Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Same Tournament, Even Better Result (Big Tournament Win!)

Just four days after taking second out of 1325 runners in the nightly 30k guaranteed on pokerstars earlier in the week, Saturday night brought an even nicer New Years Day present for me, in the very same tournament:

After begging out of doing an old-style tournament recap for that $4000+ win because I was pissed to have come in second place after nabbing a 2-to-1 chip lead in heads-up play but then running into TT and JJ on consecutive hands to give it up, I figured I owe the world one for this one. So here we go, I'm going to kick this one old-school.

For starters, I was up a bit late with the kids on Saturday night as we near the end of what has been the longest time I have been out of the office in a long, long time, probably since I got married 850 years ago. We had another great day, we still have plenty of snow to play with, and we were watching the end of one of K and M's favorite movies, which ran a bit late and as a result I didn't even touch my computer all day long until shortly after 8pm ET. After checking email and a few other standard internet update things, I surveyed the online poker scene and quickly decided I would run that $27.50 buyin, 30k guaranteed nightly tournament on pokerstars that I had just posted about the other day. As I mentioned previously, this isn't a tournament that I have spent a ton of time playing in my day, as the 8pm nightlies in general have not been kind to me as a rule -- I think I've only final tabled that 35k on full tilt one time in my lifetime of maybe 250 attempts playing it -- but in general the fields of the mid buyin mtts on stars are very soft, and given the timing and the fact that nowadays I'm too old and tired to run the 9pm and 10pm mtt's like I once used to with regularity, the 30k looked as good as any. I registered late around 8:20pm, and away we went.

The balance of my first hour in the tournament on Saturday was largely uneventful. I actually was dealt pocket Aces once, and in the big blind no less, but sadly the action folded around to me and I got the oh-so-awesome pocket Aces walk. By the end of Hour 1, I was down a bit from my 3000-chip starting stack, and in 720th place out of 997 players remaining:

I got below 2000 chips not too far into Hour 2, and things were looking like just your standard never-got-anything-going effort that would shortly end with me pushing too hard with a less than premium hand in an attempt to either get back to a relevant stack or bust out and move on to something better. But then about 90 minutes in, I got my first big hand of the night when a guy with pocket Jacks tried to get fancy and check an all-connected flop of 567 when I had raised preflop with T9s and he had just called. Fancy Play Syndrome came back to get him bigtime though, when a miracle 8 fell on the turn, I led out and he quickly pushed:

As you can see a third guy also came along for the ride, and all of a sudden we had ourselves a game as I got right back into the thick of things with a nice workable stack:

6570 chips, good for 224th place out of the 817 remaining runners of the 1425 who had begun the event just about an hour and a half earlier. Nothing to write home about, but at least a situation where I could make some moves instead of slowly dwindle away to nothing.

I got up over 8k shortly before the second break when I raised allin preflop against five limpers for 500 chips apiece, holding 97s. With a really big stack of course I would not likely want to risk losing my position on a move like this, but in this case, still at the time sitting just right at average in chips with under 6000, I like the move and frankly I would not have minded getting a call with a hand like 97s with which I have had a fair amount of success over time. Even AK calling me there gives me the right odds to make a run at a large stack and significant chip utility, but in this case all folded and that bumped me up a nice bit, clearly the best outcome given my cards.

My next big hand was a stone cold bluff, a pure instinct play like I have talked about against a guy whom I had observed stealing pots left and right with far from optimal hands. I called this guy's preflop raise with 86s, another of these hands I love to see cheap flops with against large stacks where I can really do some damage if I hit, and when the flop came down Q53, my opponent failed to c-bet which I had seen him do repeatedly in the past with any kind of hit on the board. Immediately the bell went off in my head that this guy was weak, so I led out for about 60% of the pot, and he insta-called. Especially given the immediacy of his call, I had him on some kind of speculative hand, maybe a draw, or perhaps a low pair on the flop, and when the Ten on the turn did not help me either, but also did not help any draw and could only make a low pocket pair even less pleased, I figured I had to bet out again and I bet small to make it look like I actually wanted a call with a strong hand:

Surprisingly, my opponent called again, which was unfortunate since I had just about the worst nothing hand imaginable in this spot and had now sunk close to half of my stack in this pot. Still, though, he insta-called me again, and unless it's me doing it, insta-calls hardly ever tend to be very strong hands. Medium pair, maybe 8s or 9s stuck in my head as most likely, but of course who could be sure. When the river brought a harmless 4, that completed no flush, only the most unlikely inside straight draw, and didn't help a middle pair hand, I figured I had gone this far, and I could only win the pot at this point by bluffing, so I pushed 'em in and hoped this guy wasn't willing to go to the mat with what I figured were two overcards on the board:

Thankfully, my read was right and he folded, giving me a huge chip-up, and just seconds later came the second break, with me in great shape compared to where I had been just an hour ago:

Here in 68th of 400-some remaining players, I was for the first time on the night in a position to start ramping up the aggression and pushing people out of pots with preflop raises and reraises. I won a couple of pots with A7 and A6, with KJo and T9o. I also had to fold a couple such hands to reraises that did not give me odds to see flops, and the long and short of it was that I sat around the 13,000 chip mark for most of Hour 3. Just before the break I won about 5k when I turned a straight with AQ and made a guy fold on the river what I think might've been low trips (there were two Kings on board), and at the third break I was back around average again, with a lot of work ahead of me if I was going to make a real run here:

The money bubble broke at 215 players remaining just minutes into Hour 4, with me still right around average in chips but having recorded my second cash in four nights in this particular tournament where I had previously had so little luck over time. My stack jumped to over 30k in chips not too far into Hour 4 when I flopped A75 with A7 from my big blind against the big-stack small blind's A4, the small blind bet into me, I pushed and he strangely called with his top pair crap kicker:

Not that I haven't been on the losing end of blind vs. blind confrontations a million times in my life, but this was not a good call by him. I always try to remind myself these days that, even when you're both in the blinds, sometimes people do get hands in these positions and once you're facing significant action -- in particular after seeing a flop -- if I'm weak (like top pair shit kicker) I am likely going to find myself behind even though it seems unlikely to happen when it's just the blinds battling it out. But it does happen.

Not too long later in Hour 4, I picked up my second premium hand of the night, pocket Aces again, this time in under the gun which I also love. I especially love to limp in this spot, in particular when the stacks are getting short and the Harringbots are generally waiting to try to make a play with middling stacks. I did it here and got just what I wanted from the big blind:

He had A5s -- also not a great play against an under the gun raiser, but then I generally work hard to establish a loose image preflop in these things by betting and raising quite a bit before seeing any of the community cards, so I suppose with a shortish stack I can see his thinking, at least a little bit. It's not a move that I would make with that stack though -- calling I almost certainly could with the flush and straight possibilities of A5s against a big stack, but pushing vs. the utg raiser, that's not really my style with these cards. Still, I'll take it, and after winning the hand I was in my best position so far in the tournament:

21st place out 139 remaining, well into the money positions. Still a long ways to go, but considering I was down below 2000 chips about an hour and a half into this thing, it was a great turn of events for me overall.

And then a guy made a huge mistake here, one that I'm still trying to understand although I will mention again that the pokerstars large mtt fields are notoriously soft:

Obviously I called this, especially given the massive stack of the preflop reraiser here and the chance for me to basically nearly triple up and jump to the very top of the leaderboard. What range do you put the big stack on the left on here, to be putting all of that huge stack at risk in a spot like this? Think it over, and then scroll below for the reveal:

22. I mean, what do you say? I am all for being aggressive, but pushing all of that huge stack in there with such a beatable hand like 22 -- when in fact he knows already that he's no better than 50-50 literally no matter what the original raiser has -- that is a horribad poker play in any tournament. If he had a much smaller stack and needed to make a move and try to get in there to race for a much-needed double-up, that could make a lot of sense. But from his position, it's just horrible, but it was to my advantage, as suddenly I had completed my transition from the bottom quarter of the field 90 minutes in all the way to the tippy top of the leaderboard:

I got up to just over 125k late in Hour 4 when my JJ held up against a shortish stack's KQo allin preflop, which at that point was good for 3rd place out of 96 runners remaining. Early in Hour 5, I encountered another strange hand that saw me really go out on a limb based more or less just on my instinct about my opponent for the second time on the night. I was down to around 10th place of 80 or so remaining with around 110k in chips and I called a preflop raise from another top-ten stack with my JTs on the button. I then called my opponent's c-bet on the favorable J44 flop of around half the pot, based partly on having seen my opponent fold to flop raises on c-bets before at this table when he had insta-bet his continuation bet and having seen him bet out very quickly here as well. When the turn gave me two pairs -- albeit vulnerable, if my opponent had a higher pocket pair since there was also a pair of 4s on the board, he checked and I bet out, and suddenly I faced this check-raise which threatened to deplete my stack as it came from the only guy at the table who could stack me:

It's hard to say exactly why I stayed in the pot at this point. I knew that if he had QQ, KK or AA, I was dead, and he had raised preflop and called my bet on the flop, and then raised me on the turn. And yet, I just could not reconcile such a big hand with his instant c-bet on the flop. Think about it: when you have AA, do you instantly c-bet on a non-scary flop like J44? Or do you pause briefly, so as not to betray the strength of your holding to your opponent? All I knew was that in this case, he did not seem like he was on a big premium pair, and otherwise that turn card left me in very good shape against a guy who had raised it up preflop if he was not holding QQ-AA. So I called. When the river brought a harmless offsuit 5, my opponent against insta-pushed for all his remaining chips, and at that point I could not have been more sure that he was weak. I knew I was taking a chance, but if he was so good as to insta-push here after insta-raising on the turn with a big pocket pair, then so be it, I was willing to go home. I called for my stack, and saw this:

A busted draw. A big one, mind you, but still a busted draw. A preflop raise with Q9s, a standard c-bet bluff which I was spot-on in pegging as a bluff due to how instantaneously he bet the chips, and then another player on a huge stack who failed to protect and instead just got a little too aggressive with a large draw on a turn card that also happened to give me top two pairs. And with this hand, I vaulted well into the chip lead, a lead I would hold for a long time coming:

I pushed it up to 280k over the next little while when my 99 outran a shorty's ATo, and then I flopped trips with KTs against a guy who couldn't lay down QQ and I was up over 325k, good for the chip lead with 54 players remaining. Later in Hour 5 my rush continued as I flopped my second set of the night and won a bunch more chips against a guy who couldn't let go of top pair top kicker:

And I really had a huge chiplead:

And as you can imagine if you know how I play, at this point I got downright nasty with the betting and raising, in particular preflop. I folded a couple of times to reraises in bad spots for me, but otherwise I quickly raised more or less every time the action folded around to me preflop, and I really terrorized the table. I was atop the leaderboard with 50 left, and remained there with 40 left, as well as with 30 remaining, and still with 20 runners left, all the while maintaining my stack in the 400k-500k range by my relentless stealing of pots both pre- and post-flop. Here is the board with 20 players remaining, with me having just crossed the 500k mark for the first time:

And here I am at the sixth break, down to 16 players left, two tables of eight players each:

I finally lost the chip lead for the first time since nearly 70 players left when we got down to 13, and someone jumped up over 750k on the other table, but I was still in good shape. I got as low as 5th place on a few occasions, but again I never allowed myself to get short nor did I allow myself to make a dumb call and risk my shot at making right my bad beats from the other day in this same tournament. Finally, after the standard set of ridiculous bubble suckouts to keep things going much longer than they should have, eventually the short stack ran his 77 into KK, and we were back to the final table:

I was starting in 4th place of 9 remaining, but again was in good shape and had been sure to spend the previous hour or so actively watching both of the remaining tables to pick up trends on how everyone played the game. Maybe 10 minutes in to the final table, I took advantage of a guy I had picked on before with large bets and raises, when he clearly had a big pocket pair, I called him preflop with 98s, and promptly flopped trip 9s. Although just as he had previously, he ended up folding to my large raise on the turn, I got a bunch of his chips and climbed into 2nd place at the final table as my stack jumped over 700k for the first time.

