Burning Down the H.O.R.S.E.
Wow. I must've gone through like 4 or 5 wannabe-witty titles before accidentally stumbling on that one. Gold, Jerry, gold!
So 2007 is here, and I am once again heading off to the day job in a few hours after 10 straight days of family-style fun. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but once you have a family going on, these extended vacations with the group really take on a whole new meaning. I know this is a poker blog, but nothing in the world of online poker (or anywhere else) can compare to all the opportunity I had to really bond with my little one over the past couple of weeks. She is 15 months now and those of you with children will remember this is a really exciting age -- she's walking all over the place and really learning to explore, but more than that, she's at that amazing stage where she can't really talk yet (although of course our daughter the little genius is already putting together quite an impressive list of words), but she understands basically everything we say. She just can't verbalize it herself yet. But, if I'm bouncing the ball of the wall and I drop it and it rolls to the other side of the room, I can say "K, can you bring the ball to daddy please?", and she is there lickety split. She knows what's going on around her, and she is just at that age where she's learning how to interact to get her point across. Anyways I got to spend a ton of time with the gang and that is something you just cannot put a price on. The Hammer Girls have both been sleeping like angels for the past few months now as well, so in all life has been good for me of late.
Fortunately, this good streak has extended into my poker game as well. I have been running hot lately, plain and simple. Think how effing rare that is for me to be saying that! But it's true, I have been going great at the virtual tables lately. I barely posted over my time at home, but there are more stories and more hands to analyze than I could ever go back and recapture at this point. Suffice it to say, in the last few weeks of December I made 7 mtt final tables, spread fairly evenly between holdem, pot-limit Omaha, and HORSE. I am continuing to focus on my PLO game -- mostly because I've found that I've really gotten into it and really enjoy peddling the nuts for a change -- but the most fun I've been having over the past couple of weeks has definitely been in HORSE.
For the regular nightly player on full tilt, HORSE can be really fun. Full Tilt, in their constant drive to improve and have the best offerings around, has now started offering regular nightly satellites into the weekly Sunday night 30k guaranteed HORSE tournament. This is by far the largest regular HORSE event on full tilt, as the nightly token buyin HORSE mtt at 10:15pm ET tends to attract around 200 players, for a total prize pool of closer to 5k than 30k. The 30k HORSE tournament, which is every Sunday night at 9:30pm ET, has a $216 buyin, so that's not something I usually prefer to buy in for directly, but as I mentioned, ftp has now started offering fairly regular mtt satellites into this weekly gathering of HORSE specialists, and I have been hitting those up good.
The best part about these new HORSE sats is, since so comparatively few people play HORSE well enough to pony up for a $69 satellite or a $216 tournament itself, and these sats just started being regularly offered on full tilt, very few people are playing in them. I won my first of these satellites by beating one other guy. Just one. The tourney was a $69 buyin, and had a minimum of two players, so we had quite an overlay with one seat guaranteed into the $216 buyin weekly 30k. In that 30k tournament, which I played two Sunday nights ago on Christmas Eve, I tracked myself through the leaderboard while also keeping a close eye on Michael Craig, who I have got to say not only writes a great blog, but also is a darn good HORSE player, as I've sat with him and watched him now on numerous occasions. After a long and arduous struggle, eventually I scored my first final table in this weekly HORSE 30k tournament on Christmas Eve, busting out in 7th place overall on a stoopid river suckout in stud, netting me a cool $600 and change, and more importantly, giving me the confidence to go out and try to qualify for this thing again for the New Years Eve 30k guaranteed HORSE tourney.
And qualify I did, this time winning a 6-person, $69 buyin satellite last Friday night to win my seat in what only ended up taking a couple hours of my time, as just an extra window open in what was already a busy poker night for me. So that led me to this past Sunday night, New Years Eve, sitting down at the virtual tables at 9:30pm ET in what proved to be a $216 buyin, 73-person field that contained many of the best players that I run into on a regular basis in playing the big HORSE mtts and satellites on full tilt, boasting nearly a 5k first prize and paying out the top 16 spots with payouts starting around $270.
Things got started off well for me, as I flopped a straight with JT in the first round of limit holdem, check-calling my way to a 540-chip win to increase my stack by more than 15% within the first few minutes of the event. I rode this small increase for a while without making any major moves, watching my stack dwindle back down near its starting level of 3000 chips until in the first round of stud high, I was dealt split Aces through third street. I got aggressive with them early, finding only one caller with a 6 showing, and for the next minute or two I proceeded to bet, check-raise and call my way through the river, where I dragged a 1300-chip pot with my unimproved Aces after my opponent's buried Jacks also failed to improve. A short while later we ended the first hour and I went into the break with a stack around 4000 chips, doing well in 14th place out of 64 players remaining.
