Friday, February 29, 2008

Back to BBT3

So for those of you living under a rock, in a cave or somewhere, the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments is upon us once again. Starting this Sunday night with the monthly Big Game, and comprising 55 total events over three months, the bloggers will battle it out four nights a week plus a few Big Games to see who can come out on top in a series-ending Tournament of Champions. For those of you who do not know or may have never played with the bloggers before, I will take a few minutes and discuss how to participate.

First of all, anyone can join in and play in any or all of these BBT3 tournaments. Yes we call them blogger tournaments, but that refers to the fact that each of the BBT3 events is hosted by a particular blogger, but each of them has always been and will always be open to anyone and everyone, whether you have a poker blog, some other type of blog, no blog at all or even if you are totally illiterate in every way. The events involved in the BBT3 challenge are:

Sundays, once a month starting this weekend on Sunday night, March 2: The Big Game. Hosted by Miami Don, the Big Game will run once during each month of the challenge, and it is the highest-buyin event of any of the tournaments that comprise the BBT3. At $69 + $6, the price is a steepish $75 or tier II token on full tilt, and the tournament runs at 9:30pm ET. The password for all Big Games is the same -- "donkey". So you just need to log in to full tilt, click on the "tournament" tab and then on "private", and locate the Big Game on March 2 at 21:30pm. Click on "register", type in "donkey" for the password, deduct $75 from your balance and you're there.

Monday nights, starting Monday, March 3: Mondays at the Hoy. This is my own private tournament, which I started running around two years ago now on pokerstars, and around this time last year I moved over to full tilt for the relatively cheaper buyin of $24 + $2, or a tier I token. The start time for the MATH is always at 10pm ET, and the password is always "hammer". I also keep a weekly-updated moneyboard on my blog where I keep track of just the total money won from the Hoy by the various players on the list throughout the year. Again, all are welcome to join in the fun, and if you have $26 in your full tilt account, then we would love to have you in any of our weekly Monday night MATH events, most of all those that occur during the BBT3 starting this coming week.

Tuesday nights, starting Tuesday, March 4: the Skills Series. This is a new tournament series this year, and is the brainchild of perennial chat-ban victim and King of Donks Chad. These weekly Tuesday night events all begin at 9:30pm ET, and they feature a different variation of poker every week, with the key idea being that none of them are no-limit holdem. So you will see pot-limit Omaha, limit O8, Stud, Stud Hi-Lo, pot-limit holdem and maybe a few other similar variations, and are thus a true test of a well-rounded poker player. These events all sport a $12 + $1 buyin to minimize the rake per buyin (thanks Chad!) and they are all knockout tournaments, with $10 of every buyin going towards the prize pool and $2 going to the player who knocks you out in each.

Wednesday nights, starting Wednesday, March 5: the Mookie. The Mookie, hosted by none other than six-time father Mookie himself, has long been the feature blogger event each week, and with the BBT3 in the house that is only sure to get bigger. For a $10 + $1 buyin every Wednesday night at 10pm ET, you can take your shot at blogger immortality and an illustrious Winner's Profile on Mookie's blog by taking down the granddaddy of all blogger tournaments in glorious fashion. The Mookie joins in with the Riverchasers events as the lowest buyins of all the BBT tournaments, so the field is likely to be the largest here than in any of the other weekly events, but I have to say it is also the most prestigious title to win, at least in my own view. Basically everybody who's anybody in the blogging world comes out to play the Mookie on Wednesday nights, so come on out and join the fun -- use the password, which is always "vegas1" for all of Mookie's events.

Thursday nights, starting Thursday, March 6: Riverchasers. Led by Riggstad and brought to the bloggers by Al himself, Riverchasers in enjoying its second year of bloggerness on full tilt and has quickly become the place to be on Thursday nights on full tilt. Like the Mookie on Wednesday nights, the RC events all feature a $10 + $1 buyin, as cheap as it gets for you to win your way into the BBThree Tournament of Champions, and they also have one other nice feature which is a 9pm ET start time, the earliest of all the blogger tournaments that comprise the BBT. I believe the plan is to stick with the Riverchasers' 2008 format which includes alternating every week between a standard no-limit holdem tournament and a non-holdem tournament which itself rotates every other week among the different non-nlh poker variations. With the wide audience of the leaders of the tournament and the low buyin, Riverchasers is likely to give the Mookie a run for its money as the largest-field events of the BBT3, so be sure to register early for this one and don't forget the earlier start time.

So those are your tournament options as far as participating in the BBT3. And I can't stress enough how much new faces are allowed and really welcomed by everyone involved with this tremendous tournament challenge, from each of the above tournaments' hosts all the way up the line to full tilt themselves, who are putting up an unbelievable pile of prizes for the winners and the most successful players in the BBT3.

So you may be wondering, why should I play in the BBT3? I read somewhere that the total buyin costs for all 55 events that comprise the challenge amounts to just over $1000, so why spend all that money making runs at large fields of players comprised at least somewhat of people who ostensibly know something about poker since they keep blogs about the game? Well, the answer to that one is simple: the prizes.

Here is what is at stake with BBT3, and why I think every last one of you out there should make a real effort to play as many of the BBT3 events as you possibly can. I have lifted the following directly from Al's blog since nobody says it better than the man himself:

- We are going to be tracking the leaderboard throughout the entire challenge and will be paying out money plus FTP swag to the top players at the end. Below is how we will payout the final standings at the end of the challenge ($2,600 in prize money):

1st - $750
2nd - $600
3rd - $500
4th - $400
5th - $350
6th - 20th on the leaderboard will receive an FTP Jersey
Below is the formula we are using for the point system, top 25% of each tournament field will receive leaderboard points:

Points = 10 * [sqrt(n)/sqrt(k)] * [1+log(b+0.25)]

n is the number of entrants
k is the place of finish (k=1 for the first-place finisher, and so on)
b is the buy-in amount in dollars.
The leaderboard will be updated daily then loaded on and on FTP's promotion page.

- In addition to tracking the overall leaderboard, we will also have a Player of the Month for March, April and May. The player who earns the most points during the events of that month will win one of the $2,000 WSoP Bracelet packages.

- The rest of the seats will be awarded at the end of the challenge in a Tournament of Champions. For the ToC We will be awarding the two Main Event seats and the remaining two $2,000 WSoP Bracelet packages. All you need to do in order to qualify for the Tournament of Champions is win one of the scheduled events during the next three months.

So there it is guys. A total of two WSOP Main Event seats will be awarded out of the Tournament of Champions, plus two more $2000 preliminary event seats as well to the top 4 finishers in that event, which will have at most 55 entrants and quite likely something more like 50 entrants by the time all is said and done. Plus, the points leaderboard winner for each of March, April and May will also win themselves a $2000 preliminary WSOP seat. Count 'em up, that is 7 total seats to the 2008 World Series of Poker coming at us for free courtesy of the marketing geniuses at full tilt. That right there is sick. Tack on to that another $2600 in prize money to be awarded to the top overall leaderboard finishers at the end of the challenge, plus 15 FTP jerseys which let's be honest would cost most of us about $5000 in poker losses just to amass enough FTP points at full tilt to get for ourselves, plus of course another exciting write-in challenge which will award another $2000 prize package to the winner for travel and entertainment expenses while writing about the main event for full tilt during the WSOP Main Event, and what you have in the end is a wiy bigger kick in the ass suite of prizes than anyone even in their wildest dreams would have ever thought a bunch of drunk, degenerate penisheads with keyboards could ever get just for playing the very games that most of us were going to play anyways. If you think about the nearly $40,000 worth of free prizes, plus all the fun and excitement building up to the events and ultimately the Tournament of Champions at the end of May / beginning of June, I will once again point out that, beyond any shadow of a doubt, right now this very minute is the golden age of poker bloggers, and the golden age of blogger tournaments. There is just no doubt.

So all this is to say that I am really hoping all of the old standbys will participate this time around -- I pretty much all you guys will already -- but also that this incredible prize package for BBT3 will bring out a bunch of new players, be it people who read our blogs regularly or others who hear about the challenge via word of mouth, from the full tilt website or otherwise. After all this whole thing we do is ultimately about community more than anything else, and adding to that community I say therefore is by definition a good thing. Come out and play, try to enjoy yourselves, and really work on your games to maximize your chances at one of the big fucking prizes at the end of it all. Sending actual poker bloggers to the actual World Series of Poker should one of the ultimate goals of our group as far as I'm concerned, and getting to do so basically for free makes it all the more special.

And lastly, what would a BBT3 preview post be without a little predictioning as far as some of the players who are going to be seated at the tables in the Tournament of Champions some three months from now, right? In the past I and some others have put up odds for a whole list of people to make the ToC, and I've tried to pick before a small group of players who would win a given event. Today, staring in the face of so many BBT3 events coming up starting this weekend, I think I am just going to put forth a list of players whom I believe will win their way in to the Tournament of Champions by winning at least one event during the BBT3. I'm not saying how, I'm not saying when and I'm not even saying which event or which poker format their victories will come. But with 55 events, that means 55 seats up for grabs in the Tournament of Champions, and 55 potential winners. So here is a non-exhaustive list of players that I bet will largely be comprised of people who will ultimately be in the ToC come the series' end (in no particular order):

Pirate Wes (a10419)
ok, sirFWALGman

So there are 40 names for you right there. If your name is not there, don't despair, I probably just forgot you. Or you have never really won a blonkament before, which I have generally stayed away from here for obvious reasons, although there is no time like the present for your first blogger tournament victory. But the people on the list above I am betting can all take down a seat in the ToC by winning a blonkament during the next three months of the challenge, and hopefully all be playing for one of four WSOP seats, including the two coveted Main Event packages, come late May / early June.

