Monday, March 22, 2010

Foxwoods Poker Classic Event #13 Recap

As I mentioned previously, I played in the $1500 buyin no-limit holdem Event #13 of the Foxwoods Poker Classic this past Saturday at Foxwoods, the largest poker room on the East Coast. I will begin by pointing out that everything I've heard about the Foxwoods poker room is pretty much true -- it is an awesome establishment, and laughably blows away anything available poker-wise in Atlantic City, other than the Borgata of course. The rooms are probably comparable in size between Foxwoods and Borgata (Foxwoods a bit bigger in my estimation), and I would actually compare them favorably in terms of "class" as well, in that the Borg and the Foxwoods poker room are both generally clean, kept up well, lots of nice, modern televisions around, and generally easy to get around in. And both have lots and lots of poker action going, at all times. It's amazing, really, to drive around the corner in BFE on Route 2A in Connecticut and suddenly arrive at this place where so many regulars are just grinding it out at the poker tables, every single day. Crazy.

Anyways, things started off well for me in my event, which I came prepared to play very patient in due to the 1-hour blind levels that would present at least a few hours of time to wait for the good cards or good situations. Then about half an hour in I flopped a set of 6s after calling a preflop raise from early position from the guy to my immediate right, who I had immediately pegged as another typical old-man rock who wasn't going in from EP without a strong hand. Best of all was that the flop also came out Ace-high, which I figured to be my opponent's most likely holding. When he led out for about 2/3 the size of the pot, I did a new move I've been using more recently, the instacall. Like, I didn't have to think about it at all, I just wanted to immediately slide out the call like I knew I was doing it all along. I've been doing this more when I flop big hands like sets or flushes because I find that it is often interpreted as the least likely move you would make if you actually had hit the flop hard, and in that way I find it tends to make opponents more comfortable to keep betting at me (or calling big) later in the hand, in particular if I extend the ruse after the turn card hits the board. So in this case, he fired out about 2/3 the pot on the Ace-high flop, and I instacalled. The instacall just seems drawy, or low-kickery, doesn't it?

So when the turn ragged off, my opponent thought for a moment and then bet out about 2/3 the pot again. This time I hollywooded for several seconds, again continuing with the story from my flop call that maybe I had a low Ace, some kind of a draw, a pair of Queens or something, etc., before once again just making the call. Then on the river (which paired the board and made me a boat), my opponent checked it to me for the first time in the hand -- all but ensuring in my mind that he held AK or AQ for top pair strong kicker, since this is what every tightey whitey does when they have AK for top pair and get called twice on the flop and the turn -- and I took a few seconds before sliding out a bet of around 60% of the pot. Bet it too small and I fail to extract as much as I can from this tight player's stack early in the tournament, but push allin for another 75 big blinds and I risk having the tight guy fold as he should since he is already concerned after getting called twice after the flop. So 60% felt about right, the guy agonized over it for a while before grudgingly making the call, and I was up to around 19k from the 15k starting stacks about a half an hour in. He never showed his cards, but he didn't have to.

Not too long later, still during the first blind round at 25-50, an active player -- a young internet-looking guy with the messed up hair and the giant earphones, etc. -- open-raised from the button, and I opted to make the call from the big blind with T8s. The flop came down 998, and I decided to see what I could find out about this guy while the bets were still small early here by donk-betting him 275 chips into the 350-chip pot with my flopped two-pairs. He calls after a few seconds. Then the turn brings another 8, making the board 9988. This time I checked, not fearing the higher boat at all but figuring I might get an aggressive guy like him to bluff out, or maybe he actually had a higher pocket pair and might not even be bluffing. He disappointed me by checking behind. With 900 chips in the pot, the river brought a Ten, giving me better than the low boat, and with that confidence I bet 780 on the river, trying to give the impression of stealing by betting most of the amount in the pot, and after a good long while (this guy would become famous throughout the day for his ridiculously long pauses before acting, on the river especially) he called and I showed my boat. Again, I never saw his cards, but I figure he had some kind of a pocket pair. And I was up to around 22k in chips, up 50% from the starting stacks, easily good for being the chip leader at my table in the earlygoing.

Unfortunately, this would be more or less my high for the entire tournament. So I won the one nice hand with pocket 6s, and my second with T8s, and ultimately that was a very good harbinger for the kind of cards I would be seeing in this event. Just like those first two hands, every significant hand I won the rest of the way through my time in the tournament was either a stone bluff based on a read, a c-bet of a missed flop, or me getting lucky and hitting a turn after calling preflop with some shitty hand. What's more, I was forced over the next few hours to sit and watch every goddam luckbox at my table get dealt pocket Aces and pocket Kings (the worst luckboxes got both of course), while I just folded an endless steam of J4o and 85o (those two hands in particular stand out because it seemed like I was dealt one of them in some form with alarming regularity on the day), so that made things especially frustrating. The aggro donk to to my right eventually bluffed his way down to just 4000 chips from the 15k starting stack about two hours in before folding to a river raise (after about a 10-minute pause to think), and then managed to get about 2000 of those chips in before again folding to a river bet (I'm still trying to figure that one out), but never fear, while sitting around for 3 orbits with 1600 chips, he managed to triple up with pocket Aces, and then double again with a flopped set within minutes of each other to get right back into it, while I again folded 96o and 64o all day long.