In a quite out-of-the-ordinary-for-me trend, I continued my hot streak in limit holdem in the second hour, as I started off by winning 1500 chips on the third hand of the round when my JT made two pairs on the turn, giving me two rounds to get in check-raises from an opponent who could not get away from his TPTK:
Two hands later, still in LHE, I made this call based purely on pot odds despite basically knowing I was behind here at the flop:
and then I proceeded to nail an Ace on the turn, giving me top two pairs with top kicker, and a couple of checkraises later here I am taking down my biggest pot yet of the tournament, a 2350 chip bonanza for early in Round 2:
Other than hitting a broadway straight on 6th street in stud high and getting paid off by a guy with a 7-high straight about 30 minutes later, I managed to mostly tread water through the rest of the hour, entering the second break in 11th place out of 40 players left in from the starting field of 73.
Round 3 started off basically the same way the first two rounds went, with me making a huge hit in limit holdem when I once again hit the Ace I needed on the turn to take what proved to be a 7000+ chip pot from a guy who just could not get away from his pocket pair, vaulting me over 10,000 in chips and into 3rd place on the current leaderboard early in the third hour.
Here is me scooping a big pot with a wheel for my first big win of the night in O8:
Man, you have got to just adore the wheel in O8, don't ya? I love it when that happens. Almost as much as winning 12,000 chips with a 6-low in razz when I have two bricks showing, and 3 hidden cards 6 or lower to make my hand:
My first big setback of the tournament came a short while later, when the river was very unkind to me on both the high side and the low side in stud hilo, leaving my ass scooped for a drain of more than 13k in chips from my stack:
Ouch. Happily, on the very next hand I made this all back and then some, when I went from drawing to a rough low and a 4-flush to hitting both hands on 6th and 7th street to scoop a nearly 20k pot here:
And just like that, we were at the third break, with me looking good in 5th place out of 17 players left. Top 16 got the money, so we were still on the literal cash bubble for the event, but I was in great position to not only make the cash but to make some moves and try to increase my chip position heading into what I hoped would be my second consecutive final table in this weekly tournament.
The fourth hour did not start off nearly as well for me as the first three, with me failing to win a big pot during the first half of Round 4, and just generally watching my stack slowly bleed away. This persisted until the middle of our razz round, where I once again busted out with a huge one when my 75 low bested my opponent's 76 low, on a hand where he could have gotten away based on the 235 I had showing on the board, but if you play razz you know how hard dumping a 7 low can be, albeit a rough one. When this pot hit for me, my biggest of the tournament to that point at over 23,000 chips, I jumped back up into third place of the 10 players then left, now well ITM and starting my final table push:
In fact, the final table hit just a few hands later, still during razz, with me entering in 3rd place out of the 8 players left battling it out:
You may also note my boy jeciimd in there -- actually you won't note him because his name doesn't show up there, but he's the gecko over there on the right side. Jec and I have spent more and more time playing HORSE events over the past few months, and the result is that both of us seem to be doing progressively better in these large HORSE mtts as time wears on, so we got to final table this one together which is always a fun thing.
Anyways, I got things started off right at the final table, when I dragged a 20k+ razz pot against not one but two fishchasers who should not have called me past 4th street with the garbage they were holding:
As you can see from the above shot, this hand vaulted me into first place among the final tablists, and that was the first time that I really considered I might have a shot at the big (4-digit) payout spots, which in this event began with 4th place at $1300 and change, and ranged up to first place's $4680 payout.
From here I held my own, stealing when I could steal, but otherwise just focusing on smart final table play, keeping my cool and not doing anything silly or ill-advised, given my chip position and the fact that every additional elimination was worth hundreds now, and soon to become worth thousands if I could stick around that long. Here is me still in first place with just 6 players left (still including jeciimd, btw):
After one more player was eliminated in 6th place, I suffered my first huge loss of the final table, when I simply chased too hard with buried Queens and a semi-attractive low draw early on in stud hilo, and I paid the price for my fishmove. And a sale price it was not, as my indiscretion ended up costing me a 44,000 chip pot, easily the biggest pot I had been involved in to that point in the tournament:
Yuck. Nonetheless, I was still in 2nd chip position and I knew if I just kept my cool, I could still make some noise with a little help from the cards. My cause received just the help it needed when jeciimd took a stand with A9s back in limit holdem, quick-betting before the flop, on the flop and then again on the turn with his high-card hand despite not actually hitting the flop at all:
As I explained to jec in the chat afterwards, I can't really put my finger on what led me to call all these bets here with just lowly pocket 2s, other than perhaps that I knew jec was in steal position, having no one in the pot preflop when it came back to him in the small blind, so I didn't exactly put him on much of a hand. And, what's more, he just bet at the flop and the turn so quickly, it just didn't seem as if he had legitimately made a hand there. I figured, if he had a big pocket pair he would probably not have insta-bet repeatedly like that. And, say he had even made something small like second pair or a draw, I still don't think insta-betting would be the natural reaction there. From my read, jec would have to be taking some time to consider his options if he had actually had any kind of a hand to be considering. Instead, everything jec did made this move feel like a two-high-cards last-stand by a short stack, so I called him out of the tournament in 5th place when my pair of 2s miraculously held up. I feel bad doing that to a friend, but as I explained to him, I actually was taking a huge stand and giving him a really good shot at doubling up, since if he had paired either of his hole cards with any of the five cards on the board, the pot would have been his. But it was not meant to be that day. For him.
