Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Atlantic City Tournament Report

Despite a driving rain that threatened to sap my will to drive for 3 hours each way to play a poker tournament in Atlantic City this weekend, I decided to press on with my decision to go on Saturday night, both out of my wanting to play live for the first time in a long time, and out of a real desire to get in at least one session of live poker play in between my two annual trips to the WSOP last summer and then coming up this June 25. Of course, getting the kids ready for the nighttime with Hammer Wife before I left took longer than expected, and on top of that I guess I had underestimated by about 15 miles how exactly far away AC was from my new house, so I ended up having to speed quite a bit just to get to the poker room on the 6th floor of Bally's with about 10 minutes to spare before the 8pm start time. Thankfully unlike many of the other rooms in AC, Bally's did not require me to present a Total Rewards card in order to register, which I would never have been able to procure in time for the tourney. Of course I am a Total Rewards member, having played in the WSOP for the past three years at Rio, another Harrah's property, but those cards are buried somewhere in my desk drawer and certainly not something I have at my easy disposal.

The last time I played a live tournament in Atlantic City, it was the Friday night event at the Taj Mahal sometime in the spring of 2008, which is admittedly a larger poker room than that at Bally's. But I have to admit, for $120 ($100 + $20) to buy in, I was completely shocked that only a grand total of 34 runners showed up to play. Even more shocking and disappointing was that Bally's decided to start us 34 runners on a grand total of just three tables. That's right -- they literally packed us in to three starting tables, playing 11-handed, 11-handed and 12-handed if you can believe that. Starting stacks were 15k, blind levels were 20 minutes, and blinds were 25-50 to start, basically doubling almost every round, with an ante kicking in for Round 4, with a break every hour. This setup is designed to have the tournament be entirely done by 12:30am or so, including choosing a structure that all but assures nothing but all-in preflop moves throughout the final table, with very few eliminations occuring during the first hour or so when blinds are tiny compared to the starting stacks, but then the last half of the field all getting knocked out over the span of about an hour as blinds climb in hours 3 and 4 to 1000-2000, then 2000-4000, 3000-6000 and 4000-8000 with average stacks of only ten times that or less as the final table hits.

I know I say this (to myself, and here in the blog) every single time I venture out to play live poker, but what the heck I'll just say it again here -- it is truly crazy how you can read people so much better at live poker as compared to online. And don't get me wrong, I always get a good chuckle from those people who say it's impossible to make reads in online poker, which of course is not only possible but an absolutely critical part of my and many of your online games out there. But when I'm playing live, it almost seems unfair, like there is too much information at my fingertips, being displayed too obviously for me to not notice and make use of. It doesn't take 15 or 20 minutes for me to start to form an idea of what each individual player around my table's profile is: tight or loose, weak or aggressive, skilled or unskilled, novice or old pro, etc. I just put everyone at the table into these categories very early when I sit down to play in a live event, and although of course I have to be open to revising my classifications based on new information as it comes in, for the most part those general reads do a very good job of dictating how I will play those people going forward.

