Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another 50-50 Final Table

So on Tuesday night, I final tabled the 50-50 again on full tilt. That is three final tables in a little over 3 weeks I think in that thing. I think I really am the King of Fifty, what can I say. Seriously though, I ended up busting out uncharacteristically for me at mtt final tables in 8th place, making the whole thing kind of anticlimactic as I only ended up winning a thousand and some dollars, while there was over 9k sitting there for the winner:

Often this kind of a loss hurts more than an early bustout. In the first- or second-hour knockouts, I never really have the time or the interest to get emotionally invested in that particiular ride on the roller coaster that is mtts. I bust, maybe I get sucked out on or maybe I just get outplayed, whatever, I stew for a couple minutes if that's my inclination, but then I move on to the next thing. Or go to bed. Again, whatever. Almost every one of my four final tables in the full tilt and pokerstars 5050 tournaments over the past month included me flaming out early and spectacularly in the other of that same night's 5050s, and plenty of nights even during this hot streak I've been on in mtts, I end up busting early from both of them. And that stuff just doesn't bother me anymore. But the late runs, the ones where I can literally sniff that muffled, dank odor of internet cash before it is all snatched away from me, those are the ones that can really tend to stick with me for a while.

And yet, right not it's just not bothering me at all. It's funny, about a week ago I had another deep run in the pokerstars 5050. I ended up busting out in 16th place out of 1100-some runners when I overbet-pushed K9o on a Q84 flop and got called by K8 for all my stack. I was short at the time and needed to make a move, and I had been overpushing with strong and weak hands alike for the past couple of hours. I was fine with it, despite a few bloggers who had been on the rail asking me how much that deep loss bothered me. I told a few readers on the girly or over email that busting in 16th there didn't feel bad in the least. Now I am feeling that same feeling today. Yes I busted out in a tremendous opportunity to win some more real cash, something which is inconsistent with my goals and is not characterstic of me in general, as I have tended to convert mtt final tables into solid scores far more often than busting early from the last table. But, I feel fine about it. In fact, I actually feel great about it, because it means I am still running good. And like I told my friends after that run to 16th in the pokerstars 5050 last week -- I know I will be back again soon, so no reason to fret over lost opportunity. I can feel it. I am feeling it right now, plain and simple.

So much of mtt's is about mental state. Being mentally prepared to actually wait for the good cards and the playable situations. Being emotionally able to recover quickly from the inevitable bad beats you will take over a several-hour affair. Being in the right mental state to make the 8th laydown over 2 hours when you've repeatedly been caught stealing. It is a delicate balance of playing consistently within these correct states of mind, combined with a fair amount of luck just to really spice things up, that it takes to make a deep run in a big mtt like these 5050 tournaments are every night.

I have to say, this year during my great mtt run here I have really gotten back in touch with something I had nearly completely forgotten, although now that I have re-learned it I can very clearly remember learning and knowing this about myself a year or two ago: my greatest mtt strength is easily the late-game stage when everyone can sense the final table being close and when the Ms start getting silly for everyone. That is, the period from, say, 10% or so of the original players remaining all the way down to the final table. This is what I call "Push Time". By Push Time, basically every online mtt including even the better-structured 5050 tournaments is already in preflop push mode, where certainly any resteal or reraise will automatically commit most players left in the event, other than maybe the people at the very top of the chain. Push Time is an environment where my playing style and poker insticts really flourish.

Once you're down to that final 10% or so of the starting players, the game changes entirely. The first few hours of a big online mtt are to me all about survival. I mean yeah you need to accumulate somewhat during this time period, at least near the end of it, or you will be 100% at luck's whim as to whether you can last even a short while in Push Time. But once you get to Push Time, especially in the last half or third of Push Time when you're down to four tables, then three, and then two, suddenly the game is no longer about waiting for the good cards, not letting people outdraw you on later streets and things like that that are the absolute focus of early-tournament poker in all these online (and live) mtts. By the latter stages of Push Time, I almost never want to see a flop unless I have AA or maybe KK, and I really never want to see a turn or river unless I am holding the nuts or got there for free without a made hand. The focus changes entirely from calling behind four limpers with 98s 20 minutes in to the 5050, to instead down to two tables left and reraising a late-position open-raiser allin with your A7s and hoping your move is strong enough to get the other guy to lay down when there's just a few bustouts left before the final table. And that's the kind of move I will make too -- I don't mind in the least missing the final table by two spots, if it means I took a sensible gamble for a big stack or bust. Of course, keeping true to the "sensible" part there is important, but if you think about my recent success, I'm not limping to the final table with a distant last stack and little to no chance of the big money. I would rather not play from that situation, so I will make moves into unopened pots before my stack gets to that point if at all possible, and again I don't mind busting in 16th place or 11th place if I liked the gamble I took that eventually got me busted. It's a powerful feeling to know that most of the other guys at your 6-person table with 12 left in the 5050 are just desperately trying to hold on so they can say they made a final table, while I know that I don't mind gambling it up here in the least as long as I'm being smart about it. I hope you all get to feel that way someday.

