Monday, August 30, 2010

Live Tournament Recap

So on a whim I got a late-night text from some friends on Friday night and decided to head down to Atlantic City on Saturday night for the $65 turbo tournament at Caesar's, a tournament I played in one other time earlier this year as well. When I played this event this past spring, it was all of one table, a 10-person sitngo with a turbo structure that paid out just the top two finishers. So of course I head out to play that same tournament again this weekend, and this time it finally ended with 19 runners for two starting tables.

We started the tournament with 10,000 in starting chips, and blinds of 25-50 that, like with any good turbo tournament, quickly escalated to 50-100, then 100-200 with s 25 ante, and then on to 200-400-50, so don't be fooled by everyone starting out with 200 big blinds -- within 45 minutes even if you haven't lost a single chip, that 10k starting stack will only be 25 big blinds and your M will be less than 10 already. So this is truly a tournament that is made to be played fast and aggressively, and if you think you're going to sit around with that blinds schedule and 15-minute rounds and wait for pocket Aces or Big Slick, your chances of success in this event are as good as your chances of being dealt those types of hands 7 or 8 times in a 3-hour live event. Damn near nil, in other words.

In any event, I won the first hand of the tournament when we were just 5-handed with a c-bet with K5s when I failed to connect on the flop, as pretty much all four of the other players at my table seemed to be quite tight and pretty easy to read, and nobody seemed to have connected with the flop from the looks on their faces. I stayed aggressive and chipped up a bit more over the first blind round, probably getting out to a small chip lead at the table but not having to show a single hand as my aggressive betting basically cleared the way through the early pots for me for the most part.

I had the opportunity to have what I call a "Chad hand" early on about 20, 25 minutes in to the tournament, which is what I call it when you win a big pot and get to show down utter and complete crap in doing so, simultaneously destroying your image but also causing people to talk about you at and around the table like you are some kind of hardened maniac. It's fun and it's not something I get to do very often, unlike Chad who seems to have this effect on at least a couple of occasions every time I have ever sat down at a cash table with him. But basically, as I mentioned I had been betting and raising fairly aggressively, and when the action folded around to me in middle position preflop, I put in a standard live-game raise of 4x the big blind to 400 with 64o. Of course, my cards were irrelevant at this point as I was solely playing my position and continuing with the aggressive image I had built up, but there I was raising with 64o from late position, and the very readable, fairly tight woman across the way called me down from the cutoff. The flop came down JT4 rainbow, a flop which I figured does poorly against the expected holding of someone who calls a preflop raise, but since I did make a tiny third pair on the flop, I figured I should keep the ruse going and I fired out 650 into the 850-chip pot. The lady across the way paused very briefly and then slid it 650 chips into the pot for another call, clearly indicating that she had probably at least a Jack, or maybe a Ten with a decent kicker, but my read was that really it could not be much other than that.

When the turn sent out a miracle 4, giving me the most hidden of hidden trips, I put this horrible look on my face and disgustedly checked to my opponent, pretending to cede control of the hand and trying to look as dejected as I could while doing it. She took my cues and led out for 2000 chips into what was already a 2100-chip pot. I had observed her making very large bets on both the flop and the turn already a few times in the tournament, so I did not read too much into her betting out almost the full amount of the pot here, but I figured she was likely on a solid top pair or maybe even two-pair hand, and probably did not believe much in my betting given my aggression so far at the table and my act prior to her bet on the turn, which I have to admit was a fine bit of hollywooding if I don't say so myself. So after thinking and thinking and going out of my way to look like I was agonizing here, I slid out two pink $1000 chips for what I tried hard to make look like a crying call, and then I completed the ruse by quickly checking out the river as well after a harmless 8♥ fell on fifth street, and my opponent did exactly as I had hoped and bet out another 3k, which left me with only about 4k or so behind in chips. I stared at the pile of chips she had bet for a few moments, and then I resignedly announced "allin" and piled out the rest of my stack. And I then assumed the position, which when I actually want a call generally means freezing, unbreathing, and starting at a fixed point in space as if I am bluffing and do not want to be caught. My opponent was not happy with my raise after I had just called on the flop and looked so disgusted doing it, but after what felt like a couple of minutes she eventually called for most of the rest of her stack. I then had the wonderful Chad moment of getting to flip up 64 offsuit and show the table what I had raised preflop with and then led out with on the JT4 flop as well. My opponent never showed her cards, but threw her hand face down on the table and did not stop muttering to herself and the others on her end of the table for quite some time about me playing 64 offsuit, how can that guy play that hand, what a joke, etc.

