Friday, June 12, 2009

Coming Up For Air


So let's recap:

1. Yes, I am still alive.

2. No, I did not throw myself off a bridge after bubbling the BBT4 Tournament of Champions last Sunday night.

3. Work has been all-encompassing this week, just about the worst it's ever been for me as far as having my life taken over by my job. Due to various conditions and circumstances, I ended up taking on a boatload of work over the past couple of weeks, the end result of which as they all came together and were suddenly due at the same time, has been me getting into my office before 7:30 in the morning, staying around 12 hours, driving home and taking just enough time to scarf down a quick dinner before jumping right back on the pc and continuing right where I left off at home. Stay up until all hours of the morning trying desperately to finish everything that needs finishing before the next day in the office, and then rinse and repeat the next day. Every day this week, I've spent more than 16 hours struggling to get through everything that needed to get done, and it's only sometime today that I've had any chance at all to come up for air.

I thought while I'm free for what is sure only to be a momentary break, I would jump on here and let everyone know what's what.

Some other thoughts to share before I dive back down into the depths:

First off, my bust from the ToC last weekend. What can I say about it. I don't like the play I made calling off the rest of my stack with AT on the QT4x board down to 5-handed in the tournament. I've gotten a bunch of emails and girly chats about the play, so for the record I am here saying that, with a little hindsight, I don't like the play I made and I think the better play would have been to fold and wait for a better spot, especially given what was at stake.

But that's not to say that I can't explain making that call. I know exactly why I made the play that I made. It really comes down to two things: Hand Ranges, and frustration.

Let's take them in reverse order. As I tried to capture in my live blog of the event, I ran like Zeus and Jupiter rolled into one during the first 90 minutes of the ToC. I was dealt AA and KK once each, getting paid nicely with both as I recall, but the real story had to do with my draws. I must have hit three flushes and two straights, most of them on the turn, during the first hour and a half of the ToC. With the massive 5000 starting stacks that Al was able to secure for us for the ToC, the implied odds of chasing almost any reasonable draw are huge, and on top of that, you bloggers were not making properly-sized bets to price me out of chasing even from a pot odds perspective. I remember calling a couple of 2/3-pot bets on the flop with naked flush draws early in the tournament, knowing that I have more than enough pot odds to see two more cards if my opponent did not bet again on the turn, and knowing the tremendous implied odds if I could get paid off (and I did often). At least once, I chased an oesd on the flop by calling a bet of just half the pot. I mean, if there's a draw on the board and you're out there leading out for just half the pot, you damn well better have a set, or you are making a downright bad play. Even with a set it's probably a bad play since you can lose if that draw fills on the turn or river, but it's defensible with a set. But if two of a suit flop, or two high cards flop, and you're betting half the pot, you are just asking to get called by a draw and then end up paying if you actually had a hand when the flop came down.

So for 90 minutes in the ToC, I called every bet on the flop with every draw just about, and I swear I must have filled every single draw I saw, and I got paid time after time after time. It was without a doubt the only time I ran good in the entire BBT4, and I was lucky enough to have that happening in the Tournament of Champions, with $24k in free prizes at stake for the winners. I floated lucko on a steal attempt with my K2s and managed to flop trip 2s. I raised from early position with sooted connectors, and I flopped the flush. It was sick. I ran like god, and we all know how easy poker can be when you are running godlike. So that was me for an hour and a half at the ToC, and I quickly amassed a solid chip lead while probably eliminating a full ten bloggers along the way.

And then, poof! It was over.

For the last 2 hours and 40 minutes in the Tournament of Champions, I got no hands. Zero. I mean, I didn't see a premium pair, I didn't see a single pocket pair at all in fact, and I did not receive AK, AQ or AJ even one time during that span. Once we got down to about 20 players left or so in the ToC, my cards were finished. I still managed to win a couple of nice pots, but even those required me to make very marginal calls with very marginal hands and in both instances I got lucky to get in ahead. Once was the hand against F-Train somewhere down to the final two tables, when I called his allin reraise preflop for about 10k when I had raised originally from the cutoff for around 2k, and I flipped up the very dominatable A9o. Lucky for me, F-Train was sitting on A8o, and my kicker played and I got another elimination. On another occasion also down to the last two tables, I called another short stack (mostly everyone was a short stack compared to me almost all the way through this thing) with just top pair and a Jack kicker, and ended up being up against top pair with a lower kicker for another nice jump and another knockout from the ToC. But that was all I had going for me with the cards I was getting, and that only got worse and worse as we got down to fewer and fewer players left.

So, by the time I made that fatefull allin call with second pair top kicker at the final table, you have to put yourself into my shoes to understand how I could make an ill-advised call like that. I hadn't seen any hands for about 150 minutes. I was stealing like a banshee, but I had no cards. None. Nada. And it sucked. And those of you who play a lot of poker know how it is -- when you've been looking at a steady stream of 84o and J3o and Q6s for the past two and a half hours, forced to fold to raise after raise after raise from the big stacks at the table, and watched your own stack dwindle to less than half what it was at one point an hour or so earlier, and suddenly you pick up ATs, it looks like the stone nuts. I raised preflop with it, the first time I had had a hand when I raised before the flop in hours, and the table big stack called. The flop came QT4, so I caught second pair with top kicker, and I bet out again. actyper called. When the turn brought a rag (I think -- too lazy to look back at the screenshots at this point), actyper suddenly led out allin for about 3 times what I had left behind.

