Monday, January 08, 2007

How to Bubble a Major Final Table

OK guys and gals, it's that time of the week again!

It's been a few weeks since we had a real Mondays at the Hoy night, due to first Christmas Day and then New Years Day both falling on Mondays, so I'm excited to get back into the fray tonight, especially as I've been running hot hot hot lately in my holdem tournament play. Also, starting tonight I plan to keep a running list of the alltime money winners at the Hoy tournament. No fancy scoring systems, no "scripts" to use to calculate points -- what is a "script" even, I wonder? -- but just a plain old alltime money winners list to keep track of the top finishers in the weekly Hoy tournament. I'm planning on some kind of a fun invitational-type of tournament later in the year to honor the top MATH money winners for 2007, so come out tonight to take part in our weekly game and to be there at the beginning of the new money chase for Mondays at the Hoy!

Well, in other news, my hot streak continued bigtime this weekend, as I recorded 6 tournament cashes over three nights of play, staying up late into the week hours of the morning in each instance as my roll continues to build on both full tilt and pokerstars. It is just amazing how different everything is when playing poker on a hot streak, as compared to when you're on a cooler. When I was running bad for a few months near the end of the autumn last year, it seemed I could never hit a hand to save my life. Every draw was missing, and even when I did make something, it was always my TPTK running into two pairs, my two pairs running into a set, my pocket Kings running into pocket Aces, etc. You all know the routine I'm sure.

Well, nowadays, it really is the exact opposite. Now, when I get pocket Aces dealt to me, someone else has pocket Queens or pocket Kings. Now when I make a call at basically 2-to-1 odds to draw to a nut flush or a straight, it fills on the turn card. That kinda stuff never used to happen to me! Yet now, the past 6 weeks or so, it's been happening left and right. And left again. It's hard to believe, but it just feels so good playing great poker at a time when the cards are actually falling my way. And the best part of it, of course, is that I actually play much, much better when I know the cards aren't stacked against me. There is no doubt that I, like most serious poker players I know, tend eventually to start playing much worse when we're in a prolonged downturn. I know, for example, that I start overbetting my big hands early in the hand when I'm on a streak of bad beats, or I start to overbet the flop when I have hands like TPTK, because I'm always fearing the loss. That is no way to play poker, and it's certainly no way to play good, solid poker.

Anyways, all this is a long way of introducing the fact that I made another big score this weekend on the online tournament front. This weekend's victim was a new tournament I just discovered on pokerstars, the nightly 100k guaranteed nlh event, which carries a hefty $162 buyin and goes off most nights at 9pm ET. I don't know what got me to jump in to this thing, but I went and won an sng to get me the $$ for the buyin, so I figured what the hey. My first attempt at this recent addition to the pokerstars nightly mtt schedule went very well early, as I managed to double up twice near the end of the first hour to vault into the top 10% heading into round 2, and with some 600 of the 1100 players who started the event already eliminated after just 60 minutes of play.

Long story short, I ripped shit up in this thing. As I mentioned above, I've been on a truly great streak with the cards lately, and I am without a doubt playing the best poker of my life right now, and I really took advantage well the other night. I value bet my good hands like a mofo on the river, and I bluffed people off of better hands on the river as well when I had nothing great but a scare card came to threaten my opponents' holdings. I hit some big draws and got paid off, and I slow played my few monsters about as well as possible, also giving me a number of big pots as I personally eliminated about 20 players on my way to this point, a close 2nd place among just the 10 players left in the event, after 5 hours and 17 minutes of some of the most fun play of my life:

As you can see, I was about to make a major score. A seriously major score. Just looking at that number atop the payout schedule made me want to faint, and yet when I see my own chip stack compared to those of my fellow competitors, I could not deny what I was aiming for.

And then it all fell apart. I let it. That's right -- for once, I take full blame for what happened to me in this thing. As I review the hands, I still can't believe this was me playing my hand this way, but it was. And I'm going to show you all just what I donked did, in the hopes that maybe you can learn from my mistake and hopefully avoid a similar fate the next time you're nearing the big final table payouts in a large multi-table poker tournament.

So, there I was, basically in the chip lead with 10 players left out of 1040 original entrants. We're one spot away from the final table, where the payout doubles for 9th place, and then basically adds a Large or two for every additional spot, culminating in that -- gulp! -- $32,000 payout for the winner. Which was supposed to be me. Then I end up seeing a cheap flop with QJs from middle position, and it gets heads up preflop with just one other player, one of the middle-sized stacks left in the event.

The flop comes KT3, so I've flopped an oesd, plus I have the second and third highest cards now on the board, with only a King or an Ace ahead of me at this point in the hand. My opponent bets 48,000 chips, roughly the size of the pot and representing about 1/5 of my existing chip stack, and after much thought I decide to go ahead and call the bet, hoping for an Ace or a 9 to fall so I can nail my oesd and move into commanding chip position:

In retrospect, this was obviously a very questionable call. This was me calling 48,000 chips into a pot of 68,000, and if I felt confident I was behind already I probably would have folded it. But this player had been very tricky already over the past hour or two I had been playing with him, and I felt my QJs had a chance of being best already, which, when combined with my oesd with two cards yet to come, made it seem like a good hand to draw to at the time. Mistake #1.

