Monday, February 25, 2008

King of Fifty!!!

Holy Wow! On Sunday night / Monday morning, I won the 50-50 tournament on full tilt!!! I am still trying to absorb it all here after about 45 minutes of sleep total on the night, but obviously as in past instances where I've been up super later winning a boatload of money, it was well worth it. I've hopefully got a decent recap in me here, but let me get this out of the way for starters and then we can move on to the good stuff:

So come join me for Mondays at the Hoy as I fall asleep within the first few minutes tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "hammer". Once again we will be playing 6-max no-limit holdem, tournament-style, so the action should be fast and furious. Given that I will have trouble even making it until 10pm tonight, we'll see how long I last or how recklessly I will play after last night's big score, but I am definitely looking forward to another fun night of blonkery so hopefully I'll see you all there for the MATH at 10pm ET this evening.

OK, so back to the 5050. As my readers know, two weeks ago I cashed this thing in a big way, netting over $4900 for a 3rd-place finish, my deepest run ever and just my third final table in the 10 months or so I can recall full tilt running the 50-50. Someone asked in the comments last week, so for clarity, this is a nightly tournament that runs at 9:30pm ET every day of the week on full tilt, and the name comes from the $50 (+$5) buyin and the 50k guaranteed prize pool the tournament sports every night. Last summer if you've been reading here since then you may recall that I final tabled this biatch on back to back nights while my family was off at the beach with my father in law, ending in 6th place and 4th place for a total of around 5 grand between the two, but since then I had yet to taste 5050 final table glory until two weeks ago today when I busted out with that 3rd place finish. The following week, 9 days ago actually on this past Saturday night, I also final tabled the pokerstars version of this same tournament, also a $50 + $5 buyin event, this one with a 55k guaranteed prize pool. In that tournament, I ended in 4th place for a little over $4200, outlasting a slightly larger field in the process. The pokerstars run was better (and more frustrating, in a way) in that in that tournament, I had been in 1st place of 4 remaining, giving myself a real chance to take the whole thing down, before I gave it all away and ended up busting in 4th. But that run, unlike the one on full tilt the week before, really made me feel like my approach and my style in this longer-than-usual structure can really work and could conceivably make me a big huge score one of these days with a little bit of luck. Which is exactly what I got on Sunday night.

The full tilt 5050 started off for me like most of my big runs have started off lately -- shitty. In a nutshell, after satelliting in to the 5050 in the larger of the two nightly 7:40pm ET $14 satellites, I do not recall getting any good starting cards at all during the first two hours of the actual tournament. I can't even believe I was still alive after a couple of hours, given my recollection of literally nothing to play with, nothing worth making a move with, nothing at all whatsoever to speak of. Here is me at the first break of the 5050 last night:

So you can see, I was doing shitty in 417th place out of 684 remaining (1148 runners had started the tournament), I was well below average, and I'm telling you I had not been able to execute my normal game plan in any nlh tournament at all. This next graphic tells the whole story -- here are my stats through the first 75 hands which was about 15 minutes in to the second hour on Sunday:

So there's your problem right there. Throught about 80 minutes of play, I had won just 6% of the total hands I had seen at my table (I usually run well into the teens, even at a full ring table such as this event during the first hour). And more troubling for me, the best possible example of me not being able to execute my preferred game plan is my percentage of hands won preflop, which through 75 hands was exactly 0%. Zero. If you know me, then you know that never happens. Never. So, suffice it to say, the first hour was no good for me, and although I resolved to be sure to raise more preflop, I knew it was going to depend much more on the cards and much less on my own personal strategy with respect to the game, since I don't even know how to not play aggressive poker. I just had nothing to work with whatsoever in the first hour of this thing, period.

The second hour of play in the 5050 was more of the same, with me once again receiving very little to even raise with before the flop, which puts a severe hamper in my game for sure. Nearing the end of Hour 2, I found 55, which at the time I will admit looked like two shining red Aces staring back at me after the drivel I had been dealt for 120 minutes, and I was determined to just double up or go home early at that point:

Luckily, I doubled:

and I lived on. I took another screenshot of my tournament info just 5 minutes into Hour 3, which again shows me not doing much of any substance other than the race I won above with presto:

So 160th place out of 301. How many times have you out there been in this position? The money spots start at 180, and here I am, sitting around for two hours and doing nothing, I am still below average with 6030 chips as compared to the 7627 chip average, and I was annoyed too since I had gotten almost no cards to play with. Still no inkling whatsoever of what this night would be turning into some 5 hours later.

