Friday, February 11, 2011

Donkey Island Poker, and Parting Thoughts on This Week's Win

Before I forget, this coming Sunday night is the first of tournament of the Donkey Island blonkament series. Goat will be hosting a regular Sunday night tournament as part of Donkey Island, and although there are only 16 slots in the Donkey Island vote-Hoy-off-as-soon-as-possible thing, the tournaments are open to anyone who wants to play. And this one, just about anyone but Waffles can afford -- it's just one dollah to get in and take your shot!

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Full Tilt Poker
9:30 PM EST
$1 + $1 Rebuy
password: survive

You remember Katitude's old $1 rebuy on Friday nights, right? Wasn't that fun? Now's your chance to come play for cheap with the bloggers again, this Sunday night at 9:30pm on full tilt. Figure, you'll already be down to couple hundred left in the Sunday 750k by 9:30 on Sunday night, so why not hit up the "Private" tab under "Tournaments" and check out "the Goat" as I am affectionately referring to this Sunday night tournament, for the couple of months it is currently scheduled to endure.

OK, with that out of the way, I thought I would close the book on this week's 10k win on pokerstars as I usually do with some final thoughts. This was an odd tournament -- I have gone over the hand histories and the screen shots three times in full now, and something just seems a little "off" about it. I mean, I never had that one huge hand -- flopping a set against AA and KK allin preflop, or turning a flush after getting allin with a couple of guys with solid made hands ahead of me, etc. -- and really, it's hard to quantify or explain exactly what I did in this tournament to run so deep, or even what I avoided from a luck perspective. Although I obviously played very well in the event to last as long as I did and to amass the stack that I had by the end, frankly there wasn't any one hand that I thought I played particularly well or one type of play I repeatedly took advantage of given my image in the tournament. More than any other tournament cash I can recall, this one was more an amalgamation of several things, all coming together at just the right time to make me some money. And if there was one theme that carries through the whole tournament, more than anything else -- as if often the case with my deep mtt runs -- it would be the bad play of my opponents, more than anything specific that I did.

Just look through all my big hands in this thing, every one of which I think I included in my tournament recap post on Wednesday. My first double occurred during Hour 1, when a guy insta-called three bets from me with 99 on an 8-high board, after first calling my preflop reraise. That's just a pure, old fashioned terrible poker play. I mean, this isn't limit poker here. The guy basically busted himself in the first hour of a $109 buyin event when he raised preflop, got reraised -- clearly suggesting a higher pair could be out there -- and then the guy called not one, not two, but three times on a raggy board, never once even raising early to try to find out if his 9s were already beat? It's a terrible play, and I was lucky to be the beneficiary before someone else at the table had the pleasure.

My second big hand literally only ever happened in the first place because of this same opponent's bad play. On that hand, I took AK to a raggy turn card after a raggy flop, and my opponent then led out for 600 chips into a 2700-chip pot. I already thought I could be ahead with my AK in that spot, but to any reasonably-sized bet I would have folded most of the time, no doubt about it. Instead, he bet so small that I felt I actually had odds to stay in. The river comes a King, I lead out big and he folds. More chips for me, in a pot I would literally not even have been in to river the top pair if my opponent makes even close to a good bet there, instead of a terrible one.

My next big hand was when I flopped the set of 5s in a 5-way pot with a flop of 578. This was just more fortuitous than anything else -- I mean, it's an obvious call for me with pocket 5s after four other raise-callers ahead of me before the flop, and then I did the usual donk move of slow-playing the set by just calling a lead bet on that flop. What really got me the chips was when I pushed hugely on the turn (a 2), and the guy called with his pocket 9s. Yes, it was an overpair, and it's not as bad as my first big hand above because there, I had reraised him preflop, all but screaming at him right off the bat that his 9s were no good, but here in the end, the guy still called off his last 7500 in chips with just one medium pair and a one-card inside straight draw on a board that was 5-way to see the flop (a terrible move, generally speaking), with not only a possible straight and myriad straight draws out there, but the turn card also dropping a second flush draw possibility as well for the river. Even if his 9s were ahead at the time -- I bad guess to begin with as it is -- he called off his last 7500 chips with what he had to know were a gillion possible ways to lose. It's another bad play, and ultimately this was the closest thing I had to that big hand I was talking about -- I shot up to the top few spots on the leaderboard early, and it really set me up with a big stack that I never lost again throughout the rest of the tournament. I played the hand about as well as it could be played I think, including the ridiculous push on the turn that I tried hard to be perceived as weak, so I'll take some credit there. But in the end, it was a very light call by a bad opponent that gave me my first true huge stack of the night and empowered me to last the next four or five hours of tough nlh play.

