Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hot Hand #4 (Updated With Results)

On Memorial Day earlier this week, full tilt ran a 5k guaranteed special tournament in the evening East Coast time. This was a $5 buyin tournament, lower than full tilt's usual lowest buyins for MTTs, but with the holiday and all, they had little trouble attracting more than 1000 entrants trying to take their shot at the $1000+ first prize, and when I saw it sitting there, I decided to take the plunge as well.

About 45 minutes into the 5k guaranteed Memorial Day tournament, I look down to find KQo in middle-late position. The player in 3rd position, who bet first preflop following the SB and the BB, had limped already, after which everyone folded to me.

Question 1: What's your play here? Do you fold KQo preflop in 6th position after the guy in first betting position limped in, and everyone else folds to you? Or do you limp along? Or do you raise, attempting to isolate given that KQo is the kind of hand that tends to do better against just one opponent, and not so well in a multiway pot?

In the end, I elected to raise it up to 3x the big blind, for isolation purposes. Unfortunately, my isolation attempt failed miserably, and we saw a flop with four players including myself, with the pot containing 390 chips before the flop hit the felt. Here was the flop:

A few things to notice about this situation:

1. Check out the guy in the big blind on this hand. It is none other than on_thg, a fellow poker blogger even though I didn't realize that was him until just now as I wrote this post. On_thg even has another hand from this same tournament, same table posted on his blog, I just noticed today, and there is me across the table from him. Hard to believe I sat at thg's table for this long and didn't notice him nor acknowledge his presence. Ahh, maybe he took it as intimidation from me and donked me some chips as a result. Who knows.

2. You can see from the action on the flop, first on_thg moved all in on this three-spade flop. Then, the guy to his immediate left reraised allin as well.

3. Lastly, also please note that I am actually holding the nut flush draw in my hand with the King of spades, with two cards to come. So you know neither of those two guys has the nut flush draw (or the nut flush itself) in his hand.

Question 2: What are these two people holding here? Are we looking at TPTK, two pairs or trips, some kind of a draw, or maybe a made flush? Both called as the third and fourth players in on a 3x preflop raise, and now on the flop one of them moves in and the second one raises allin. What are they holding?

Question 3: What is my move here? Presumably I am behind at least one of these two allin bettors at this point, but what are my realistic outs? Should I consider calling these two allin bets? What is the money move here?

I will tell you that this ended up, in my opinion, being a very interesting hand, and one with a result that is not often seen at the holdem tables. I am interested in hearing everyone's thoughts, in particular on the last two questions, and I will post the results, including what I decided to do with my nut flush draw and what the hand ended up looking like when all was said and done.

UPDATED with hand results:

Well, no one got the opponents' hands exactly right here, but I would think it was pretty weird if anyone had, because it turned out that they both were on the same kind of made hand:

Yes, I did call this bet, and yes the spade on the river gave me a huge chipup early on in the Memorial Day 5k event. What I liked about the hand is that the pot odds actually did dictate that I call allin in a situation where I knew going in that I was behind. I just love that two players had flopped flushes on the same hand, which you hardly ever see, and then to top it off, they both lost to a higher flush when a fourth suited card hit the river. Let that be a lesson to everyone on why you should pay attention to pot odds. I made a call that I would typically never make in a tournament, because once the second played had moved in as well, it suddenly became mathematically correct for me to put my entire stack on the line when I knew I was behind at that point in the hand. You won't find my chasing draws very much in large MTTs, but that's generally because the pot odds aren't there. Almost any time someone fails to bet enough to make the pot odds dictate a fold, I am likely to take a card and see if I can put a move on somebody to scarf that pot away regardless of what the next card is.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm Your DADI

Wow. I can't believe I'm here saying this again, but I took down the DADI VI blogger tournament last night. Thanks as always to Jordan and Trip for setting this thing up, and to Gary as well who was the honorary MC. A good time was had by all, as always with these large blogger get-togethers. Another aspect I enjoyed was some of the prop bets that Jordan and Trip made with each other heading into the event, one of which included Jordan honoring me as part of his threesome to go against TripJax's threesome for who had the best combined score. I'm glad to have been able to help a fellow New York blogger represent in a prop bet with some guy from central North Carolina. Now, my biggest challenge will be to figure out what the heck to spend my 1000 VPPs points on as my bounty for winning the event. Anybody out there know if that can get me anything good on its own?