So, sitting here with 6030 chips just 5 minutes in to Hour 3, suddenly I went on a tear. It was a short-term thing, but I made the best of it. Remember, with 55 minutes left in Hour 3 I had basically 6000 chips. Then watch this. First I was dealt 88 in the cutoff, I open-raised and then got reraised by the button, who had been restealing a few times already in my time at this table. I put him on a likely resteal, but more importantly, I had made no headway in this tournament and I was still in double-or-go-home mode, so I repopped him allin and hoped he would fold. Instead he called and he showed me pocket 9s. Uh oh, I thought, until the 8 on the flop made my night and doubled me up to over 12,200 chips in my first suckout of the evening. I don't mind my play in this spot, since although I freely acknowledge that it was reckless, like I said I was feeling reckless at the time and just wanted to take a race to try to either get into this thing or get out without wasting too much time. In the end I was an 80-20 dog and sucked out, but my thought process was more or less sound here given what I was looking to do in this spot in the tournament. Suddenly I was in 63rd place out of 245 runners remaining and about 30% above the average stack of 9371 chips at the time. The money bubble was set at the top 180 finishers, so I still had lots of action before that point, but I was in good shape for the first time all night.

Six hands later, I won another large pot when I moved allin on the flop here:

My opponent in the big blind called my flop allin, I think because of my position he assumed I must have been stealing given the uber-raggy flop that hit the board. This was the good part about the fact that I had spent the past several minutes playing kinda recklessly and trying to aggressively move from late position or the blinds to get myself a stack to be able to do something with. Always being cognizant of my table image, I was able to use that to my advantage here, assuming I was ahead of the big blind's likely range with my pair on the flop plus the Ace overcard which I also saw as a winner, and of course when he called my allin on the flop I was very pleased to see him donking it up with just KQo. Now I was up to 34th of 230 left.

Just two hands later, here I am again raising aggressively from a stealy-looking cutoff position with A8s, actually a decent hand for this spot. When the big blind overpushed allin against what I knew looked like the most aggressive stealer at the table trying to take another pot uncontested from the cutoff, I figured A8s did fairly well against his looser than normal range and I made another big call:

My dominating hand held up, and suddenly I was up over 20,800 in chips, from just 6030 chips exactly 16 minutes earlier, now sitting in 22nd place out of 226 players left. This run lasted just 16 minutes, but those 16 minutes made my entire 130 minutes of sitting around with nothing to start this tournament all well worth the wait, as now I was in the exact position I wanted to be and with a nice stack to play the aggressive game I want to play, especially here approaching the money bubble in the 5050.

I dropped back to 18k a short while later when I reraised a shortish stack allin with my pocket 8s and he called me with his ATo. This dropped me down to 40th place out of 175 remaining as the money bubble had just recently burst two or three hands previously. So I was back ITM in the 5050, but that of course means nothing to me given the tiny payouts that populate the early money positions in this thing. Still, with a nice stack just after the money bubble burst, my number one priority for a short while was to preserve my position, since so many people often go busto within a few short minutes of reaching ITM. So, with this in mind, I folded 33 from my big blind to a button raiser, knowing full well that I was probably ahead, but also knowing that if he called or reraised any move from me, I would be dead in the water. In my next turn in the big blind, I found pocket 7s and once again folded this hand to a stealy-looking raiser from the cutoff position. I just didn't feel right, didn't feel necessary I guess it the better way of putting it, to push with 7s at that time when again I knew I would have big trouble against a call and would of course have to lay down to any reraise there.

I won a nice pot with AK on a King-high flop shortly after this point. I won another hand near the end of Hour 3 betting on the flop with Ah9c on an all-club raggy flop. I also took down a decent pot with a flop bet with me holding Ad7d on two-diamond flop with two rags and a King on the board. So at this point in the tournament I opted to keep my action to where I could be the aggressor and where I felt I had a good chance of being ahead once I could see the flop. I had enough chips to not have to press anything before the flop when I could likely be a dog or racing if called, so I took my chances on some flops, and acted aggressively where I thought I could get a fold and/or where I was strong having already seen 3 of the 5 community cards.

Here was a snapshot I took of my stats after 184 hands, shortly before the end of the third hour:

So you can see the improvement there in some of the key stats between the 75-hand stats I showed earlier and now through 184 total hands. Now I had won 14% of the total hands I had seen through the tournament -- much more to my liking than the paltry single-digits from earlier, and more than that, the stat on hands won preflop had inched up from 0% to now 5%, also a much better number that indicates I finally had some cards (and some chips) to play (and raise) with.

Through the next hour or so in the tournament, really all the way through the end of Hour 4, I was seated at a very active table with a number of players just as capable of making moves as I. This was a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the situation, but the most important part of it was that I was able to identify these players' tendencies early through careful observation, thus enabling me to make informed decisions at every turn as far as the best way to play my strong hands as well as the likely relative strength (or lack thereof) of their own hands given the early action from them in a given pot. Since there were a few big movemakers at this table, I ended up doing quite a bit of stealing, which for the most part worked out quite well overall, as I loosened my stealing standards to basically any unopened pot in late position where I held any Ace. As I said, overall I was definitely net positive in chips from all this stealing, winning several pots over the next 80 hands or so from late position, sometimes with total air and sometimes with decent cards, but as I always preach here, being an active stealer also means that I have to make some key laydowns on occasion when I get caught. So, for example:

This was a resteal attempt that was an easy, obvious laydown for me when I got re-reraised behind my button out of the small blind. I had stolen against this guy RoothlusJr who was far and away the most active stealer at the table -- he basically just raised with a big stack every single time the action came to him unopened for over an hour. Every. Single. Time. Literally. It was annoying at first, but like I said once you recognize the tendency by observing it and making notes, it is fairly easy to counteract, and someone like this at the table actually becomes a source of chips for you and someone who is fairly easy to avoid losing a big pot to unless you just get set up.