I will go and post this very late entry now, and hopefully I will see many of you in the token frenzy tournaments tonight and tomorrow night at 9:45pm ET where you can pick up your ticket to Sunday night's BBT3-opening Big Game.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Preflop Raise Sizing -- Take II

Greetings to all for a Thursday. Hopefully my post from Wednesday will be meaningful to a number of you out there. I know I got the post up very late in the day, so many of you might not have had a chance to read it yet, but in general I think it is one of my better posts as far as concrete poker tournament strategy goes.

The ideas I discuss in yesterday's post on preflop raise sizing in mtt's are mine and mine alone, and I do recognize them as opinion and not so much as fact, but I do think there is very solid logic to trying to use 3x as a standard preflop raising amount without antes, and to trying to retain that same roughly 1.5 to 1 pot odds for later position players with my preflop open-raises once the antes kick in as well. Kaja mentioned in a comment here on Wednesday that he reads some pros who advocated raising less than 3x once the antes kick in. I believe that specific idea is recockulous. Once there is more money in the pot to begin with, I cannot fathom a sensible justification for only then starting to raise less than the 3x standard. Personally I try to read every poker book ever written and I do not recall ever hearing a poker author espouse that particular strategy, but to the extent that it is out there, I don't agree with it and I would really like to understand the logic.

Whereas, there are some people that I know do advocate smaller than 3x raises in certain circumstances, and that strategy I think can make some sense if that's the way you want to play it. The Phil Gordon strategy of 2.5x from early position, I think there is some logic to that. And there are all the "small ball" players out there -- the Negreanu types for example -- who like to raise small amounts all the time and to try to see as many flops as possible for as cheaply as possible. This strategy can also work out I think, but you definitely put yourself in to some tough situations. If you read people like Negreanu does, then it can work. But I'm not that good. I'm nowhere near that good. And chances are, neither are you if you're reading this. So again, while 3x early in mtts, and 1.5 to 1 pot odds once the antes kick in, is just my own preferred strategy and I don't think something that is set in stone for everyone, most of the people that I meet, play and interact with on a regular basis seem to me to be best served by keeping their raises in that area.

One point I wanted to touch on again in a little more detail is how standardized I keep my preflop raising decisions. Now this is not to say that I literally never vary my raise amounts, but to be honest, I very rarely do. I can almost lay out for you what my standard raise amounts would be in every tournament every time I play it right here, right now, assuming roughly full tables as I will face for probably 95% of my time in mtts. In the 10-20 round, I'm open-raising to 60. Every position, every time. In 15-30, I'm raising to 90. In 20-40, it's 120. In 30-60, it's 180. In 40-80, it's 240. In 50-100, it's 300. In 60-120, it's 360. In 75-150, it's 450. In 100-200, it's 600. In 120-240, it's 720. Now say that after these 10 rounds, the antes kick in. So at 150-300-25, my standard open-raise in almost every tournament is going to be 550. At 200-400-50, it's going to be 1400. At 250-500-75, it's 1800. At 300-600-100, it's 2200. At 400-800-125, it's 2900. At 500-1000-150, it's 3700. And so on and so forth. I use these amounts in basically every single tournament I play -- be it blonkament, sng or mtt, and I have had a fair amount of success doing it this way. And it makes my time at the poker tables easier by freeing me up to focus on other more important things like reading my opponents, setting players up, and other stuff like that that is more worthy of my time thinking about strategy and the like. I just don't spend more than a half a second at any time trying to figure out how much to raise, because I already know for every level, every time basically what I'm going to do in most circumstances. And obviously, nobody can ever get a read on the strength of my starting cards when every single raise is of a preordained size, which is all good as well.

Another point that was raised by Kaja in the comments is that this all is changed if there is already a limper in ahead of me. First off, my raising range (or even my calling range, for that matter), is significantly narrowed if someone limps ahead of me. For example, in a blonkament I will often open-raise ATo from most or maybe even any position. I don't do that every time I play this particular hand, but I am apt to do it. However, if even just one person limps in ahead of me, then I will almost never play the ATo at all. I just throw it into the muck and move on. Raising is out of the question with that hand under normal circumstances, but even overlimping is just asking to get myself into trouble, if say an Ace flops and someone is in there with a higher Ace or with two pairs, etc. Similarly, a hand like 66 or 88 I might be very apt to raise with preflop, but if someone limps in ahead of me, I will almost never raise under normal circumstances. So my point here is that my actual raising and even calling range narrows automatically when I see a limper come in ahead of me before the flop.

But say I have a hand that I want to raise with. Maybe a QQ, maybe an AK or even maybe AQs on occasion. How do I adjust my preflop raise size when there is already a limper in ahead of me? It's actually pretty simple. I usually use roughly my same raise sizing guidelines as above, plus I will tack on the size of the preflop limp to that standard raise amount. So, for example, in the 20-40 blind round, if someone in middle position limps for 40 chips, and I look down to find QQ in my hand, I will probably raise to 160 chips intead of 120. 120 for the 3x the big blind, plus another 40 on top for the 40 chips that were already limped in by one player. Similarly, if two players had limped in for 40 chips in that same scenario, I would be likely to raise my QQ to 200 chips. 120 for the standard 3x raise, plus 40 and 40 for each of the two limpers. And, taking the example a bit further, look at the 200-400 level with an ante of 50 chips. In that situation, if a player limps in ahead of my QQ, I would probably raise it up to around 1900 chips. That would be 3x the big blind of 400, plus 400 for the earlier player's limp, plus another 300 or so for the ante adjustment at a full table.

Finally, this leads to the last question, which is what if someone has already raised ahead of my action. Now again, I won't go through these details again, but notice up front that my reraising standards are going to narrow significantly here, as far as the range of hands I am likely to play at all, or certainly likely to raise with. But a few commenters and people on Buddydank radio last night as well as on the girly wanted to know about reraise bet sizing. My general default for a reraise is a pot-sized reraise. However, if a pot-sized reraise would clearly commit me to the pot after the flop, then I am usually apt to just push all in instead on the reraise. So, for example, if I'm sitting on 100k in chips and the blinds are 1k-2k with a 300 ante at a full table lateish in a tournament, such that the pot has 5700 in it to start every hand, let's say an active, aggressive preflop player in middle position opens for 6,000 chips. Let's say I look down from late position to find JJ in my hand, and I feel confident I am ahead of the preflop raiser. I would be apt to reraise this pot up to around 20k or so. This way, my raise is more than large enough to make my opponent fold any hand that he's not willing to go to the felt with -- the AJs, KQs, 66 type of hands. But if I get reraised, I can still consider folding my hand just like I laid down that TT hand to PrahladF mid-late through that 50-50 win earlier this week. Alternatively, if I had 40,000 chips instead of 100,000 chips in the same scenario, I am likely to just move it allin right there. Because if I pot-raise to 20k and my opponent calls, now on the flop I will have 20k left into a pot of some 45k, and it will make sense for me to push on almost any flop because I am pot-committed.

That's all for today. Tomorrow's topic: the BBThree


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Preflop Raise Sizing in MTTs

Kudos to Astin for being the first to correctly identify "WWPC" in yesterday's post. I would make a bigger deal about it, but #1 it was very obvious if you read here with any frequency, and #2, I'm thinking most of the commenters before Astin knew it as well but just chose to submit bogus clowning guesses instead of the real one anyways. Glad I gave some people the opportunity to show off their cleverness.

Too bad you guys can't find a way to be just as clever when choosing your starting cards at limit holdem, O8 and Stud/8. HOE was the latest Skill Series event last night, and it was won by none other than the original pushmonkey. I first found pushmonkey's blog sometime last year when he was writing actually about me tilting off several hundy at the 2-4 6max tables after a particularly gruesome evening that saw me get fully stacked three times to three set-over-sets within the span of 10 minutes. I challenge anybody out there not to tilt after that state of affairs. Anyways, I think pushmonkey showed his true poker greatness last night in winning a limit tournament that featured most of the solid poker players we have in our group, so congratulations out to him and woe to me for losing my rolled up 777 in Stud/8 to a chaseclown (I would name his ass if I remembered it) who played a split pair of 9s, then two pair 9s over 7s, like it was the mortal nuts until he ran up an open x555 on 6th street. At that point I knew my rolled up 7s were likely beat by a boat, but what am I gonna do, fold for one more bet on 7th into a truly huge pot? Donques, donques everywhere and not a person to strangle. It's terrible, but in something like 13 Skill Series tournaments now, I have collected exactly half of one elimination bounty. Just think about that fact. Half of one bounty. Delicious.

OK on to today's topic, which is preflop raise sizing in mtt's. I will take a few minutes here and discuss my own personal strategy early in tournaments, but the real focus of today's post is going to be preflop raise sizing later in tournaments, specifically once the ante's have kicked in.