Anyways, here was my starting table for the DADI VI, in pot-limit holdem:

Interestingly, I've always done well in pot-limit, mainly because for me it is only a very slight change from the way I usually play no-limit holdem anyways. I say that because, unlike Harrington who recommends a "continuation bet" of around half the size of the pot, I tend to bet around the size of the pot, and sometimes more, with most of my bets once the flop is out. Thus, I'm usually playing something that pretty closely approximates pot-limit holdem whenever I play online, whether the others at my table have realized it or not. So it's not a very big stretch for me. Yes it's a little harder to steal preflop since you can't push too hard due to the small pot at the beginning of the hand, and yes it does take away some of the all-in moves that you would otherwise see preflop or on the flop, but in the end it's just not a very different game from what I'm already used to playing, and I find that does tend to give me an advantage over other players who maybe are playing pot-limit for the first time.

So, rather than go through the big hands that led me to the DADI final table like I usually do, today I'm going to do it a little different. I was thinking this morning about how I was able to take this tournament down today, and I think I've narrowed it down to three key things. So, I'm going to discuss those three things, and show examples from as the tournament wore on for each one to better explain what I was thinking and why I did what I did.

1. Push when I believe am ahead. As I've discussed a million times on the blog, when you're playing poker, especially online poker, and double especially on pokerstars, it does not pay to slow play over the long term. You can do it once in a while to keep people honest if they otherwise know you and know your game well enough to need to be kept honest, but once in a while is the maximum, and it should only ever be done against people who know your game, or else you're just throwing chips away online. Period. So, the first major strategic point for me last night, when I felt I was ahead, was to make people pay to stay in with me. This sounds simple and basic, and on some levels it is, but consistently pushing, through an entire multi-table tournament, when you think you're ahead, knowing that your, say, top pair low kicker could be behind in actuality, does take a fair amount of discipline, at least for me. It is especially hard when I am facing a lead bet from my opponent when I still think I am ahead, but that happened for me several times during the DADI; raising someone up with your top pair weak kicker is a whole level above just check-and-calling their bets. Last night this strategy was working for me, again and again, and the suckouts against me managed to remain at a minimum.

For example, in this hand, about 40 minutes into the DADI tournament, I found myself in a two-way pot with tournament host Jordan, where I held an overpair (10s) to a paired board with two low cards and two of a suit. I figured I had to be ahead here, even though we had limped in together, so Jordan could technically be holding anything right now. But I figured I was ahead, so I made a move:

When Jordan responded by reraising me allin, I had to call it. Jordan had limped so I couldn't put him on much with that, but I knew he could have been slowplaying a premium overpair preflop and I would be severely dominated, or he could have easily held a Four for trip 4s in this unraised pot preflop. Nonetheless, the odds told me that I was ahead, so I made the call. He flipped:

and my Tens held up to win the hand, to get me a nice chip stack fairly early in the tournament, and to eliminate Jordan (sorry bud!). But it was pushing, as opposed to slow playing, check-calling, or any of the other options out there, that enabled me to take this pot down.

Similarly, here, about 90 minutes into the tournament, when I was allowed to draw at a flush on the flop cheaply, and I then made my flush on the turn, I didn't mess around. I wasn't going to slow play and let this guy make a higher flush on the river, or a boat, etc., at least not without making him pay a dear price to do it. So I hoy-raised when my heads-up opponent made a half-pot flop bet that represented a third of his remaining chips:

He called, and eventually flipped this for the losing hand (I still don't really understand how or why he made this call. I attribute it to the hoy, which always tends to frustrate and confuse opponents into making poor decisions):

Here is me later in the second hour all-in reraising PresidentDaveLee when I had to figure my flopped top two pairs were in the lead, netting me another hand win without even having to show my cards:

Lastly, here I am facing yet another preflop raise in front of me, at a time when there were just 11 people left in the tournament, two away from the final table. I had the Hilton whores, and figured I had to push since I likely had the best hand at the time:

The final board ended up looking like this, significantly increasing my chip lead and knocking out the last two players to send us right to the final table:

And the interesting thing to me is, look what would have happened if I had slow played those effing Hilton biatches. The King and the middle pair of 8s come on the flop. Now, depending on who is in and how they bet it, I might end up folding the Queens to a possible top pair and/or trips on the flop. I can't say it enough -- slowplaying online is just begging someone to take your chips. And they will take your chips eventually if you slow play enough, believe you me.