Here was another steal where I had to lay it down, which I did without hesitation:

I say it time and time again, but (1) you have to steal and resteal actively if you really expect to last deep in any large mtt with enough of a stack to make some actual noise in the end, and (2) equally importantly, you absolutely have to be willing to lay it down when you get caught stealing like here. Just awfukkit-calling off the rest of your stack with A6 or A2 or KQ or whatever is pure suicide against a restealer in greater than 95% of cases, and if you're going to do that, then a much smarter strategy than stealing a lot for you is just to fold and fold and fold and just hope the deck smacks you in face enough to run you deep. The way I play, I am stealing all over the place with any two cards reasonable for my position, but I'm always readily willing to lay it down if I get played with and have the stack to withstand a fold.

After sitting in 59th place out of 128 remaining at the end of Hour 3, the middle of Hour 4 saw my first big pot when I won a race allin preflop with 99 against a guy who called my allin with his AKo:

Booooom! This one brought me up to 48,800 in chips and, more importantly, up to 8th place of 86 left. Here I started slowing it down a little bit, although I quickly was back out of the top 10 and really did not spend much time doing my "aggro-stall" move as I described in my post last week after the pokerstars 5050 final table.

Through 239 hands now, here were my stats, showing still more improvement from their earlier doldrums:

15% of total hands won at a ring tournament is quite good and right where I like to be. And 7% of hands won preflop, still improving on that front as well. Nice.

At this point in the tournament, around the middle of Hour 4, I started opening things up even more as the blinds got big and the antes joined in in really making every single pot worth winning from any position at any point in the hand. Around this point I started bluffing with air on the flop with large bets, with which I took down two nice-sized pots against players whom I had sensed did not want to bust with the bigger money payouts within reach and with them not holding the nuts. On this night, those few big bluffs worked, while on some other nights, I get called by pocket Aces or by the flopped set and I end up busting somewhere near the bottom of the top 50. It happens, but with the way I play this game, it's the only way to get it done. You have to take chances and give action to get action, just like Doyle always says. I also widened my stealing range around this time a bit more, such that by the end of Hour 4, I was stealing most Aces, sooted Kings and most pocket pairs from any late position. Again, for the most part this worked, but a key piece of that puzzle was making sure that I always got out of dodge if I got played with and did not have reason to believe my hand was best.

Shortly into Hour 5, I made what was probably my biggest laydown of the entire tournament here:

Here I had reraised PrahladF -- who btw is not well-known pro Prahlad Friedman -- with pocket Tens that I had figured to be best in this spot, especially given that Prahlad, like RoothlusJr in my earlier examples, was the most aggressive player at my table at this point in time. But when he re-reraised me allin, now I'm thinking that my TT is either behind 80-20 to a higher pocket pair, or I am racing. Those are the only options. I mean, think about it, is this big stack making that allin re-reraise with A9 or A8? No. How about with 88 or 77? No way. Not with that big stack. It's got to be either AA-JJ (probably not even JJ in this spot), or it's AK, or maybe AQ if he's a donk. But those are the only options. And how does TT fare against AA-JJ or AK or AQ? Not good at all. Why risk everything I've built up here, and four hours of hard, tense play, against that range of hands with my TT? Had to lay it down, and I did. Sure I had lost 25% of my stack or so into this pot. But that is what accounting people call a sunk cost -- that 25% was already gone, into the pot where I no longer had any real claim to those chips -- and the only question at this point was whether investing any more money to win those chips was a good investment or a bad one. In this spot, I would say clearly a bad one. So I laid it down and lived to fight on and look for a better spot to get those chips into the middle.

As I mentioned, Prahlad was a crazy move-maker, putting in raises, stealing and restealing with what I was sure was complete air several times, even showing a few of them but mostly avoiding having to show his bullshit holdings at all costs. This can be the toughest kind of player to play against, especially late in an mtt, but at the same time I think of myself in this same way so I tend to be able to get into these guys heads and figure out what they are up to moreso than many. As such, on this hand here I had limped UTG to disguise a few other UTG limping situations like with big pairs and sooted connectors that I like to do, and Prahlad had just limped behind from the small blind. He was raising with anything good, and I read his sb limp as weakness. So, when the flop came scary and we both checked the action, the turn card pairing the board made me think Prahlad had nothing. So I led out for 3600 into the 4800-chip pot, and Prahlad quickly minraised me to 7200 chips. Although I had absosmurfly nothing, I read him for weakness before the flop, the flop came strong telling me that he did not connect well with the high cards on it, and he had checked the flop, indicating more weakness. His minraise on the turn suggested to me that he had the same read on me that I had on him (he was correct as you will see below), but I figured I had a chance to win a nice pot from him and to send him a message if I reraised big here and made him think I had trip Queens or at least an Ace, both of which I was sure were ahead of whatever he held in his hand:

