The Big Game, and Can You Say W-S-O-P? [Take III]?!!!
Wow what a turnout last night for Miami Don's Big Game. 53 players, each ponying up the $75 price tag to play in the biggest-money blogger tournament around. This thing was huge, and it made for some very fatty cash prizes for the top finishers as a result. And guess who finally made the BBT points board for the first time? That's right, you're reading him right now! Don't worry, I still played like ass through the entire event, only getting a couple of nice setups to get enough chips to last into the top half of the field, before my pocket 7s lost a race allin preflop. And yeah I know those of you who were there are expecting another rant today about that play. What can I say. I've been beat now by the bloggers by people calling my allin preflop with AQ. AJ, more times than I can count. Recently AT ("but it was sOOOooooted!") was added to the list. These last couple are downright unconscionable, but it's happened. I've been called allin and lost a race countless times by KQ. Lately even KJ has entered the fray, which is also truly funny. But I'm happy now after last night's Big Game to be able to add still another hand to the list of hands that bloggers have called my allin raises with preflop, and gone on to beat me: QJ. But it was sOOOooooooted, I know I know. Good for you and your QJ. I'm not sure which was better, seeing the guy flop a muggafugging nut straight immediately after calling my allin with the QJ (AKT, you know it baby!), or seething in anger while reading the chat just afterwards, where the move was repeatedly justified based on my fictional hand range, the fact that I was desperate, etc. Cheesus. I just cannot catch a break in these blogger tournaments.
As an aside, can you imagine if I actually played anywhere near the hand range people claim they put me on when they make these recockumoves against me? Seriously. There's no way I could ever have won a single one of my big mtt scores if I played the way people like to claim I do when they call my allin raises with their KJ and QJ and AJ. And this is where I'm supposed to say that I love getting these calls, but anybody who thinks I will take these people's money over time -- regardless of what the math says -- just doesn't pay attention to blogger tournaments. In my experience at least, the overcards seem to get rewarded at least 75% of the time in what should be race situations, and I am losing to these kinds of allin calls -- some even after the flop is already out, mind you -- at an alarming rate so far in the blogger tournaments in 2007. And btw last night confirms what I was saying last week -- I was actually sorta happy when Lucko called my allin on the flop with just AQ and no hit on the flop whatsoever in last week's Mookie tournament, of course nailing an Ace on the river to do me in, because as I said last week, he admitted it was a donkey move. He admitted it before he made the call even. That guy was playing crazy-aggro poker through that entire tournament, he knew it, and he admitted it even before the fact. And I enjoyed that. But like I said last week, it's when people make these redickucalls against me, win the race as the underdog, and then act like their call was a smart move that really kills me. So at least I know that's part of it. But cheesus christopher do you think one of these times some donkey could call me with AJ or something against my pocket 9s, and I could just win the race? How about one fucking time? I haven't doubled up in a blogger tournament in forever, because every time I get it allin, someone calls me on a race or worse, and I never win 'em. It's gross. I mean, seriously. QJ?! Seriously? Did that really just happen?!
Btw, I love the guy who made this move on me yesterday. He knows that and I know it. It was just a bad play, so bad that I couldn't even sit around to donkeycall anyone in the chat afterwards. I immediately left the room, ran down to another part of the city and killed about 15 immigrants in savage fashion until I felt better. You may hear about this on the news, but nobody tell please. Anyways, congrats to Drizz for winning the Big Game, and to Drizz, Mike Maloney, crazdgamer and Cosmicclown (who I am not familiar with) for agreeing to a 4-way even chop and $786 apiece for their efforts last night at the end. Also congratulations to me for making my first BBT points of the season, going out I believe in 18th place out of 53 competitors thanks to the above-described move, and to the guy who made that brilliantly played call against me, who was in 3rd place just a few minutes after my elimination, but still somehow managed to bust short of the final table nonetheless. Go figure. Maybe he called someone else's allin with 94 (sOOOoooted of course) and it somehow didn't hold, I don't know. Oh, and congrats to jeciimd who I know has made the BBT points in all 6 of the 6 BBT tournaments so far. Now that's impressive right there.