Generally speaking, I am a standard 3x guy early in tournaments. I've read all the books -- some people like Andy Bloch agree with me that 3x is a nice raise size across the board. Other people like Phil Gordon as described in his little black book advocate a slightly different raise size depending on your position at the table, but still generally focused around 3x. As I recall, Gordon prefers 2.5x raises from early position, 3x from middle position and 3.5x from late position. I can understand the logic of those small variations, but in the end they are just that -- small variations, and not really of much substance to me. I like 3x across the board these days, though at various times of my life I was practicing the Gordon method for a while and that seemed to work fine too. The major point to focus on here is that open-raises in the area of 3x the big blind work well because they are not so big as to eat up a large portion of your starting stack without knowing what anyone else behind you may be holding in their own hands, and yet 3x is large enough that it offers poor enough odds to the players behind you to call with garbagey hands. So, for example, if the blinds are 25-50, there are 75 chips in the pot to start with. If I open-raise from middle position to 150, then the players in late position after me have to call 150 to win 225 already in the pot, giving them 225/150 or pot odds of 1.5 to 1. 1.5 to 1 means that most not-great hands are correct to fold, which is exactly what I am looking for with most of my preflop raises. My entire game is based around winning a lot of pots uncontested before the flop, and knowing that if I do get called preflop, I can narrow your hand range somewhat as a result of that call. Giving my opponents in late position 1.5 to 1 pot odds does just that for me, which is why the big pros mostly seem to support a roughly 3x raise under normal circumstances into unopened pots. Similarly, even the big blind still needs to call 100 into 225, which is 2.25 to 1. The big blind might be a little tempted to call my raise with less than premium hands in that position, which is why a guy like Phil Gordon advocates raising a little more than 3x from late position when it is the blinds who you have to worry about pushing out of the pot. Sometimes I will follow this logic and raise slightly more than 3x myself on, say, a button steal, but in the end, I have settled on roughly 3x as my standard raise from any position, as I think it puts the blinds and the late position players in a tough position to call with anything but their strongest hands, which is exactly what I am looking to find out when I make a preflop raise to begin with.

All that said, I think that the 3x preflop raise standard begins to fall apart in tournaments as the antes kick in. More specifically, near the very end of the big mtt's, the antes tend to increase at a faster rate than the blinds, and the antes therefore tend to become a larger and larger percentage of the blinds of the total amount of chips in the pot at the beginning of every hand. From the very second that the antes begin to kick in in any mtt, I begin right then and there to increase my standard preflop raise above my regular 3x standard, because I still want to try to target the roughly 1.5 to 1 pot odds to be offering the late position players behind me, and I also do not want to offer anything more than the roughly 3-to-1 pot odds to the big blind that the standard 3x raise offers the BB with no antes as I discussed above. And having made three major final tables in the past couple of weeks, I can't believe some of the preflop raise sizing I saw at those tables, which is in complete disagreement with the theory I am espousing here.

First off, let me show you specifically what I mean. I know for example that Chris Ferguson in Michael Craig's FTP Strategy Guide stated at the end of his section of preflop raise sizing that he likes to add around half of the total amount of the antes to his preflop raise sizes whenever the antes are in effect in a tournament. This is smart thinking, because it helps to preserve exactly that kind of pot odds that I have discussed in this post. So, for example, if Ferguson is at a full 10-person table with 200-400 blinds and a 25-chip ante, instead of his normal 1200-chip (3x) preflop raise, he would add to the 1200 a total of 125 additional chips (half of the 250 total chips anted by the 10 players at the table) for a total preflop raise of 1325. This way, if he raises from middle position to 1325, then the late position players after him have to call 1325 into a pot of 2175. This is 1.64-to-1 pot odds, and it is a reasonably close approximation of that 1.5:1 number that I am typically looking for when I make any preflop raise. For me, while the blinds can change, the antes can change and the stack sizes involved can certainly change, the pot odds I want to offer later position players when facing a preflop raise from me should remain constant all throughout the tournament, from the opening round with huge Ms all the way down to the final table with no Ms above 10. Roughly 1.5 to 1 or so is the decision I want to put the players behind me to whenever I open-raise it up preflop. So Ferguson has it right IMO, and I practice a very similar strategy when sizing my preflop raises late in tournaments, although I don't actually tend to add up the antes and then tack on half of that total amount when I make my preflop raises. But I do always make an additional adjustment on top of my normal 3x default whenever the antes are in play. The bigger the antes get, and bigger an adjustment I put on top of my normal 3x the big blind.

So, for example, here are some shots of my standard preflop raises as the blinds escalated in the 5050 the other day, starting once the antes had kicked in. For each screenshot, you can see what the big blind is and what 3x that BB amount would have been, so it is easy to see what I am adding on top of that 3x amount in each instance.

So here I added the full amount of the antes (225 chips) on top of the normal 3x raise. Normally I usually don't add quite that much, but when I open-raise out of the small blind I do generally add a bit to the raise size to discourage the big blind from calling.

Here I am adding 200 on top of my standard 3x raise with the antes at 50, so here I add just a bit under half of the total antes.

With antes at 75:

Again, adding just under half the total ante amounts to my standard 3x raise. Same thing at a 100-chip ante and a 125-chip ante:

Here I am adding exactly half the total antes of 150 on top of my standard 3x raise:

And very close to half on top of 3x again with a 200 ante:

And so on and so on, such that by the time we get up to a 250-chip ante, I am tacking a full 1000 extra chips on to every preflop raise above and beyond my standard 3x pop:

And it just moves up and up from there. An hour or so later with the antes now up to 750 chips, I am now bumping up my standard 3x raise by an extra 4000 chips, still in the neighborhood of half the total antes at a full table:

And so on and so forth. I don't need to keep showing examples of this, but I'm showing a number of them above so you can get the point that for me, preflop raising is something I choose to make a completely standardized thing for the most part. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the specific sizes, but I am always adding on more and more on top of my no-antes standard of 3x the big blind, and increasing this "extra" amount for the higher the antes become. I choose not to literally add up the total antes and divide it by 2 and then add that to 3x the big blind, but I'm always focusing on self-adjusting my preflop raises to try to keep the players acting after me in the neighborhood of 1.5:1 or so when facing the decision to call or to just fold to my preflop raise and wait for a better spot. If I'm giving them much more than that (i.e., adding less than I do and keeping the preflop raises closer to 3x the big blind with no adjustment), I know I am tempting my opponents to call me with unpredicable hands, holdings like KJ, 87s, 33, etc., and that's when I can get myself into trouble when they hit a flop with a hand that I just can't put them on since they've called my preflop raise. So this is the way I raise before the flop, from the very first time the antes kick in, all the way to the end. And I simply never waver from this plan. Ever. Even all the way to the final table as I mentioned above:

So that is 16k more than a standard 3x the big blind raise there, down to 6 players left in the entire tournament. And although I'm not showing you every single raise I made before the flop in this thing, I don't want you to think it's because I am just omitting all the times I kept my raise to straight up 3x. There weren't any. Any. It's all standard with me, because the 1.5:1 approximation should always be standard. Six hands later at the final table, here I am with the exact same raise:

It's just what I do. Here once again I am offering the players after me to call 88k into a pot that is 142k. It's 1.61-to-1 odds, more or less right where I want it to be. Once I start getting up near 2 to 1 or more, now suddenly they can consider calling with a much wider range of hands that have a 2-to-1 chance of beating me, of outflopping me, of hitting a big draw, etc. And that's where my advantage starts to dissipate. I need to be able to put these people on a reasonable hand range if they call my raise before the flop, and 1.6:1 helps me to do just that. 2-to-1 callers can be a much wider range of hands, and more than 2 to 1 can be almost ATC or close to it. Bad news.

Now I would like to show some of the examples of what I view to have been poor preflop raise sizes in that same 50-50 tournament:

Here take a look at what RoothlusJr raised to -- his bump to 1025 chips from the cutoff made the total amount in the pot 200 + 400 + 450 in antes + his 1025 bet for a total of 2075 chips, and I had to call just 1025 into a pot of 2075. This right here offers me 2.02 to 1 immediate pot odds to see a flop. I say that is a terrible preflop raise. Not only is it less than 3x the big blind already, but making that kind of a raise when there is also 450 in antes into that pot is IMO a huge mistake. And you can see what I did to him here after he made this too-small preflop raise (he folded to my action btw).

The same over-aggro guy did the same thing here, and I responded the same way:

Again, let's take a look at the odds he was offering me with my KQs here. In the pot was 1575 plus his bet of 1477 for a total of 3052, and I had to call just 1477 to win 3052. Pot odds of 3052 / 1477 or 2.07 to 1. I can call with a looooooot of shit at better than 2 to 1 odds. That means I only need to feel like I am roughly a 32% favorite to be ahead or have a big draw after the flop, which simply isn't that hard to in a heads-up pot. That is bad poker IMO, and it repeatedly cost him in this tournament in my view.

I did the same thing again to this aggroclown here:

Still offering me basically 2-to-1 before the flop. Why do this? The way I see it, if you're not willing to raise the "proper" amount, the "smart" amount that offers the right odds to your opponents not to call with lesser hands, that's fine. But then to adjust, just don't raise as much. To continually raise 2.5x the big blind, with antes of 12% of the big blind to boot and 9 players at a table paying those antes, is again IMO not smart poker strategy in a very general sense.

The same guy did it again here:

Here I and everyone else after me until the blinds has to call 2477 into a pot that is 5102, for immediate pot odds of 2.06 to 1. Again, yuck. If I think I am 30% to see a flop here, I can call his raise profitably, and he cannot really put me on a good range when I can call anything with close to a 30% chance heading into the flop. Why do this?

