Friday, September 08, 2006

State of Mind

After a good couple of months "away", I can honestly say that my current state of mind is definitely once again beginning to focus on no-limit holdem MTTs. I've had some success lately for the first time in several weeks, and even my failures seem to be much more resulting from bad beats and less from donkey play than has been the case in the recent past. What's more, I'm actually starting to really look forward to the 20k or the 40k again, after a good few months where I played them some, but really wasn't focusing on that, or even on holdem so much at all. Maybe I got burnt out on holdem, I don't know. But I'm liking it now.

And don't get me wrong, I'm still playing hilo cash on all of pokerstars, ftp and even partypoker (crappy software and all). In fact just lately I've made the jump back up to 3-6 and I even played 5-10 on pokerstars and partypoker last night. I would have loved to have played some on ftp, but even though the site is growing and I'm very pleased with them overall, they still just don't have the traffic of a stars or party yet, such that on most nights, there are only a couple of games above the 1-2 level going on all of ftp. And this during the busiest time of the day, nighttime New York time. And I'm happy to say, for the most part I've been winning in hilo, despite of course the usual ups and downs.

Here's something annoying. I've been killing at 2-4 hilo so bad that I almost only ever play 3-6 anymore, and as I mentioned, I've started dabbling at 5-10 even because I'm doing so well lately at the 3-6 level. So last night, nearing the end of what was a +$180 night overall at the hilo cash tables, Weak Player sat down right next to me at a 3-6 table, and I proceeded to get two killer four-card starting hilo hands (A243 with 3 suits, and AA43 with the Aces buried), both of which I had to play through the end and both of which simply failed to hit one other thing, neither a playable low card or anything that made me more than one lousy pair. And for those of you who have experience playing 3-6 limit stud games, that translates into down a good $80 or so right off the bat, as I played some of these hands strong early since I was such a prohibitive favorite early on to win at least half the pot if not the whole thing. Then maybe 10 minutes later, I am dealt split Aces with another wheel card again, and I end making making only a 4-card low and then watching my Jack-high straight lose to a flush when the guy had only two hearts showing, and all three of his holecards were also hearts. I couldn't possibly have seen it, it's just that dream scenario in a stud game. Anyways the upshot here is that I probably lost $120 in 20 minutes of playing with Weak, at which point I took off and moved to a 5-10 table at party. As I mentioned, I won close to $200 on the night overall just on the hilo cash games, but for the 20 minutes that a fellow blogger was there, and one whom I respect and whose game I respect quite a bit, I looked like an uberdonk. Ah what else is new. But hey if you can find me, I'd always love to have company at the hilo tables. It's really a fun game, and since it's limit the swings are generally just not as big as they would be in other no-limit games.

Anyways, back to my state of mind. So I'm thinking more and more about nlh tournaments again lately, first time in months. And I'm looking forward to continuing my recent streak of nice scores. I believe if I just play my game, but continue to rein in the aggression a bit, I have the ability to put together some really solid performances. But I have to admit, reining in that aggression is something that I am just constantly struggling with. And in that regard, we come to something I'm going to focus on in the blog, at least for the time being. As most of you know I try to play the nightly 20k tournament at 10pm ET on full tilt every night that I am able. What I'm planning to do is, every day on the blog I am going to post the hand that eliminated me from the 20k the night before (or, if applicable, the hand that effectively knocked me down to a mini-stack before I went out). I'm going to describe the situation and show the screenshots, and then we can discuss what I did wrong (or right), and how I might consider playing such a hand differently the next time it comes up.

So, last night I played the 20k, and as usual got off to a good start. I was up to around 2000 chips from our starting stacks of 1500, and we were probably about 30 minutes into the event when the following hand occurred.