OK on to other things that don't threaten to send me off into an insane rage. Tonight is the latest Mondays at the Hoy tournament on full tilt, the next event in the BBT tournament series (and a big thanks to our resident photoshopper Mookie, from whose blog I lifted the below image this weekend):
So see you tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt, where I will attempt to avoid the minefield that is blogger tournaments for me lately and make my second straight BBT points finish. Normally I'm striving to win these things, but I am so far away from that right now that I need to set more realistic goals. In general, I will probably take it a bit lighter this week on the blogger tournaments in general, as I am just getting smushed in them and the way it's happening, and the way it makes me feel afterwards, cannot possibly be good for my game overall. In fact, just to make this interesting, knock me out of tonight's MATH tournament by donkeycalling me allin preflop with AJ-A2, KJ-K2 or QJ-Q2 and I will tranfser you $10 on full tilt for your donking pleasure. Just like that, you're bought in to the Mookie on Wednesday. And all it takes is for you to make the exact same fucking play that you were going to make on me anyways you fucking donkeys!!! Bring it on, now there's a bounty if I ever saw one. Hope you earn this one guys, I really do.
OK so back to this past Friday, where I managed to win my second bracelet race of the year on full tilt. That night I had my wife's family over for dinner and some hearts (I came in second, to a donkey of course -- just kidding E!), and I didn't manage to log on to the computer until after 11pm ET sometime, so I missed all of the satellites into that juicy midnight bracelet race event that I've been telling you all about. But given my recent cash win in the 30k, for just the second time ever, on a whim I decided to up and buy in directly with cash to the event. I was feeling good, feeling "on" whatever that means, and I figured I'd give it a shot. As it turned out, I probably played my best poker in a long time, better than in my first bracelet race win and better than the big 30k cash last week as well, as I got sucked out on a couple of times in this thing but did not suck out on anyone else in the entire run through the tournament until the payouts. The overall theme of the event for me was that I played very aggressive poker, and I consistently laid reads on people, acted on those reads, and ended up being right again and again and again. It doesn't always work out like that as you fellow aggro tournament players know, but on this night I could do almost no wrong. And what was especially great about this performance on Friday IMO night was the level of the competition involved. I looked at the lobby just as the tournament started, and out of the 89 players entered (8 would win the 2k WSOP prize packages), the roster included all the big guys I run into more and more in the large-buyin mtts on full tilt. I'm talking about P0KERPR0, da_professional, THAY3R, johnnygstacks, PearlJammed, and all those other guys who you will recognize if you play in the same tournaments that I play in these days, and guys who if you look them up on thepokerdb are all showing huge amounts of cash won in their online poker careers. So it was really a whos-who of the mtt world on full tilt, and I was primed and ready to show my stuff in just my second direct buyin into the midnight bracelet race on Friday.
As a good example of what I mean about how I played this thing right from the getgo on Friday, here is a hand early on in the tournament where I felt quite sure from the early action I'd already seen that my opponent had just called my raise because he was in the big blind already, and then was trying to steal the pot on the flop with an overbet before I could put in my continuation bet:
He folded, and I took down my first decent pot of the night (morning).
A few hands later I got that big boost early on that you desperately want to have in these big-buyin events when I flopped this straight still during the 20-40 blinds level:
That's me betting the pot there, because slow-playing on the flop, especially on a flop with lots of big cards like this, is for donkeys. He smooth called me when I knew I held the nuts, which is always good, and then when a harmless 5♠ hit the turn, I did one of my favorite moves and checked the turn, acting as if I was trying to steal on the flop and now didn't want any more of that action:
He checked behind again, which shocked me because people usually bite on that move about 90% of the time, but again I think it goes to show that the level of competition you face in these larger buyin tournaments is a bit higher than the monkeys you usually run into at the lower levels. I woulda been allin on the turn for sure in most of the non-$200 bracelet races for example, but this time it didn't happen for me on the turn. Nonetheless, I had laid the groundwork to extract something from him at the river if he has anything at all, by acting weak here on the turn.
