Can You Say W-S-O-P? [Take II]
Seriously. I never thought I'd say this, but this weekend was so crazy and so awesome for me, I really have no clue where to begin or how to possibly capture all the great things that went down. In fact, in deference to the great ones that have come before me, there really is only one proper way to attack a post like this, and that is to get liquored up to get it all out. Not having any Guinness on hand to get that done right, I'll have to turn to the next best thing, which for me tonight is Magic Hat #9, a great libation I discovered in my days living up in Boston during law school and at the start of my legal career. So here goes. How do I start this hugely fun-packed weekend recap post? For starters, yes I was at the historically awesome Georgetown-UNC game at the Meadowlands, and yes I think I soiled myself at least 18 times during my time there. But in the interest of keeping at least some of my readers, I think I'm going to save most of my Hoya talk for Tuesday's post, as today I want to finish up my bracelet race recap from this weekend. But don't worry, I've got plenty to say about my boys from DC and their incredible performance to make their first Final 4 in 22 years.
I guess I'll just start today with this:
Tonight will be the last MATH tournament of the first quarter, and I am definitely looking to hold on to my top spot in the 2007 money leaderboard for one more week and ice the first-quarter money title for the first year that I've been keeping track of the profits from each player out of this thing. So come on out tonight and try to take me down. In fact, just to make it interesting, $10 to your pokerstars account for whoever eliminates me from the MATH tonight, just because I'm in a freakin great mood after this weekend's action across the board. In fact, you know what? Make it $11, because that's the kind of guy I am today.
Why is that, you ask (other than Georgetown shutting out UNC in overtime on its way to Atlanta for the Final 4)? I'm getting there. But first I want to regress a bit to the summer of 2006.
It was June 15 of last year, not two weeks before the beginning of the 2006 World Series of Poker, when I first made the post here on the blog with the title above. I still remember the day like it was yesterday -- after playing in every low-buyin Bracelet Race I could starting when full tilt first began running these things in April of '06, I had just been on a little mini-tear, cashing in a few of the bracelet races and making two final tables over the previous few days. I was disappointed not to have made my goal of winning my way into the WSOP, but I was feeling so encouraged after making my second bracelet race final table of the week earlier that night, that on a whim I decided to pay cashish to enter that night at midnight's $216 buyin race, and the rest was history as I dominated, easily making the final table and holding on for one of the top few payout positions, winning my $2000 WSOP package and really putting the highlight on my first 6 months of being a successful and profitable mtt player and of running this blog to detail my daily poker comings and goings.
Fast forward about 8 1/2 months to March 1 of this year, when full tilt first started running the bracelet races to award these same 2k WSOP prize packages into the 2007 World Series of Poker. I made no secret here on the blog of my goal to win at least one of these things to fund a visit to the WSOP this summer, hopefully with the bloggers and the WPBT for an early June gathering and my first chance to see the big group in person since my WSOP visit last summer. In furtherance of this goal, as you no doubt are aware if you read here with any regularity at all, my online poker play has primarily focused on the bracelet races through this month, and it would likely stay there unless and until I won my WSOP buyin for this year. This focus has seen me play in almost every nightly 9:30pm ET bracelet race except for maybe 7 or 8 nights that I've been away or otherwise disposed at this hour during the month, but as I've written about here many times, most of these 9:30pm races carry a $26 buyin, meaning that they typically pay out the WSOP package to just one spot out of somewhere between 70 and 120 players. Very cripey odds, and not something which I have succeeded in winning through a great many tries both in 2006 and again so far in March of this year.
A few of these 9:30pm ET events, specifically on Wednesdays and Sundays, have a $75 buyin, meaning a payout of typically 3 seats out of that same roughly 70-120 person field. Much better odds than just one package being awarded, but also still very difficult to achieve for even an experienced and skilled mtt player. As a resut of all this, I have been focusing most of all on the midnight bracelet races on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the same tournament that got me into the WSOP last year, which are a $216 buyin but which pay the 2k WSOP prize packages to a full 10% of the field who enters. So, with usually around 70 or 80 players, full tilt has been awarding 7 or 8 WSOP seat winners every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night since March began (or more accurately, the actual awarding is happening more like every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, to be technical). Now, while my online roll has sufficient funds to buy in directly to a number of these events, from purely a bankroll management perspective I have elected not to buy in directly, since at $216 a pop, you better make sure you win 1 out of your first 10 of them, or else it would have just been cheaper to buy in directly to the $2000 WSOP event of your choice. So I've been trying to satellite in to these midnight races as often as I possibly can during the month so far.