After amassing my huge stack, I took it easy, helped by a lack of any good cardage to play, and after a couple of hours was getting pretty short when I finally needed to get a little lucky, and I did just that when my JTs allin preflop bested an opponent's AQo when down to just under 50 players left in the tournament. It's nowhere near a suckout, but that was my tournament life allin and on the line, with about a 43% chance of winning, and my 43'er came through in a big way, giving me new life and a chance to take a breather from the escalating blinds and antes. I would probably make that play again there given my situation -- my opponent had basically as bad of a hand as I could have ever wanted him to have there with my JTs -- but I needed to get lucky to stay alive, so I can't take a whole lot of credit for some kind of great play on my part for sho.

When we got down to two tables remaining, I had another big stack flip out and call allin preflop on a rereraise with his AJo, which I called with my AKo and held up to climb into first place of 12 runners left. Who knows what happens with my stack if I don't get gifted those chips in that situation? I think I made the right play not laying down my AK in that spot, but again, hard to give myself a lot of credit for getting dealt AK in the final two tables and refusing to lay down to heavy action preflop in a blind vs. blind situation.

And then the same thing happened for me early at the final table, when with 8 players left, I called allin preflop with my JJ vs a medium stack who had TT. He would have played QQ probably exactly the same way there, and when I called I could have seen QQ, or just as easily AK or AQ or even KQs, and lost to any of those hands. Again I think I made the right decision to get allin pre with my JJ there, but the hands just got in ahead at the right times over and over for me in this thing. Similarly when I eliminated a short-stacked #7 when my AK won a race against his TT allin pre.

And that's every big hand I won all through the night in the pokerstars 50k guaranteed. It was three different guys getting allin with medium overpairs on raggy boards against me in bad spots, one horrible bet from an opponent on the turn that priced me in to see a river card that won for me, and one big 43% win with JTs against AQo allin pre, to get to the final table. And then at the final table, someone ran TT into my JJ, and then my AK beat TT in a race. And then the other guy knocked out the last four players while I just sat around, holding my own, until he eventually got heads-up against me and he picked up pocket Aces just when I decided to attack.

So what's the lesson I should take from this? I know I played a great tournament, but I know just as well that this was nowhere near the best I can play. I wasn't presented with nearly enough opportunities, not nearly enough decisions, to really play the best I could play in this. In a sense, the lesson really is kind of like the New York Lottery's constant marketing message -- you can't win if you don't play. That is to say, if you are resigning yourself to the life of mtt grinder, you cannot expect to play a couple large tournaments a week and record a lot of success. As I've said here many times, the name of the game when it comes to mtts is reps. More than anything else, more than making good decisions, more than tournament selection, more than anything else, it's all about reps. Everyone's going to get lucky some night, be it finding pocket Aces eight times in one tournament, be it avoiding the suckouts, or just winning your key races. The key is that you have to be in there playing the game when it's your night. Of course, if you play good poker as opposed to bad poker, you will give yourself many more chances to get lucky than you ever will if you don't play well enough and make enough good decisions to survive long enough to be alive for the luck at the end.