2. Trust my poker instincts. The second major strategy I used in the DADI tournament is one that I have also written extensively about on the blog, including in my New Year's Resolutions post from January 1 of this year. If I thought someone was bluffing me, or on a draw, I pushed back at them to make it unattractive for them to continue with the hand, almost regardless of the cards I held in my hand. This lead me to make several reraise bluffs as I enjoy doing (especially to bloggers who I can screenshot about later). I did this several times in the tournament, ranging from the beginning of the tournament all the way to the end, and yesterday the spidey senses tingled true almost every time. I'll show you.

Early in the tournament last night (first 15 minutes or so), I was faced with a near-death experience. I was down to just 1000 chips left, and Fishy McDonk, who had already bet big when a scary Ace had come on the turn, led out for 500 chips, half of my remaining stack. I carefully reviewed the betting in the hand, from preflop on. We had both limped in from the blinds, so I had no reason to believe Donk actually held an Ace in his hand, which I would have expected him to have raised with given that this was folded around to him in the SB and since I have noted him several times as a known blind stealer. Then, when I had bet the pot on the flop with my top-pair-shittiest-kicker, Donk's hesitation just smelled like a flush draw to me. I don't know why exactly, but I was fairly sure that he did not play the hand like he would have if he actually held a higher Queen or an overpair. Now, although that didn't exactly mean he wasn't holding an Ace in his hand, I've played with Donk enough to know that I don't think he would have stayed in at that point with just an Ace and no pair, unless there was a King to go with it, or of course the flush draw. So, when Donk bet half of my stack on the river after I had called his bet on the turn when the scare card Ace fell, my instincts told me that Donk's failure to move in everything to put me allin right there was confirmation that he did not in fact hold an Ace. And since I didn't think he held a Queen either as I discussed earlier, I did the only thing I could, with the paltry chip stack I had left:

Fishy spent the better part of 90 seconds thinking, which just confirmed for me most of all that he did not, in fact, have me beat. Eventually:

He folded to a 550 chip bet from me into a 2470 chip pot. So you know he knew he was behind there. And I took down a large pot early on in the tournament, jumping me up into 3rd place at the time (37 of the 38 DADI entrants were still alive at this point), because I was willing to be aggressive at a time when an overpair (and the most often-played overpair -- Aces) was possible, but my gut just told me Donk didn't have what he was representing.

Here is another great example of me trusting my instincts last night, to the point of outright bluff-raising an opponent who had already raised preflop as it was. This occured near the end of the first hour of the tournament:

You can see, the the Suckout Artiste had led very weakly into me on the turn, after leading at the flop in a bluffy way and seeing me call it. My instincts read this for fear (not a slow play), as I saw a guy who had made a bluff-stab at the flop, got called, was pissed, but couldn't bring himself to do the uberweak move of checking the flop, so instead just small-bet the flop, wanting the hand to just be over with. So, since that was the image my spidey sense perceived when Artiste bet this turn to me, I raised him. Never mind that I held nothing in my hand other than an inside straight draw -- don't think for a second I was playing that ISD here. I was playing Artiste's cards, not my own. And the result of my bluff raise:

Another big pot for me. No showdown.

And here is my proudest hand of the tournament, other than the end result itself:

This one was real simple. I had the Hammer. Jhartness, who had been stealing like a mofo all night long, had just raised 3x from one in front of the button, his standard steal-raise from his standard steal-raise position. I thought he had jack shit. So I raised him up an amount that he was either going to fold to, in which case I win a nice pot, or he was going to reraise me allin given his chip stack, in which case I would know I was way behind, but could show off in front of the other bloggers with my faith in the greatest hand in all of holdem. The result:

Another fold, and another nice pot to me. The best part is, Jhartness later explained in the chat that my large Hammer raise had forced him to fold his Hammer as well! Gotta love that. As someone else commented in the chat, it's enough to make you wish we were playing on UB (worst site ever), just for the muck-and-show feature they offer.