Of course, with my image being totally and completely shot for the rest of the tournament after this hand, I had to tighten it down a bit after that and try to play better hands, in particular after the flop, because I knew I would be getting called down a lot more than I had been thus far. Which made it so great when I picked up pocket Queens maybe 15 minutes later or so, and the aggro Asian guy to seats to my right open-raised ahead of me. I just smooth called him, and we saw a heads-up flop of J65 rainbow, to which my opponent fired out his standard c-bet as he had every single other time he had aggro-raised preflop over the previous hour. I just called, not wanting to scare him away with a raise on this particularly raggy board since it was so unlikely that he actually connected with a flop like J65 given that he had open-raised from fairly early position before the flop. The turn was another rag, an offsuit 2, and my aggropponent, never one to give up with just one barrel fired, immediately shot out another bet of around 2/3 the size of the pot. At this point I figured I almost surely had him with my overpair, but once again I figured I might lose him with a raise here, and in case he did have AJ or KJ, etc., I wanted him to be comfortable leading out again on the river, or at least calling a bet from me, so I just flat called him again on the turn card. The river brought the ugliest Ace I had ever seen, and when this time aggroboy shot out a huge bet -- more than three times the size of his bet on the turn -- the warning bells went off in my head and I just knew I had just been rivered. I folded very quickly in complete and utter disgust -- why do those bitchy Queens hate me so fucking much?! -- and my opponent flashed the table AJ for the two pairs he knew he was ahead with all along. Little did I let anyone know that I had just made a big laydown after getting rivered hard despite convincing an opponent to move in about 40% of his stack before the river card when he was drawing to just about 6 outs. Ahh, poker.

So this hand took me back down near my starting stack after calling two sizeable bets from this guy when ahead on the flop and the turn. As sick as my river fold was, I kept telling myself, it would have been 10 times sicker if I had raised the flop or the turn, which a super aggro guy like this opponent would never have laid down his TPTK to especially considering my own image at the table at the time, and then I had sat there and watched him 6-outer me at the river to grab 80% of my stack, so at least I had that to be thankful for. I just hate getting involved in huge hands with just an overpair, and just Queens at that, but here was one instance where a raise would have been better since I was well ahead of this guy's top pair top kicker at the time.

Just a few hands later, still somewhere in Round 4 of the tournament with blinds now up to 200-400 and an ante of 50, I picked up AKs in 2nd position, and I watched in enjoyment as the utg player, a repeated preflop limper with subpar cards, limped in once again from utg for 400 chips. Given the aggression of several other players after me in the hand, I opted to just limp along as well (even though I would have raised here if the action had not already been opened utg in front of me) on the thinking that there was a decent chance that somebody would go for the squeeze in which case I could really win some chips in this spot. So I limped behhind for 600, and we got one more limper as well before the small blind a young blond kid who had not played in too many big pots to this point -- kicked it up again, but only to 1000. Now, when playing against good, experienced and sophisticated opponents, a reraise that small with two other players already in the hand does not look a whole lot to me like a squeeze play. The preflop squeezer wants you both to fold and wants it hard, so that raise would generally not be anywhere near as small as just 2.5x the original bet, which with two other limpers in there as well, is almost impossible to fold to from purely a pot odds perspective. But in this case, I didn't know what to make of the raise but I was not scared of its small size like I might be against someone whose game I actually respected.

So the utg player, the calling station chick to my right, called for 1000 more, and at this point I decided to kick it up to 5000, purposefully clearly committing myself as well as anyone at the table who opted to call me. The other preflop limper folded, the original preflop raiser in the small blind called, and even my calling station friend to my right thought it over long and hard before finally folding before committing what would have been all of her short stack before the flop. The flop comes down KT5, giving me top pair top kicker and with the King instead of the Ace, which I like more because you never know when someone is in there with A5s or something and flops two pair when you flop a pair of Aces with big slick, but the chances of someone being in there with a suited King are far less and thus I actually prefer to hit the King than the Ace most of the time when I am playing big slick to see a flop. The small blind checked to me, and I paused a few seconds for effect before announcing "all in". It was only another 5k or so chips into what at this point was already a pot with more than 12,000 chips in it, easily enough such that the winner would be the tournament chip leader with 15 or 16 runners left immediately upon winning this pot.

The young kid across the way thought it over for all of maybe 20 seconds, and after requesting a quick count of my bet he went ahead and announced that he was calling. He flipped up KQ on the KT5 board, and immediately looked sick when I tabled my AK for the higher kicker. I had just looked up at the tv screen to figure out how much I was going to win in this tournament with my bigass stack when the dealer peeled off a Queen and placed it down for the turn card. The river brought no re-suck for me, and I was crippled, down to under 2k in chips from the 10k starting stack. It's happened a million times before to me and to every one of you out there, but with the flip of what turned out to be a 2-outer (one of the other players had folded a Queen before the flop as well), the turn card made a 9% underdog hand into an almost insurmountable favorite, and IGH a few hands later when the same guy called me down with pocket 6s preflop and then outran my KJs of course.

The moral of all this? Live poker is fun, and can be extremely easy when you play at a table where clearly your opponents are simply not sophisticated poker players. I'm not sure I've ever sat and a table and been this in-tune with my reads over a concerted period of time, and yet there I was not lasting even to the first break in this thing despite my superior play. Given the very low buyin for this tournament ($80 total, including the vig) for a live casino event, and especially considering that this is a turbo which makes it even more luck-based than your average daily casino tournament, people simply will not lay down top pair with any kind of reasonable kicker, and such was the case in the hand of my demise as well on the day at Caesar's. And the most important lesson of all from all this?

Live poker is rigged.

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