Overlooked in all of these events is the Friday night bracelet race on full tilt, which is different from all other nights in that the 9:30pm ET bracelet race tournament is a rebuy event, at $30 a pop. I did play in this one once earlier this month, but the somewhat larger buyin makes it not too attractive to play in considering the likelihood of having to rebuy or add-on after the first hour, and with typically only 40 or 50 players, this thing still ends up only paying two players the 2k WSOP prize packages, so in all this thing hasn't ended up being particularly easy to win IMO. Nonetheless, while I was playing in my usual 9-10pm ET satellites into the midnight bracelet race this past Friday, I figured why not give that rebuy event a try and see if I might maybe be able to win my way into the WSOP directly instead of satelliting into the midnight bracelet race and then having to win that one too. Thanks to a last-minute flurry of entries, the rebuy tournament ended up with 65 entrants -- the largest I've seen this month for the Friday night rebuy event -- with just the two guaranteed WSOP packages likely to be awarded, assuming a normal amount of rebuys and addons along the way.
This tournament started off like most other rebuy events, with the other players playing looser than usual, and a bit more willing to make allin calls early, so I did my usual and generally tried to play the opposite, only wanting to get allin early with a truly premium hand. This led me to lay down AQ and even pocket 9s to allin reraises preflop within the first 10 minutes or so of the tournament, bringing my starting stack down from 1500 to around 1100 chips before I finally found AKs. Given the opportunity, I went ahead and called one preflop allin with this hand, finding then a third
And, typically, the JackAce got rewarded with a recockulous runnerrunnerrunnerrunner bullshit board:
And I had to rebuy early. Luckily, I doubled up fairly early on this second rebuy when my KK held up against a huge donkey's pocket 4s, and then closing in on the end of the round, with nearly 3000 chips still in my stack, I took a cheap flop with JTs. Flopping top pair against a few players who showed no strength preflop, I bet out the size of the pot:
and surprisingly got smooth called by two of the four players who saw this flop. In laying reads on these two players, I considered the fact that neither had raised it up preflop so I wasn't particularly worried about AJ or KJ or something, which led me to put them on some lower pair than my top pair Jack kicker, some kind of draw or something, so I wanted to bet the pot again on the turn, which came a harmless-looking offsuit 2. But, when I noticed that betting the full pot of 1920 chips would only leave me with 1000 or so chips left, I figured what the hey, I was pretty sure I was ahead, so I just moved allin. Shockingly, one player and then the other called me as well. Obviously, I knew I must be way, way behind. Or was I?
In the end, one opponent called with just 56 in his hand, and the other called with just 35 in his hand. Can you believe it? Two large allin calls with just oesd's, and both on the turn with just one card left to come! I was beyond shocked, and the harmelss 7 on the river gave me the pot and staked me to over 10,000 chips and first place among the 55 or so remaining players at this point in the tournament. Wow. I still can't believe either let alone both of those calls. But that's Monkey Hour during an online rebuy event for ya -- people will definitely be willing to take more chances than in a regular freezeout tournament, in particular in large pots, so when I am in one of those and believe I am ahead, I tend to try to push it for all it's worth and see if some monkey will pay me off. In any event, nothing more significant happened for me through the last few minutes of the first hour of play, and I went into the first break in 2nd place out of 48 left. Looking good so far. I don't even recall if I opted to do the add-on or not, as I had chipped up so nicely that I recall thinking I wouldn't need it.
