Monday, June 27, 2011

Foxwoods Recap

Well, I'm back, and I didn't win the $41 grand first prize in Event #1 of the Foxwoods Mega Madness, although I might have played the best out of the 360 entrants in the tournament while I was around. In fact, I didn't even cash. Although I am very pleased with the way I played, this one definitely goes down as just another failed attempt in a long string of mostly failed attempts in large, multi-day mtt's. Maybe it's something about my style of play that causes me to take on too many risks or something, I don't know. All I do know is that this is probably what, six or even seven events now that run more than one day, and I have lasted to Day Two exactly one time in my life. It's pathetic, really.

Anyways, enough wallowing (for now). Suffice it to say I am not happy with the outcome on Saturday. But as I mentioned, I am pretty darn pleased with the way I played overall. First and foremost, I followed my fucking rules that I set out last Thursday and Friday here very well:

1. Play tight early. I managed not to lose 20% of my stack early on this time around, which was all goodness. In fact, I won the first pot I put chips into in the first round with just 5 players at my table, and I won the second as well. I do recall briefly dropping back below the massive 25k starting stacks (500 big blinds if you're keeping score) maybe an hour or so into the tournament around noontime, but even that sojourn below 25k was only a brief one, as for the first time in a little while I got off to a positive start instead of tossing chips in chasing haphazard, poorly thought-out risks.

2. Loosen up preflop late Although I didn't get to play too too late that I could really start stealing and restealing almost purely by feel as often happens when the blinds really escalate once you're into the money and really whittling things down, I am proud to say that I attempted two pure resteals with air in this tournament, both when I really needed them, and I was not the least bit cowed to pull the trigger. It was good getting back to some practice over the past couple of weeks, and I think this was one area where the practice directly and clearly benefited me. I maybe could have restolen even more, but too much restealing without the cards to back it up before the flop often leads to a violation of rule #3 from last week below.

3. Protect my chips from needless, thoughtless risks. Again I have to give myself credit here, as I mentioned I did not slough off a bunch of chips early chasing inside straight draws in three-way pots and the like, so I did a good job of preserving my big stack to make sure I still had plenty of chip utility as the blinds quickly doubled and then doubled again over the first two hours of play, cutting that starting stack from 500 big blinds (M of 333 if you're counting) to just 125 big blinds (M of 83) in four 30-minute levels. Ultimately, I was very patient through a run of very little to play with in terms of starting cards. I remember being dealt AKo in the first round of play, I raised it up with just four opponents and they all folded. Otherwise, I never saw pocket Aces, pocket Kings, pocket Queens or pocket Jacks all day, nor did I ever get dealt AQ or AT (I was dealt the sooted JackAce in hearts once, which I won preflop as I recall late in the afternoon / early evening). I got one other AK as well, this one also sooted, and I played that one for an allin reraise in the evening when I was short and needed to push my good hands just to survive. But I just didn't get dealt the good starting cards. So, as any good poker player does, I had to improvise. I played a bunch of connectors in this thing for cheap pots early, with these super-deep stacks I just could not resist, but I didn't let myself call a lot of raises with them. Just limp along behind a previous limper (there are always tons of limpers early in these big events), or open-raise maybe to disguise my hand and give my c-bet a better chance of taking the pot down, but I didn't just throw in four and five big blinds every time just to chase spec cards indiscriminately as I think I was doing over the past week or two. Since I don't tolerate well just sitting around and watching my stack and my M dwindle while I wait for premium starting cards, I figured I'm going to have to really open up my standards early to see cheap flops if I want to maintain a roughly 10-15% flops seen percentage, is as (at least) my usual in my successful poker tournaments. As a result, after several rounds of just folding everything I began open-raising or overlimping every sooted connector I saw above 43s, every sooted one-gapper above 42s, and even pretty much every sooted two-gapper above 63s, in addition to every pocket pair I received (there weren't many, which included me folding the best starting hand I saw all day in TT to a raise and reraise preflop from a tighty who would go on to show pocket Queens). Oh, and when the internet pro kid in the sunglasses and the hoodie two seats to my right reraised preflop and then c-bet, won and showed the hammer on the flop against a guy across the table, I congratulated him and eventually ended up raising, winning and showing two hammers myself as well. I mean, I had to play something like I had a hand I could take to a flop, and sometimes if the poker gods aren't going to give that hand to you, and you have some fold equity left, you just have to act like the poker gods gave it to you anyways. This got me involved in a lot of pots with weak cards hot and cold, but they were tricky and powerful cards at the same time. Once in a while I would hit em a little bit, or I would smell weakness from my opponent, and I was basically able to hold my own and stay a little above the starting stack for a good five or six hours just playing like that. I did not play any big, big pots, and I preserved what I had and didn't allow myself to get a big portion of my stack into a situation without a big hand to back it up. The biggest pots I won between the 11am starting time (25k starting stack) and the 6:50pm dinner break (66k chips) were:

I flopped two pairs with 96s on a K96 board three or four rounds in, against a guy who called a large check-raise by me on the turn when another raggy four fell, and then checked down with me when I got scared of the river Ace (he showed KQo).