And this is where my second explanation comes into play -- hand ranges. I'm playing hand ranges here. That's what I always do. I did it when I called F-Train's allin with my A9, reasoning that he might push any Ace, any two face cards and any pocket pair there, and I got lucky. When I called the allin on the flop with my QJ on the Queen-high flop and ended up being up against Q9 or whatever it was, same thing. All I can do is put a player on a range of hands, given the way he or she has played a given hand from the moment the player first decided to voluntarily put money into the pot, and then I make my decisions based on that hand range.

So when actyper pushed so strong there on the turn, the first thing that went through my head was that he must be weak. As it turns out, this was a testament to how well actyper played the hand, because he sent me the absolute wrong message about the real strength of his hand, and I bought it. Partly because he played it real well, and partly, I am sure, because of the frustration of not having seen a good hand for 150 minutes. But in my head when I made the call, I figured I was sure he would push allin there so quickly with just about any Ten, possibly a few draws, and of course anything better than those hands. But any Ten and a draw were in my view squarely in actyper's range of hands to be pushing like he did there, again especially in light of him not having let me lead out again on the turn before check-raising me allin. So, my analysis of the hand ranges involved led me to believe that I was ahead of a significant part of his range, and drawing to probably five outs to another big portion of the hand. And looking at the chips in the middle, the percentage of my stack already involved, and the pot odds of calling off the rest of my chips, my analysis of the hand ranges led me to make the call. Turns out he had flopped a set of 4s, and IGH in 5th place.

Of course, in retrospect I can easily take a different view of actyper's actions in the hand. Here he has a significant chip lead with 5 players left, two of us set to win 10k to play in the WSOP this summer, and actyper called my preflop raise, called my bet on the flop, and then led out allin when a rag fell on the turn. Now, are those really the actions of someone with a weak hand? I mean, is actyper really gonna risk that entire huge stack he has amassed, at a time when he can pretty much just sit and wait this out for a while before having to make a move? I'm not so sure as I look at it now, with a lot more time and perspective to really review everything. But I have detailed notes on actyper, and generally I show him as an aggressive player who would much rather be the one pushing than the one calling, and at the time, all I can say is that I felt his range included enough hands that I was ahead of or was drawing to beat that I felt it was the right decision to make the call. Of course, in retrospect, seeing what he had, of course I wish I had just folded. But I really didn't want to be in last place of 5 players remaining, and I certainly didn't want to give up a bunch of equity in the pot against a guy who I could easily see at the time pushing with a bluff because he would expect me to fold rather than go out on the bubble. My sense knowing how actyper plays a little bit is that most of the people I've spoken with don't get my point about hand ranges, but I think that call was a lot closer than most of you out there is my guess. Still, I think in retrospect it is a call I would not make again, and one I wish I had not made on Sunday night.

So congratulations to actyper and to jj for taking down the 10k seats. I firmly believe that jj owes it to us as a community to come out for the $1500 WSOP event on Saturday June 27, even if he's not planning on using the prize to play in the Main Event itself. And congratulations as well out to ck and karmarules, who I understand may be katiemother (who recently made her blog private, also adding to my suspicions), for each winning the 2k prizes. Here I was listing jj and ck (and karma, frankly) as three of the big longshots in the ToC, and they managed to nab three of the four big prizes in the event. What a thrill to be a part of such a battle as the BBT4 ToC, and the hugest thanks of all again out to Al for putting it all together and for continuing to figure out unique and fun ways to send bloggers to the World Series of Poker. I will continue to say until my grave that, ultimately, that's what it's all about -- sending bloggers to the WSOP.

What else? OK so the Yankees can't beat the Red Sox -- that is 7 for 7 this year so far for the Sox as of this writing -- but how effing great have the Yankees been playing since A-Rod joined the team? I think I saw recently that they are something like 22-8 since A-Rod's return from a steroid-induced hip injury, and lord knows that Yanks' first baseman Mark Teixeira is enjoying the protection. I know I wrote about this a few weeks back, but at this point Tex is leading the majors in home runs with 20, and he is roundly understood to be one of the best free agent signings of this past offseason, when just one month ago you could not have found someone -- anyone -- who would have described the Teixeira signing as anything but an abject failure. Like I wrote about last month, what a difference a little protection makes, huh?

Oh -- and if you didn't see Jayson Werth of Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies absolutely single-handedly save the game last night in the bottom of the 10th inning last night against the hapless Mets, you should definitely go and check it out. Basically, with a man on first in a tie game in the bottom half of the 10th inning at Citi Field, perennial step-downer David Wright smacked a ball into the alley in right-center field. With a fast runner on first, Jayson Werth knows that if the ball gets by him, the Mets will likely score the winning run on the hit and the game will be over. So Werth just throws caution to the wind and goes completely balls-out, makes a sensational diving catch that even had the homerass Mets announcers screaming in amazement.

Remember back a few weeks ago, when the Mets lost a game in the 9th inning after Carlos Beltran was thrown out at home plate after refusing to slide in a close play? Even after the game, Beltran himself and his coach both excused his play and neither seemed to think it was much of a big deal. Well, Jayson Werth showed on Wednesday night just how much hustle like that matters, and in doing so he illustrated perfectly exactly what makes the Phillies a better overall team than the Mets right now. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the Mets are a loser team, and they've got no heart whatsoever, something they show time and time again, game in and game out.

So much more to say, but this is all the time I have for now. Hopefully back at ya tomorrow with more of the same.

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Blogger actyper said...

An fyi I played that hand in accordance to how I thought you were feeling, which was exactly what you posted. I figured you were getting frustrated as I know you are normally more active. I had been stealing a lot of blinds, and there was one hand where you did play back at me, and I shoved overtop. Normally I would not shove in that spot, but I figured in that situation I was pretty confident at getting a call. GG though, at least you had the balls to go with your instinct in a pivotal spot with that much at risk.

12:36 AM  

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