The second hour ended up being theft hour for me, as I had only five decent starting hands (and no premiums) -- KQo, ATo, JTs, 88 and 99 -- all of which I ended up winning with thanks to sizeable flop bets, most of which were with nothing as the flops were just not connecting with me. Nonetheless, thanks to the couple of flops I did hit and a number of blind steals, which by the end of the second hour are significant enough to be worth stealing for sure, I ended a largely uneventful hour 2 still in 4th place, now with just 23 players remaining, with just the top 2 finishers winning the 2k WSOP prize packages.
I had my first big hand in over an hour near the beginning of hour 3, when a player named Vampyr (dork!) called my UTG preflop raise -- this time with me holding my favorite hand (but sooooted) -- and then I raised him allin when he led out with top pair middle kicker on the flop:
I think he made a terrible, redonkulous call here, with an easily dominatable hand against a guy (me) who had raised it up UTG as it is. If he wants to put me on a pocket pair below Aces, then so be it. But calling my allin reraise on the flop here was just plain fonkey:
And this big pot put me in 1st place out of 17 players left with 39,540 chips, with the average chip stack at the time right around 16,700. So, at more than twice the tournament average and less than two full tables remaining, I was starting to get that feeling again, one that I haven't had in a couple of months, that I might be on to something big here. I wasn't too excited yet, as I had already been in 1st place with just 4 players remaining in last Saturday's limit holdem bracelet race, and two consecutive cooler hands showed me just how fragile these leads can be even very late in the game, but I was playing well and making solid reads for the most part, and I had gotten just enough cards to get where I needed to be so far in this thing.
Speaking of laying great reads on players, about halfway through the third hour of the bracelet race on Friday I made a huge preflop call against two other allins with just a pocket pair of 9s. I can't quite say this was fonkey of me (almost, but not quite), but at the time I know I was thinking that when I am facing more than one allin and I hold a decently good pocket pair, it means there is already more than one Ace out and that is typically good news for the pocket pair. Now, to be honest I would much rather hold JJ or (gasp!) QQ to make a play like this, and pocket 9s is probably the very lowest pair I would normally call off my stack with against two allins in this situation, but what can I say, I did it:
Phuck! Big trouble for me. Bad call on my part, I knew it right away (and several railbirds let me know it as well, never fear). The flop and turn brought me no help, and I was literally chanting "9999999999999" as the river card was setting to fall:
BOOOoooooomm! In retrospect, although there was tons more poker to be played and I played it very well, this hand really set me up to make my run at getting into the 2007 World Series of Poker. This put me back in 1st place out of 13 left, with over 66,000 chips as compared to 2nd place's 36,500. A massive chip lead that I now had to make sure to protect, as remember only the top two finishers in this thing would win the 2k WSOP prize packages.
Anyways, I did nothing but steal on occasion, playing the bully with that hefty ill-gotten stack for the rest of the round, and near the end of the third hour came the final table, with me in 1st out of 9:
After quickly eliminating the short stack on the very first hand of final table play, about 15 minutes in, I tried this resteal:
which went horribly wrong for me in what turned out to be a button special. After the button open-raised the 2000-chip big blind to 5800 chips, and I reraised him to 20k with my big bullystack, he re-reraised me allin for just 7k more and at that point I clearly had to call, knowing I was behind but hopefully not dominated:
Another ill-advised play by me, and suddenly im in 4th of 7, and my WSOP dream is slipping away once again, mostly due to my own over-aggressiveness. Phuck! But at least I had built up that bigass stack to play with, meaning that I still had chips left after this bad turn of events and hopefully enough to do something to climb back into contention for the top two spots.
And climb back in is exactly what I did. I got a lot of those lost chips back just three hands later with AKs by smooth calling a button stealer's 3x raise, and then pushing in for my last 16k on the T-high flop, and he folded. Back up to 39,500 chips and 3rd place of 7, but at that point the top two stacks were 73k and 58k respectively, so I still had a lot of work to do to get back where I needed to be. Three or four hands later, the big stack at the table eliminated the shorty with the big stack's AKs against the shorty's JJ allin preflop, and we were down to 6 with me in 4th place.