Because there are so many moves being made, so much of Push Time for me comes down to poker instincts. Is that guy trying to steal from the cutoff again, or does he want a call? Did that extra delay he took before making the bet indicate strength or weakness? Does that particular raise amount suggest that my opponent wants (expects) me to call? What does that mean about his hand? These are the kinds of questions that I am focusing on almost exclusively starting maybe halfway or so through Push Time. Sure if I am lucky enough to pick up AA or AK I know how to play it strong, but otherwise my poker efforts are dedicated entirely to reading the other players and getting as good a feel as I can for how they do their thing late in the game. And as I've mentioned here many times, I am positive that one of my greatest late-game strengths is my ability to lay down a hand if a raise or reraise tells me I am beat, even if I have invested a fair proportion of my stack in the pot to that point. It's all about feeling when I'm ahead and feeling when I'm behind. And the thing is, there's just no way to get to the final table without finding your way through quite a lengthy Push Time period that is in my view mostly instinct-driven if played optimally. In a tournament like either of the nightly 5050s on pokerstars or full tilt, you're going to get down to 100 players left probably a good 3 hours before the tournament ends. Probably half your total time in an online entire tournament will take place in Push Time if you make it to the end. And it's a place where I survive almost entirely on my instincts, which have helped me to get to my fair share of final tables and deep runs even where I didn't have a big stack at some point with say 5% of the starting field remaining.

Anyways, Push Time and even the period before Push Time where stealing and restealing start to become the norm, that is where my bread and butter is. I used to know this. I remember thinking about it, and I'm sure I could find myself writing about it here at the blog too sometime over the past couple of years. I just need to remember that my biggest goal in these large online tournaments is to get through the first three hours with a playable stack. Average, below average is even fine as long as I have enough chips to create some action with. Within reason, with almost any stack size I turn into a real threat to make a move once we are into Hour 4 and the blinds and antes are really cranking it up to sick levels. Sickly high blinds and antes is where I thrive the most. I just need to find a way to remind myself of that when I am mired in the inevitable losing streak that is doubtless on its way.

Now tonight I'm going to find a way to channel this knowledge into a Mookie win. Oh and congrats to Mr. Smokkee himself for winning last night's PLO Skill Series tournament in huge fashion and nabbing the latest BBT3 ToC seat. Could not have happened to a nicer guy.

See you tonight for the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt (password is "vegas1")!

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Blogger cmitch said...

Nice job of making it to another 50/50 FT. KOF!! KOF!!

Maybe this will carry through to a mookie win tonight. GL

10:20 PM  
Blogger Donkette said...

Job well done!

10:48 PM  
Blogger lj said...

congrats on another deep run. lol at your hh memory -- not that it matters much, but you had KTs in that $50k on stars. :-)

11:00 PM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

Nice run in the 50!

it is funny to watch contrasting styles you and Lucko exhibit at final table on same evening.

11:59 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...

Congrats on another strong performance in the 50/50!


12:29 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Damn, Hoy, very nice. I might have to save my "Congratulations" comment so I can copy and paste it every time you final table the 50/50. Keep it up!

1:18 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...

anotha 50/50 final table eh.

you should just give up on the mOOk and play 50/50's all night. getting donkey punched for the umpteenth time in the mOOkie might affect your play in the 50/50's.

GL 2night!

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i highly recommend playing internet poker at one of the many free poker sites first in order to hone your skills before you potentially lose all your money!!

11:31 PM  

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