3. Get lucky when I need to. It's an almost universal truth of MTTs that you're gonna have to get lucky at some point. Probably several times. It doesn't necessarily just mean that you spike a 2-outer on the river when you're behind and allin against the chip leader, but just that you hit some cards when you need them at just enough times and in just enough situations to allow you to survive and get yourself back into positive odds situations. In the DADI VI, that was me. All the last few guys in the DADI tournament sucked out a few times to get to that point. I certainly was one of those, and I also hit some good cards at the final table to help bring me the victory. That's poker baby, and it's especially pokerstars poker.

So we went into the DADI final table with me well out in front:

I played very solid poker at the final table, with, as per usual, most of my winning hands occurring on bluffs and steals. I won't be showing all the good bluffs and steals I made, because frankly those are boring and don't really involve much strategy or thought process at all. It's especially boring because I don't recall more than once or twice really hitting a flop well in any situation at the final table, and I certainly did not got dealt a lot of premium cards (though I did get pocket Aces once, which I never showed). But I was aggressive, bullied my way into enough pots to maintain my lead most of the way down to heads-up, and definitely got some luck along the way to keep me where I was at.

Here I am, winning with JJ against Bone Daddy's AA. I always feel a little twinge of guilt when I beat someone's Aces, in particular in a dominated situation, but not that much really, so that's all I'll say about eliminating BD in 8th place here on the river:

Btw, here is me at the second break, in the midst of the final table, with my stack dwarfing even second place left in the tournament at that point:

Here is Presdlee again, hitting a nasty turn card to eliminate non-blogger but nice guy slb in 6th place, meaning that the rest of us had made the cash in the DADI VI:

About 10 hands later, here is Dlee again, this time eliminating Miami Don in 5th place, and taking my chip lead away for the first time at the final table (temporarily, I was telling myself at the time):

I got that chip lead back exactly 12 hands later, when I spiked a Jack on the turn to beat Mookie with a 3-outer pull:

Now I'm not any happier than you all are about the length of Mook's hair at this point. But that's not my problem, I didn't make him start this quest, and it's not my job to let his favorites win at the final table of major blogger events. So, Mook, my apologies to your follices, but they'll have to keep working overtime for the time being. Thank pokerstars, don't thank me.

So, down to 3 remaining, with Dlee and myself each holding large stacks, while DNasty was about a 4- or 5-to-1 chip dog to each of Dlee and myself. I continued to fight and steal my way to maintain my chip lead, and then 13 hands into 3-way play, another gross river suckout went down:

Sickening. DNasty goes out in third, and I am heads-up with PrezDLee for all the marbles. Well, actually not for all the marbles, but for about 60 more marbles than second place would get, and the glory of winning another blogger tournament on the line. We've both had some nice suckouts, both earlier in the tournament as well as at this final table, to get where we're at here (recall earlier when Dlee folded to a reraise from me on the flop and left himself with under 800 chips more than halfway into the tournament already), and we started off almost exactly even-stacked for our heads-up showdown:

As usual for the last two players, I bluffed and semi-bluffed almost randomly, moving at the pot just about every time I had an above-average heads-up hand or whenever Dlee showed any weakness. A couple of times he reraised me out of a pot, and a couple of times I reraised him out (this one was particularly nice), but for the most part we just went back and forth, bluffing each other and pushing each other off of pots, relying on position more than anything else, until we both had a hand we thought was worthy of moving in on.

The first allin clash was one where I felt compelled to call allin even though I knew full well I could likely be behind, as I held an Ace but with the worst possible kicker. The flop didn't help me either:

But then by the time the river was out, I was able to get back up from praying position and sit back at the computer:

Not exactly a huge suckout for me, but that's me tying when I'm around a 2 to 1 favorite to lose, so I enjoyed that immensely. Well deserved by me as far as I'm concerned. Anyways, finally, after about 35 hands of heads up, I managed to get allin again against Dlee, but this time with the slight lead as I had suspected when I made the allin call:

I was disgusted to see this flop:

And while I pondered whose pet I would be killing tonight after another gross suckout, this happened on the turn and river (and thanks to Fuel55 for the predictions in the chat):

And just like that I was the DADI VI champion. Much like happened last week with my party 40k win, the suck-resuck had to come out in full force at the final table to bring me the victory, but I'll take it, in particular this one where I had the lead as it was when all the chips went into the middle. Congratulations to everyone who played well, and thanks again to Trip and Jordan for doing the legwork to get these tournaments going.

