Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FTOPS #14 Cash, and Playing Turbo

On Tuesday night I played and cashed in my first FTOPS event of FTOP VIII, which was FTOPS #14, the $216 turbo no-limit holdem event. The tournament featured 2140 runners, making for over 80 grand to be paid to first place, and payouts to the top 234 finishers.

Being that this was a turbo tournament, the strategy is basically completely different from any regular-speed event out there. If you recall from yesterday I was estimating that the cash arrives sometime before two hours is up, and this one held true to form. But given that you basically need to survive a very short, very quick tournament, the focus right from the getgo needs to be on doubling up fairly quickly. If you let yourself blind down from the 2000-chip starting stack to 1100 chips, then even if you double up at the end of the first hour, you are basically dead in the water. What I'm looking to do in any turbo event like this is to double up sometime in the first half hour or so if at all possible, and I will even take some chances or make some questionable plays to possibly get into such a situation if the conditions seem right.

About 15 minutes in to FTOPS #14, I got my chance as I was dealt pocket Queens utg. I raised and found one caller in late position, and we took a heads-up flop of Q54 rainbow. I had flopped the joint, with no reasonable draws available, so I checked my nuts since there was basically no card that could come on the turn that would scare me. He checked behind. The turn brought an awesome card for me, an Ace sooted to one of the flop cards, and this way when I bet about 90% of the pot I got quick-called by the late position player who obviously had an Ace. Then on the river, knowing my strategy is to double up early, I went for broke and pushed allin for my last 1200 or so chips into an 800-chip pot, and my opponent thought for about five seconds before calling with A9, having made two pairs on the river. Lucky card and lucky hand for me, which is exactly what I'm gonna need to make a run in any large turbo mtt.

Five minutes later I look down to find AA in the hijack (one spot to the right of the cutoff seat). The action folded to me so I put in my standard 3x raise to 240 chips, and the big blind reraised me 3x to 720, leaving himself just under 2000 chips behind. This is always an interesting situation, because of course with AA and especially in a turbo mtt I want to get it allin as early in the hand as possible, but I would hate to blow a guy off of JJ or QQ or AK with an allin reraise here. Knowing that this opponent had put in the last raise with his hand, I opted for what I usually like to do in this situation which is just the smooth call. Now, with over 1500 chips in the pot and just under 2k in his remaining stack, the odds are going to be quite high that he will c-bet here -- probably allin, if he has a clue -- regardless of what comes on the flop. He can't really put me on pocket Aces because of my smooth call of his preflop reraise, so if anything he likely has me on two high cards or a middle pair and going for the preflop takedown without any callers when I open-raised from the hijack. Anyways, once again things went exactly according to plan and my opponent pushed in half of his approximately 2000 chips on the all-rag flop, and I thought for a few seconds before raising him allin. He agonized, and then, shockingly, folded, sending over 3500 chips my way while leaving himself with just around 1000 chips remaining. Maybe he was just restealing with air all along, or maybe he had a hand like AJ and figured he was clearly behind my raising range here? In any event, this hand boosted me to 59th place out of 1780 players remaining, still at just 9:24pm ET.

In keeping with my hoped-for strategy coming in, these two early near-doubles were enough to put me in good shape for the rest of the first hour without any other large pots. I won a medium-sized pot when I called a shorty's button-push with my KTs and outran his A8s. I was dealt AA again at 9:46pm ET and took down the pot uncontested before the flop, at which point I was in 97th place of 1131 remaining. Otherwise, I won just two other pots in the first hour, both on preflop steals where I put in an open-raise -- in these two cases with 98o and with 62s -- from the back half of the table in situations where the stack sizes behind me were not so large nor so small that they were likely to want any action without being the first one in to the pot. This is a key feature of any turbo mtt, and really of any regular large mtt once you're down in the real end game -- with medium-sized stacks behind you, you simply have to be willing to steal some blinds and antes once they get big enough to be worth stealing, and it will be nearly impossible for anyone to survive deep into a tournament like this without habitually stealing in the right spots.

And by stealing in the right spots I don't mean raising utg with QJs at a full table just because the large big blind is going to be hitting your stack next hand. And I don't even mean stealing with A5s from 3rd position at a full table either. I'm talking about being on the back half of the table, no one else is in yet, and you open-raise from say the cutoff or the button. Notice I didn't mention what you hold in your hand, because it is simply not relevant. These are not value raises or even semi-value raises like one might argue the QJs or A5s raise I mentioned above could be. I am not talking about putting in chips because you think the hand you've been dealt has an expectation to win this pot in a showdown. I mean purely putting in raises based on position and position alone. Yes you need to be careful at some point lest it become obvious to everyone that you are literally raising with any two cards on your button or cutoff every single time the action folds to you, but if you let yourself get too cautious or play too scared, and you will have no chance whatsoever in a turbo mtt. None. Zippo. Not even if you get lucky with your starting cards. Not even Astin-lucky.

