Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sad Poker Story

I have literally not even been able to write about this for the past couple of weeks, but a few weeks back I suffered far and away the worst beat of my live poker career, easily outdoing getting suckout-eliminated by then reigning world champion Joe Hachem from my first WSOP tournament back in 2006. I had headed down to the Borgata to play in one of the Borgata Poker Open events, which was a $350 buyin tournament that ended up with around 300 runners and a prize pool of around $90k as I recall. I had the fortune of being seated at Table 1 for the tournament, and I had my favorite seat at the table -- Seat 5, right in front of the dealer, with the shortest distance between my eyes and where the board cards are placed -- so I knew things were starting off good because my table would not be broken for several hours and I loved my seat and my position against the other troubling players at the table.

I really can't say how I managed to stay alive, let alone chip up at all, in this tournament, as this was one of those increasingly frustrating events where I am literally forced to sit and watch every single player around me showing down pocket Aces, pocket Kings, pocket Queens, pocket Aces vs pocket Kings, etc. I saw the same guy win three huge pots with pocket Aces while at this table, and I even saw one player show pocket Aces, pocket Aces, pocket Kings, pocket Kings and pocket Queens all while sitting with me for no more than two hours maximum on the day. And meanwhile, I was dealt JJ on the very first hand of the tournament (I raised, got called preflop and then had to fold to action on an Ace-high flop), I saw AK exactly two times, and otherwise I didn't get dealt shiat for starting cards. For hours and hours. It was so, so sick. I don't think I have folded more patiently in any live tournament I have ever played in -- the BPO event I was playing started with I think 12k stacks and featured 30-minute blind rounds, so there was at least a little more time than in your average 15- or 20-minute live casino blind rounds tournament, and I was determined not to get nailed by a 2-outer or one of these naked-flush-draw-on-the-flop idiots who had ignominiously eliminated me from my last three live events so I wanted to be patient and try to play as deep into hands as possible before committing my chips, and to start with the best possible starting hands wherever possible to help enable me to do that.

Anyways, I sat and watched as literally every single spot around the table showed down pocket Aces at least once, and many of the seats two or three times, while I never even sniffed pocket Aces, pocket Kings or pocket Queens, I received exactly two big slicks, and not even a single AQ to play with, over the time I survived in this tournament, which totalled a little over six hours of play. I can still recall the anguish and annoyance I felt near the later stages as we got near the money payouts as these clowns were just showing Aces over and over and over again, and I simply could not believe the luck was so uneven for me that there had to be literally20 or 30 pocket Aces or Kings hands spread across the 10 seats at this table that day (and that's only counting the ones that were shown!), but that not a single one of them had come my way on the day. I mean, how do you play for six+ hours with only JJ, JJ, AK, AK and AJ to show for your "premium" hands, and never even receive a single truly premium hand on the entire day? How could anyone survive under those circumstances for any meaningful period of time in such a tournament?

And yet somehow, that is just what I did. As I mentioned, I don't even think I can recall at this point how I managed to amass a stack in this thing, but I do remember that every big hand I won, was won with either two totally shit cards on a naked steal or resteal from me, or with a spec hand like T7s that I had opened for a raise preflop and ended up making two pairs with. For example, I won a big pot when I opened for a raise with A4s, the flop came down K94 rainbow, and then the turn came another 4 and gave me unknowable trips, and I played the hand exceedingly well to get paid handsomely by my opponent with KQ (in this case I bet the flop on a c-bet from my preflop raise against my tight heads-up opponent, but then I checked the turn when I hit my miracle 4, such that when I bet strong on the river he felt totally compelled to call). I won another nice pot when I turned a straight with J9s and was able to milk another nice river bet from an opponent who himself had made two pairs on that same turn card. But that's what I was winning with -- the 75s, the 97o, the A4 and A5 sort of hands, while everyone else just kept flipping up pocket Aces in showdowns, or maybe if they were weak, pocket Kings. It was so frustrating, and it made the mental drain on me far, far worse than usual for this kind of a tournament, because no matter what people say about how stressful big mtt's are in general, getting dealt AA or KK every other orbit pretty much plays itself, and there is very little stress involved in relative terms in finding your way through such situations. Not when compared anyways to having to constantly be evaluating whether you are ahead or behind before the flop and on most flops and turns as well, like you obviously have to do every step of the way when you're trying to win pots exclusively playing starting hands like suited semiconnectors, small pairs and the like. Every single pot was a struggle for me without exception, and on two or three different occasions in the first several hours I was allin on what was more or less a total and complete bluff where I surely would have been eliminated from the event if any one time my opponent in the hand had just decided to make a donkey call.