I look forward to taking my $141 profit from winning DADI VI and paying my way into the WWdN tonight at 8:30pm ET so I that can publicly donkify myself yet again in this, the mother of all weekly blogger tournaments.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Victory in the Partypoker 40k Guaranteed

It's funny. The Hammer Wife was on the computer around 9pm ET last night, and my buddy R hit me with an IM to make sure I would meet him for our usual date at the party 40k guaranteed tournament, which was scheduled to start a little over an hour from when he chatted me. Hammer Wife ensured me she would be done within 30 minutes. Now I don't begrudge her, but I have to admit that once 10pm rolled around and she was still on the computer, I was getting antsy, and I remember specifically thinking to myself that I had a good feeling about tonight's 40k. My record finish thus far had been 62nd place out of around 2400 entrants, which occurred about a month ago when R and I really started this daily barrage on the 40k guaranteed tournament. 10 days ago or so I also came in 99th place out of 2500+ entrants, and I fully intended to blog about it because there were some really interesting hands and plays in there. But life happens and more poker happens and before I knew it, I was writing about other things. Suffice it to say I've finished in the top 100 for the first two times in my life within the past 4 weeks or so, but have never really made a serious run at the serious money available near the top this thing.

The early part of my party 40k last night started off more or less just like any other. I took chips from some donkeys. I stole a lot of small pots with nothing. I hoyed, I Hammered, and I hit a couple of bad cards to keep me from making any serious moves early on. My first double was when I made top two pair on the flop:

And got chips thrown at me in a big way. Turns out he had hit top and bottom pair on the flop, a deadly combination and a very lucky setup to double me up early:

It's always good to get a nice cushion of chips to play with early on in these things, because it's a long road ahead if you expect to cash and cash significantly, and you want to have enough currency to make some moves, and, at least as importantly in my view with the large MTTs, to be able to withstand the inevitable bad beats that might otherwise be knocking you out of the tournament if you were short on chips when they happen to you. So this hand was a good thing, and it gave me some confidence as well as some chips to better do my thing, leading me into the first break with about 1.5x the average chip stack:

A stack which was not destined to survive for long, as I lost about 40% of my chips on this hand, about 25 minutes in to Round 2, after I put in a sizable steal-raise in late position, only to be called by Queens in the SB:

But a few hands later I managed to get back all those chips and a little bit more, thanks purely to a river 3-outer suckout, thankyouverymuch:

The best part about the above shot is that if you look to the left of the main pot, you will see two single chips, which is him moving in his last chip and me calling it after I hoyed his ass on the river (yeah!). And then I followed this hand up about 20 minutes later with my first Really Big Hand™ of the tournament, when I ended up allin preflop against a guy who insisted on re-reraising me allin preflop with just pocket Tens, and paid the price for completely disregarding the likely meaning of my preflop reraise:

This hand vaulted me into the top 10 of the remaining players in the event, by this time dropping to around 500. Unfortunately, those two kings were one of only two or three truly playable hands I would see for the next 2 1/2 hours (though I did make some of the others really count). Literally. Don't get me wrong -- I stole a bunch of pots, and held my own for the most part. But it was a nearly intolerable streak of card death. I remember thinking that to myself at some point after midnight, that it had already been quite a remarkable streak of nothing but cripe cards, no pocket pairs higher than 4s, and no Ace with higher than a Jack, and even then probably only 2 or 3 Aces with anything higher than a 6, and then it ended up lasting for a whole other hour even beyond that point.