Anyways, at the first break I was happily still alive, sitting on 7280 chips and in 223rd place out of 675 remaining. Remember, the top 234 finishers were slated to receive payouts in this event, so I was getting close. And in the second hour of these turbo events, the blinds and antes are already starting off huge, so I looked for that number of 675 remaining to start dropping off fast right from the getgo in Hour 2.

It is fitting given all that I said above that the first three hands I won in the second hour of FTOPS #14 were all open-steals from the button or cutoff. I successfully stole pots in the first 20 minutes of Hour 2 with J5o and 87s from the cutoff, and with Q4o from the big blind. As I said, this is what it takes to survive in a large turbo mtt, and I got quite lucky in a sense here in that no one pushed back on any of these steals from the blinds, which would have forced me to either fold out 25% of my stack or to call allin with a crappy hand. So I lucked out there, as I did when I found AQs in the small blind and then the stally short stack on the button open-pushed ahead of me. I held up against his A3 and suddenly I was in 120th place of 390 remaining.

Then it was back to stealing. I stole a pot at 10:21pm with T6s, and then I open-raised from early position with A9o, a risky move that once again would put me in a terrible position of folding a big pot or calling off with a dominated hand if I got reraised, but as always I am looking to win this tournament, not to merely cash, so I wanted to take a chance at a time when people were already looking at the bubble and less likely to play when not first-in. It's amazing really when people start looking at the bubble in these big turbo mtts. It was 10:24pm -- a mere 84 minutes after the start of this tournament -- and you could visibly see people feeling the pressure of the bubble. The stalling among the short stacks was already in full force, and the medium stacks were agonizing over several decisions but invariably deciding to fold rather than risk a chance at cashing in a situation where they could be dominated or even racing.

At 10:26pm ET, I was in 146th place of 289 remaining, with remember 234 getting paid. In turbo mtt terms, this is reeeaaaaaal close, like minutes-away kind of close. People just cannot hold on to their stacks when the blinds advance as ridiculously fast and high as they do in a turbo format. It's really a fun format to play as long as you are fully comfortable stealing and restealing with nothing against weakness and pushing some perceived edges. A few hands later the action folded to me in the hijack and I figured I would really take advantage of the bubble pressure by going for another steal, this time with K7o. It's not a terrible hand, but again not something I am raising for value here, that's for sure. But at that point down to 255 remaining players and just 21 away from the cash, I figured no way any of the medium stacks behind me play without AK or a high pocket pair, and we all know the odds of that happening in a given hand to one of four players remaining behind me are quite low. So I raised it up, putting in about 25% of my stack once again thanks to the ridick blinds and antes, and mercifully I once again took it down. That bubble is a powerful beast, affecting the play of nearly everyone but the very large stacks as it grows ever closer to bursting.

At precisely 10:34pm ET, just 94 minutes after the cards went in the air, that moment arrived and the cash bubble burst, with me sitting in 136th place out of 231 players remaining. It felt nice to cash in the only FTOPS event I have played this time around, and having satellited in for one attempt at a $75 sng made it extra nice. As I pondered what I could do now to try to make my next big move to the top of the leaderboard now that the cash bubble was out of the way, I look down to find pocket Kings in the hijack, and before I could even process my good luck, I had a guy with a medium stack like mine push allin ahead of me from early position. Yes!

Of course I got it allin before the flop with him, and he flipped up I think pocket Tens. It was great, I was around an 80% favorite with my Kings, but alas it was not meant to be. He rivered (of course) a Ten and bested my Kings, my first bad luck of the tournament on the very hand after the cash was reached. Instead of being a top-25 stack of 200 players remaining, I was crippled to just over 2k in chips and within the bottom 20 players left in the tournament. I did manage to suck out myself and double up with 87o against someone else's KK, but coming from the chip stack I was at the time, it became exceedingly difficult to stay afloat and basically I was required to steal the blinds and antes more than once every orbit just to keep my stack from dwindling, which is the worst possible place to be in in a turbo event like this with very low Ms and quickly-accelerating blinds.