On the day, I did not suck out on anyone in any pot that I could find, though I did win that one key hand with me allin before the flop with JTs against AQo. I took three suckouts, only one of which I showed in my tournament recap, as the other two did not end up being material losses for my stack, but even that number is nothing out of the ordinary for me -- if anything, it's a bit favorable compared to my usual night in a deep mtt run. As I mentioned in my recap post, I ended up the night winning 21 of 24 pots at showdown, whereas I normally spend most of my time winning pots without a showdown and only coming in at around 50% or so in this stat. Part of that is me playing well and consistently getting out of pots when I was not the favorite, but a good deal of that extraordinary win % just goes to show the kind of "luck" I had on this night. Ultimately, I got in as a solid favorite a lot in this, and my favorites for the most part held up. In fact, every time you could fairly say that I needed my favorite to hold up, it held up. Every single time, and then some. When I got in dominating someone preflop, I held. When I many times in this tournament got someone allin against me on the flop with an underpair and an inside straight draw, just an oesd, etc., I held. I won a couple of key races near the end to keep building my stack, and did not lose a race once we got down to the final two tables. All that is how I won this cash, nothing more and nothing less.

And someone also mentioned in the comments that, not only did I win 21 of 24 times at showdown, but I had won 40 hands without a showdown as of right around the beginning of the final table. The comment expressed how large that number was, but in reality, that's pretty much standard for me in any deep mtt run. At the time we had played right around 375 hands, so this amounts to me having won roughly 11% of all hands dealt at my table on the night without a showdown. Admittedly, this is a big number, but it's also the way I play nlh. I raise a lot preflop, and I take down a ton of pots that way before anyone even sees the community cards. And, just like Doyle, I don't like to put my chips into the pot and then not back them up once the flop comes down. It helps that I generally only play strong cards or cards that can easily make a strong hand or draw once the flop falls. But I bet and raise all the time, all over the place, trying to keep the pots small as much as possible unless I'm working on something big in my own hand. In all, winning 40 pots uncontested and another 21 at showdown means I was winning 61 / 375 hands at the time, or 16-17% of the total hands I saw on the night. That number is also high, but, again, it is not that out of the ordinary for me in any deep mtt run. Playing at mostly 9- and 10-handed tables all through the night, to win more than your 10/11% of hands over time is very telling, and in my case it reflects the fact that I play very aggressively pre- and post-flop, and that in this case I amassed a huge stack early and then used it like a club to beat down on the heads of my opponents for long periods of time in the middle of this mtt. I am quite sure there are plenty of people who can win an nlh tournament with a lower percentage of total hands won that that, and to be perfectly honest I've had multi-hour runs in mtts when I am up over 20% of total hands won. A lot of it does ultimately come down to the cards you are being dealt, but in my case whenever I run deep I am usually winning right up there around 10% of the total hands I've seen without a flop. When I am executing my strategy, and my approach to nlh tournaments just right, that's what it looks like.

I wish more people posted their stats from deep mtt runs. I am sure there is much to be gained from analyzing those stats against the type of game that the relevant person plays. But I'm the only person I ever really see posting this sort of thing. Personally, I would really like to know if all the top mtt guys come in around the same area in most of their wins, as far as total percent of flops seen (mine was 12% in this, which as I mentioned previously is right around my average for a deep mtt run), percent of hands defended in the blinds, and total flops seen and total hands won, both with and without a showdown. I do know that winning 21 of 24 showdowns in a tournament is an extreme outlier, but that takes me back to this tournament overall, which in its own way was also an outlier for me as I started off this post saying. It was a little bit of cards for me and a lot of aggression, and a whole whole lot of bad play by others, combined with a whole whole lot of my favorites holding up. Get enough favorites to hold, and almost anybody could make a deep run in an mtt. You just have to find a way to be in there when it's your night to run, and you never know it's your night until the end.

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Blogger The Neophyte said...

You hit the nail on the head early in your post. Other people made bad plays. The key to winning is not so much making great calls and monster laydowns as it is to make less mistakes than the other guys. You didn't make mistakes when others did which worked to your benefit then you were able to use your big stack effectively. My deep runs usually depend on someone or several someones making bad plays when I have a good hand. Case in point in one of my recent online scores, I'm scuffling to make something happen, I get in with AK as a relatively short stack, and a guy with a slightly larger stack calls me with AJ and doubles me up when I need it most. He goes out just before the bubble and I don't. I don't track my stats the way you do but I'm gonna start. I appreciate all of the work you do and I'm sure some of my recent success is due to reading your views on playing.

9:46 PM  

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