When the Ace♠ fell on the river, I was ecstatic. You almost could not have picked a better card for me, in that I figured my opponent was likely to be on either a draw or some kind of an Ace to have called on the flop but then checked behind on the turn. So when he led out on the flop for 720 chips, the size of the current pot, I sprung the trap:
I went for the allin move here on the assumption that the Ace might have helped my opponent, he acted like it helped him with his river bet, and that the overbet raise might look like a steal attempt since I had gone out of my way to check the turn. He called my allin, and I emptied his stack with my nut hand. He held this in the end:
Did I mention that that Ace on the river was the perfect card? So this got me off to a nice early stack, enabling me to have some breathing room to continue taking some chances by relying on my reads and playing aggressive poker when I felt I had my opponent on a hand or a range of hands.
I used this big stack to push a lot of players off of hands in the first round on Friday, in particular when scare cards would hit the board and I didn't think my opponent would stand a big bet. So here is me pushing hard on the turn card, even after my opponent had called my pot-sized flop bet, because I had put him on a pair to the board on the flop and I could not see him taking it further after both the oesd and the flush filled on the turn card:
I was so confident in my reads on Friday that I was even making moves like this:
Here, I had led out with a potbet on the Ace-high flop, representing an Ace in this small blind - big blind confrontation, and my opponent had smooth called my flop bet. But from having watched him for around an hour at this point, I had personally seen him raise on the flop with any kind of top pair on multiple occasions, and so I just couldn't put him on an Ace (even though I didn't have squat either). So when the turn brought another high card, I figured I would do that same bet-check-bet move that I had used when I had flopped the straight in the earlygoing, and I checked the action to him. When he led out for 600 chips into the 720-chip pot, I was more sure than ever that he did not hold an Ace, so I went for the big raise here to test him. Again, clearly this is me taking a big chance here, but what can I say I had a read and I ran with it. He folded:
A few hands later came probably my biggest hand of the entire tournament, and strangely this was a hand that I ended up not playing. UTG raised it up 3x to 360 chips, and up to that time I had only seen him raise UTG with AK in the tournament, so I opted to go for a little bit of deception and just smooth call the 360 with pocket Queens. In retrospect I think this was a terrible move, but I am a firm believer in not doing the same thing every time in the same situation, so I just smooth called with the Queens here to show a little respect to that UTG preflop raise which I figured indicated some kind of an Ace. While I'm debating whether or not this was the right move in my head, the small blind reraises both of us to 1200 chips. To top it off, UTG, one of the chip leaders at the time with over 14,000 chips, re-reraises allin himself, easily putting me and my 6000 chips allin if I make this call. So I've got the Queens, I always lose with these effing biatches and I am otherwise off to a nice start here. I was conflicted. But in the end I chalk this one up to my stated goal of not talking myself into making bad moves just based on math if doing do requires me to ignore the betting and raising evidence I'm seeing in front of me. I knew this was the third-best possible starting hand and so I was, mathematically speaking, unlikely to be behind so far. But I also knew with all this redickulous action ahead of me, somebody had to have another big pair, and/or somebody probably had to have AK. I agonized over the decision -- a move which in retrospect I don't even think was worthy of agonizing over -- and I laid down the third-best possible starting hand in holdem. Not only did one of my opponents flip up pocket Aces (not surprising, given the betting), but check out this final board:
So there I was, still alive after being dealt QQ at the same time another player was dealt AA, and another player made quads with TT in his hand as well, and I only ended up losing 360 chips on the hand. I was proud of that one, although as I review it today like I said I don't feel nearly as much pride as I did then, mostly because I think this is an easy, obvious laydown given the reraise and the re-reraise in front of me. It's just not something that has come easy to me over time, as my longtime readers know, when I know how mathematically unlikely it is to be dealt QQ and AA in the same hand, but in the end by focusing specifically on this exact sort of situation, I am getting better about learning to trust what I'm seeing in addition to, if not more reliably than, what I know about the math.