Here I was dangerously close to losing it all, but after about a second and a half, Prahlad laid it down:

I especially liked my bet sizing on the reraise here. I raised enough to be a huge bet for Prahlad to call, but I also left myself with a decent amount of chips behind. And yet, it was clear that I would be pot committed, and he had to know that from the specific bet size that I had chosen. I do this quite frequently when I really want a fold but do not want to push allin for fear of seeming like I am overbetting in desperate need of a fold. So it worked here -- the message I tried to send Prahlad here was that I had to have a Queen here, right? Anyways, he bought it and I chipped up nicely once again against the most aggro-crazy player at my table, someone with whom I would be clashing again before all was said and done.

My biggest loss of the last few hours of this tournament occurred at the very end of Hour 4, when I raised preflop with AQs and got reraised allin from the button from a relatively short stack here:

This one sucked, but the combination of the guy being short-stacked compared to me -- enabling me to still have over 38k in chips even if I lost -- plus my own hand being sooted led me to make the call. Still, this one hurt, as it dropped me down to 29th place out of 43 remaining in the tournament, my worst percentile of the remaining players in the previous couple of hours of play.

Through 298 hands, nearing the end of Hour 5, here are the updated stats:

Still 14% of total hands won which is all good, and the preflop hands won is now up to 8%, still inching higher from that 0% after 75 minutes.

At the 5th break, i was in 19th of 37 players remaining. Shortly into Hour 6, I nearly doubled up with ATs over A8o against a stealer in his small blind against my big blind. This was against a guy named CIGSnBEER who was yet another huge movemaker, and I felt pretty good all along the way that my ATs was ahead of his range. I was surprised he was as strong as he was when we flipped up the cards, but actually his having a lower Ace was perfect of course as it left him dominated by me. My hand held, and I jumped to 100,612 chips, my first time over 100k in the tournament thus far, back up to 5th place of 34 left, my stack at that point about 60% above the average of 67k.

With the blinds and antes leaving over 10k in the pot during most of the hour, Hour 6 saw me steal a lot of pots from the big blind when the button or the small blind just open-limped. In fact, I don't believe I overlimped even one single time in this spot all through the tournament, usually opting for the raise in that spot mainly due to how highly aggressive most of the players at my late tables were being with any kind of strong hand from late position before the flop. Thus, I saw any late position limps as weakness, and with a decent stack to play with and even withstand a fold to someone's reraise, I raised liberally in this spot, taking down four separate pots during Hour 6 just by raising against late position open-limpers. Using this strategy, I was in 6th place of 20 remaining when we were 37 minutes into Hour 6.

Here is my stats screenshot through 354 hands:

Still better! Now up to 16% of total hands won, again my high for the entire mtt to that point, and now up to 9% of total hands won before the flop. That's where I like to be. Anytime I can play a ring tournament with between 8 and 9 players per table more or less the whole way through, and still manage to win roughly 1 in 10 pots before the flop with preflop raises, that means that I am in my comfort zone. After starting off so poorly with preflop winning percentage, you can imagine the following four hours were pretty solid for me once I got a stack and started at least seeing some Aces and some medium pairs that I could do something with.

All the stealing I was doing eventually caught up to me a bit in the middle of Hour 6, as I had to lay down to rereaises on three consecutive steals I made over the span of about 10 minutes of real time. That sucked, and I fell from a high of 4th down to 10th place out of 18 players remaining. Once we got back to two full tables at 18 players left, the play tightened up somewhat for a bit, as everyone can smell the final table, and those big payouts near the end of the final table, although the funny thing about the 5050 is that even the payouts for the 2nd-to-last table are really only in the mid-hundreds and not anything huge like in the large FTOPS tournaments and things like that. So there is a lot of incentive to hold on a bit and try to let some other people bust, which was a great situation for me since I do not mind busting in 15th if it means I am taking a good chance of getting near the top positions for a final table run.

I busted a short stack when down to 17 players remaining on my second big suckout of the day, when I raised preflop with ATs, a hand that had been good to me in this tournament so far, and ended up feeling priced in to call his allin reraise due to our relative stack sizes even though I figured it was likely I was behind:

This was of course was huge, as it would have put a huge dent in my stack had I lost as I should have. But given the 7 or 8 suckout eliminations I take every goddam night on full tilt alone, I more than have this shit coming to me. And you never heard me say you don't have to get lucky to win a big mtt. You always have to get lucky along the way to win a big mtt, lucky in all its various different forms. Anyways this one took me right back up to 5th of 16 players left. I of course would not at all make this call if I had been in a better chip position here, but being that I was getting shortish myself in 10th of 17 left, and given that I want to win this entire thing if possible, it seemed like the right call to make at the time. Obviously I was wrong, but it worked out for me and full tilt can lick my balls.