I'm in the small blind with AQo. Miraculously, it's folded around to me in the sb, and I elect to just limp for the 25 chips it will cost to complete the big blind's bet. Here I'm thinking this will camouflage my hand since I've stolen quite a few blinds in the earlygoing at this table:

To not much surprise, the big blind went ahead and raised it up 4x after my completion from the sb:

I say this was unsurprising because I had already observed and noted this player stealing blinds and defending his own blind on more than one occasion over maybe 20 minutes or so I had spent at this table. So I wasn't too surprised, and frankly I liked my chances of having the best hand here with my AQo. I figured there was probably maybe a 50% chance that he also had a good hand (maybe A9 or better), and maybe a 50% chance that he was just trying a blatant re-steal, in which case I would expect him to have only decent starting cards -- J9s, Q7s, K9o, etc. Given all this, I went ahead and did my thing:

reraising him by 3x his bet, making it clear that in fact I was not messing around with this hand, and that I was not going to let my completed small blind be stolen just like that. And that was when the BB responded, almost immediately, with this:

Dammit! Now, faced with the decision to call for all my chips with AQo preflop, here is where my whole "moderated aggression" theory says I am clearly supposed to fold it. In all likelihood my opponent has some kind of a pair, which means I am a slight underdog at this point in the hand. There is some chance of course that he is pushing with a hand like A9 or AJ, figuring me for just trying to resteal, but more than likely he has me beat here. And I've still got 960 chips left, which is not good by any means but also is more than enough to recover and still go on to dominate the field in this thing.

But no. I took about 5 seconds, realized I had dropped about 40% of my stack into this pot already, and figured that I have probably about a 10-15% chance to be well ahead of him if he is just trying to steal like a chump, an 80-85% chance of being a 49% underdog to some pocket pair, and of course a 5% chance that he is playing with AA, KK or QQ in which case I am significantly behind. So, with a 90-95% chance that I am ahead or a 50-50 shot, and with 40% of my stack already gone into this pot already, I went ahead and called the allin:

He's got Jacks, so I am in fact just a slight underdog here about 51-49. Unfortunately, here is the final board:

and IGH early.

What did I do wrong here? Simple: I once again ignored the "moderated" part of Moderated Aggression. I play my game, making several calls and raises before the flop and trying to take down pots early, but part and parcel of playing that way over many large tournaments is that I have to be sure I can lay my more marginal holdings down if it looks like I am beat. The thing I neglected here is that there is simply no reason for me to be calling an allin with AQo preflop this early in the tournament, and I know that over time that is not going to be the most profitable, winning strategy of playing in large MTTs.

So, overall, I want to officially say that I recognize how crazily unlucky I got to have been dealt AQ in the sb, have it folded around to me preflop, and have the bb have been dealt JJ on the same hand, and then have me lose the roughly 50% chance I had to still take down the hand with an Ace, a Queen or some kind of straight on the board. But all that said, I'm going to take the blame for this one on myself. Despite all that bad luck, I had every opportunity to get out of this hand before the flop, and escape with over 900 chips still left, and who knows, if I had done that you might be reading right now about how I went on to final table the 20k and take down a couple grand in the process. Instead, I made a rash decision way too early in the tournament for the time to make such rash decisions, and I called an allin with a hand that I felt had a very high likelihood of being a race situation. No reason to take on a race at that point in the tournament, at least not without AK instead of AQ to go to war with for all the marbles.

So that's my 20k elimination story for today. Hopefully my next post won't have one of these because I will have won the tournament outright, but otherwise I'd love to know your thoughts on these elimination hands as I go along.


Blogger Doog said...

I think that AQ is probably the hardest hand to play correctly. A lot of people say that middle pairs are, but I read through your series on middle pair play and I agree wholeheartedly with your middle pair strategy. In fact, I've incorporated nuances of your middle pair strategy in my own play, and have seen positive results. With AQ, on the other hand, you're so very seldom SURE if you're ahead or behind.