Two or three hours in, a guy bet into me on the KQ7 flop, I called with KJ because this clown had bet at every single flop all night long, and then he proceeded to bet into me again on the turn, and again on the river where I was so sure he was feigning strength with the way he threw his chips into the middle -- again I had seen him do this once or twice before already on the day -- that I considered raising him, but didn't want to be the dickhead losing half his stack raising the river with top pair against a guy who'd bet into him on all three streets. He showed QT for middle pair, middle kicker. No way he could stop betting that one, even on the river, right? This pot literally added about 60% to my stack at the time, and was a much-needed boost over 35k for the first time as I kind of struggled all day to stay even with average even though I did manage to slowly grow my chip stack throughout the day.

In the late afternoon, I limped into a three-way pot from the button with T9o (this is the kind of hand I had to expand my range to as I continued not to receive the premium starting cards that everyone knows to play), and the flop came down J86 with two of a suit. The first player checked this flop that isn't going to help most preflop raisers unless they had a big pocket pair, and I checked as well in the hopes of seeing a free card with my open-ender, and then the huge stack across the table from me slid out a way-too-large bet, probably one-and-one-third times the size of the current pot. He was this old guy who'd been at my table for a good few hours at this point, and he had been caught totally bluffing with multiple barrels on at least three different occasions, but he bet so often and so aggressively that he had won a ton of pots doing that same thing as well, and he got paid bigtime on his few big hands because of that Gus Hansen-like style. But the only other time I had seen him bet so many chips relative the size of the pot over several rounds of play, he had done it with the exact same mannerism he had used this time -- really throwing the chips way out in front of him, almost like he was angry at them or something -- and that time, he had been called down and would not even show his cards, he auto-mucked them without even seeing what his opponent had. He had also recently lost a large-ish pot and I think might have been steaming a little as it was, but something about the way he shoved made me not believe him for a second. If anything, it seemed like an angry shove by someone who had missed the flop and had really expected to nail it. His bet was for around 8000 chips into a pot with I think 6900 in it, and at the time I had around 45k in chips in my own stack. I debated pushing allin right there, but frankly, I didn't want to throw em all in there in case he might actually be willing to make it obvious to me that he really is strong here with another raise or lead-out on the turn, and I thought in the end that an allin didn't look as strong or as scary anyways as just a raise. I kicked it up to 21k, carefully selected to leave myself enough still for a very credible bet on the turn if necessary, and I had made sure my stack was perfectly flush and visible to him so that he could figure that fact out on his own as he considered my raise. He hemmed and he hawed, but he eventually folded and I climbed up just over 60k shortly before the dinner break.

I headed to Fifth Street, the newly-redone cafe in the back of the poker room downstairs at Foxwoods, and got a nice down-home sausage and egg sandwich freshly made on a bagel for me at 7pm. That went down well and left a nice feeling in my stomach as I headed back in to try to make a run. We were down to 100 runners left out of the 360 who started at 11am on Saturday morning, and the average stack was 90k, leaving me at about two-thirds of average with 66k and change. Blinds would be starting at 2500-5000 after the break, giving me a little over 13 big blinds and basically precious little room to do anything other than push preflop other than maybe limp from the small blind. Fortunately for me, I quickly picked up pocket 9s in the cutoff, and when the guy to my right with a slightly shorter stack than me open-pushed when the action folded around to him, I called, hoping to win the race but overjoyed to see 66, and when my 9s held, I vaulted up to just over 100k in chips, the first time I had been above the average chip stack since the first few minutes of the tournament some nine hours-plus ago.

I was resolved to hold on to my above-average stack, that I had worked so hard and been so patient to get. This is so how many of my deep runs go -- I sit around, holding on through the early levels, not much to work with -- and then suddenly it all bursts and late in the pre-money stage, suddenly I pick up a hand or two and I go on a run. It's annoying as hell surviving long enough to get there, but when you finally do, you want to cherish it all the more because of all the work you had to do in winning all your pots with T8 and 96 and with reraise-bluffs, etc. Late in the second hour after dinner break, with blinds at 3k-6k and a 600 ante, and my stack still sitting comfortably just above average at around 115k in chips, I called a preflop reraise to 16k with my 98s in spades when I was in the small blind and there were already two others in to see the pot. The flop came down a beautiful T76 rainbow, giving me not only the flopped straight, but one with no flush draw on the flop, and it was even the top part of a flopped inside straight that is going to be extremely hard for anyone to pick up a higher straight than mine on. So I check the action from the cutoff, and the guy across the way with maybe 80k in chips leads out for a normal-sized bet of 22k into what had to be a 60k pot already. The next guy folds, so it's just me and the bettor heads-up. I do my best hollywood, looking up in the air as if I have something to think about, taking a good 45 seconds or more to ponder my next move as if I wasn't sitting on the stone cold nizzuts. I recall even taking the time to cut out the 22k from my stack and look at the rest of it, as if I wanted to see what might happen if I called but then had to fold the hand on the turn. Eventually, not wanting to spoil that hollywood and spook my opponent with a raise, I cut off enough chips for a call and slid them slowly out to the middle.