One time about three hours in to the tournament I found AK, opened with it from late position, got a caller from the blinds, flopped a King, bet out 2/3 the pot and he folded, remarking out loud that I probably had AK. Brilliant read. The only other playable starting hand I found over the entire time I played was TT, which I raised with preflop from middle position and got two callers, one from the big blind and one from a preflop limper from early position. The flop came down 764 with two hearts, the big blind and the EP limper checked so I led out for about 2/3 the pot, at which point the big blind called, and then the EP limper raised about 4x the size of the pot. I looked at the coordinated board, looked at my pocket Tens, and then back to all the action on the flop in this hand, and decided that I had seen enough of this hand already on the thinking that one of these guys probably has a draw but at least one of them can probably already beat my Tens. I folded, the other two got allin, and it turns out I was up against 55 (third pair plus oesd) and QJ of hearts for the naked Queen-high flush draw. My frustration that I had folded by far the best hand I had been dealt all day to all this action, only to see that I was actually the favorite on the flop, waned a bit when the 8 hit the river to nail the EP limper's open-end straight draw. Live play is just like its online counterpart, ain't it?

Other than the TT and the AK hands I describe above, I never saw AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 99 or 88 at all on the day, and I had just the one AK, no AQ and no AJ throughout. Now that is a sick run of bad starting cards. After the second break -- four hours in -- the blinds doubled from 100-200-25 (ante) to 200-400-50, and this is where mostly everyone suddenly plunked down from around 100 big blinds to around 50. In my case at the time I had had nothing but steal attempts since my climb to 22k some three hours earlier, some of which worked and some of which I had to lay down since I consistently had shit cards, and even if I managed to hit a pair on the board, I could never really feel comfortable about my kicker. So I was sitting on around 17k at the time, giving me around 42 big blinds to play with, and it was somewhere around that stage of the tournament -- when we were down to around 120 of the 178 runners who had begun the tournament, with an average stack climbing around 21, 22k -- that it first occurred to me that I needed to start making even more aggressive plays with the air I was being dealt if I was to keep pace with even the average stack. So for the first time on the day, I started throwing in some looser, more aggro moves like raising first-in from early position with hands like K9s and A5s, hands which I would have folded (and did fold) for hours earlier in the tournament, and unfortunately almost none of those moves held up. I remember being consistently surprised over the third session of play (the two hours from around 3:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon or so) how little respect my preflop raises seemed to be getting, in particular given that my only real showdowns of the entire tournament for any significant chips had been two boats and with how unbelievably tight I had played otherwise due to the complete dearth of playable hands I was receiving. But every damn time I put in a raise over those couple of hours, I was getting reraised (and having to lay down), or almost worse, I was seeing three or four callers, and then not hitting the flop, which is basically a death sentence for those chips I'd already moved into the middle.

As a result of this phenomenon, by the time 5 o'clock rolled around and we hit the 6-hour mark of the tournament, blinds were about to move up to 400-800-100, and I was still sitting on around 15k in chips, down a bit from the previous break and at that point, with some 80 players or so remaining, now a little less than half of the average stack of over 33k. With just under 20 big blinds in my stack, I knew I would not be long after the dinner break without some major help in the way of good cards, good luck, or good situations if nothing else, but when I returned to the Grand Pequot Ballroom just before 7pm to resume the seventh hour of play, it was more of the same. I managed to win a couple of pots with c-bets after having taken the lead preflop with a raise, but I also had to lay down a couple of preflop raises, and one flop c-bet where I had, once again, completely whiffed on the flop.

My worst hand of the afternoon happened about halfway into Hour 7, when I once again found myself in a pot against the small blind who had called my middle position preflop raise when I held K7s. The flop came QJ7, and I figured once again I had to take a stab at the flop or risk falling closer to just a third of the average stack, having hit bottom pair on the flop to give me some outs if called, but while I pondered these options, the small blind donk-bet into me for about half the size of the pot. I considered this -- a move I had not seen this guy make in the entire time sitting at this table (I was never moved from Table 9, seat 3, although several guys busted from our table during my time there), and in the end I just could not find a reason to give this pot up, and I figured the best thing for me to do in that spot with no Ace or King on the board was to raise it up and try to get rid of the donk bettor right away. Well, that backfired, my read was wrong obviously, as he quickly pushed allin on me and I had to lay down. At that point I was down to around 12k in chips remaining, with the average getting close to 40k, and it was obvious I was in desperation time with just 15 big blinds left.