Unfortunately, I lost my biggest pot of the tournament when I correctly read my opponent across the table for not having an Ace when the flop came Ace high, got him to give me over a third of his stack on the flop and turn, but then he sickly rivered a boat out of nowhere and I paid him off being totally unable to read him for what had just happened here:

Still, luckily I had buit up and maintained such a nice stack over the previous couple of hours that I was able to withstand this sick river loss without it seriously hampering my chances to stay viable in the tournament. A few hands later we lost our first final table player, a short stack whose KTs ran into KQ and could not catch, and we were down to 8. Having observed the guy at the other table over the past hour or two stealing repeatedly from the button before the flop, I was able to take repeated advantage of this knowledge at the final table to start climbing back up the leaderboard by restealing multiple times with preflop reraises whenever the player drawn to sit to my left at the final table tried to steal a pot away from me before the flop, which got me back up over 600k pretty quickly as I tried to take the momentum back after my hideous rivering. Meanwhile, the new shorty finally busted after having sucked out about five times during the final two tables when his K9 was called by AK pre, and then there were 7, with me at the time in 5th place with 506k in chips, but still within 20% or so of 3rd place and 30% of 2nd place, and I sat just a bit lower than this as we came to the sixth break in the tournament:

Just minutes into Hour Seven, the tournament short stack reraised me allin preflop when I held AKo, which is just about the most obvious call in the world, and I was pissed to see him flop a set and take away most of my hard-earned stack that I had fought hard and played great poker to amass over the past several hours:

This hand now left me a distant 6th out of 7 players remaining, and once again my prospects for righting my wrong in this tournament from earlier in the week were dimming considerably. I knew I needed to try to find a spot to win back a chunk of chips to get myself a stack that I could push people out of pots with, instead of one that the big stacks could call down even at the risk of taking a loss and still being in good shape. On the very next hand, the opportunity presented itself here, when a very active stealer who had been busted stealing several times over the past two or three hours I had played with him put in his standard button steal before the flop, and then the tournament big stack went for the resteal, a move he had done with increasing frequency over the past hour or so as his stack had grown and grown at the expense of the rest of us, making me think that neither one of them was particularly strong here:

I knew I would be racing, but I figured the first raiser would fold to the second raiser's action and huge stack, and I would have a chance to race to get right back into the thick of things in a spot where the big stack could not really consider folding to my allin re-reraise. So I pushed allin, willing to go busto in 6th place and take the loss after my AK could not hold against the short stack's 99 in the hand previous, and I saw that my reads could not have been more off, and I was actually in serious trouble:

Scarcely had I had time to scream out "22222!" in my head when the world's most glorious flop hit the board:

And whaddya know, all of a sudden my fortunes had shifted from an 85% dog to finish out of the tournament in 6th place, to sitting on my biggest stack of the night and solidly in 2nd place with 5 runners left in the 30k. I couldn't believe it, but then this is pokerstars so you can't really disbelieve anything when it comes down to it. The two things I knew for sure though were (1) my reasoning had been sound on the hand -- admittedly I knew I would be called by the big stack and was thus willingly choosing to race, but there was a method to my madness and I was fully willing to race for my shot to either bust in 6th or climb right back into it, and (2) even more importantly, I was absolutely determined not to let this huge final table suckout to my benefit go to waste. The table was pissed at me, they all thought I was a huge donkey, and I was going to take this ridiculous gift to the bank come hell or high water. And that is exactly what I did, as the action got fast and furious pretty quickly after we lost our 6th man standing at the final table.