So, for example, 15 minutes in to this tournament, with the big blind at 50 and 15k start stacks -- so an M of roughly 200 for each of the players around the table -- the old white-haired guy with the dark glasses across the way pushed allin on massive overbet on the flop, I immediately classified him as unskilled, willing to move allin with less than the nuts, and just generally impatient as far as his poker play goes. Everyone had folded to his raise so I never got to see exactly what he had, but it was a poor move no matter what he had, and I just filed that away to make use of hopefully in the right situation later at the table. A couple seats away from him was a guy in a hat, with the hebrew word "Torah" tatooed into his right forearm, who I don't think played a single hand for the first 30 or 40 minutes of this fast-paced tournament, so I basically knew he was a foldfoldfoldy type who would hold on to his chips like they were the last money on earth, and hoped I could take advantage of that with some big bluffs later on. And on the other side of the old white-haired guy was a young, internet-looking donkey who started off raising almost every hand and then betting the flop and the turn quickly and confidently, and we all kept folding. Early on I raised 65 suited from UTG (a favorite move of mine, in particular when the stacks are huge relative to the blinds), and he min-reraised from late position, which I just called along with one other played. The flop came down 932 with two diamonds, giving me the flush draw and the inside straight draw. I checked, and the young aggrodonk immediately bet the pot again. I considered calling or even raising with my big draw and a completely hidden hand since I had raised UTG, but from his behavior I had to put him on Aces or Kings. Even knowing that I had at least 12 outs, I figured I had close to zero fold equity given the way he was acting, so I folded to his aggression there, losing about 10% of my stack in the process. Not two hands later, this same young aggrodonk got called down on the turn and again the river by the guy two seats to my right in the hat and the hood, iPod in ear, bopping his head all night, and all the aggrodonk had was A4 unimproved. That was when I realized I was probably wrong to have folded my 12 out hand earlier, that the guy surely did not have Aces or Kings like he had been acting in that spot, but from that time on, once again the aggrodonk was marked by me as well as a guy I really wanted to get mixed up with again.

After dropping down to around 13,000 chips early on that hand with the aggrodonk, I stayed roughly in that same spot through rest of first hour, which was three rounds, through 100-200 blinds already. Maybe 2 or 3 hands before end of hour 1, I get JJ in early position. UTG, a chick who seemed very inexperienced and hadn't raised more than once all hour and who was sitting on a short stack of around 5000 chips at that point, bumped it up 3x. I figured my JJ was likely ahead of her range there (a questionable decision I think in retrospect), and I wanted that short stack of hers, so I took a chance and reraised to 5000 chips just to isolate here right there. My isolation worked, but she flipped up AA, and I had suddenly lost a big pot, leaving me at 8700 and near the bottom of the pack at the end of Hour 1, with 22 runners left of 34 who started at the end of three rounds. Time for a smoke break in the bar area.

It musta been the 2nd hand of Hour 2, out of nowhere I found the opportunity to play out the dream scenario back to back, two great hands against guys I just knew were itching to spew off some chips. First was a hand against the aggrodonk kid, who somehow had lucked himself into a nice stack again after leaving my table for a bit before returning just previously. I raised it up preflop with JJ from UTG, and the uberdonk called my raise out of late position (he called everything, with the plan to just push push push and get everyone else to fold), as did the small blind. The flop came down J high, and a dryass flop too, J73r I think, giving me the awesome top set on a totally not threatening board. The small blind checked. I thought about the aggrodonk and how much I have been waiting to get into a hand with him to let him bluff me off his chips and I went for the check as well. Aggrodonk obliged and bet out 2k into a roughly 3k pot at the time. The small blind folded, and I opted to just call after considering for a bit, remembering how readily and instantly the aggrodonk had led out on repeated streets earlier in the tournament, with what proved to be nothing more than Ace high in the past. The turn brought another 7, givin me the killer top boat, and this time I checked again, quickly, and the aggrodonk bet again, quickly, another 3k or so, a smaller bet proportionally this time. I thought for a longer time this time, debated raising, but ended up just calling again as I could just not see him failing to be the river as well based on what I had already observed during the first hour of play with him at my table. The river brought an ace, which I loved in that I hoped he had been playing another Ax type of hand, and I made my best dont-catch-me-looking-disgusted look before checking quickly again. This is one of my favorite spots in poker, when you have a big hand out of position, and you need to know whether it makes sense to lead out or to tie your opponent to the hand by letting him bet for you. In most situations, I will usually bet out here, given that I had already called his bet on the flop and the turn, and most people are not betting out again with less than the nuts on the river, but with this player, this is exactly what I had been waiting for since I had sat down and watched how this guy rolls, and I wasn't taking the easy way out here. I checked it, and he pretty quick threw another pile of chips out there, 6k this time, and I instacalled for my stack with the nuts except vs. quad 7s. I never even saw what the fonkey had, but I raked in a big pot and finally had the stack I was looking for just minutes in to Hour #2.