At the second break in the party 40k, I was sitting pretty, at over 21000 chips and still in the top 10:

About 30 minutes of folding later, I managed to take down the WWdN Not tournament, for the second week in a row (remember, I am always multitabling. Always!). I had a whole post planned for how I dominated several blogger friends, including Smokkee, Drewspop and jjok at the final table, but other events have precluded all those fun screenshots. Suffice it to say, I played very well, used my moderated aggression so I could wait a little more for the good hands to play, and then I won multiple races and even sucked out bigtime one time once we were all ITM, and I'm the back to back champ heading into next Thursday when I will go for the threepeat:

So, back to the party 40k. I'm doing well, haven't seen a big hand in quite a while, and I get 99 in MP. I raise it 3x to a little over 10000 chips, but then the guy to my left moves allin for 60k+, enough to felt me and then some:

I had put a quarter of my total stack in this one pot with pocket 9s, a top 10 hand in nlh. But, as I've made gone deeper and deeper in more and more of these large events, I have learned that every run to the end of a big tourney includes some nice suckouts, some hands where you get sucked out on, and every run also includes some big laydowns. This was one of them. I don't know what he had, but after mulling it over, he could have a higher pair in which case I'm an 4-to-1 dog, or he might have AK, AQ or something similar, in which case I'm a favorite by a hair. Why put my tournament life at stake with that, at this point in the game? In the first blind round or two, I would be very likely to call in this situation. But after all this work, this far into the money, and a rare chance to really hit it big, I think the fold was definitely the right move. It kept me in the tournament, living to fight another day.

And fight I did, when just a few hands later, I am dealt AA in first betting position. It had been so long since I had played a big hand, and I was absolutely hell-bent on getting value out of these Aces, so I couldn't just push and chase everyone out here. So, I did the unthinkable. I limped from first betting position preflop with pocket Aces. Fortunately, it had the desired result, as the big blind raised it up 3x:

I pondered my next move. If you're a regular here, you know I was not about to push in on this guy just yet. I reverted to my usual fuckoff move with Aces -- another re-reraise, but not too big. I want him to think his KK, QQ or JJ are good, and push in on me, where he might fold that QQ or JJ if I push him allin right here:

My re-reraise to 15000 is a big move, and it gets a lot of chips in the pot. But it also gives the impression that I want to leave myself an escape hatch, depending on the flop or the continued betting in the hand. This guy pondered for a bit, but then he moved decisively after making his read:

Damn did I get lucky with those Aces working for me. He flips 88 (that's a major fishmove for sure btw), and I am suddenly stylin after my Aces hold up, above 91,000 in chips and back into 4th place of the 207 remaining players. And we're already into the money spots, which begin with spot #220 in this event almost every single night.

Shortly before the third break, I took another beating when I ran KQo on a steal into QQ, costing me about a sixth of my existing stack:

But again, here is another great example of how important chipping up early is in these MTTs. You simply have to build up a solid stack if you expect to be able to withstand the beats like this, as well as the suckouts and spiking river cards, that are simply inevitable when you play 500 hands of poker over 6+ hours straight at the tables. It's going to happen to you; you just need to make sure you have enough chips to withstand those times, and try to avoid playing against the other large stacks who have the ability to end your tournament early. In this case I left myself with plenty of chips to still make some moves, and I entered the third break with still over 100,000 in chips, and still in the top 10% of the 100 or so remaining entrants in the tournament. This would mark only the fourth time I have lasted to the third break in the party 40k, so I'm approaching the level where I have been unable to get past before as we head into Round 4.

Early in Round 4, I made an ill-advised and probably too-large steal-raise from the button with QJs, and unfortunately got called in the SB by ATo, a call I would clearly have made as well in his shoes:

Fortunately, luck was on my side again as I made two pairs on the turn and took down another huge pot. The pot was so huge, in fact, that it immediately brought me here:

where if you look you will see me in first place out of the 84 players remaining. I was nearing my all-time best 62nd place finish in the 40k event, and I had never been in the chip lead anywhere near this late in the tournament. I have to admit, when I saw that, I had my first thought that tonight could really be something special for me. But even then, I was very cognizant of just how much poker was left to be played, with 84 people left and the chip stacks continuing to rise.