On the very next hand after my reflonkulous suckout, I was dealt 99 in the small blind, and when the cutoff -- another active stealer who has won a number of large-field tournaments in his day -- raised it up, I chose to just call, figuring that the aggro guy I mentioned earlier to my left was highly likely to push with any strong holding given his short stack at the time. And that's exactly what happened:

I could not get in there fast enough with my 99 and a big stack once again, and I managed to outrun his ATo to knock it down to five players remaining and take over the slight chip lead for the first time in the better part of an hour:

And then came my favorite hand of the tournament. The super-aggro big stack to my immediate right raised it up preflop as he had almost every single time the action folded around to him at the final table, and I just called with 76s, the kind of hand I just love to take up against other big stacks because it's a stacking kind of hand when it comes to my opponent's stack if I hit it hard, but I have high confidence that I can get away from it before it stacks me if I don't. We, the two prohibitively large stacks of the 5 players left at the final table, saw a heads-up flop of Q57 with two of my suit, giving me a bunch of outs as well as middle pair which could easily already be ahead on this flop. Still, I didn't want to get too crazy before hitting something better with the hand, but short of the rare straight or flush flop, this flop was close to as good as it gets with this kind of starting cards. When the big stack guy bet out just under half the pot, I briefly considered raising a semi-bluff to conceal the nature of my hand, but again opted for some pot control and just called, not wanting to get blown out of this pot before I had a chance to hit something big:

My flush completed on the turn with the beautiful Ace of diamonds, and when my opponent checked to me I basically knew there was no way he could have a higher flush (how could you ever fail to bet again there if you were on the come and filled on the turn, if you're any kind of a thinking player at all?), but since it was an Ace and I figured that was the most likely card in the deck to have hit my opponent's hand, I wanted to bet out here on the turn, mostly to help build the pot so that a river bet could get really huge and potentially win me this tournament right here and now. I bet out 188k into the 250k pot, judging that would be sufficient to justify all the chips going into the middle on the river, and my opponent called again. When the Queen of spades fell on the river, I nearly creamed in my pants. Now, if he was on an Ace he had gotten help, and if he was on a Queen for top pair that had him calling twice here, I knew there was no way he was folding. Figuring that anything other than an Ace or a Queen would surely fold to any size bet, and either of those cards was likely to call no matter how much I bet, I tried to appear as weak as possible by instantly pushing allin for the rest of my stack on the river:

And my opponent couldn't fall over himself fast enough to call:

After his last 20k in chips were eliminated on the very next hand when I had to fold 55 to a reraise from across the table, we were down to 4 players left, with me holding a ridiculously large chip lead of 2.5 to 1, 3 to 1 and 5 to 1 over the three remaining players, holding approximately 50% of the chips in play:

I raised and reraised these guys like pigs from here on out, having little chance of seriously hurting myself with any preflop action as long as I didn't allow it to get too big, and my stack climbed slowly but surely as a result. Not too long after, the short stack's 66 held up allin preflop against another player's AJo, and suddenly I had basically a 3-to-1 chip lead over each of the other three players remaining. Which did little to faze me, as I just continued raising preflop with basically any two cards, almost every single hand, just daring somebody to push back at me at which point I could make a decision of whether or not to allow the pot to grow to a threatening size in terms of my stack. I was raising so much, and very obviously so, that I also had the luxury of knowing that these guys were going to be pushing back on me fairly light, since they knew my raising range was essentially ATC here. So, when I faced this situation and a chance to knock it down to three players in a situation when I was most likely racing, I clearly had the stack to take the chance in a spot where I was likely a slight favorite:

I held:

and then there were three, with my chip lead still roughly 3 to 1 over the 2nd place guy, and more like 7 to 1 over the shorty who all through the tournament was just a little too tight for his own good. And so I just resumed raising ATC preflop, winning pots with A5o:

with T9s:

with K4o:

with 86o:

with Q7o:

and finally, when I faced a very similar situation with the short stack as when I had eliminated #4 about 5 minutes earlier, I knew I easily had the stack once again to take a chance where I was likely a slight favorite to take this thing down to heads up:

Once again I held up against A9o, and we were back to heads up:

Only this time, instead of starting out as a more than 2 to 1 dog in chips, I would be starting with a massive chip lead of more than 4 to 1, against a guy I knew I was better than, and who I especially knew I was better than in terms of final table, heads-up type of experience:

I raised pretty actively preflop, absolutely determined not to double this guy up and let him get a chunk of that chip deficit back, but equally determined not to let up and make him push allin on me whenever he wanted to see any kind of a flop. I won 7 out of 11 hands heads up, seeing just two flops along the way, and I folded crap hands twice to preflop reraises from him where I was sure I was not getting the odds to just call with ATC, despite my big stack relative to his. This is somewhere that I see people F themselves up all the time late in tournaments, as many players seem to think that having "enough chips to afford it" equates with calling with ATC just to take a chance at eliminating someone and getting closer to their goal. I have to laugh whenever I see people do that -- and again I see it all the time -- because in reality you are playing directly into your opponent's hand if you play that way with a big stack late in a tournament. Believe me, there is nothing that the guy at a 4 to 1 chip deficit wants more than for you to call his allins light. He needs you to call his allins light! The way you make sure you give yourself the best chance to beat a guy in this position is just the opposite -- you can punish him relentlessly with comparatively small pots before the flop, but you simply do not allow him to get into a big pot with you unless you believe you have the best of it, ever. That's the secret to play late with a big stack, and although it may seem obvious to some, I would estimate that 75% of players I run into in your average large-field mtt on the major sites seem to play the opposite and get very itchy trigger fingers with a big stack late in these events.

In any event, by raising this guy relentlessly I managed to increase my chip lead to more than 5 to 1 after 22 hands of heads-up play here:

and then finally, on hand 31 of our heads-up matchup, I raised again preflop, telling my opponent absolutely nothing about my hand given how ridiculously aggro I had been over the previous several minutes of play, and then I faced this decision for all the marbles:

Having a 9 kicker to go along with my Ace, meaning that I was ahead of more than half of the possible Aces, and any non-paired holdings not including an Ace, plus racing against any pocket pair 8s or lower -- all of which it was obvious were well within my opponent's allin range here given my activity up to this point and the chip stacks involved, I just didn't see how I could fold here. I was indeed a roughly 58% favorite, needing to hold just one more time to take this bad boy down:

The flop was clean -- all rags -- and the turn as well, and I knew I was looking at fading six outs once to win it all, and boom!

I had won the tournament!

This once again is among the most satisfying victories I have had in a long time in online poker, partially because I had just failed to close the deal four days earlier in this very same tourament, and partially just because it's on pokerstars in general where I had such little success in tournaments in 2010. I survived a couple of brutal riverings along the way in this thing, and consistent with my 2011 poker goals, I was sure not to let them get in the way of playing with a clear head, and playing my best game to win. In fact, lateish in this tournament, I took two brutal beats back to back on Ultimate Bet to go from 3rd of 26 runners left in their nightly 8pm ET tournament to busto in 22nd place (cash at 18th place), and still I did not let it affect my play in this tournament. This is what I need to do more often in 2011 without a doubt, and last week's run in this tourney combined especially with this weekend's show just how much I can be successful if applied correctly. Although I botched a couple of reads over a 7-hour period, I made good, sound decisions literally from start to finish in this thing, and I held up just enough -- and got super lucky when I needed to one time at the final table -- to take it down and get exactly where I wanted to be over 7 1/2 hours of play. I couldn't be happier with how 2010 ended and how 2011 has begun for me on the virtual felt, and I look forward to taking my newfound focus in mtt's back to the tables on a nightly basis heading into the new year.

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Blogger jjok said...

awesome my friend......old school indeed.

Congrats on the successes!

9:25 PM  
Blogger l.e.s.ter said...

Great write-up, great start to 2011!

10:58 PM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Well played and well described. Only hand I didn't like was the 22, hate to essentially call it off hoping for a coinflip.

6:03 AM  
Blogger The Neophyte said...

Well done indeed, congrats on the big win

6:57 AM  
Blogger WillWonka said...

just like the old days... the results and the tourney report.


8:25 AM  

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