And here is where all of these 6-max turbo satellites and the 30k experience I have really kicked in, because I am very, very comfortable with the 6-max game at this point. I know 6-max nlh tournaments about as good as anyone can, and all my turbo experience with those nightly sats was huge as binds were already 1k-2k with a 250-chip ante as we started 6-handed play, with top 2 getting seats. I literally felt a sense of comfort come over me as I realized we were down to 6-handed play, and I was ready to kick it into even higher gear as only I know how and get myself back up the leaderboard. With this new confidence, after taking down a pot open-raising A9o UTG, and then stealing the blinds and antes by open-raising with K6 and K7 in consecutive hands from the button and the small blind, I crossed back up into 3rd place again with 43k in chips, but with the two big stacks still sitting at 77k and 70k.
I then made this steal attempt with A3s from the cutoff position, another fairly standard move for me in fast-paced, high-blinds 6-max nlh:
But when the short stack reraised me allin for another 17k chips, representing half of my remaining stack, I made a downright bad call, at least my second of the night, but I had managed to convince myself that he could have anything since he had been so short at the time. Of course, if I could take it all back I would never make this call with that 3 in my hand, but at the time I thought to myself, this guy has KJ or something and I am slightly ahead, and I have a good chance to really chip up here against a guy who is definitely pushing with lower than optimal standards. Oops:
Of course I lost to the fucking biatchwhore Queens, leaving me with just 16k and in dead last among the 6 remaining players. Truly bad, bad call by me, not much else I can say about that.
Immediately regaining my composure, I stole the blinds and antes on the next two hands with allin preflop moves, and then, still on the short stack, I pushed allin from the cutoff with ATo (obviously), and got insta-called by the small blind (uh oh) who was holding the small blind special hand of KK (phuck me!). But then luck intervened again, serving up this board for my roughly 30% dog hand:
Woohooo! So I was back up to 37k, at the time just barely in 4th place of the 5 remaining players, with just the top two winning the 2k WSOP prize packages. So I still had a looooong way to go and lots of stealing and chipping up to do if I expected to fully recover from blowing that big stack I had been on just a short while earlier.
Then I had my biggest hand of the night. I found my raging nemesis pocket Queens in the small blind in an sb special of my own (finally), and the button went for the 3x open-raise steal, so I just pushed and prayed for a call:
My prayers were answered when he called, and then doubly answered when he flipped up pocket 9s:
My 82% hand held up. With Queens. With fucking Queens guys! Can you believe it? From worst to first at the final table over the span of maybe 5 or 6 minutes. My 84k was now back in 1st place over my opponents' stacks of 83k, 63k, 35k and 19k. Woohooooo, did I mention that?
I lost some chips a couple of hands later when the table shorty pushed allin and I felt I had to call with my pocket 8s. My favorite hand, AJo, hit the flop as it always does against a lower pocket pair in online play, and I assholically dropped about 12k more in chips making what I think had to be the right play against the short stack. I followed this hand up, however, with easily my biggest bluff of the night, against a guy I suspected was stealing from the small blind:
Although the small blind did call my reraise in this spot, when the flop came totally raggy, I read him for stealing so I figured I had to make my move and take advantage of my stack to scare this guy into folding in a spot where he really did not want to give up his chance at making the WSOP without a truly premium hand in a spot where I just didn't think he had one:
This was risky, but it worked, and IMO this is just what you have to do at the final table of these mtt satellites. You simply have to abuse the small stacks afraid to lose their shot, and push when you think you can win these hands with low Ms and bigass blinds. Although as you can see above it did not work for me on a few big occasions this night, believe me when I say this kind of play did work for me probably ten times more often than it did not. Again the key is just to make good reads overall, and build up a big enough stack with this aggressive kind of play so that you can withstand the inevitable big blind special type of hands that all of us will face eventually if we play aggressive enough over a long enough period of time.