At 10:43pm ET, just nine minutes after the bubble burst, I was in 111th place out of 147 left, and really in a desperate situation blinds-wise and M-wise. With the 1600-chip big blind about to hit me on the very next hand, I pushed allin from utg with of all things the Hammer, and got called by one player in middle position. Any pocket pair above 7s would leave me severely behind, but instead my opponent flipped up AQ and I had some life, essentially with no different odds against his hand than if I were holding J6, two unders vs two overs which is somewhere in the neighborhood of the upper 30's percentage chance. It was a situation I preferred instead of blinding away a third of my stack on the very next hand, and then another quarter of the remainder on the next, not even counting the then 200-antes I think. Unfortunately, I was unable to spike a 7 or a 2 and I busted from the tournament.

In the end I was eliminated in 127th place out of 2140 runners, and had done so over an hour and 45 minutes of fast and furious action that you almost never seen on full tilt because they so rarely run the large turbo mtts. Personally, I loved this event and I hope they do it again next time the FTOPS comes around. Although I acknowledged yesterday and I mentioned it again here today that so much of survival in a turbo event comes down to getting those one or two big hands early, and in not pushing into someone with a big hand late. The luck factor increases measurably from your standard-format mtt where there is just much more time to wait for good cards and more play early when the stacks are relatively deep. But as I also mentioned in my post on Tuesday, this is a format that my game is very well-adapted for. Anyone who knows they need to focus on stealing more near the bubble and otherwise in the mid- and late-game should consider playing some of the many turbo satellites that full tilt runs on a nightly basis. They don't have quite the craziness of a large turbo mtt, but even those formats with fewer than 100 runners will still present any player with the opportunity -- really the necessity -- to steal the blinds repeatedly like it's your job. It's a very fun way to play poker, and like I said I really dig the turbo mtt format, and I'm not just saying that because I cashed.

Oh yeah if you're wondering, I made $492 and change for my 127th place finish in FTOPS #14. So not nearly deep enough to get to the big money, but like I said I'll take it for a $75 investment and for the result of the only FTOPS tournament I have played so far this time around. At the very least it's a nice confidence boost after a couple days of running bad, and will fund my playing a couple more of those 10:45pm ET mtt satellites for $109 into the FTOPS Main Event on Sunday afternoon at 6pm ET.

Congrats to Chippy McStacks whom I saw won the HOE Skills event on Tuesday. I believe that is two events won now for Chippy, so at least for one more day the upcoming BBT3 Tournament of Champions did not get harder and in fact grows one person smaller. With two wins by Chippy, two by corron and I believe three by Lucko, that should take the planned 55-person ToC down to 51 by my count. Who would've thunk it, 51 blogger donkeys playing in a freeroll where $28,000 will be awarded to the top 4 finishers. Awesome.

See you tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt for the Mookie (password as always is "vegas1"). I'm feeling kinda frisky today, so I am guessing maybe out in the first hour tonight for me after last week's rare final table appearance.

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Blogger yeaz said...

Nice you cashed in FTOPS#14 Hoy! I was railing you the other day in the MATH tourney and I saw you got phucked by a 2-outer on the flop. You didn't deserve such a finish IMO. Are you gonna play in more FTOPS events? If you will, good luck in all of them.


10:07 PM  
Blogger WildDuces234 said...

I know I read somewhere (A. Cunningham) it is better to Be forced Or move all in you blind as a short stack. you are going to be in the Blind in the following hand after your sirvival of the UTG hand. faceing the Big Blind in the next hand your more likly to be against ONE opponent. Move in UTG with ATC, even If you know you will be behind out of the BB with ATCs You may face MORE callers with the UTG move. THoughts?
I believe the best hand seeing your move will at least be called by the best hand, also pricing in any other hands after a Call from players infront of you.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Poker Brian said...

Congrats Hoy,

Just wanted to say reading your blog has immensly improved my game both live and online. Not being a homer, but please keep up all your insights, good for work days when i can't think of anything but playing.

10:49 PM  
Blogger actyper said...

I think I lasted 10mins in that thing!

11:50 PM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Congrats on a sweet cash, Hoy. I do think one of those avatars may be yours one day.

I also believe shoving ATC from UTG there is not optimal, just because you're likely to get called by a significantly wider range of hands in that spot (given stacks, etc.) Not that I wouldn't open up my range a lot, but I'd still need at least something like soooted 1-gappers, given that the next hand you stand a good chance of just being in a Button v. BB battle.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

How do you argue with pushing utg with the Hammer there? What am I supposed to do, fold the best hand in poker with the big blind coming right around the corner? Come on, live a little.

3:20 AM  

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