showing the other final table participants that I'm willing to make a big move with literally the worst starting hand in the game. Unfortunately, before I had the chance to exploit this image and hopefully take out the lowest stack, the chip leader got to him first, in true luckbox style:
OK so the good news was that I had made it to the final two spots in this 20x180 sng, and I was going to get paid at least the $720 for second place. The bad news, however, was that I was nearly a 6-to-1 underdog in chips as I headed into heads-up play with DonF51, a very difficult situation to recover from at this point in any tournament, especially with the huge blinds giving me an M of just over 4 at this time.
Fortunately, after we both limped in to our third heads-up hand and then both checked the flop, I managed to nail an inside straight on the turn in a pot where he could not possibly put me on this hand:
When he led out for twice the pot on the flop:
I decided to just go ahead and move allin here, hoping he had limped with an Ace and figuring that, no matter what he had, he would likely call me just due to our relative stack sizes:
He obliged, and showed just fourth pair and a decent kicker:
and was drawing dead heading into the river. So I had doubled up here, on the last hand before break #3, and was now only about a 3-to-2 chip dog heading into the fourth and presumably final round of play.
Just after Round 4 began, I inched closer to DonF51's stack when I stole this pot after a raggy flop:
And then three hands later, I find K9o and a 4x raise preflop from my opponent:
Since K9o is so much better than the average starting hand, I felt I had to call this preflop raise and hope to hit a nice flop. And hit a nice flop I did:
Following the advice I've written about several times here in the recent past, I went ahead and led out at this flop with my trips. If anything, not leading out might indicate some strength, and I did not want to tip off DonF51 about my hand at all. So I led out for 40,000 into the 64k pot. When Don smooth called this bet on the flop, I could hear the party horns starting to go off in my head:
Then I completed the carnage of Don's stack by checking to him on the turn, acting as if I had made a big lead at the paired flop with nothing, got called and was now ready to pack it in. Don did what any self-respecting player in his situation would do at this point in the hand, at this point in the tournament:
Which I quickly called (of course). And here's what the final board looked like:
SLAM! I managed to lead out after flopping trips, get a caller, and then check to the caller after he hit second pair on the turn. So here I was, having overcome a 6-to-1 chip deficit when heads-up play began, now sitting as a nearly 8-to-1 chip leader and determined not to let DonF51 back into it in any way, shape or form. So, two hands later, when he raised me allin for less than a minraise, I once again felt compelled to call with K9o:
This time, however, Don turned up A7o, making me around a 60-40 underdog to win the hand and take home the $1080 first place payout. But then I managed to hit another glorious board with my K9, and the rest was history:
And there it was, my first victory in the pokerstars 180 sng format after probably 50 or 60 attempts, to go along with my 2 or 3 other final table appearances in this structure, and 2 or 3 other 2nd-tier cashes as well in this event.
And as great as the $1080 is in my pokerstars roll as I mentioned earlier, once again the real value in winning this tournament for me is that I have this renewed sense that, slowly but surely, my multi-table tournament nlh game is returning. Three months ago or so, I felt like I was going to win every single mtt that I entered (and I was winning a lot of them). Since then, the mtt victories have been very hard to come by, but just lately there are more and more signs that the old Hoyazo is rearing his head little by little once again.
In the immortal words of George Kostanza, "I'm back baby!!!"