Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Thoughts on Foxwoods and My Live MTT Performances

Jordan left me an interesting comment to my post yesterday expressing my disappointment about my performance at Foxwoods this past weekend, or to be more specific, about my performance in large live mtt's in general. Here is the text of Jordan's comment from that post:

"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."

All fair enough. But here's the thing: I know I should be performing better in these tournaments. I'm there, and I see how the others play, and I know how I play, and it is very obvious that I should be doing better. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

First, a few clarifications. For starters, I'm only referring to the largest, multi-day live mtt's I've played in, because in one-day live events I am perfectly happy with my performance and my profitability. And also, I'm not talking about cashing in these large live mtts -- rather, I'm just talking about making it to Day Two. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I think I have played in seven multi-day live mtt's in my poker career -- three WSOP tournaments, one WSOP circuit event at Caesar's in AC, one large-buyin tournament series event at Foxwoods last year, and the Venetian Deep Stack event where I recorded my biggest ever live score, plus this past weekend's near-bubblage. In about half of these events, making Day Two and cashing were pretty close to the same thing -- even in the Venetian DSE back in 2009, we made the money around midnight on Day One, played another two or three hours to get down to 48 players, and then reconvened the next day to determine the winners. But in the other half -- namely, the 3 WSOP tournaments as well as the WSOP Circuit tournament I played in -- those were three-day events, so making it to Day Two would not at all have even necessarily meant cashing in the tournament. So I could easily have several more Day Two's under my belt without having some obscene cashing percentage in the largest live mtt's I have played in. And yet I have just the one Day Two at the Venetian, and that pisses the shit out of me.

Looking directly at Jordan's comment, to answer his question, yeah, I think I would be a little bit surprised (though I'm sure it's happened before) if I played 7 online mtt's each at full attention in say a week and failed to get through maybe 60% of the field in any one of them. If I played seven live mtt's and could not even last far enough to the equivalent of Day Two in a WSOP tournament in any of them, hells to the yeah that would disturb me. Shouldn't it? Day Two in the preliminary WSOP events is what, roughly two-thirds of the field gone? That sure as hell would strike me as unacceptably poor performance for me, if I failed to outlast two-thirds of the field in all seven out of seven live mtt's I played in. It would. If that makes me pompous in someone's mind, I can live with that. I am a self-proclaimed "hammer-playin pompous ass" right here on the blog, so yeah, call me pompous if that's your read. But yeah, to answer the question asked, if I don't even last through two-thirds of the field in seven out of seven live mtt's -- in particular live, where I am playing just one mtt and there are zero other distractions to take my attention away from the game -- then yes, that seems more than bad enough to be worthy of my noticing, and my lamenting my poor performance.

And don't get me wrong -- I understand Jordan's point perfectly, and it is perfectly valid to a point. A sample size of seven is pretty much not even worth mentioning, statistically speaking, when it comes to drawing conclusions about the totality of my poker tournament prowess. Of course. Which is why I'm not using my lifetime 1-for-7 in making Day Two's at all to argue that it comprises a representative sample from which to draw conclusions regarding my poker tournament skill in general. Yesterday's was not a post of me saying "I guess I'm just not that good at poker tournaments after all!" or anything similar, which I agree totally with Jordan is not a conclusion one can draw from this relatively tiny sample size of seven live nlh tournaments spread over five full years of play. Much the opposite -- my point in barching about my results in the largest live mtt's I've played in is that I clearly am a good tournament player, and yet my results simply do not jibe with that conclusion. It is precisely because I know this 7-tournament sample of tournament results is not representative of my actual skills, that I am here writing these posts lamenting my lack of performance in those events.

I should be doing better in these tournaments. I don't just mean that in the abstract, either. I'm better than most of the people who enter these larger-buyin tournaments in casinos these days. Period. That wasn't true when I first started playing tournaments in casinos -- much the opposite, I've written here about how I could not imagine ever winning a casino tournament way back when I first started getting seriously into this game several years ago -- but in today's day and age, it's very clear that I am closer to the top of the skill levels of the players in the tournaments in which I play. Anyone can choose to believe or not believe this as they see fit, and of course I am more than fine with that, but the bottom line is, one of my favorite things about the whole experience of playing a large-field, solid-buyin live casino mtt, is going through the motions of quickly figuring out who is playing too tight to win, who is playing too loose to hold on to their stacks, who the calling stations are, who are going to be the chasefonkeys at the table, etc.