About four hours in, with me sitting at my tournament high of around 50k in chips from the 12k starting stacks, the loudmouth guy across the table -- a euro (judging by the accent) for those of you interested in such things, who not only dressed like Sammy Farha but even kept an unlit cigarette in his mouth for the last hour or two he played in this tournament -- reraised me allin preflop when I held the second of my two AK hands on the day, and I instantly called him allin pre given the complete and utter shit I had seen his euro ass been chasing all through the tournament, and he flipped up pocket Jacks for what was fixing to be probably the largest pot of the tournament at my table. A King came on the flop, and the euro guy proceeded to trash me to no end for several minutes for instacalling with AK preflop and for "playing AK like it's actually a hand preflop" as he gathered up his things and left, bitching the whole time until he was out of earshot, but the upshot of all this was that I was suddenly up over 100k in chips, and a top-10 stack in the event as we wore down towards the 27 people who would receive payouts in the tournament.

From there, I continued to play very patiently, as I wanted to start to muscle people around with my stack, but the cards and the situations I continued to be faced with simply did not support my making almost any moves at all. A couple of times I raised with J4o and 92o when the action folded around to me in mid-late position, and of course I had to fold when one of the few people behind me actually woke up with a playable hand, and that got old fast with blinds and antes of 1000-2000-300 and an average stack of around 50-60k in the event. So for the most part, I continued folding. The people around me (who by this point in time, with over 80% of the starting field eliminated, were every single one of them not the same people with whom I had started at this table some four or five hours earlier) still continued to be dealt premium pocket pairs at an alarmingly annoying rate given the cards I had to deal with, but still my big stack remained intact as we progressed down to the final 75 and then the final 50 players remaining in the tournament.

At one point, with 44 runners remaining and with 27 set to receive payouts, I was still sitting on a top-5 stack in the tournament at around 110k in chips, and I open-raised a little over 3x from middle position with pocket 5s, sadly among the best starting hands I had been dealt on the day. I got only one call, from a tight old man on the button who I figured to have some sort of a hand even to just call from the button when he had not voluntarily put chips into the pot in the hand to begin with. Incidentially, this was also a guy whose picture had been scrolling through the images being shown on the walls of the Borgata's poker tourament room, and he had earlier explained that yes, he had won the $500 buyin event earlier in the BPO already but he wished he didn't have to keep admitting it publicly with his picture being shown all over the place.

So anyways, this guy calls my preflop raise with 55 from the button, and the flop comes down a stone cold miracle, TT5. I have flopped a boat, and done so with a hidden set in my hand, a far, far superior hand to "flopping a boat" with 55 if the flop comes down, say, JJJ or some similar trips. Even though 9 times out of 10 I will check in this spot, not wanting to lose my opponent when I am holding such an unbeatable monster this early in the hand, in this case I had been c-betting almost without abandon at all all through the tournament since I had been playing so few hands in the first place due to the shitcards I was dealt, and when I've been c-betting like it's going out of style, it is crucial to also c-bet with my strong hands to help balance out the average value of the cards I am holding when I do fire out a bet on the flop after already being the aggressor preflop. So I went ahead and fired out for about 2/3 the flop, the same size bet I would make if I was holding pocket Aces here or an unimproved hand like AK or AQs. My opponent -- a tight old man player, again, mind you -- hesitated briefly before moving in his entire stack, which was about twice the size of my bet.

I don't think I hesitated for more than a second or two on this decision, but is anyone realistically folding here? Again, I've got 55 on a TT5 flop, and the tight guy I am playing heads-up just called my preflop raise and is now pushing allin on this flop with a good-sized stack that is itself also a top-ten stack like my own with just 44 runners remaining in the tournament. I mean, the only way I possibly lose this hand are if he just happens to have TT in his hand for the sickly flopped quads, and of course no sane person can put him on exactly that hand given the action here. Given how tight he is, and the fact that he called my preflop raise, I'm figuring he is on one of two different kinds of hands here: ATs, possibly JTs, or a big pocket pair like Queens or Jacks (I am assuming he would have reraised preflop with Aces or Kings). And the simple fact is, I am crushing every single one of those hands. TT is just not an option that is worth considering folding here to. This guy with himself a big stack has just pushed his entire pile of chips into the middle in a spot where I just flopped a boat by making a set with my two hole cards. I am obviously calling here.