And it wasn't just RoothlusJr who I think does not take the best approach to preflop raise sizing once the antes kick in. Check this one out, at the 800-1600-200 level:

So here, we have another active preflop raiser who is offering me to call 3899 to see a flop into a pot with 8099 in it. That my friends is 2.08 to 1 pot odds. Bad raise IMO. Tack on an extra grand to his preflop raise to make it 4899 to call a pot with 9099 in it, and now we drop all the way down to 1.85 to 1 pot odds. Still not ideally close to my 1.5 to 1 target, but it's much better IMO in that I need to feel I am roughly 45% to see a flop in order to profitably call here generally speaking. But if he does not want to add on that extra thousand chips to his raise -- presumably to save those chips if he has to lay this hand down either before or after the flop -- then my general approach is, don't raise at all. Don't raise so much, tighten it up a little bit to a slightly better range for your preflop raises, and then you can justify spending a bit more on those less frequent raises to get you where I believe you should want to be from a pot odds perspective. If 3x works at the very beginning of a tournament from a pot odds point of view, then why not be shooting for that same 1.5 to 1 pot odds ratio all through the tournament. 2 to 1 is a heck of a lot different than 1.5 to 1, even if those numbers might seem small to some of you out there.

I also wanted to show that you don't have to be raising less than 3x in order to create what I view to be unfavorable pot odds once the antes are kicked in. Look at this hand from back at the 250-500-50 level:

Here you have someone who seems to understand the 3x thang, but is making no adjustment at all from late position for the antes. Check out the pot odds. The button can call 1500 into 2700 for immediate pot odds on a preflop call of 1.8 to 1, which isn't great as we've discussed (although better than 2 to 1 as in the previous examples). But being that this raise was made from the cutoff, the majority of the players left to get past are already in the blinds, meaning they will have even greater pot odds to make the call. The small blind only had to call 1250 into 2700 for 2.16 to 1, and me in the big blind was looking at calling 1000 into 2700 or 2.7 to 1. Not a huge fan.

And here is PrahladF, my eventual heads-up partner at the end of the 50-50, back at the 600-1200-150 level:

Here I am offered to call for 3600 into a pot of 6750, for pot odds of 1.88 to 1. So, just by failing to adjust for the antes and continuing to use the 3x standard raise formulation, once the ante has risen to 12.5% of the big blind, you are now cutting the pot odds offered to the late position players from 1.5 to 1 down to nearly 1.9 to 1. With the stack that Prahlad has especially, I think he ought to be tacking on an extra 4 or 5 hundred here, getting those pot odds offered to players like me and my pocket Tens to closer to the 1.5 or 1.6 to 1 range in order for his raises to be optimal.

Here is Prahlad again:

This is a perfect example I think of why this wimpy preflop raise sizing can hurt you. He has a hand of some kind to be raising before the flop from fairly early position. He wants to chase out the worse hands who could outdraw him, and he wants to at least be able to assign some nice range of hands to people who choose to stay and see his preflop raise. But look what he's done to me and my T9s. Because he raised less than 3x the big blind as it is, and completely failed to adjust that number higher for the sizeable 300-chip antes, I am left to call 7000 into a pot of 13,300. This is 1.9 to 1 for me, with a hand that I would probably be right to call with all the way down to close to 1.6 to 1 or so, if not even a bit lower. I think the right thing to do would be to price me out here if I am Prahlad, but he does not.

And lest you think that maybe this one time was just because Prahlad maybe had pocket Aces and actually wanted me to call him, you can see the other hand from him above, in addition to these below to show that that was not in fact the case, but rather that he just had a standard pattern of not raising enough preflop, at least not enough according to my standards:

This guy just doesn't understand (or care about) the pot odds he offers his opponents to call his raises preflop. And I cannot see how that is anything but a negative ramification for his poker game in general.

Look at this raise here:

It's way less than 3x already, and it completely ignores the 500-chip antes to boot. The result? Call 10,500 into a 20,500-chip pot. Greater than 1.95 to 1. Yuck. And this one from the same guy a few hands later is even worse:

Same blinds and same antes here, but since all that is left to play the hand is the small and big blind, the pot odds are even worse. Now the small blind has to call 8500 into 21000 (2.47 to 1, omg it's time for ATC!!), and the big blind has to call just 6500 into 21000 (3.23 to 1 -- literally ATC can call here profitably for sure).

Getting down near the final table, these preflop raise sizing mistakes only get worse, as the fraction of the size of the ante to the size of the big blind grows and grows. Here with I think two tables left is another bad raise IMO:

Basically, the players acting after GerardF can call 20k into a 38k pot, for immediate pot odds on the call of 1.9 to 1, and you can see what happened to ol' Gerard after making this pussy raise here.

And check this out, at the 50-50 final table itself, still with antes of 1000 :

Take a look -- there I am with pocket 2s, and I have to call 25k into 49k for 1.96 to 1 pot odds. I might not have called here, but a lot of other hands would have, and would have been correct to do so, which again is not where I think most players want to be when they are putting in a preflop raise to begin with, especially at the final table of a major event where so many chips are already in the pot before the hand even begins at every turn.

And as the rounds progress at the final table, it only gets worse. The screenshot above features 5k-10k blinds at a 1k ante. The very next round jumps to 6k-12k, so the blinds increase by 20%. But the ante jumps to 1500, a 50% increase. This just increases the need for an adjustment as a result of the antes escalating even faster than the blinds in this round as compared to the last one. So the raise from fishhooks212 here:

offers a 32k call into a pot with 63,500 chips. 1.98 to 1. Bad news if I'm the one open-raising here, almost regardless of what two cards I'm holding.

And check out Prahlad's raise here, which amounts to just 2.33 times the big blind, with no adjustment for a 1500-chip ante to boot:

Here, you can call 28k into a pot of 59,500. That is 2.12 to 1, which again means you're looking at a profitable call for anything close to a 30% shot heading into the flop. I don't like it, and I don't understand why not just add a few more chips here to make calling preflop that much less attractive.

One last example:

Here we are getting 2.11 to 1 odds to call this wimpy preflop raise from old pal RoothlusJr who bet not even 2.5x the big blind and did not adjust at all for the very sizeable 3000-chip ante being made by each of 6 players before the hands are even dealt out.

In all, I know this post has a ton of screenshots, but I think it is useful to show what I am thinking about when it comes to late-stage mtt preflop raise sizing. As I mentioned above, I think 1.5 to 1 is roughly the right pot odds I am looking for at every single point in the tournament as far as what my opponents should be looking at when facing a raise from me before the flop, and at first a 3x the big blind raise does that trick just fine for those players not in the blinds. Raising less than 3x early in a tournament offers tempting pot odds for players, which not only causes you to get outdrawn more as the preflop open-raiser, but also decreases your ability to put people on hands once they call you preflop. Both of these are bad outcomes for the aggressive tournament holdem player. But once the antes kick in, it becomes IMO more and more crucial to properly size your preflop raises to retain some semblance of that 1.5 to 1 ratio, and this requires upward adjustments to the 3x standard from the very first instant that the antes are in play. And the later in the tournament you get, the more the antes tend to rise in relation to the blinds, which just makes it all the more necessary to adjust upward your preflop raise amounts to keep pace in order to get the pot odds offered to your opponents where they want to be.

Wow that is a whole lot of screenshots! Hopefully this actually helps some of you out there. Sorry for the late post today. Work fuckin sucks.

Mookie tonight, 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "vegas1". This will be the last Mookie tournament before BBT3 begins, something I will write more about in the coming days for sure, but for now Al's blog is the place to go for updates on the incredible suite of prizes we have coming our way heading into the latest 55-event super-challenge. And check out Buddydank Radio around 11pm ET or so, when I expect to make an appearance tonight to talk about my recent tournament success including my run to the top of the 5050 this past Sunday night. Chat ya then!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MATH Recap, and 50-50 Follow-Up Comments

Wow. It really is amazing how much brigher, how much more vivid, the world can seem with more than 30 minutes of sleep in a night. To be totally honest, I'm not even sure if I actually slept at all on Sunday night, as I recall laying in the bed but I actually think I might have been mostly awake for the entire 30 minutes between me lying down and me getting up for work with the Hammer Girls jumping all over me. But yeah, I am feeling a little better today, though as with my previous final table runs over the past couple of weeks, I think it generally takes me a good 3 or 4 good nights of sleep to get completely recovered from an all-nighter like that one. I will have some more to say about that whole 50-50 thing in a bit, but first, the recap of this week's Mondays at the Hoy.

So we had 28 runners come out and play in the Hoy on Monday night, our usual size and making for a nice $672 prize pool to be paid out to the top 4 finishers as usual who bought in at $26 a pop. For me, it was a real struggle to even make it to 10pm for the MATH's start time, with my body literally aching for sleep with every minute after I got home from another full day of work on basically no sleep whatsoever. I think I only survived in the Hoy for maybe about 40 minutes, thanks to cmitch uncharacteristically (I think) calling a big preflop raise with KQ, and then calling my allin bet into a large 3-way flop with just an oesd. In cmitch's defense, I'm sure he figured either or both of his Kings and his Queens were overcard outs as well, so he most likely had sufficient pot odds on that flop to make the call, but my top pair was no match for his turned nut straight on the very first card that fell after all the money got in, and IGH fairly early in the field. It was a good thing, in that I had already fallen asleep three separate times in that first 40 minutes of play or so, and I hit the sack literally within seconds of my Hoy elimination for some desperately-needed zzzzzzzzzzzz's.