I was dealt my first premium pair of the entire tournament a short while later when I found KK in middle position and then a shorty pushed allin ahead of me with what turned out to be A9o:

Huge. Can you imagine if I had actually gotten good cards in this thing? Anyways, this hand vaulted me all the way up to 2nd of 15 left, and I was feeling in good position to make the run I knew I had in me after my recent successes in the 5050 tournament format on both full tilt and pokerstars:

At the very end of Hour 6, A9o pushed into my AKs, which I of course called and it held up once again, sending me into the 6th break in first place of 12 players left:

Boooooom! I was starting to be able to taste the big cash in this one. I took that sense of optimism right into Hour 7, but quickly I ran 99 into a shorty's AA:

What can I do here? He is so short, and though you can't see it from the above screenshot, I have over 350k in chips to start this hand, so it's almost impossible for me to lay down 99 here. And hey, I have to get my seven runs into pocket Aces out of the way at some point every night, right? Luckily with my large stack size this one didn't hurt to bad, though man does it chafe my ass to run good hands into Aces as much as I do.

All the while, I am still betting and raising every single Ace I see, especially now down to 6-handed at my table and with the blinds at 4k-8k and the antes at 1k at this point. There's just no other choice with every pot already as big as it is even from the start of the hand.

I got back into 1st of 10 players remaining when I was dealt AA -- my second (and last) premium pair of the entire tournament, and I raised it up from middle position to my standard raise at the time. RoothlusJr across the table -- yes the original movemaker guy I had clashed with some three hours earlier -- reraised me the full size of the pot. I opted to just move allin at this point -- in retrospect I suppose I could have done my smooth-call-the-reraiser thing with AA and then pushed any flop, but at the time I just had a picture of him outflopping me and I didn't feel like having to suffer through fading a bunch of outs with 5 cards to come on the board. So, I just pushed allin there with my large stack against his large stack, and he reluctantly folded what I bet was 99, TT or maybe AK or more likely AQ. This left me with over 400k for the first time, and as I said I was back to a small chip lead with just one elimination left before the final table.

Maybe 10 minutes later of final table bubblage, and I had made the final table, my fourth final table in the full tilt 5050 and my second in 13 days, this time with me in fucking first place heading in:

Now, as I've written about quite a bit after my two recent final table runs in the 5050 on both full tilt and stars, my strategy at the beginning of a large mtt final table is to switch gears a bit from the bubble that has just ended, and to try to preserve a bit. The money payouts start really ramping up after a few people are eliminated at the final table, so there is every advantange to letting some of the short stacks push and hopefully bust out early. This is all the more true when I have a big stack, and can reasonably believe that by taking things slow for a bit I can still be left with a nice stack after a few people have been eliminated. If I am on a short stack at the final table, I am generally looking to gamble it up as soon as I can to try to get in there and give myself a chance to build a stack to last to the big money positions at the end, but otherwise with a big stack like I had early on Monday morning in the 5050 final table, I planned to reign it in a bit.

In this regard, here was an easy fold with a small pocket pair and the chip lead for me:

Why bother, right? Why give up chips and probably my chip lead when I know I'm going to have to fold to probably an allin c-bet from my opponent 7 out of 8 times I see this flop? Not even to mention the three players still to act behind me. Easy fold in this spot.

Similarly, here was another easy fold I made early at the final table with the chip lead:

No way I'm risking basically my entire chip position with that shitty hand. I love the preflop raise from me, but laying it down here is really the only option. Is he pushing in this spot with A9? I think not. Would you?

Here was another big fold I made, this time of AJs, early at the final table:

With hindsight, I would have won this pot and busted the two final table shorties in the process, but from a philosophical perspective, I will lay down AJ against two players giving action before the flop when I am early that the final table with a nice stack any day of the week.

After the two shorties were eliminated by other players at the table, I managed to knock out the 7th place player when he pushed his short stack allin with presto, and I made the obvious call with my pocket 9s:

And here was the new leaderboard after I eliminated 7th place, with me solidly in 2nd place out of 6 remaining:

A few hands later the overdonkish extreme move-making CIGSnBEER made an allin call with the mighty allin-calling hand of 33 to lose his chip lead for the last time. I was still sitting in 2nd of 6 after this hand, but that right there is a guy who does not know how to play a big stack at a final table, because calling another big stack's allin with your 33 is not the answer.