Mistake #2 occurred when the turn card hit, and it was a 7♠, now giving me a flush draw to go along with my open end straight draw. My opponent then proceeded to move allin for his last 185,000 chips, and here I was with 15 outs (9 spades, 3 Aces and 3 9s) to what I was sure was the winning hand. 15 outs once gives me roughly a one-in-three chance of hitting this hand on the river. I looked at my opponent's hugely-oversized bet, and I looked at my own stack and the fact that I had already invested about a quarter of my total stack in this pot, and then back to the large number of outs I was looking at. I knew it was a bad call. Pot odds dictated that I let this one go on the flop, and certainly here on the turn where I had to call 185,000 chips to win 434,000, which is just under the 1/3 chance I had of hitting the right card.

But then the little guy over my shoulder started talking to me in his voice that, typically, only I can hear. He pointed out that I have been running hot as hell lately, and that a lot of cards have been falling my way when I make good plays and I need to hit something big. He reminded me of all of those lovely 15 outs, and even pointed out that I wasn't even sure if this guy had a King after all. He could have been on second pair or something, such that 3 more Queens and 3 more Jacks would also be outs for me, in which case the call here was a perfectly fine one.

Whatever it was, I made the huge call here, looking to become the prohibitive chip leader in the chase for the 32k first prize:

There he was, sitting on top pair Jack kicker, and I was in fact back down to my original 15 outs to make a straight or a flush. It did not hit:

And suddenly I am in 10th place out of the 10 remaining players. Virtual chip leader to final table afterthought, all in just one stupid, stupid chase. It is quite unlike me to do this kind of thing, but I let the possibility of a huge, huge pot cloud my judgment in the most crucial of situations. Two hands later, I was out in 10th place:

It was still a nice payday:

But I can't help thinking of what could have been. The moral of the story here: Don't call off your chips on just a draw -- even with close-to-acceptable pot odds -- especially when you're deep into the money in a large tournament. In a situation like this, I know much better than to call and call again like I did here. I probably cost myself 5 or 6 grand by this horrible, horrible play on my part. I'll take the $1100 and change, don't get me wrong, but when it comes down to crunch time, the guys who win major tournaments don't call off their chips on draws when they're in the chip lead and are 1 spot away from the final table. That is an amateurish move of the highest degree, and I was guilty as sin of it this weekend. And even though it's another great payday for me to start the new year, my thoughts just keep going back to what could have, and should have, been. Ahh, next time.


Blogger cracknaces said...

Don't beat yourself up, tournaments are crazy and everyone makes questionable decisions. There have been times when I have reflected on a tournament I had just won and realized how I played like a total donk. Tournaments usually come down to hitting huge draws and gambling at the right times to give yourself a shot at 1st. I hope your success continues! That is a great tournament by the way. I did not know this, they actually added some levels to that thing and decreased the antes for more play.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Byron said...

Geez dude, do you ever read your comments? Like I wrote before, 'script' is another word for a program! It could be done by hand, but that's retarded if you know how to program. ;-)

Also - if you don't normalize finishes for the number of tourney entrants, you will have a skewed number at the end of the year. Most tourney leader boards use some kind of formula to account for winning with large turnout vs winning with small turnout. But, its up to you as it is your tourney, and I'll be there tonight.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

Chad sums it up. But what I have always liked about this space is that you can become a better player by reading these posts and thinking about them. Only a guy who knows he's solid will post things like this.

Congrats on tha G! This has inspired me to load Stars onto the laptop tonight.

See ya at MATH.

8:14 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

you hit that river card and you've put yourself in a spot to take it down. i don't think i'm getting away from that hand cuz i'm playing to win it, not limp up the payout ladder.

4:13 PM  
Blogger ncamp said...

You had a ton of outs, were your calls really that questionable? I guess when it is that late in a tournament, you want more of a sure thing. I am still trying to find my tournament style. I would not have gotten away from that hand. I would have seen the 15 outs as a chance to take down a big pot. But that is me, and I am not nearly as good as I think I am ;-)

9:00 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

In other situations I would certainly make these calls again, but my late-stage tournament strategy -- especially when I am in excellent chip position and one spot away from the final table -- definitely does not include chasing away most of my chip-leading stack on just a draw against a guy who clearly has a made hand on the flop.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Just to be the naysayer in all this, may I suggest that the flop was where the problem lies. Hindsight obviously, but if you're going to the felt with this, then shove on the flop. Does he get away from this? Maybe not. That and the pre-flop fold here. Regardless, great cash and great run you're on!

12:18 AM  

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