Being that I was completely out of it all through this tournament, I have nothing to report on how the end of the MATH went down. But I can tell you who cashed, and I have to say the list includes some people with multiple ITM finishes already in the Hoy during this short year so far. Your four cashers for this week's Mondays at the Hoy include:

4. katiemother - $67.20
3. jordan -- $134.40
2. byron -- $201.60
1. Pirate Wes -- $268.80

And here is the updated 2008 MATH moneyboard, including this week's results:

1. astin $664
2. Pirate Wes $581
3. fuel55 $512
4. surflexus $488
5. Jordan $476
6. twoblackaces $298
7. Tripjax $288
8. Donkey Shortz $215
9. VinNay $203
10. Byron $202
11. columbo $180
12. jmathewson_III $171
13. buckhoya $150
13. Miami Don $150
13. Mike Maloney $150
16. pureprophet $144
17. chitwood $127
18. cubanlinks $120
19. LJ $119
20. bayne_s $112
21. thepokergrind $95
22. ANIguy $89
22. bartonf $89
24. katiemother $67
24. Hoyazo $67
26. PirateLawyer $60

So Wes jumps up from 5th place to 2nd on the moneyboard with this week's win, and Jordan actually drops a spot despite his cash this week thanks to being passed by Wes in the process of that ITM finish. Still, another week, and another two lawyers cashing in the top three spots of the Hoy. You gotta love that.

OK so back to the post-mortem on my big cash this week. There is so much I could talk about and write about, but I actually thought I would take some time and respond to some questions and comments that people made in response to my last post about my 50-50 win. I figure this is as good a way as any to intro into discussion about the big score.

Chad started off the comments to yesterday's post by explaining that he thinks that one thing that has helped my game is my looseing up my range of hands I am willing to call with when I raise from the button and then someone tries to resteal from me from one of the blinds. That is interesting, as this is not something I have consciously been thinking about, but I will take Chad's comment for what it is. I certainly agree that a lot of people seem to like the resteal these days, and I have no doubt caught a bunch of people when I actually have a good AK-type of hand trying to resteal from me and then having to flip up garbage like 97s or something like that, so maybe Chad is right that the move is overused. More the point I was trying to get at in my post yesterday and really all the posts I have made about deep mtt runs in my day is that stealing, and especially restealing, really need to be part of your repertoire in order to have any chance of lasting to the latest stages with any kind of a playable stack. Maybe the luckiest players in the world can just play their own cards without playing position and make it real deep, but I wouldn't know anything about that. I got lucky in every key spot I needed it on Sunday night, but as a rule I have not had success just waiting for the good cards all the time, and I do not believe for most of the non-Astinned and non-Bayned among us that this is a sound strategy for winning deep mtts. And thus, since I know the other players at the table know that I am stealing quite a bit, it only makes sense to widen the hand ranges I put them on when they attempt to resteal from me, because I think they are putting me on a wider range of hands that I would be stealing from in the first place.

Chad also mentioned that this win will make it all the more impossible for me to ever win a Mookie tournament. With this I basically agree. I mean, I don't know how much more of a target I can already have on my head in any blonkament at this point, but I will surely never win the Mookie. I have accepted that already a long time ago, and even when I have the chip lead at the final table, I always know that in the Mookie it is always not a question of if but rather just when the suckout or the setup is coming.

Lester commented that I should just turn pro and quit my annoyingass day job once and for all. Now I know lester and I know he is just fucking around with me and with Hammer Wife (his sister), but in all seriousness this gets to a good point I thought it was worthwhile making here. First of all, I would never consider quitting my job to play online poker tournaments full time. Now I won't lie to you -- when I was first starting out playing online, and in particular after I started winning some $10 mtts and then culinating in winning the party 40k a couple of years back, I did entertain the thought, at least from a fantasy-land perspective. But those days are loooooooong gone now, replaced with what I like to think of as a much more realistic view on these things, which is the other point I wanted to touch on here in reaction to lester's comment to yesterday's post. To be clear for everyone out there -- yes, I do think I am "good" at mtts, to the extent that anyone can be considered good at them. In a nutshell what this means is that I know there is a generalized formula of winning poker play, which involves tightness and aggression early, and then increasing aggression as the tournament wears on, mixed in with a solid dose of timing and a keen sense of reading other players. I have written about this before, but I think in the end there is only a very small number of people out there who have really figured out this "formula" to winning large mtts, and I am happy to say that I know I am one of those people. So that's all good.

But -- and this is a big but here -- I am also very realistic at this point about my mtt success in general. By this I mean that, despite my three deep runs and three nice cashes in the 5050-format tournaments this month on full tilt and pokerstars, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I will undergo any day now the beginning of a couple-months-long drought of no big mtt cashes. That's just the way this stuff goes, and I am well beyond having any doubts about that and letting my tournament success this month get to my head. I know with no doubt whatsoever that I'll probably be here two months from now writing about the 8-week-long streak of running bad that I've been undergoing, my complete inability to even cash the minimal ITM payouts in the big mtts, all that stuff. So my huge success in February here will never get to my head like it maybe once would have, and I know for certain right off the bat that a run like I have been on this month does not last. It cannot last -- such is just the nature of the mtt beast. So, no talk or even any thought whatsoever of playing tournaments full-time or quitting my day job, anything like that. Maybe from that green kid just learning the ropes of online poker back in early 2006, but not these days, not from me anyways. There are plenty of well-known internet pros who have made an actual great profit over a long period of time from online mtts. I am nowhere near their level, and I do not think I ever could be. Hopefully, that settles that point once and for all.

Moving on, Mookie asked something that I get asked all the time by readers, in particular after I do a post like this recapping a deep mtt run as I have done in the past on such occasions. He wants to know how much of a distraction is it taking all these screenshots all the way through when I go deep in an mtt. The answer is, really not very much at all. Now, to be sure, my experience of playing in an mtt is different from everyone else's out there in that I will, in a typical evening of playing poker, maybe take between 150 and 500 or more screenshots. Each night. That's just what I do. Although it does eat up a lot of my hard drive, in the end I find reviewing screenshots to be much, much more effective for hand analysis for me, personally, than reviewing plain old hand histories. I just find that for me having a pictoral account of things hits home a lot better and enables me to really feel "part of the action" even days or weeks later than just some old text-based hand histories do.

So anyways, my mtt experience is different from everyone else's in that I am taking screenshots all night long, sometimes several hundred per night, and that means I am constantly pressing the "print screen" button in all the key spots before, during and after the big hands as they happen. But that's really it. I press the "print screen" button quite a bit, but other than that and a little bit of checking to make sure the screen capture program is working properly, I don't really think about the screenshots otherwise. A lot of this involves me having used my ordered, lawyerly brain to set up a system -- including a specific configuration of my screen capture application as well as a detailed naming convention and setup of files and folders in specific locations on my pc -- that enables me to not have to think about anything other than just the "print screen" button while I play. My system then enables me the next day to easily access all the files I have saved up from my previous nights of play, review them for hand analysis purposes (something I make the time for just about every single night) and/or for review and use for the blog. So I've made the whole screenshotting thing as easy on myself as possible by honing the whole process over a good 200,000+ screen shots I bet over the past few years, such that it is really not a distraction at all at this point anymore.

Peaker suggested in a comment that I use this money to satellite into a WSOP event. It is a good suggestion, and I suppose on some level I will be doing so, although I don't think about it quite that way. But, if you have read here for a long time then you know that starting around the beginning of April, my almost singular focus changes from regular satellites and (this year) cash-payout mtts to full tilt's Bracelet Races, and I expect the same thing to be true this year as well. For those of you who do not know, full tilt offers Bracelet Races several nights each week where the winners get paid out in increments of $2000 WSOP preliminary event packages. Basically the thinking is that the cash can be used for buyins to the $1500 WSOP tournaments plus $500 cash, or you can win multiple Bracelet Races and aggregate these 2k payouts to buy in to larger events. Of course a few years ago when I won my first WSOP buyin via a Bracelet Race back in 2006, pre-UIGEA that is, full tilt actually did not give you the cash but instead gave you vouchers in person in Las Vegas at their WSOP hospitality suite that could only be spent as buyins to WSOP tournaments. Nowadays they basically have to give you the cash directly into your account, but that is definitely what I will be using some of my roll for as I have done in each of the past two years. So, one way or another, I definitely plan to be out in Vegas for a WSOP event or two this summer, and regardless of what I win or don't win between April and WSOP time, that money is coming directly out of my roll, which just got a lot bigger thanks to these wins. So Peaker, your suggestion is more or less being followed that my roll will fund another WSOP preliminary event buyin this year as it has for the past two years, although hopefully I will win me some more of those Bracelet Races along the way to help further cushion the blow of ponying up some 2k in cash for a silly poker tournament. And for those of you who don't know, the Main Event simply does not fit in with my work or family schedule, so I have never made any attempt to play it since it became a two-week affair, and that will not be changing this year. It is all preliminary events, all the time for me at the WSOP, and one day soon I'm sure I will write here when I have the chance to take a look at this year's WSOP schedule and which events I would like to play in the most.

Riverchaser Corron (lack of link corrected) commented how nice it is that I beat out well-known pro Prahlad Friedman on my way to winning this 50-50 tournament. I mentioned this a little bit yesterday, but word on the forums is that Prahlad's full tilt handle is "Spirit Rock" or something like that. Nonetheless, Kajagugu said he searched Spirit Rock on all the online databases, and no one with that name has played at all at full tilt this year, while "PrahladF" has recorded something like 27k in wins already this year at full tilt. So that might suggest that this guy could be the real Prahlad Friedman after all, although from the very minimal forum reading I did during one of the breaks at the final table or two the other night, I would assume that this was not in fact the Prahlad Friedman but just some over-aggressive impersonator. I'm thinking, if nothing else why would a well-known pro ever use his real name in his full tilt handle, unless he was being paid by full tilt to play there like so many of their "pros" now are? It just doesn't add up, so I'm betting it's not him.