At the 7th break I was in 3rd place of 6 remaining:

By this point in time, I am steal-raising with every Ace, mostly all pocket pairs, every King with a decent kicker and many connector hands as well, all whenver the action has not been opened in front of me, and sometimes where a stealer in steal position has raised it up already as well. As I've said several times here, there is just no other choice with the blinds at 12k-24k and the antes at 3k per hand. Of the last 6 players remaining, the Ms ranged from roughly 5 to roughly 9, so everyone was short and nobody was particularly extreme on one side of average or the other.

Early in the final hour of play, I reraised a stealer from the cutoff with my TT, and he called for all his stack with AK. The flop did have an Ace, but it also had this:

And 6th place was gone, just like that. Big race wins are always going to be a part of any final table run as well, there is just no way to avoid that, especially in the online world where final table Ms are so low and blinds are so comparatively high. So here I take a nice chip lead into 5-handed play, with my eyes on that $10,960 first prize. And I took one step closer to that big payday when on the very next hand, someone's KK eliminated the 5th place player's A4o, and we were down to 4, with me still in first.

Here was another easy laydown with me holding a slight chip lead and a hand I did not want to go to war with, though I liked my preflop raise:

Same thing here, with another low pocket pair that I liked my aggressive move with but I am not getting it allin with given all the things I've had to say about calling big bets with small pockets in big spots:

I will say this again and again and again, but final table survival to me is as much about what you lay down as what you play. Notice I'm not saying that I don't play aggressive poker, but that when someone puts you to the test and threatens to get your entire stack involved in a hand, it is more crucial than any other time late at the final table to only play big pots with big hands.

About 15 minutes into the final hour, I knocked out the 4th place player on a 6-outer suckout I hit at the river. This was the one hand in over 7 hours of play that I know I misplayed and misplayed badly, but what can I say. I sucked out three times in nearly 8 hours on my way to a big tournament win. I got sucked out on plenty, but I always had the chipstack to withstand it and I consistently put myself in a position to take advantage of the good luck when it came to me by not getting involved in big pots in bad sitiuations all throughout the tournament. Anyways, in this key hand I called movemaker RoothlusJr's preflop raise with my K8s, a move I would make again in this position given what a crazy raiser he had been for the past four hours since I first sat with him shortly after midnight in the 5050. The flop came all unders, plus it gave me an inside straight draw as well. When he bet out on the raggy flop, I read him for a weak hand, so I raised him allin, and he called me, showing me top pair and an inside straight draw:

That right there is one big bad misread by me. And this was one big bad relief:

Boooooooooooom!!! Like I said, I cannot recall ever having a final table run in any of the big tournaments I have won or cashed big in that did not involve a few suckouts along the way, and in fact offhand most that I can remember even included one suckout at the final table itself. So I'll take it here, I knew I wasn't pushing with no outs, even though I didn't have as many as I had thought, and I hit my 6-outer on the end. Basically it was just under 5 to 1 to hit when we got it allin on the flop, and I hit it. Good for me. Fuck you full tilt for all the 6-outers I have lost to in my day. I consider us 1% of the way to even now. Anyways this put me way out in front with just 3 players remaining in the 5050, with 1.2 million in chips to movemaker CIGSnBEER's 645k and fellow movemaker PrahladF's 470k. I had a huge chiplead, and I swear at this point I just knew this thing was my tournament to win. I was not going to give up this chiplead without having the goods.

So I laid this one down, though I did think about taking the race with my huge stack and a chance to basically seal the deal:

Obviously though a good laydown by me I decided. Just no reason to race here. And then over two consecutive hands, Prahlad caught CIGS stealing with T7s, and then CIGS lost again for the rest of his then miniscule stack with Q9o, and suddenly we were down to heads-up. Just me and Prahlad, with whom I had tussled for the better part of 90 minutes or so in this tournament a couple of hours earlier. I had put some moves on him so he knew I was capable of doing a lot of shit at the tables, and I was determined to make use of that image whenever the opportunity presented itself. The chipstacks heading into hu play were 1.3 million for me to 913k for Prahlad:

In the end, we played I think just five hands heads-up, before this crucial situation developed. I picked up AK, obviously a superb hand for heads-up play. The first to act had raised almost every pot so far in hu action, so I put in a not-too-large raise to kick things off because I did not want to lose him with my AK here:

He called, and I flopped top pair on a K22 board. This was an extremely friendly flop for my AK, basically with me only fearing a 2 in his hand, which was extremely unlikely given his call of my preflop raise. So I went and bet the full pot here, something I had not been doing at all during the tournament, as my c-bets usually tend to be closer to 2/3 the pot than the full pot. I was hoping Prahlad would be observant enough to have picked up on this, or maybe that he also had a King and might want to play this one for all the marbles anyways:

Again, Prahlad called my bet. I just couldn't put him on a 2, although this did make me think it possible that maybe he held some kind of middle pocket pair, or ideally another King. So, I felt there was only one thing to do on the turn:

Yep. Check it. Avid readers here will know that I love this move. Make like I stole preflop and tried a c-bet on the flop, but that once I got called on that flop bet I am now shutting down my attempt to steal this pot with air. To my dissasisfaction, Prahlad did not take the bait and he checked behind as well on that turn. Dammit. The river brought a harmless Jack, and here was where I considered my options. I figured there was not much chance of Prahlad thinking that the Jack specifically had helped me. I figured whatever he had called me with preflop and especially on the flop might be enough for him to think he was good. If he had the medium pocket pair or more likely the King I thought he had, I figured he would be likely to call any bet from me here at the river, thanks in large part to my turn check as well which, even though he did not take the bait, I reasoned he still would have to assign some meaning, some significance to me having done. So I took the better part of 10 seconds or so before just moving it allin here and praying for the call from Kx or 77 or something like that:

He did call, and I had won the full tilt 50-50 tournament!!