Let me say this a slightly different way. For the past three or four years or so, when I sit down to a live mtt of almost any reasonable size, things quickly shake out at the table in a way that is only known to a few of the players at the table. I'm sure this will sound familiar to a few of you out there as well. There are usually one or two other guys there that are more or less like me at a random table -- guys who play smart, tight-aggressive poker, guys who you quickly realize you don't really want to mix it up with in a pot in the earlygoing unless you have to. These are often the guys who are out there firing barrel after barrel and taking down a lot of pots uncontested, or they're the guys who always seem to be showing down big cards in the biggest pots, etc. It doesn't usually take more than an hour or so for it to be clear -- at least to those two or three of us at the table -- who the other Players are seated with us. And everyone else has already by that point made it very obvious, again at least to the two or three of us, what their specific weaknesses are. Within an hour or two of sitting down -- who am I kidding, I start doing this almost immediately once I figure out specifically how someone is bad at tournament poker -- the two or three Players have not only correctly applied labels like "chasefonkey", "calling station", etc. to each of the bad players at the table, but we actually start isolating against them. So when dickhead calling station open-raises from early position, and I find a hand like KQ or AJ that I would fold against many raisers for whom I have more respect, I won't just call with that hand against the calling station -- I'll raise. Because even if you told me he had AT vs. my KQ, I would want to be in there against him heads-up in a heartbeat. All the Players do this, it is as natural to us as the day is long. And I can see the other couple of Players at every table I am at early in these things doing the exact same thing. We generally try to avoid playing each other, but boy do we take our whacks at the poker fools around us. That's almost the sole focus of our games for the first several hours at any live mtt -- taking the money of the non-Players at the table.

Anyways, this isn't supposed to be a description of every little trick of the trade that I employ in poker tournaments. It is, however, a simple statement of fact that I am one of those guys -- at every single live poker tournament I ever enter nowadays, all the way up to the $2500 WSOP buyin events that I have played -- that is very aware of the badness of those at my tables, and who follows the same strategy of attacking those bad players just like every other good player there. We all do the same thing, and it's very overt in its own way if you know it is going on. And I'm one of those guys, noting carefully how these two players call every single raise preflop ("I can't wait to pick up a hand against either of those monkeys!"), these two guys limp in with every single hand ("They'll bleed those chips away or get caught holding second-best if I don't get their chips first."), and how the guy to my right as well as two to my left have only played two hands in two hours ("Either they'll pick up pocket Aces, or they'll blind themselves to death like Broomcorn's uncle.") When I am so clearly above most of my opponents at every live tournament table I play at these days in terms of skill, in terms of knowledge of the game, in terms of feel, and -- thanks to the wonders of online poker while that was allowed -- in terms of mtt experience as well, it is difficult for me to be satisfied with 1 Day Two out of seven tries.

All of this would be much easier if I could just chalk my poor large live tournament results to bad play. Or to not paying attention. Or to a lack of study or care about the game and how to get better. But that is simply not the case with me. Every time I sit down to a poker tournament table, I know very quickly what most of the other players' weaknesses are, and I immediately join with the other skilled player or two at the table in a concerted plan to exploit those specific weaknesses. I'm sure I have spent more time reading about and studying the game than 99% of people out there, and I never let a hand go by at the table without carefully noting any salient details and tucking them away for future use against the participants. I know just from sitting there that I'm better than the majority of the players I've been up against in the large live mtt's I've played in, and that contributes quite a bit to my feeling of total dissatisfaction with only making it to Day Two one time in seven tries. The way I have outplayed people and the bad beats I've taken in a number of these events are more a testament to this fact -- and to Jordan's correct point about the sample size being very small in relative terms.

Somehow, the world's most successful poker players don't seem to get eliminated on Day One nearly as much as I do, suckouts or not. And I wish I had a good handle on why that is.

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Blogger edgie212 said...