And then I found my chance to get back into it. The guy in seat 10 had been disappearing for huge swathes of the tournament since the very beginning, and had explained at some point that he was also in the Foxwoods Poker Room (the FPC was taking place in the Pequot Ballroom a little ways away from the poker room) playing 150-300 "OE" -- which is what I assume cash game fonkeys with way more money than brains call O8 -- and it could not have been clearer to me when he returned shortly after Hour 7 began that he had no real interest in trying to play his stack for a quick double in 15 minutes so he could run back to the real money in his big "OE" game. Within his first few hands on his now short stack (he had been blinding and anteing off for probably an hour straight at least), he had pushed allin twice, once before the flop and once on the flop, and was not called either time. I knew that this guy and his roughly 12k in chips were my ticket to an easy double-up and getting back into the game at least somewhat, if only I could get myself into the right position, which is exactly what happened. A few hands went by, I got KT suited on the button and I called a raise from the shorty I had targeted who had opened from middle position, and the small blind also called directly behind me. The flop came down T74 with two diamonds, and I basically knew I was getting it allin here with top pair good kicker and with only about 10 big blinds left in my stack at the time. Making it even better, the target-shorty immediately pushed allin within half a second of seeing the flop, and this could not have seemed any less believable to me if he were trying to make an obvious bluff. I figured my top pair is almost surely ahead of his range since I see him pushing allin there on just about any flop without any regard at all for his holding. So I pushed allin for just another thousand or two more or so in chips than his allin bet had been, seeing the double-up and feeling my momentum beginning to change back right as I made my raise. But then I was dismayed to see the small blind to my left also immediately call both of our allins, and I knew obviously I was toast. He had flopped a set of 4s on the raggy flop, and in an instant my brilliant push against the obviously weak flop allin transformed from momentum-shifter and quick n easy double-up to my elimination hand on the day.

In all, I played about 7 1/2 hours, and although it's always hard to know exactly in a live tournament when the tournament screens are just not updated with extreme currency, it looks like I busted somewhere around 48th or 49th out of 178 runners. Only 20 were slated to get paid, making this a much smaller tournament than I had been hoping it would be, but first prize was still on tap to nab more than 60 large and it was definitely a prize worth playing for, but it was just not going to happen for me on this day. Considering my cards, I think I played very well, including doing a very nice job extracting chips from my opponents on the couple of nice hands I made on the day, but in the end it just wasn't close to enough.

The bottom line is, when your only two big hands over several hours of a large-field nlh tournament are coming with pocket 6s and with T8s, you're probably not going to be in great shape in that tournament. Similarly, when your only two real big hands of the entire tournament both happen within the first blinds-level, you are also likely in trouble. In this case, if I had flopped that set or made that boat on the turn in Hour 6 instead of Hour 1, even without the added chip boost from those hands having happened in Hour 1, I almost surely would have been back up near average and been able to play on and have a chance at the big cash. But when I'm able to increase my stack 50% in Hour 1, and then have to just watch it dwindle during every single hour other than that first one, nobody is going to win any tournaments playing that way, period.

With as little playable starting cards as I had, and how many great hands the others at my table were continually showing down, I actually feel mildly encouraged about the way the tournament went overall for me, although obviously I am bitterly disappointed at the result. I like to win, I want to win, I demand to win in mostly everything that I do, and while that does not necessarily translate into needing to literally win every poker tournament I play in, when I invest a lot of money in a tournament like this and do not win, I don't tend to feel very good about the situation as a result. But this was about as bad of starting cards as I could ever expect to get over any 7-hour period, and even with that situation, I made a lot of good reads, reraised a lot of stealers successfully with air, and I stole a ton of pots without anything playable in my hand at all. I am clearly going to need some big hands to succeed just as I have had in every other deep mtt run I've ever had the good fortune to enjoy, but if I can survive this deep on nothing but bullshit, I think I must be doing something right.

That said, I think if I could do this one over again, I would probably open up a little earlier and try to keep myself from getting down below the half of average chip stack in the first place when I did. I just kept telling myself that the blind rounds are a full hour -- longer than any tournament I have played other than the WSOP which is the same one-hour length -- and that I had time to wait for pocket Aces, wait for AK to race with someone, shit even to wait for another pocket Tens that at least I could aggressively take to the flop with my short stack without regrets no matter what my opponents had. I am not sure exactly where the proper place for the line is in terms of aggression vs. patience, but assuming I will be playing in another 1-hour blind round event in the WSOP this coming June, I will be that much more prepared for the nuances of that structure and for what will be expected of me (and when) in order to stay ahead of the pack.

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3 Comments:

Blogger BWoP said...

"OE" usually refers to stud-8 / omaha-8 rotation.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

That's the thing, CK. Someone asked him to clarify what OE was and he responded by saying "Omaha Eights or Better" (and I quote).

I think the plural on the "Eights" alone tells all we need to know about this guy's poker sophistication.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Alok said...

I'm new to Hammer editor and so far it has been pretty useful. I've been able to create OK maps. Basically what I want to do is have your player start out, he is in a room and there is a weapon and some ammo on a table. The only problem is, I can't make a table! I've tried prop_ragdoll prop_static prop_dynamic... some other stuff too. How can I make a table as well as any other furniture/scenery I would need. Also I cannot get the Suit to show up in game. Please help!

1:37 AM  

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