Still, it's nice to have beaten an impersonator of a well-known poker pro on my way to winning the 50-50, yes. Shit, I would think it was nice if I had beaten my own mother on my way to winning 11 grand, so yeah, I will still agree with corron's sentiment overall.

Twoblackaces asked if I am planning to write my own mtt strategy book. Now, obviously this question was asked tongue in cheek-ly I'm sure, but it's not the first time it has come up, and frankly it is something I have toyed around with from time to time. I do think there are a number of areas where I would enjoy putting down my thoughts into a more coherent form than the way they are just laid out day-by-day here on the blog, and I think many of my ideas and strategies about mtts could be helpful to some people who read here. However, the bottom line is that (1) I am a shitty writer, and I have no bones about that, and, at least as important, (2) I just don't see the value-add over all of the other truly great poker books available out there by this point in time. I know that whenever someone goes to a potential publisher in today's day and age, unless they are already a well-respected and well-known poker player or writer, the biggest question a potential publisher wants to know is What will distinguish your poker book from all the others already out there on the market? Truly, I do not have a good answer to this question, so I have no plans whatsoever to try to write anything more down beyond what I already do here on the blog. Plus, I love writing this blog, I really do, and never yet in 600-some posts has it ever seemed or felt like a chore for me. I remember all the shit Scott went through when he was trying to finish up his great poker book "Pressure Poker", and I just don't want to do that to myself. Plus, there are limits to even the amount of time I can manufacture in a day. So, no book from me, just this blog instead. Hope everyone enjoys it.

Kajagugu made a great point in his comment yesterday that I am just shattering my stated goal for 2008 of redoubling my efforts to focus on cash-payout mtts, something I know I got well away from in the latter part of 2007 due to my focus on satellites, cash games and sitngos. He is absolutely right on that point, which obviously is something I am really pleased with. One of the biggest things I attribute this to, in addition to just generally better focus on these types of tournaments, is my choice of mtts to play in. If you look back at my stats during 2008 so far, you will see that I have basically completely avoided something like the 28k at 10pm ET nightly on full tilt. This is Chad's domain of course, but for me I have had very little success in this thing over time, and I have made the determination that the large field, fast structure, low buyin and the tier I token aspect of things just combine to create a level of donkery that definitely makes this tournament -EV for me over time. But for me, the 50-50 tournaments at 9:30pm ET on both pokerstars and full tilt represent a better, more +EV tournament for me, and this is where I have tried to focus my mtt efforts so far this year, to good results so far of course. The 5050s have longer structures, with blinds rounds I think 20-50% longer than the standard mtt formats on these two sites which is always good for the higher skilled players, and they also sport the $55 buyin, which not only is twice the price of the $26 buyin events, but also removes the ability for uberdonks to buy in just by winning a tier 1 token in any of the various, even cheaper ways offered up by full tilt.

Kaja also asked a very good question about the hand against PrahladF in the middle of the tournament where I reraised him preflop with TT, and then ended up laying down the hand to his allin re-reraise in that spot, losing 25% of my stack in the process but surviving to fight on where I eventually won the whole tournament three or four hours later. Basically, Kaja's question was do I think ahead of time when I reraised him before the flop about what my response will be if he jams on me. The answer: of course! How anyone could go into any tournament, let alone the highly strategic period after the first few hours or so, and make moves like this without giving thought ahead of time to the likely responses, and your likely responses to those responses, is beyond me, not if you planned to be a winning tournament player anyways. Of course I thought that over, and in this case I already knew I would likely have to fold to a re-reraise by him.

Kaja's second question, related to this one, was do I then alter the size of my reraise there, depending on whether I think I will call or fold to an allin push from him if Prahlad chooses to re-reraise me in that spot. For this one, the answer is generally no. Changing raise sizes based on my desired response or my likely response to his response is, to me, a losing proposition over time. I know how easily I read most anyone who uses different bet sizing consistently for different levels of strength or weakness in the hands they are betting or raising with, and as a result I generally try to shy away from that sort of thing and opt instead for a more generalized, standardized raise size that fits either scenario. Using instead a smaller bet size in case my opponent jams so that I can more easily fold, and a larger bet size where I know I will call any jam of his, I think is highly exploitable poker, and I choose not to paricipate in that kind of thing, again because I personally find it so easy to read almost any player who regularly does this with me. If anything, I would be more apt to do the opposite, in an attempt to get into my opponent's head and to manipulate him into thinking I am strong because I raised so big on the flop, to maybe try to get him to fold his hand instead of reraising me. But giving honest signals about the strength of my hand by the size of my bets or raises is not what I am all about at the poker table generally speaking, and as a rule I think of that as exploitable, and therefore bad, poker overall.

OK tomorrow I want to do a bit more about preflop raise sizing in mtts, which will be a nice follow-up to a post I saw that the Gnome had done a couple of weeks back, in particular when the blinds and antes kick in in the later stages of these things. I think I have an interesting viewpoint and strategy on late-stage mtt preflop raising that, in my opinion anyways, most of my opponents do not share, so that will probably be the topic of tomorrow's post. Unless I suppose if I win the 5050 again or something tonight. Ha ha.

Don't forget the Skills Series is back tonight at 9:30pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "skillz". I forget the game today, but I think I saw on Chad's blog that it is gonna be HOE. Holdem, O8 and Stud/8. This should be a good one, with lots of people seeing lots of flops with garbagey cards, and as usual I'm sure the most skillful of all the bloggers will take it down. Oh and don't forget Smokkee's Blodonkament either, I think that is also at 9pm ET on the WWPC (special callout to you tomorrow for the first person who correctly identifies the meaning of that acronym there).

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Monday, February 25, 2008

King of Fifty!!!

Holy Wow! On Sunday night / Monday morning, I won the 50-50 tournament on full tilt!!! I am still trying to absorb it all here after about 45 minutes of sleep total on the night, but obviously as in past instances where I've been up super later winning a boatload of money, it was well worth it. I've hopefully got a decent recap in me here, but let me get this out of the way for starters and then we can move on to the good stuff:

So come join me for Mondays at the Hoy as I fall asleep within the first few minutes tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "hammer". Once again we will be playing 6-max no-limit holdem, tournament-style, so the action should be fast and furious. Given that I will have trouble even making it until 10pm tonight, we'll see how long I last or how recklessly I will play after last night's big score, but I am definitely looking forward to another fun night of blonkery so hopefully I'll see you all there for the MATH at 10pm ET this evening.

OK, so back to the 5050. As my readers know, two weeks ago I cashed this thing in a big way, netting over $4900 for a 3rd-place finish, my deepest run ever and just my third final table in the 10 months or so I can recall full tilt running the 50-50. Someone asked in the comments last week, so for clarity, this is a nightly tournament that runs at 9:30pm ET every day of the week on full tilt, and the name comes from the $50 (+$5) buyin and the 50k guaranteed prize pool the tournament sports every night. Last summer if you've been reading here since then you may recall that I final tabled this biatch on back to back nights while my family was off at the beach with my father in law, ending in 6th place and 4th place for a total of around 5 grand between the two, but since then I had yet to taste 5050 final table glory until two weeks ago today when I busted out with that 3rd place finish. The following week, 9 days ago actually on this past Saturday night, I also final tabled the pokerstars version of this same tournament, also a $50 + $5 buyin event, this one with a 55k guaranteed prize pool. In that tournament, I ended in 4th place for a little over $4200, outlasting a slightly larger field in the process. The pokerstars run was better (and more frustrating, in a way) in that in that tournament, I had been in 1st place of 4 remaining, giving myself a real chance to take the whole thing down, before I gave it all away and ended up busting in 4th. But that run, unlike the one on full tilt the week before, really made me feel like my approach and my style in this longer-than-usual structure can really work and could conceivably make me a big huge score one of these days with a little bit of luck. Which is exactly what I got on Sunday night.

The full tilt 5050 started off for me like most of my big runs have started off lately -- shitty. In a nutshell, after satelliting in to the 5050 in the larger of the two nightly 7:40pm ET $14 satellites, I do not recall getting any good starting cards at all during the first two hours of the actual tournament. I can't even believe I was still alive after a couple of hours, given my recollection of literally nothing to play with, nothing worth making a move with, nothing at all whatsoever to speak of. Here is me at the first break of the 5050 last night:

So you can see, I was doing shitty in 417th place out of 684 remaining (1148 runners had started the tournament), I was well below average, and I'm telling you I had not been able to execute my normal game plan in any nlh tournament at all. This next graphic tells the whole story -- here are my stats through the first 75 hands which was about 15 minutes in to the second hour on Sunday:

So there's your problem right there. Throught about 80 minutes of play, I had won just 6% of the total hands I had seen at my table (I usually run well into the teens, even at a full ring table such as this event during the first hour). And more troubling for me, the best possible example of me not being able to execute my preferred game plan is my percentage of hands won preflop, which through 75 hands was exactly 0%. Zero. If you know me, then you know that never happens. Never. So, suffice it to say, the first hour was no good for me, and although I resolved to be sure to raise more preflop, I knew it was going to depend much more on the cards and much less on my own personal strategy with respect to the game, since I don't even know how to not play aggressive poker. I just had nothing to work with whatsoever in the first hour of this thing, period.