Anyways, I made another huge jump in the second hour here on this hand, which I can't really explain so I'll just show it. Basically UTG limped, I raised around 3x out of the big blind with Aces, and he called. The flop came raggy as hell, I led out with a potbet, and he did this with a huge stack:
Now I know all you tightasses out there and cash gamers are screaming Fold! Fold! here, but as I reviewed things I just didn't think I was up against a set. Not sure why, but I just didn't feel it. I guess I thought the UTG limp was more consistent with a high pair than a low one, I don't know exactly but it was just a feel I had. So continuing my streak of going with my reads, I made the big call, taking time to type into the chat beforehand that if this is a set, that I am done with poker forever. Check it out because I cannot explain why he would do this:
No explanation needed on that I guess. Wtf? Anyways, this one put me in 3rd place out of 42 players, down to less than half the field with the top 8 winning the 2k WSOP prize packages (othewise known as 2k in cash into your full tilt account).
With a big stack and feeling increasingly confident in my reads, I became a fucking beast. I reraised stealers and got folds like here:
I bet out on flops with high cards against late-position limpers who I was sure did not hit the board and could not possibly call me:
and I punished limpers with plays that even I can't really explain or justify, other than that I had watched both of these opponents for quite a while and just "knew" they were not strong enough to call me here (not that this was my greatest move ever, as I look at the screenshots I can't even believe I did this one):
Given my big stack and constant pressure raises like the ones above, I also had enough chips to make some calls against short stacks as we moved into the final few tables in the tournament, such as here where a late position shorty moved allin and I just felt like my middle Ace was likely to be best:
Here's how this one ended:
And don't worry, the guy had the chutzpah to berate me for a good five minutes in the chat for my call there. God I love guys like this. Pushes allin from late position on a short stack with J7o, and then berates me for calling him with A8. You gotta love it. But, this is why I find the middle game, where so many other people seem to have problems, to be the part in mtt's where I tend to excel most. You play deep in enough of these things and you just start to develop a feel for when you are likely ahead, and then you just need the courage to go with your convictions. I still make mistakes all the time in this spot, don't get me wrong here when I say that, but the bottom line is that my approach in most of the larger-buyin mtts I play is usually to try to survive to the 2nd and 3rd hours, and from then I generally feel like I am at a significant advantage over most of my competition once the blinds start to squeeze the shorties. Personally, I think the whole reason I build up a big stack like I had here was so that I can call the late-position shorty over-raising allin in this exact spot. He, apparently, does not understand or agree with that approach. Poor guy. Meanwhile his push here helped me get up over 17,000 chips for the first time, in 6th place of 17 players remaining at the time, again with the top 8 players winning the WSOP packages.
And as I continued to build my stack, I continued to ratchet up the aggression as well. Here I am again in another small blind - big blind confrontation where I was sure my opponent did not have an Ace. Even when I led out with a potbet on the Ace-high flop and he called:
I just got the feeling he was on middle pair, or maybe a middle pocket pair of his own, but I just didn't see him having that Ace. So on the turn, now with a nice pile of chips in the middle, I figured I would keep going with representing that Ace:
And he laid it down as I thought (and hoped) he would, not willing to risk his entire stack with that Ace sitting out there:
This was just another risky aggressive move I made in this tournament, and as I mentioned at the beginning, almost every time I laid a read like this on someone, on that night they almost always proved to be correct. It doesn't usually happen this regularly, but on Friday I was The Man with my reads and I don't think I messed up one of these extremely aggressive plays the entire night long.
Along the same lines, here I am again adding nicely to my stack with a big flop push against a late-position caller who I just didn't think had the goods:
And again he folded, lifting me up to over 25,000 chips for the first time. It's great as you get near the bubble in these mtt satellites awarding multiple seats to the top finishers -- and I find that the larger the prize, naturally the larger this inclination is -- but people with big stacks in good position to make a run at the prizes simply do not want to call off their stacks with anything short of the nuts or near-nuts. You can even get people off most top pairs in a situation like this, with less than a table of people remaining before everyone left wins their seats. It really pays to ratchet up the aggression at times like this, just like all the big pros write about, and Friday night was no exception for me. I was punishing everybody with moves like this, any one of which could have been called and I would have been behind and probably eliminated. But it just all worked for me on that night.
In 8th place out of 13 players remaining (remember, 8 get the seats), I laid this one down:
reasoning that I was either behind (most likely), or racing, either one of which I wanted or needed no part of given my stack at the time and how few players were left.