On the very next hand, I am now a very large stack at the table, and I was dealt T8suited in the big blind. Midway around the other side of the table, the old whitehaired guy minraised it to open. The action folded around to me, and I figure of coruse I'll call with suited semiconnectors here for just an idiotic minraise from a guy who's probably on a strong hand to be inviting action like that before the flop. The flop came down J99, giving me a nice hidden oesd, but the board was paired so I couldn't exactly be positive I was ahead, although I did feel that his preflop minraise indicated a strong hand preflop, either AA-QQ or maybe AK. There was maybe 4k in the pot, I checked to his action, and he led out for 2k, with us both having myabe 25k behind. Assuming the odds were in favor of him not already holding a set, I figured I had 8 outs to the straight, with implied odds through the roof given how silly-like this dude overpushed for his entire 200 big blind stack during the first level of this tournament already. I thought briefly and just called his 2k bet. The turn brought a 7, completing my straight. Now the thought process changes. I want to stack this old bastard, he's shown himself to be overpushy already with his whole stack as leverage, and I think he might have a big pocket pair. I considered the option of checking to him and letting him bet, but I wanted him to be willing to get allin with me here and even a normal raise of his turn bet would not quite have gotten me allin in that spot, so instead I decided to lead out there like I had AJ or something and try to get him to overpush again. So I slid out 4000 chips into a 5k pot or so. And lo and behold, old whitehair insta-alins me. And I do mean insta. I had to wait to get clarification from the dealer before calling and flipping up my straight. Of course the guy did have AA of course (minraise preflop FTW, as I would fold my T8s for sho to any real-sized raise there). Suddenly I had about 35k and was chip leader or very close to it of the entire tournament, just two hands after sitting at close to a third of average.

I stayed around this level for quite a while. I played great poker, stole a number of nice pots, in particular from the tighty mctightlestein across the way who I knew was determined to fold his way to the final table and hope to get lucky like so many of the tightydonks in the poker world love to do. And I made some great decisions along the way with my big stack, including folding AK to a raise and a reraise preflop ahead of me, because I didn't feel like risking my whole stack with a one-pair type of hand when I knew I could be up against Kings or Aces already. Given the increasingly fast pace of the tournament during the second and third hours with respect to the Ms around the table, and given the big stack I had managed to amass early in Hour 2, I was able to coast fairly easily to the final table, my second straight live poker final table in Atlantic City, after failing to final table in probably my first 5 or 6 ever live casino poker tournaments.

I mentioned that earlier I had had the misfortune of pushing my JJ into a short stack's AA earlier in the event. This sort of stuff happened to me a few times at the final table and really hampered my ability to run over everyone else, which I surely would have done if my favored hands had held up throughout this thing. Players dropped out at the final table almost every single hand given the extremely small stacks compared to the blinds at that point in the event, and as I mentioned pretty much every elimination was occurring with two or more players allin before the flop. When down to six players, for example, I called the table shorty's allin with my AQo vs his T9s, and he promptly hit a Ten on the flop to take a nice chunk out of what had been a sizeable stack heading into the final 10 players. A short while later, down to five remaining, I also managed to iso-reraise the euro asshole at the other end of the final table, getting him to fold his hand preflop and leaving me heads-up against the super tightydonk guy who at that point (of course) was the table short stack with my A7s vs. his 65o. Again a 6 on the turn and I could not capitalize. Eventually I raised from middle position with 4 left and me holding 22 up against the same tightydonk again, who had about 25% of his stack in the pot with the antes and his big blind, and he surprised me by calling me down with his K7s. Again this effer promptly flopped a King, but for once while I was lamenting my poor luck with favorites at the final table, I spiked a 2 on the turn to stay alive instead of being severely short-stacked with 4 to play.