The second hour of play in the 5050 was more of the same, with me once again receiving very little to even raise with before the flop, which puts a severe hamper in my game for sure. Nearing the end of Hour 2, I found 55, which at the time I will admit looked like two shining red Aces staring back at me after the drivel I had been dealt for 120 minutes, and I was determined to just double up or go home early at that point:

Luckily, I doubled:

and I lived on. I took another screenshot of my tournament info just 5 minutes into Hour 3, which again shows me not doing much of any substance other than the race I won above with presto:

So 160th place out of 301. How many times have you out there been in this position? The money spots start at 180, and here I am, sitting around for two hours and doing nothing, I am still below average with 6030 chips as compared to the 7627 chip average, and I was annoyed too since I had gotten almost no cards to play with. Still no inkling whatsoever of what this night would be turning into some 5 hours later.

So, sitting here with 6030 chips just 5 minutes in to Hour 3, suddenly I went on a tear. It was a short-term thing, but I made the best of it. Remember, with 55 minutes left in Hour 3 I had basically 6000 chips. Then watch this. First I was dealt 88 in the cutoff, I open-raised and then got reraised by the button, who had been restealing a few times already in my time at this table. I put him on a likely resteal, but more importantly, I had made no headway in this tournament and I was still in double-or-go-home mode, so I repopped him allin and hoped he would fold. Instead he called and he showed me pocket 9s. Uh oh, I thought, until the 8 on the flop made my night and doubled me up to over 12,200 chips in my first suckout of the evening. I don't mind my play in this spot, since although I freely acknowledge that it was reckless, like I said I was feeling reckless at the time and just wanted to take a race to try to either get into this thing or get out without wasting too much time. In the end I was an 80-20 dog and sucked out, but my thought process was more or less sound here given what I was looking to do in this spot in the tournament. Suddenly I was in 63rd place out of 245 runners remaining and about 30% above the average stack of 9371 chips at the time. The money bubble was set at the top 180 finishers, so I still had lots of action before that point, but I was in good shape for the first time all night.

Six hands later, I won another large pot when I moved allin on the flop here:

My opponent in the big blind called my flop allin, I think because of my position he assumed I must have been stealing given the uber-raggy flop that hit the board. This was the good part about the fact that I had spent the past several minutes playing kinda recklessly and trying to aggressively move from late position or the blinds to get myself a stack to be able to do something with. Always being cognizant of my table image, I was able to use that to my advantage here, assuming I was ahead of the big blind's likely range with my pair on the flop plus the Ace overcard which I also saw as a winner, and of course when he called my allin on the flop I was very pleased to see him donking it up with just KQo. Now I was up to 34th of 230 left.

Just two hands later, here I am again raising aggressively from a stealy-looking cutoff position with A8s, actually a decent hand for this spot. When the big blind overpushed allin against what I knew looked like the most aggressive stealer at the table trying to take another pot uncontested from the cutoff, I figured A8s did fairly well against his looser than normal range and I made another big call:

My dominating hand held up, and suddenly I was up over 20,800 in chips, from just 6030 chips exactly 16 minutes earlier, now sitting in 22nd place out of 226 players left. This run lasted just 16 minutes, but those 16 minutes made my entire 130 minutes of sitting around with nothing to start this tournament all well worth the wait, as now I was in the exact position I wanted to be and with a nice stack to play the aggressive game I want to play, especially here approaching the money bubble in the 5050.

I dropped back to 18k a short while later when I reraised a shortish stack allin with my pocket 8s and he called me with his ATo. This dropped me down to 40th place out of 175 remaining as the money bubble had just recently burst two or three hands previously. So I was back ITM in the 5050, but that of course means nothing to me given the tiny payouts that populate the early money positions in this thing. Still, with a nice stack just after the money bubble burst, my number one priority for a short while was to preserve my position, since so many people often go busto within a few short minutes of reaching ITM. So, with this in mind, I folded 33 from my big blind to a button raiser, knowing full well that I was probably ahead, but also knowing that if he called or reraised any move from me, I would be dead in the water. In my next turn in the big blind, I found pocket 7s and once again folded this hand to a stealy-looking raiser from the cutoff position. I just didn't feel right, didn't feel necessary I guess it the better way of putting it, to push with 7s at that time when again I knew I would have big trouble against a call and would of course have to lay down to any reraise there.

I won a nice pot with AK on a King-high flop shortly after this point. I won another hand near the end of Hour 3 betting on the flop with Ah9c on an all-club raggy flop. I also took down a decent pot with a flop bet with me holding Ad7d on two-diamond flop with two rags and a King on the board. So at this point in the tournament I opted to keep my action to where I could be the aggressor and where I felt I had a good chance of being ahead once I could see the flop. I had enough chips to not have to press anything before the flop when I could likely be a dog or racing if called, so I took my chances on some flops, and acted aggressively where I thought I could get a fold and/or where I was strong having already seen 3 of the 5 community cards.

Here was a snapshot I took of my stats after 184 hands, shortly before the end of the third hour:

So you can see the improvement there in some of the key stats between the 75-hand stats I showed earlier and now through 184 total hands. Now I had won 14% of the total hands I had seen through the tournament -- much more to my liking than the paltry single-digits from earlier, and more than that, the stat on hands won preflop had inched up from 0% to now 5%, also a much better number that indicates I finally had some cards (and some chips) to play (and raise) with.

Through the next hour or so in the tournament, really all the way through the end of Hour 4, I was seated at a very active table with a number of players just as capable of making moves as I. This was a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the situation, but the most important part of it was that I was able to identify these players' tendencies early through careful observation, thus enabling me to make informed decisions at every turn as far as the best way to play my strong hands as well as the likely relative strength (or lack thereof) of their own hands given the early action from them in a given pot. Since there were a few big movemakers at this table, I ended up doing quite a bit of stealing, which for the most part worked out quite well overall, as I loosened my stealing standards to basically any unopened pot in late position where I held any Ace. As I said, overall I was definitely net positive in chips from all this stealing, winning several pots over the next 80 hands or so from late position, sometimes with total air and sometimes with decent cards, but as I always preach here, being an active stealer also means that I have to make some key laydowns on occasion when I get caught. So, for example:

This was a resteal attempt that was an easy, obvious laydown for me when I got re-reraised behind my button out of the small blind. I had stolen against this guy RoothlusJr who was far and away the most active stealer at the table -- he basically just raised with a big stack every single time the action came to him unopened for over an hour. Every. Single. Time. Literally. It was annoying at first, but like I said once you recognize the tendency by observing it and making notes, it is fairly easy to counteract, and someone like this at the table actually becomes a source of chips for you and someone who is fairly easy to avoid losing a big pot to unless you just get set up.

Here was another steal where I had to lay it down, which I did without hesitation:

I say it time and time again, but (1) you have to steal and resteal actively if you really expect to last deep in any large mtt with enough of a stack to make some actual noise in the end, and (2) equally importantly, you absolutely have to be willing to lay it down when you get caught stealing like here. Just awfukkit-calling off the rest of your stack with A6 or A2 or KQ or whatever is pure suicide against a restealer in greater than 95% of cases, and if you're going to do that, then a much smarter strategy than stealing a lot for you is just to fold and fold and fold and just hope the deck smacks you in face enough to run you deep. The way I play, I am stealing all over the place with any two cards reasonable for my position, but I'm always readily willing to lay it down if I get played with and have the stack to withstand a fold.

After sitting in 59th place out of 128 remaining at the end of Hour 3, the middle of Hour 4 saw my first big pot when I won a race allin preflop with 99 against a guy who called my allin with his AKo:

Booooom! This one brought me up to 48,800 in chips and, more importantly, up to 8th place of 86 left. Here I started slowing it down a little bit, although I quickly was back out of the top 10 and really did not spend much time doing my "aggro-stall" move as I described in my post last week after the pokerstars 5050 final table.

Through 239 hands now, here were my stats, showing still more improvement from their earlier doldrums:

15% of total hands won at a ring tournament is quite good and right where I like to be. And 7% of hands won preflop, still improving on that front as well. Nice.

At this point in the tournament, around the middle of Hour 4, I started opening things up even more as the blinds got big and the antes joined in in really making every single pot worth winning from any position at any point in the hand. Around this point I started bluffing with air on the flop with large bets, with which I took down two nice-sized pots against players whom I had sensed did not want to bust with the bigger money payouts within reach and with them not holding the nuts. On this night, those few big bluffs worked, while on some other nights, I get called by pocket Aces or by the flopped set and I end up busting somewhere near the bottom of the top 50. It happens, but with the way I play this game, it's the only way to get it done. You have to take chances and give action to get action, just like Doyle always says. I also widened my stealing range around this time a bit more, such that by the end of Hour 4, I was stealing most Aces, sooted Kings and most pocket pairs from any late position. Again, for the most part this worked, but a key piece of that puzzle was making sure that I always got out of dodge if I got played with and did not have reason to believe my hand was best.