And my card deadness was still continuing. As I mentioned, it lasted for the better part of 2 1/2 hours, and this Round 4 was the worst of it, as I stole a few big pots (all the pots were getting big at this point thanks to the ever-escalating blind structure) but otherwise did a whole lot of folding with my hefty chip stack to fall back on. The fourth break came mercifully, with me still holding my own with over 200,000 in chips:

You want to know how bad the card death had been for the last long while? Check out my flops seen percentage, as of the fourth break:

8%. Over 4 1/2 hours and counting. Ouch.

Round 5 of the party 40k. Unchartered territory for me, or any of my friends or the people I regularly play with online. I was nervous, but I got up during the break to take a walk, use the facilities, just to stretch out. I didn't know what to expect as the next round began, but I knew that I did not want to waste away this opportunity I was living to really make some noise in this, my favorite as well as the largest of the non-rebuy nightly guaranteed tournaments on the sites that I regularly play.

After doing nothing and seeing no cards once again for the first half hour or so of Round 5, I finally look down to see AKo in middle position. What's better, is the guy to my immediate right pushes allin just ahead of me, for a little over 100,000 chips, or close to half of my existing stack:

Now I know from sitting here over the past hour or so that people are stealing every pot they can get their hands on here, and that even a hand like a middle Ace becomes a monster when your blinds are 15000-30000 with a 700 chip ante. So I figured I had to call, so instead I reraised to isolate, and we went heads up for another massive pot:

There's a race with AK that I won in a huge spot. This is nothing I would call "lucky" as I was basically a 50/50 shot to win the hand, but it could have easily gone the other way, and put a severe damper on my continued tournament existence. Instead, I was back up near the top of the leaderboard as the number of remaining players continued to dwindle.

Nearing the end of Round 4, I ended up getting allin preflop with JJ against a guy who was reraising from after me, and yet was moving just quick enough with his responses to my actions that I just got the feeling he didn't have something stronger than my Jacks. I had him on TT or 99 or something similar, but in the end my read was wrong and the cards were all right:

And poof, I'm over 750,000 in chips, and I'm just plain giddy about it. That is, until this hand about 10 minutes later knocked me way back down to size, despite me having been the clear favorite going in:

This one took away about 60% of my chips, but once again, to consistently make it far in a large MTT, you need to play very aggressive poker. And to play that kind of very aggressive poker, you absolutely need to be able to withstand the inevitable beats you're going to take by virtue of making plays at so many pots, many of which where you will not necessarily have the best hand, or even a good hand at all. So thanks to my previously large pile of chips, I was still doing ok even after this huge beat, holding almost 275,000 chips, squarely in the middle of the 17 players still alive at that time. And it was great that I still had some chips to play with, because not 3 or 4 hands later, I nearly doubled back up when my 44 held up against what turned out to be AK:

So there's another big spot where I won a race, this time against AK instead of with AK as I had won about an hour earlier. And I had my big stack back again, up over 650,000 chips and slightly above average chip stack with less than two tables remaining. And from here, with just 14 players remaining, things tightened up significantly as you might imagine. For a good 30 or 40 minutes at least, all pots that were contested at all, were contested heads-up, and probably a good 90% of the hands were taken down without seeing a flop. I had both of the remaining tables open on my desktop, and I watched as slowly but surely, the pushfest would send in one of the short stacks with a worse hand (or they would get drawn out on despite having a better hand). 13 people, 12 people, and then just 11 remained -- the Final Table Bubble on partypoker. And, sitting squarely on that bubble, nearing the end of Round 5, when I was dealt another pocket Aces (more incredible luck, to get bullets in a big spot like this), I was thrilled to be able to accumulate another 400,000+ chips by drawing in one opponent with a not-too-large preflop raise, and then a half-pot bet to follow up on the flop:

And then, with just one minute to go before the fifth break (who knew that even existed?!), a short stack got sucked out on at our table, and presto:

My first ever party 40k final table!.

I was elated beyond belief. But this is where my other MTT final table experiences from this year come into play, as I also had a sense of calm, of familiarity, and a sense that I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by without making a real play for the gold medal, the top prize of nearly 10 grand.