And here was the setup hand that I would not have gotten away from if I were him either, I am sure:

And there you have it:

Woooohoooooooo!! And let's not forget this window, separate from the final board because I have to admit I do love the way it looks just sitting there all alone, naked, just waiting to be taken advantage of:

BOOOOOooooooooooooom!!! And I am excited to report that this now becomes my biggest ever single online win, eclipsing by about $1600 my win of the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament a couple of Aprils ago. It is actually the first time I have won 5 figures in one sitting, and for a $50 buyin you're not gonna get much better than winning nearly 11 grand over 8 hours of play. It was a unique run in its own way for two key reasons I would say. First, I definitely never recall winning 0% of hands preflop over the first 80 minutes of any tournament I have ended up winning a good deal of money from. Absolutely never. That is an amazing turnaround in its own right. And I've had tournament wins where I got shit cards basically all the way through -- that party 40k comes to mind in fact as I recall -- but probably never to this degree in the first hour, and really for the entire first two hours before recording a single pot of any significance. And the other thing was the three big suckouts I recorded on my way to victory. I've always sucked out along the way and maybe if I review my other tournament wins I will see that this is not much different, but I think all three suckouts were dominated-type of hands where I was roughly 20% or less to win when the money got in, and the fact that I won three of those hands on the way to taking down over $10,900 in cash money is still trying to work its way through my tired, aching brain cells this morning. Like I said, I slept a grand total of maybe 30, 40 minutes tonight, as believe you me, it is fucking hard-ass work to try to jump right to sleep after completing a run like this and winning this kind of cashish. As usual I will have some more to say about this in the coming days, but for now I am going to get this post up for you guys and call it a day for the blog. I still can't believe this as I sit here now finishing this post up, I really can't. Check it out one more time to make sure this shit is real, willya?


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Blogger Chad C said...

I literally just made "KOF" up on my blog about you seconds before this post came up!

Good to see your recent success in these, I contribute it to your loosening up call range on button raises when blinds shove. The re steal out the blinds is perhaps the most over used weapon in poker these days and I would call that shove with A8 soooooted there any day of the week! Laying down AK was also huge on the final table. There are not many players (.9% of bloggers) who can fold AK, that was a spot I also think you have to as well.

Most impressive of all is winning this thing on a Sunday when it is donk city on line. There are so many land mines on Sunday, it is just ridiculous anymore! Too bad you will never win a Mookie though :( Unfortunately you have to many moves and play to well to ever earn a win in one of those. Unless you get AA and KK 38 times you will never win one, sorry :(

1:30 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Hey at least this is actually one tournament win that I would not trade for a Mookie win. First time I've said that in about 18 months!

1:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to fucking go Hoy!

Awesome victory my friend.

Great write up and outstanding poker play man.

1:38 AM  
Blogger lj said...

omfg -- congrats!!!!! great job! i love the recap and hopefully this takes away the pain of work tilt for at least a little while. :-)

1:42 AM  
Blogger l.e.s.ter said...

Congrats! Great win. I don't know why you're even hesitating over quitting your job and going pro. Doesn't Full Tilt offer health insurance now, too?

1:43 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

Congrats man! Very well done.

2:00 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

Congrats Hoy!

2:01 AM  
Blogger katitude said...


BOOOOOOOOOM indeed, lol!

2:03 AM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

lots a booooooms in that post; but they are all well deserved, congrats.

2:28 AM  
Blogger jusdealem said...


2:32 AM  
Blogger Buddy Dank said...

Nice job sir!

err..can I borrow 5 bucks?

2:33 AM  
Blogger Donkette said...

Way To To!!!! There's not a doubt that you are truly a great player. As I've said so many times in the past "My money is on Hoy"

2:37 AM  
Blogger mookie99 said...

Congrats! How much of a distraction is it to screenshot all those hands like you do when you go deep in an MTT?

2:37 AM  
Blogger GaryC said...

Congrats bro, well deserved win. Great job.


2:48 AM  
Blogger CEMfromMD said...

Fantastic Job Hoy. Way to take the 50/50 down!

2:49 AM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

Great, great job Hoy. Amazing. You should use the money to satelite your way into a WSOP event.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Drinks on Hoy! Congrats.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Brilliant - and it all comes down to Presto is Gold at just the right time ...