On this hand, it's pretty plain that you're up against a pocket pair coin-flip, or maybe AKs, or maybe just a complete donkey. If you fold, you still have a decent stack to work with given the low blinds. But I don't mind the call. You correctly put him on his exact hand, and called the AI fully expecting a race, which you lost. Sometimes you just have to gamble.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Doog, I agree that sometimes you just have to gamble in a mtt, no doubt that is true. But I still don't think that this was necessarily one of those times. Early in a mtt, calling an allin on what is almost surely a coin flip doesn't always make so much sense to me. I can't count the number of times I've come back from less than 1000 chips in one of these things to make a strong cash in the end.
Thanks for the comment as always.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Nijle said...

AQo i just dont like playing this hand aggressively, there is something about it that just rubs me the wrong way.

Then again what do i know i play cash games 99.9% of the time. Having said that I will not put my cash game stack all in pre flop w/ AQo. But its a different ballgame in tourneys with the whole stealing the blinds thing going on...

Sorry i have nothing to offer here but color commentary. I'm bored, and i'm counting the minuites until i get get out of this damn office. Happy Friday!

2:21 AM  
Blogger Lifesagrind said...

For what it's worth I would have lost all of my chips as well. That may or may not be of any comfort to you.

Logically you came to the right conclusion to fold it. With only being 30 minutes into the tourney you still have plenty of time to recoup the loss. You will also gain the benefit of having an aggro blind defender thinking that he can make you lay down your hand. If the opportunity repeats itself he will be more likely to make the same play with lesser holdings and you can double through.

2:22 AM  
Blogger Matt said...


I came across your blog via numerous other blogs and I thoroughly enjoy your posts. I'm in the midst of finding confidence in my game again and I definitely find your posts helpful.

I ran into a similar situation recently which I posted on my blog and would be interested to see what you thought. The difference is that I was the aggressor and pushed all in believing (correctly) that I had the best hand but got outflopped.

Either way, count me as one more person who is appreciative af your blog.

2:52 AM  
Blogger meanhappyguy said...

This is a great idea to start up. I think it will help improve both your game and your readers' games.

If I ever start playing tourneys regularly I will try and get the same type of thing going on my blog.

As for this hand, I would probably give my opponent more credit than 5% for having AA,KK,QQ,AK, which dominate me. Even if that number is 25%, 60% coinflip and 15% me having an advantage, it is still hard to get away from this hand after his 3rd raise.

My line would be to raise preflop, call his re-raise, then see what the flop brings. Limp/calling you'll lose less chips, but leave yourself open to weaker hands catching up to you. I agree with doog on AQ's difficulty to play, which I would also extend to AJ (AT maybe).

Say you just call his first raise and see the flop, what line do you take from there?

3:50 AM  
Blogger Joanne1111 said...

I have a pretty standard strategy when it comes to playing AQ. Assuming all other factors in the game are quite normal, I will raise with it up to 4x if I am first to act. I will limp with it, like you did in this case, and if I limp or smooth call, I will call a raise up to 4x the BB.

Otherwise it goes into the muck, because it is a pretty crappy hand all in all. I'd rather have 67s than AQ anyday.

One thing I ask myself throughout each and every tournament I play is this: Is it worth risking my tournament life over this hand? The answer is almost always no. In this case, it was definitely not. I don't care if you have 40% already invested in the hand, you knew you were beat at that point. Learn to trust that. Fold, and play your remaining 960 chips in a better hand because like you said, it was more than enough to make a comeback with.

5:11 AM  
Blogger NewinNov said...

Looks like everyone's said what needed to be said. Moderate aggression indeed. Did the same thing with AK, SB vs BB, when BB had a middle PP. Why gamble so early when you can play your game and use your chips in more favorable and straight forward situations. Of course easier said than done.

8:52 AM  
Blogger RoccoBoxer said...

Liked the analysis of the hand. I agree with most that it was too early for that much aggression and a push. Sometimes its hard to not meet aggresion with aggression and I have done the same thing you did.

Interesting question is: If you were him, "How would you have played the Jacks?"

I think he played way too aggressive with JJ at that point in the Tourney.


9:22 PM  

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