And here I am in 5th place of 11 players left, keeping everyone on their toes like only our crew knows how:
About 10 hands later I managed to eliminate the 11th place guy, again making a call of his allin with a middling Ace in my hand, relying on my large chip stack and his short-stackedness and late-position push to get it done:
A few preflop and flop steals later, and there I was in 3rd place out of 10, with 8 of us set to win the 2k WSOP prize packages. I could taste it!
Here was a good one. So we're at 10 people left, 2 more eliminations until we all win our WSOP seats, and the 10th place guy is allin preflop. And here is this anus to my right, who himself is on a nice-sized stack, betting into me on the river:
Do people at this level really not understand late-stage bubble play, and the whole concept of implicit collaboration? Apparently not. Can this guy really not see how much wiser it is to just check this down with as many players in the pot as possible once the shorty is all in, to maximize everyone's chances of taking him out? Apparently not. Well, you might think, maybe he has the nuts to be making a bet at this point in the tournament. Nope -- in fact I'm the one who had the nuts here thanks to a beautiful river card. So, I let him know what I thought about him in the chat here, and then I pushed it allin. I figured maybe he would call, but either way I hoped he would learn something from this. He folded after a few seconds, but man what a donkey. I don't care if you somehow had flopped seven Aces, in this spot it's just smarter to check it down and get us that much closer to the bubble. Thankfully I was able to eliminate #10 here, sending us to the final table, with 8 of the 9 players getting the seats. My stack was so big, and I'm not an idiot, so it was all but assured that I would win my second bracelet race of the year, but with a whole bunch of bloggers and non-bloggers railbirding, this is when things got really loopy.
First there was this recockuhand against the short stack who was all but blinded in:
Against four players no less, which managed to nearly quintuple up the short stack after a fuggin flopped set. Sick.
Then after another suckout by a blinded-in short stack that for some reason I did not screenshot (probably because I was busy putting my first through my tv screen), we had to sit through a 5-minute break with the big blind all ready to get blinded in himself on the first hand of Round 4. On that first hand, the guy managed to quadruple up again when he spiked two pairs on the river with 94o to beat out again four other players who had called and checked it down to get him out (again I was too busy killing some animals to capture that screenshot).
Then five hands later, here is the fourth blinded-in suckout at the bubble, once again winning over four other players who checked it down to see the river:
Thankfully, this was all just funny to me, as I was in such a good chip position that I knew I would win the seat. But for the guys who were right near the bottom and constantly in danger of blinding out, this must have been one of the worst nights of their lives.
Eventually, I managed to knock out #9 just like I knocked out #11 and #10, when he got blinded in and I held the top kicker on a 2-pair board to win my second WSOP buyin:
Here was the leaderboard when we got down to the 8 winners:
In messing around to play out the final 8 meaningless spots (eff the TLB), just like in my first bracelet race win last month I managed to find pocket Aces in a big spot to win a huge one:
And then here was the final hand, literally my only suckout of the entire 4 1/2 hours of play, and not a huge suckout at that:
In all, it was a really fun experience, and hopefully this writeup captures just how much I got by without running into a single monster and without muffing up a single read all through the event. If only all of my big mtts could go like this (I would even settle for once every month or two), things would be so different. I wish I could capture and know exactly what I did, if anything, to make this particular tournament go so smoothly, but alas I don't think it was anything. One wrong read, one slowplay that I didn't pick up on, in this thing and I woulda been toast in any number of the hands I showed above. Playing hyper-aggro like this can be fun and when it works you look and feel like a genius, but pushing allin with as much regularity and betting with nothing as often as I did in this thing does not work nearly this well generally speaking.
Now my big question is what to do with the two bracelet race wins. I'll be posting about this later this week, as I look to finalize my Vegas plans for the second weekend of June within a week or so, but now with two bracelet races won so far, this really expands my options as far as I'm concerned with respect to what events and how many to play, when exactly I need to be there, etc. It all still seems kinda surreal, but I will definitely be out in Vegas in less than two months, hopefully to meet as many of you as possible, and playing in at least one and probably two events in the World Series of Poker!
See you tonight at Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!