Jordan's right, and he himself will tell you that he was on the ropes deep in a Day one, and then hit a run of carda and survived to cash at harrah's last year. There is a luckbox element involved in these tournaments, especially with a lot of runners. Optimal poker has a good chance of evening out in the long run, but if you assume you need 100 buy-ins or so to smooth the variance, that means that you need about 50k handy to be sure, so in any of these arenas you have to just go with the fact that you are 'taking a shot.' Your play, Jordan's play, anyone's...unless you are grinding 100 a year you are taking a shot. I guess the point is to enjoy it. I've played 10 tournaments with a buy-in $300 or higher, and cashed in one (Borgata Winter Open 2008), made day two in about half of them, and thankfully satellited into 3 (all Borgata Open events) so my wallet didnt suffer as much, but I would say I had just as good of a time playing the other 9, despite the disappointment. To go and to just get frustrated, it's understandable, and sure, we all want to win some money, but we pay money for lots of 'experiences' and never get a cent back. I just chalk up taking a shot on one of these things to another experience - and that may be awfully touchy-feely of me to say, but it is a good way to try and think of it.

12:39 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Gotta say: Having been at online tables, facing you and others, I respect your play. When I have position on you, I take advantage of your aggression. Likewise to the contrary.

However, your post sounds like a Phil Hellmuth rant... I am so much better than everyone blah blah blah... If it weren't for luck blah blah blah... Get over it. Fortunately, your drivel on how good you are at tournament poker was cut off at the bottom.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Edgie -- I mostly agree with everything you said there. Most of all that, especially through only 7 tournaments total, the luckshot factor is pretty huge. That's how all of tournament play is, to some extent. And don't get me wrong, I completely agree about the "experience" thing and ultimately a good deal of what I'm paying for is just living through the experience, whether I win money in the end or not. My feelings are really not related to money though to make that one clarification -- I just would like to have lasted further into the field than I have in all of my live events save for one (whether I min-cashed, made a big score, or not), and my results do not line up with the level of my play in the events I have been at. And for the record, my "enjoyment factor" is a lot higher -- me personally, here -- when I run deep, get to play for some deep stacks and some really big pots and face really huge decisions, over more than one day. Plus, Days Two (and Three) are where most of those big action, big decision pots are to be found and played. I just wish I had more experience doing that, in albeit very limited opportunities to do so. Thanks for your insightful comments.

Meister -- LOL FYI what really happens is I take advantage of you trying to take advantage of my aggression.
Your immediate reaction to reading the real truth just now ("Yeah right! What a pompous fool!") is exactly why I'm able to keep doing it even after I reveal my strategy publicly to the world over and over again for years on end.

I'm too busy with the thought that for some reason you willingly choose to read my "drivel" when you don't have to, to try to explain how you immediately fell right into the exact same defense mechanism the other non-Players at my tables would immediately fall into upon reading my post, choosing to attack instead of absorb. It's amazing how predictable the human brain can be, in a poker context more than many other areas of life.

2:08 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

I'm subscribed to your blog so I get all of your posts. They're usually interesting. This one was blah blah blah me me me.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Josie said...

I saw Jordan's original comment and thought if I played 7 mtts and didn't cash in ANY of them I'd be devastated. Come on 7? I know you'd cash in more than 1.

I wonder if you have a higher level of confidene playing onlinve vs. live and that's the diff. You're not playing badly, but are you using your instincts less and being more conservative live? Just something to consider, as I feel you should be cashing in 1 of 7. I feel like average is 1 in 10 and you are most certainly above average.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

The funny thing is, I actually don't mind the only cashing in 1/7 nearly as much as the only making it to Day Two in 1/7. I just feel like a lot of what I am paying for is the fun and the experience, but I am only getting to participate in half (or less) of that time for fun and experience. I hate the thought that all those other people get to stay and play another day, in fact on a more fun day because the stakes are so much bigger, while I paid the same buyin, I know I am skilled enough to be there on Day Two, but I'm sitting on the sidelines instead. It's like paying your $50 to go to Six Flags seven different times just like everyone else, but then always having to leave the park at noon even when I really wish I could stay until the evening.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

It is a shame that Meister has not achieved the grace of others in accepting when he is outplayed.


2:14 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Damn shame, Bayne. It would be cool for Hoy to post an entry about me :-).

8:21 AM  

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