2:53 AM  
Blogger Corron said...

Nice win. its sick that you beat a well known pro too...

2:57 AM  
Blogger Schaubs said...

Nice work.

Time to turn pro... JKJK

well done.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Irongirl01 said...

Well Done Sir!!

2:59 AM  
Blogger PokahDave said...

Congrats! Blammmmmooooooooooooo!!!

3:07 AM  
Blogger donkeypuncher said...

Wow. Very well done!

3:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Maloney said...

Congrats Hoy! Good recap, too.

Now you just have to win the Mookie before you can be considered a 'real' poker player.

3:35 AM  
Blogger BadBlood said...

Wow, good on you Hoy. Super-level congrats on this one.

3:41 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

Mike Maloney said...

Congrats Hoy! Good recap, too.

Now you just have to win the Mookie before you can be considered a 'real' poker player.

God I hope that is sarcastic! Hoy, if/when you ever win a Mookie I will lose all respect for your MTT abilities....... Unless of course you are drunk and all in 290 times, I can accept a win under those circumstances only!

3:41 AM  
Blogger TripJax said...

Tell the truth, you chopped it 180 ways.

Fushizzle Hoy. Get some sleep dude.

3:46 AM  
Blogger 4dbirds said...


3:48 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

Great work Hoy! are you planning to write your own strategy book on MTT's? Congrats!

3:56 AM  
Blogger cmitch said...




4:00 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Great work Hoy. That's an awesome win obv and a great write up to boot.

4:02 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

KOF means monkey in Hebrew so you need something else :-)

I love how you set a goal to cash in MTTs and you are blasting that goal away. Awesome Job!

I have a question about the laydown with TT. When you raise there, do you think ahead of time about what you would do if he jams on you like he did? Or if one of the blinds jams behind you? I think that is something I need to develop personally because a lot of times I just think about his image and the fact that I have Tens. If you do think ahead, does that change the amount you re-raise him? Smaller amount in case he jams? Larger amount to show him you mean business? Just trying to pick your brain a bit there. I totally agree with your logic about the laydown. Not sure if I can make that kind of laydown at that stage.

Once again - awesome job - 20k Month. And a short month, too.

4:09 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Truly a wonderful score, KOF. Not much more I can add, but you're definitely well on the road for most $$$ won by bloggers this year.

4:12 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...


you're murderin' it! well done Hoy. vn cash.

4:15 AM  
Blogger spritpot said...

Very nice score...and a killer writeup as always. Not sure what I would have done at work this afternoon without this lengthy/detailed post!

Good ole A of spades to the rescue in that AT vs AK hand! Personally I would have called the shove for VALUE, A of spades never loses!

4:22 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Why not pile on late?

Slammo blammo, Hoy. What a great score. Well done.

5:07 AM  
Blogger RaisingCayne said...

I'm green with envy... CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Awesome write up too. Enjoyed it, thank you!

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done sir, well done. Only a matter of time.

6:16 AM  
Blogger emptyman said...


6:25 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Wow! Well done sir.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Evy said...

Amazing run, Hoy!!!! Seriously, I cannot tell you how impressed I am.


7:01 AM  
Blogger Gadzooks64 said...


7:43 AM  
Blogger Island Bum said...

Simply AWESOME. many congrats to you on your win.

8:07 AM  
Blogger 23skidoo said...

No way I'm reading all of that, but great job HOY!!!!!

8:44 AM  
Blogger Iak said...

you shoulda read it ski its a helluva story.

so fuckin sweet. nice work rockstah!

10:05 AM  
Blogger Francase said...

Daaaaammmmmnnnnnn..........nice job!

10:28 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

Congrats again! Fantastic job.

Keep it up and work tilt won't really be much of an issue any more!

10:40 AM  
Blogger aniguy said...

Very well done sir. I LOVE the write up...well ok, it has PIX!!!!

10:40 AM  
Blogger JL514 said...


Last time you made 10k in a week, i made 5k...

12:35 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Just getting off work so late to the game, but congrats sir. And thanks for the write up as well - so great to get such a detailed layout of one's thought process after a win like this.

12:40 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...


Much deserved congrats, Hoy.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Mr Subliminal said...


5:09 PM  
Blogger actyper said...

Wow, huge congrats!

8:54 PM  
Blogger crazdgamer said...

That's some fine work, sir.


9:36 PM  
Blogger BigPirate said...

Wow. I leave the internet for three days and this happens. Nice job!

10:24 PM  
Blogger Scrupboy said...


Nice run and a great write up. Also, thanks for making me stay an extra hour after work for wasting my work afternoon reading this nicely detailed period piece.


2:43 AM  
Blogger AVIGANOLA said...

Wow, Awesome news. Nothing like a nice score to help with the Work Tilt! Good job. Tony

4:39 AM  
Blogger Littleacornman said...

Congrats Hoy.Great write up as usual too.

2:57 AM  

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