I announce I call within one or two seconds of the old man's push, and right away he gets this sick look on his face as he flips up? Pocket 9s. So it was a much looser push than I would ever expect from this old man-looking guy who has not pushed a bad hand yet even one time that I have seen, but I guess I had been forced to fold to enough preflop and flop raises of my bullshit bets with totally worthless hole cards that he figures this is his time to make a stand. I flip up my pocket 5s for the boat, and the color drains right from the guy's face. As I'm giving him the apologetic "I just made a huge flop" explanation, the dealer burns and turns and a mother fucking nine rolls right out to the board, staring me in the face for a good two or three seconds before it finally sunk in what had just happened. The river was a harmless King (how awesome would the resuck have been in that spot??), and then there I am, counting off 87k in chips to match his stack, leaving me suddenly with less than a third of the average stack and under 10 big blinds in a spot where I was so close to garnering such a huge stack that, given my experience and the way I play, it is almost inconceivable that I would not have final tabled.

First prize in this tournament was something like 24 grand btw, did I mention that?

As I said, this was a beat the degree of which I cannot say I have ever experienced before in live play, and let me tell you I hope I never have to again. Making that walk out of the big convention room two hands later when my 8 big blinds with 85s failed to hold up against AQ was an absolutely horrible feeling, and as I drove myself home up the lovely Garden State Parkway, I must have talked to myself out loud with the radio all the way down for at least the next 90 minutes straight. I mean, I just could not get out of my head what had just happened to me.

Tournament poker really is something that only crazy people would ever really focus on. You bust your ass for seven hours -- or for four days, for that matter -- amassing this nice huge stack, folding after folding after folding (I would guess my VPIP at the Borgata could not have been higher than 6 or 7% given how horrible my hands were all day long), playing good, patient poker, and not making a single mistake or getting in behind even a little bit even one time, and then all of a sudden, POOF! it all vanishes like a fart in the wind. Through a total setup suckout hand in a huge spot the likes of which are almost unfathomable by most people out there reading this. I could not and would not have played that hand any differently, and my god if you gave me the choice I would specifically opt to be in that exact same position 10,000 times in a row, but there you go, even a 19-to-1 shot sometimes is not enough of a lead I guess. Hopefully this at least means that I have another 16 or 17 of these similar situations in the future coming to me where I can hold up and go on to make a big splash in some other mtt with some real money at stake. But for now, it's taken me the better part of a few weeks to even be able to write this all down and type it out on my pc. Even reading the story now makes me angry and sad and frustrated all over again, and the thought of plunking down a few hundys anytime soon again to play with these monkeys who just cannot get in ahead of me no matter how hard they try is really unnerving.

Tournament poker is for the birds, I tell you.

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Blogger Tarpie said...

Sadly you only have four or five karma wins coming your way since you were a 5-1 favorite after the flop. That's a horrible way to bust from a tournament.

Your story is why I hesitate to play any high value tournaments...killing a couple of hours in a < $100 tourney can be fun. Being bubble boy after eight hours in a > $100 tournament would tilt me for a week.

3:02 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Yeah, theoretically any of the other two Tens in the deck would have also given him the almost-just-as-sick win, but still. I can still literally relive in my mind the sound of all the air auto-exhaling from my chest in one fell swoop when that turn card fell. The whole table got immediately silent like they had all been kicked in the gut.

And the thing is, if you never play the big buyin tournaments, you can never hit the big payday either. I mean, there are only so many Mini FTOPS events and such where you can actually win a big prize from a small buyin. And for those, you only have to outlast what, 35,000 other low-buyin flonkeys to make the final table. Good times!

3:26 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Sorry for the lack of sympathy, but "Meh..." Typical bad beat story. Play enough online poker & you see it all the time. It goes both ways; one outters, 2 outters, whatever. I think online poker has callused my brain into indifference.

One of my friends and I were talking about this last night: variance such as this in tournaments is amplified so much more due to the fact that the further along you are, the higher the payout, the larger the value of the variance... whereas in a cash game, the value of the suckout / equity is always the same.

Would you feel better about the hand if he flipped up quad Tens? If so, tell yourself that that's what he had, and move on. No sense in dwelling on a crappy hand.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

this is a sad presto story ...

still he has 4 outs twice (16-17%) so it isnt that baddddd of a beat - i was expecting a perfect perfect sub-one-outer by the title

10:54 AM  
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2:40 PM  

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