So here I am a few steals and bully moves later, with nice bigass chip lead over the rest of the field with just five players remaining. Three more eliminations to go, and the 2007 WSOP would be mine:
A couple of hands later, TT eliminated the short stack's A8o to bring us down to just four players remaining, with half of us slated for the WSOP prize packages. This is the part of the mtt satellites that I really hate, as it can take forever to finally burst the bubble for the main prize winners, and with the blinds so high, you just never know what can happen if you steal at the wrong time or run into a particularly aggressive restealer from after you in the action. Amazingly, three hands later, QTo eliminated the new short stack's A6s to get us down to 3 handed, mercifully fast, and now it was just one elimination left before I would be going to the 2007 WSOP. Unfortunately though, this is what I was looking at since the low stack had eliminated the last 2 players, allowing him to chip up significantly and basically drawing even with myself and the other previously larger stack:
Amazingly and happily, though, just two hands into 3-handed play, this went down between the other two players at the table:
HOSSSE went allin with A9 on Q89 board, and Vampyr up top had to call with top pair Jack kicker plus an inside straight draw to boot, a veritable monster in 3-handed play. He coulda laid it down, don't get me wrong, but the worse play I think was the unnecessary allin from the 2nd pair guy, when he had been basically even with the other two of us and all three vying for just two WSOP seats. And here is the lesson for the kids and the poker noobs out there: this is why you dont pushmonkey in a tournament like this. HOSSSE flat-out cost himself a WSOP seat because he pushmonkeyed about 75,000 chips into the pot on the flop with just second pair. Why not bet a much smaller amount and see if you can take the pot down with that bet? If your opponent has nothing, at this point in the tournament he is highly likely to fold and preserve his chances of still finishing in the top two spots. And, like what would have happened in this case, if your opponent then reraises you allin, maybe HOSSSE could have chosen to fold and save the majority of his stack for another hand. But instead he pushmonkeyed allin for a huge stack on the flop with just second pair top kicker on a board with an overcard and a possible straight out there, and he paid the price. Dearly.
So, on the very next hand, HOSSSE had to go allin with just around 9k total left, and myself and Vampyr checked it down, neither one of us with anything good:
but somehow my hand held up, and that was it! WSOP here I come!!
Just for good measure, here was the meaningless last hand of the tournament, when it was just down to Vampyr and myself, both already having won our WSOP packages:
Yep. The pocket aces that had eluded me all through the tournament, finally there on the last (meaningless) hand for me to take it all down.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention here, as I have so many times in connection with my big online poker wins, the Hammer Wife's role in all this. First, as always she is totally down with me playing on the computer almost every night. Not saying she loves it, but that she accepts it, and in a way that makes it all the better what my wife does because deep down I know she's still really not in to the whole gambling thing. But she has always let me do my thing, and for that I am extremely grateful and I know how lucky I am. Plus, on Saturday morning right after I won my seat, of course M, the older Hammer Girl, decided to pick that very day to get up at 4:40am to use the bathroom, and then decided she was not tired anymore after that. Having stayed up until just an hour or two before that to win my WSOP seat and finish cashing in the midnight bracelet race as well for that matter, there was just no way I could stay up at 4am after just getting to sleep after 3am, so once again there was the Hammer Wife stepping up and taking care of business and letting me get the recharge that I so desperately needed. To top it off, when Georgetown beat Vanderbilt on Friday night, the Hammer Wife once again was the first one to say I had to take the opportunity that some friends had offered me to go to the game on Sunday against UNC, and this was even after she had gotten up very early in the morning with the kids on both Saturday and Sunday morning to let me sleep off what had been a couple of consecutive late nights doing my thing. It's just amazing how incredibly lucky I have gotten in my life to have three such wonderful girls in my family, and absolutely none of any of this would have been possible without my wife. I know it sounds cheesey to read (it's cheesey just writing it, trust me), but it really is amazing how much great, awesome stuff has happened over just the past few years with the direct or at least indirect assistance of the Hammer Wife. Just look at how awesome this whole weekend turned out, between my WSOP seat and the Georgetown game on Sunday, etc. What a fucking poker win, what a fucking game, and what a fucking weekend in Hammer Land!!!
Now I just have to figure out which WSOP event I'm going to play in. Is everyone planning on heading out there the weekend of June 7-10 or what? Thursday the 7th at noon is 6-handd $1500 nlh. Sat the 9th is 1500 regular nlh. What's a hammerplayer to do?
See you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy, and let me know what you think!