The turn came another 6, making the board now T766. Not the literal best card I could hope for by a long shot, but all things considered, certainly not a bad card to me. If anything, I can use it to my advantage, as I quickly pushed in the rest of my stack as if I maybe had a 6, all the while hoping that he was the one who maybe held a 6 in his hand and would give me another near-double up to jump me up near the top of the remaining 75 or so players' stacks. The guy absolutely amazes me by calling, and his face quickly turns very red as he flips up...QTo. Now, granted, this was a limped pot, but this guy is calling my allin bet on a T766 board for a lot of chips with QT. As I stood up, I said out loud, "I flopped the straight, but since he called I'm sure he's going to be drawing at me", but then when he flipped up just top pair, I literally had just said in amazement "Or, no, he's actually drawing dead" when the dealer peeled off another six on the river. Immediately I saw my mistake, that my opponent was actually drawing to four outs on the river -- the two other tens and the two other sixes -- and he had just nailed one of them on a miracle 91%-to-9% underdog shot with one card to come. The people at my table nearly fell over, first from sheer amazement when they saw what my opponent called me with, and then from grimacing an groaning as the river was turned and I started stacking my chips next to his to pay this guy off.

I mean, I'm aware that this is ultimately just the standard bad beat story that the Internets are much better off without since April 15 of this year, but come on! You bust ass all night to fight and claw and pick your way down to the final quintile or so of players left, you never see a premium starting hand, you wait all night long to finally flop your first big flop of the entire tournament, you dupe a guy into sheer embarrassment for his entire stack, waiting until after the turn to do so, and a guy hits for a better than ten-to-one longshot on the river to cripple you. I was beside myself. I felt like that fat kid at the WSOP last year, losing that huge pot to get eliminated short of the final table thanks to that huge spike on the river. I had to get up and take a walk for a couple of hands just to keep myself calm enough to finish out the tournament, but this was a blow that I would never recover from. It was around 9:45pm when I lost this huge hand -- closing in on 11 hours in to one of the longest days of poker of my life -- and I still had around 30k in chips left, although with the blinds set to increase momentarily to 4k-8k with an 800 chip ante, 30k in chips ain't much to play with.

Amazingly, I managed to last another hour and a half even with each round of poker costing 20k just to see ten flops (we had recently consolidated again to ten-person tables with 60 players remaining out of the 360 who had started -- slated to pay the top 35 finishers, btw). Here I folded mostly every hand I saw for 90 minutes, with the exception of one nice resteal from another shorty who wanted to stay alive to make the minimum cash of $1188, and two others. One was an allin push from me with A9s from middle position, which got called by the huge stack on the button with 77 and my Ace hit to prolong my agony a bit further, at that time bringing me back up to around 40k in chips. And the other was at around 11:15pm, when I was back down to around 32k in chips, and I look down to finally see AKo, just my second AK of the night (the first since the very first round twelve hours earlier), and believe me when I say it was just what I needed at that point in time. I pushed allin preflop once again from middle position, and once again the button with the ginormous stack gave me the once-over, before announcing out loud, "Eh...I've got the chips, I'll pay you off." He flips up KJo, a joyous sight for my big slick, that is until the Jack-high flop ended my night in a very annoying, and yet extremely a propos fashion.

So that's the story. I got very little to play with, but I made my own action for twelve hours on Saturday at Foxwoods, and in the end some shithead called my flopped straight down with top pair Queen kicker and hit a 9% shot on the river to take most of my chips. I survived another couple of hours as a mini stack, only to run AK into KJ preflop and not be able to fade a Jack on the flop. All that hard work, wasted. All that money so close to in my grasp, gone (first prize in this was 41k, with 9k going to the first elimination from the final table in 9th place). And, maybe it's a function of just having been away from the game for a while, but it is still bothering me greatly here some 36 hours post detonation.

Poker is a brutal game, and tournament poker all the moreso. In case anyone was wondering, I notice that the Department of Justice hasn't done shit to change that aspect of poker at all over the past few months. I'll tell you one thing though -- I am sure glad that was't a $2000 buyin that got monkeysucked by a window-licking momo without a brain in his head out close to the money at the WSOP. I literally would have put my hand through the computer screen entire fucking Amazon room.

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Blogger jamyhawk said...

great recap.

10:27 PM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Hoy, if you played 7 MTTs in a night and didn't cash in any of them, would it disturb you as much as playing 7 big tournaments over several years without a cash?

I only mention this because I, too, was unable to succeed at the Turning Stone tournament this weekend (for some reason, my site is down, so no post yet). It sucked, but I had to remind myself of the fact that it is one tournament and my sample size of large buy-in tournaments is relatively small. I thought I'd pass the thought on to you. Being 0 for 7 sucks, but its only out of 7, after all.

3:02 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I heard that new Foxwoods poker site was rigggged. Online poker sucks!

5:42 AM  

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