Down to three players remaining, I made far and away my worst decision of the tournament, and I'm still struggling to figure out quite why I did it. At this point, even after eliminating the short-stacked tightmaster a few hands earlier, those two 60-some percent favorites of mine that had failed to hold up at the final table still left me short stacked compared to the chip leader, with the euro dickhead across the way holding slightly more than my stack as well. So the euro dickhead, who is also therefore quite short compared to the chip leader, pushes allin for about 8 big blinds from the button, and I look down at A5o. Normally, I'm going to fold here. The top five spots in the tournament paid, so I was already in the money, and here there is just too great a chance that I am dominated or facing a pair higher than 5s where I too am in bad shape, and I know I should be folding this cheese in this spot. But nonetheless, I let the fact that he had been being quite a penis to the others at the final table, yelling and berating several other players while unknowingly making the exact same bone-headed plays himself at every turn, combine with the illogical thought that I was bound to win a 60-40 hand somewhere along the way here after losing a few in a row, and I managed to talk myself into believing that he has nothing, maybe just 2 decent cards, but likely not an Ace. Had I thought more clearly about it, I would have realized that, even if I had "caught" him pushing with a hand like KQo, or better yet, K7o, I still would be calling off my stack and a shot at first prize money ($1400 and change) on what could not possibly be more than a 60% or so favorite even if the guy held exactly what I was hoping he held. That's a bad call in my book and I wish I had folded there and lived to fight another day. But instead, on this night I called off my stack with my A5o, and of course the euro donkey who had shown bluffs and pushed with nothing all night long turns up AJo against me three-handed. I did not spike the 5 or the straight that would have so set this anus off, and IGH in 3rd place for a tidy $510 profit and change for about 4 1/2 hours of work.

In all, it was a very successful foray for my return to live casino poker tournaments. As I mentioned this leaves me now 2 for 2 in cashes and final tables in my last two casino poker tournaments, after never being able to reach the money in any poker tournament in a casino for a few years prior to last year's runner-up finish and $800-some win at the Taj. But most importantly, I had a fucking good time playing me some live poker, and I really excelled at reading my opponents and, up until we were 3-handed, in making good decisions all throughout the night. The whole experience has me super excited to head out to Vegas next month, even giving me solid expectations to perform well there for the third time in a row. After busting in two hours at the hands of a Joe Hachem river 9-outer suckout
in my first WSOP, the second year saw me cash in the shorthanded holdem event, and then last year I failed to cash, but lasted through about 80% of the field before finally succumbing to the pressure of the blinds and antes about 150 players before the money positions. Here's hoping the fourth time's the charm at the WSOP for me this year. If I play there like I did this weekend at Bally's, you just might be seeing me on tv yet one of these days. I'll be the dickhead with the mirrored glasses and the pornographic t-shirt turning up the hammer and creating waves early.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Nice recap, congrats on the ca$h.

8:25 AM  
Blogger jamyhawk said...

5/6/09 MOOKIE FROG DAY!!!!!


10:32 AM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

Good recap Hoy. Why Bally's?

It's not a bad poker room, but they don't get anyone anymore.

The Taj has too many regulars that collude, and the trop is filled with rec players and not too many tournaments.

Borgata has an 8pm tourney that usually gets anywhere from 100-300 and is a nice payday if you can wade through the crap.

Of course the Borg is famous for its 10-way chops.

11:45 PM  
Blogger OES said...

Booooom. Well played. I would have been fuming having to play 11 (and maybe even 12) handed. I am usually up for most structures...but playing with that many people would just eff with my head. Great recap!

3:24 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

FYI Riggs, I chose Bally's cuz they had an 8pm tournament and I was supposed to be meeting my brother at Caesar's anyways after he got out of the Seinfeld show.

I've never played a tournament at Borgata but I look forwad to it someday.

6:50 AM  

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