I took down another huge pot in this holdem round against docblank, the resident calling station of the other night's final table, when he finally folded to this bet on the river:
after he decided not to keep chasing what I was and am sure was a flush draw, given that there were no more cards to come. I just love calling stations. I abuse calling stations by far more than I abuse any other type of player. I just keep betting at them with my superior hands, and they just keep calling and calling, and then eventually folding the river or losing to a better hand. I love those guys, and I have docblank to thank for keeping me afloat as long as I was at the final table of this thing.
I took my first big chip lead in the tournament again when my opponent on this hand -- the chip leader at the time -- made a big mistake and pushed way too hard with just third pair 6s on the flop, despite two high cards and the obvious threat of overcards to mess up his hand when all he had was a pair of 6s on the flop:
This 48k pot was by far my largest win of the tournament to that point, and it put me in a great position, easily the best position I'd been in all day as I suddenly found myself with close to twice as much as the 2nd place stack, and nearly 4 times as much as 3rd and 4th place. With everyone now assured of making at least $1300, the play had loosened up a bit, but with this new big stack and my considerable confidence in all of the HORSE games, I was feeling great about being able to keep this chip lead for at least another elimination or two.
Which is exactly what happened two hands later, as I eliminated the calling station dude in 4th place when he -- shockingly -- called off the remainder of his then short stack to me with just A4s on the flop and no hit whatsoever on a board that had a bunch of high cards, two clubs, basically every draw you could imagine that should be ugly, ugly cards for the guy with just A4 in his hand. Did I mention how much I love calling stations?
So now, armed with a huge chip lead and more than twice the 2nd place stack, I was definitely expecting to win this thing. Demanding it. In fact, my lead increased again at the end of the holdem round, as my AT held up for top pair on a draw-heavy board to give me nearly 5 times as many chips as the 2nd place guy at the time, when I wanted to play cautiously with the board coming how it did, but the extreme weakness shown by both remaining opponents, each of whom clearly wanted to just try to last one more payout spot to make 3 Large instead of $2100, basically forced me to value bet the both the turn and the river as I took down another 55k pot to burst way, way into the chip lead:
Around the middle of the O8 round, I got my chance to eliminate the third-place guy when I flopped bottom two pairs and proceeded to hit a boat on the turn, which proved to be the killer card for my opponent who had actually made a higher two pairs than I on the flop:
and just like that, I was heads-up in the 30k guaranteed HORSE tournament, sitting with just about a 10-to-1 chip lead and knowing I was going to take this shizz down once and for all, in just my third entrance ever into this weekly Sunday night event. Of course, full tilt had to make it interesting, setting me up for one bad loss when my pocket pair was up against a higher pocket for my opponent, and sending two suckouts my opponent's way as well just for good measure. Nonetheless, I never let him get above 40k or so in chips, always maintaining my huge lead, until my old friend razz came along and my opponent I guess felt pot committed enough to get it all in despite starting with a King up, vs. my 9 up on 3rd street:
Eventually my 6-low beat my opponent's Queen-low, and I had done it!
$4680 cash money, providing another very welcome significant inflow into my roll at what is already by far my favorite online poker site to play at. And of course, winning a large HORSE event like this is especially significant for me, as it signifies that my poker prowess extends beyond simple no-limit holdem and into a number of other poker variations. It also justifies the probably 10,000 hours I have spent during the past year or so reading everything I can get my hands on about each of the major poker games that people regularly play. I could not be happier about starting off 2007 with my third major tournament victory, a nearly 5 Large score, and my first-ever tournament victory in an event with a $200 or more buyin.
Let's hope the trend continues and that 2007 can surpass 2006 in terms of total dollars won in these things, and that I can keep adding to my list of major tournament victories as time goes on.
I will be back tomorrow with my "Goals for 2007" post that was supposed to come today, but a thing like winning 5 grand in the big HORSE tournament tends to take precedence over that sort of thing, n'est-ce pas?