Now I'm not going to bore you by showing all the hands that I played at the final table. I won many of them, but just about all of them were steals. I was playing just the way everyone else at the table was. I had enough of a stack not to have to be a total pushmonkey, but the short guys pushed in every time they made any move for a pot, and slowly but surely they would get picked off by a larger stack who thought he could take the short man down, and guarantee the rest of us another few hundred or more in our cash payout. And every time it was checked around to me in anything but the first position or two, I made a move, and I won most of them. Imagine a bunch of K2s and J7s and A4s and Q9s and 63s and T2s that all go for winners without seeing a flop. That was me at the final table. Here is me having amassed over 1 million chips for the first time ever in any online poker tournament in which I've played:

which, incidentally, put me squarely in 2nd place out of the 6 remaining players at that time (one of the stacks you cannot see was actually over 2 million chips at this point -- "bluejackson", in the top right of the screen). But even down to 6 players remaining, we were each guaranteed of at least a $1300 payout or so, so this was already in position to be my largest-ever single payout from any poker tournament, online or IRL.

I played a huge pot when we were still 6-handed when I ended up going against the prohibitive chip leader, something in general that I wanted to avoid doing at this point in the tournament, with every additional spot you climb adding hundreds, and eventually thousands, to the payout. But it just happened. I raised preflop with A6s, and he called me to see this flop:

He led out for 60k, and I figured if this guy has the case Ace and a card higher than a 6 and the other two Aces just happened to come out on the flop, then I'm just destined to lose here, because I'm fucking betting this situation. So I did my old favorite, the slow-raise:

and once again it worked flawlessly as I elicited a reraise from my opponent the chip leader:

And look at what he had!

What an unbelievable mistake to make at a final table of a huge event like this. I imagine that was a rookie mistake, and it was just the kind of move that I simply don't make anymore at MTT final tables. I did in my first one, maybe in my second, but I don't tend to move in with crap anymore at a final table, period, at least not without a very good reason to do it. This guy made a major mistake, and his misfortune became my fortune as I inched very close to bluejackson's chip lead with the same 6 players alive:

Here was my low point, after I was forced to laydown preflop two hands where I had put in large steal-raises. Again, experience in these things has taught me not to push in the face of brazen reraising aggression without a solid hand, so I am willing these days to make a big laydown, even for a lot of chips, at a final table if it means I can live to play another hand and hope for the best. So here is me, in 5th place when we were down to 5 left:

In this huge hand, I moved in most of my chips on the flop with just two overs after getting an Ace-solid vibe from bluejackson preflop, where I once again nailed the river card for a huge win to keep me very much alive in this thing:

and two hands later, blue was after me again, pushing in with his AQ. Unfortunately for him, I held AK and I knocked him out in 5th place:

We were all guaranteed at least $2000 apiece at this point, although it was all like a dream to me at the time. It was also getting close to 4am ET, which I'm sure contributed to that feeling, although as you might imagine, I had never felt so "awake" in my entire life. I could not believe I was sitting once again on the chip lead with 4 players left in the party 40k!

The rest happened pretty fast, actually. First, I took out the reigning short stack at the table with a hand that was the favorite heading into the flop, but which needed all five cards to overcome the flop suck that threatened to but a big cramp in my style:

At this point, we talked deal for 5 or 10 minutes, but it was apparent that these two guys wanted much more than their fair share, in a situation where at this point I had a monster chip lead, and a whole lot of confidence. I wanted to be reasonable with them, but they weren't interested. So, I pressed on, down to 3 with me way out in front and one very short stack:

Maybe 10 hands later, the short stack moved in on me when I held the Hilton whores, but it again took me all five cards to resuck his suckout trips on the flop:

At this point, down to just two players remaining and with me outchipping my remaining opponent by more than 11-to-1, the little weasel who had been holding up our doing a deal all through the final table then asks me to deal. I rejected quickly, intending to close this thing out and take home my fucking ten grand (!). In the fourth hand of heads-up, he moved in with what turned out to be K9s, and I had to call with my A3o, assuming my Ace-high was likely good:

In the end, I turned trip Aces on the board to take it down:

and I had done it!!!

As I was only able to sleep for less than two hours before getting up to come to work today, and this all really just went down less than 10 hours ago still, it has definitely not fully sunk in yet. I will say that I feel one of the greatest senses of accomplishment that I have ever felt with anything right now. I'm on top of the world, and I'm so happy to be able to share this with you.

More later....