Shortly into Hour 5, I made what was probably my biggest laydown of the entire tournament here:

Here I had reraised PrahladF -- who btw is not well-known pro Prahlad Friedman -- with pocket Tens that I had figured to be best in this spot, especially given that Prahlad, like RoothlusJr in my earlier examples, was the most aggressive player at my table at this point in time. But when he re-reraised me allin, now I'm thinking that my TT is either behind 80-20 to a higher pocket pair, or I am racing. Those are the only options. I mean, think about it, is this big stack making that allin re-reraise with A9 or A8? No. How about with 88 or 77? No way. Not with that big stack. It's got to be either AA-JJ (probably not even JJ in this spot), or it's AK, or maybe AQ if he's a donk. But those are the only options. And how does TT fare against AA-JJ or AK or AQ? Not good at all. Why risk everything I've built up here, and four hours of hard, tense play, against that range of hands with my TT? Had to lay it down, and I did. Sure I had lost 25% of my stack or so into this pot. But that is what accounting people call a sunk cost -- that 25% was already gone, into the pot where I no longer had any real claim to those chips -- and the only question at this point was whether investing any more money to win those chips was a good investment or a bad one. In this spot, I would say clearly a bad one. So I laid it down and lived to fight on and look for a better spot to get those chips into the middle.

As I mentioned, Prahlad was a crazy move-maker, putting in raises, stealing and restealing with what I was sure was complete air several times, even showing a few of them but mostly avoiding having to show his bullshit holdings at all costs. This can be the toughest kind of player to play against, especially late in an mtt, but at the same time I think of myself in this same way so I tend to be able to get into these guys heads and figure out what they are up to moreso than many. As such, on this hand here I had limped UTG to disguise a few other UTG limping situations like with big pairs and sooted connectors that I like to do, and Prahlad had just limped behind from the small blind. He was raising with anything good, and I read his sb limp as weakness. So, when the flop came scary and we both checked the action, the turn card pairing the board made me think Prahlad had nothing. So I led out for 3600 into the 4800-chip pot, and Prahlad quickly minraised me to 7200 chips. Although I had absosmurfly nothing, I read him for weakness before the flop, the flop came strong telling me that he did not connect well with the high cards on it, and he had checked the flop, indicating more weakness. His minraise on the turn suggested to me that he had the same read on me that I had on him (he was correct as you will see below), but I figured I had a chance to win a nice pot from him and to send him a message if I reraised big here and made him think I had trip Queens or at least an Ace, both of which I was sure were ahead of whatever he held in his hand:

Here I was dangerously close to losing it all, but after about a second and a half, Prahlad laid it down:

I especially liked my bet sizing on the reraise here. I raised enough to be a huge bet for Prahlad to call, but I also left myself with a decent amount of chips behind. And yet, it was clear that I would be pot committed, and he had to know that from the specific bet size that I had chosen. I do this quite frequently when I really want a fold but do not want to push allin for fear of seeming like I am overbetting in desperate need of a fold. So it worked here -- the message I tried to send Prahlad here was that I had to have a Queen here, right? Anyways, he bought it and I chipped up nicely once again against the most aggro-crazy player at my table, someone with whom I would be clashing again before all was said and done.

My biggest loss of the last few hours of this tournament occurred at the very end of Hour 4, when I raised preflop with AQs and got reraised allin from the button from a relatively short stack here:

This one sucked, but the combination of the guy being short-stacked compared to me -- enabling me to still have over 38k in chips even if I lost -- plus my own hand being sooted led me to make the call. Still, this one hurt, as it dropped me down to 29th place out of 43 remaining in the tournament, my worst percentile of the remaining players in the previous couple of hours of play.

Through 298 hands, nearing the end of Hour 5, here are the updated stats:

Still 14% of total hands won which is all good, and the preflop hands won is now up to 8%, still inching higher from that 0% after 75 minutes.

At the 5th break, i was in 19th of 37 players remaining. Shortly into Hour 6, I nearly doubled up with ATs over A8o against a stealer in his small blind against my big blind. This was against a guy named CIGSnBEER who was yet another huge movemaker, and I felt pretty good all along the way that my ATs was ahead of his range. I was surprised he was as strong as he was when we flipped up the cards, but actually his having a lower Ace was perfect of course as it left him dominated by me. My hand held, and I jumped to 100,612 chips, my first time over 100k in the tournament thus far, back up to 5th place of 34 left, my stack at that point about 60% above the average of 67k.

With the blinds and antes leaving over 10k in the pot during most of the hour, Hour 6 saw me steal a lot of pots from the big blind when the button or the small blind just open-limped. In fact, I don't believe I overlimped even one single time in this spot all through the tournament, usually opting for the raise in that spot mainly due to how highly aggressive most of the players at my late tables were being with any kind of strong hand from late position before the flop. Thus, I saw any late position limps as weakness, and with a decent stack to play with and even withstand a fold to someone's reraise, I raised liberally in this spot, taking down four separate pots during Hour 6 just by raising against late position open-limpers. Using this strategy, I was in 6th place of 20 remaining when we were 37 minutes into Hour 6.

Here is my stats screenshot through 354 hands:

Still better! Now up to 16% of total hands won, again my high for the entire mtt to that point, and now up to 9% of total hands won before the flop. That's where I like to be. Anytime I can play a ring tournament with between 8 and 9 players per table more or less the whole way through, and still manage to win roughly 1 in 10 pots before the flop with preflop raises, that means that I am in my comfort zone. After starting off so poorly with preflop winning percentage, you can imagine the following four hours were pretty solid for me once I got a stack and started at least seeing some Aces and some medium pairs that I could do something with.

All the stealing I was doing eventually caught up to me a bit in the middle of Hour 6, as I had to lay down to rereaises on three consecutive steals I made over the span of about 10 minutes of real time. That sucked, and I fell from a high of 4th down to 10th place out of 18 players remaining. Once we got back to two full tables at 18 players left, the play tightened up somewhat for a bit, as everyone can smell the final table, and those big payouts near the end of the final table, although the funny thing about the 5050 is that even the payouts for the 2nd-to-last table are really only in the mid-hundreds and not anything huge like in the large FTOPS tournaments and things like that. So there is a lot of incentive to hold on a bit and try to let some other people bust, which was a great situation for me since I do not mind busting in 15th if it means I am taking a good chance of getting near the top positions for a final table run.

I busted a short stack when down to 17 players remaining on my second big suckout of the day, when I raised preflop with ATs, a hand that had been good to me in this tournament so far, and ended up feeling priced in to call his allin reraise due to our relative stack sizes even though I figured it was likely I was behind:

This was of course was huge, as it would have put a huge dent in my stack had I lost as I should have. But given the 7 or 8 suckout eliminations I take every goddam night on full tilt alone, I more than have this shit coming to me. And you never heard me say you don't have to get lucky to win a big mtt. You always have to get lucky along the way to win a big mtt, lucky in all its various different forms. Anyways this one took me right back up to 5th of 16 players left. I of course would not at all make this call if I had been in a better chip position here, but being that I was getting shortish myself in 10th of 17 left, and given that I want to win this entire thing if possible, it seemed like the right call to make at the time. Obviously I was wrong, but it worked out for me and full tilt can lick my balls.

I was dealt my first premium pair of the entire tournament a short while later when I found KK in middle position and then a shorty pushed allin ahead of me with what turned out to be A9o:

Huge. Can you imagine if I had actually gotten good cards in this thing? Anyways, this hand vaulted me all the way up to 2nd of 15 left, and I was feeling in good position to make the run I knew I had in me after my recent successes in the 5050 tournament format on both full tilt and pokerstars:

At the very end of Hour 6, A9o pushed into my AKs, which I of course called and it held up once again, sending me into the 6th break in first place of 12 players left:

Boooooom! I was starting to be able to taste the big cash in this one. I took that sense of optimism right into Hour 7, but quickly I ran 99 into a shorty's AA:

What can I do here? He is so short, and though you can't see it from the above screenshot, I have over 350k in chips to start this hand, so it's almost impossible for me to lay down 99 here. And hey, I have to get my seven runs into pocket Aces out of the way at some point every night, right? Luckily with my large stack size this one didn't hurt to bad, though man does it chafe my ass to run good hands into Aces as much as I do.

All the while, I am still betting and raising every single Ace I see, especially now down to 6-handed at my table and with the blinds at 4k-8k and the antes at 1k at this point. There's just no other choice with every pot already as big as it is even from the start of the hand.

I got back into 1st of 10 players remaining when I was dealt AA -- my second (and last) premium pair of the entire tournament, and I raised it up from middle position to my standard raise at the time. RoothlusJr across the table -- yes the original movemaker guy I had clashed with some three hours earlier -- reraised me the full size of the pot. I opted to just move allin at this point -- in retrospect I suppose I could have done my smooth-call-the-reraiser thing with AA and then pushed any flop, but at the time I just had a picture of him outflopping me and I didn't feel like having to suffer through fading a bunch of outs with 5 cards to come on the board. So, I just pushed allin there with my large stack against his large stack, and he reluctantly folded what I bet was 99, TT or maybe AK or more likely AQ. This left me with over 400k for the first time, and as I said I was back to a small chip lead with just one elimination left before the final table.

Maybe 10 minutes later of final table bubblage, and I had made the final table, my fourth final table in the full tilt 5050 and my second in 13 days, this time with me in fucking first place heading in:

Now, as I've written about quite a bit after my two recent final table runs in the 5050 on both full tilt and stars, my strategy at the beginning of a large mtt final table is to switch gears a bit from the bubble that has just ended, and to try to preserve a bit. The money payouts start really ramping up after a few people are eliminated at the final table, so there is every advantange to letting some of the short stacks push and hopefully bust out early. This is all the more true when I have a big stack, and can reasonably believe that by taking things slow for a bit I can still be left with a nice stack after a few people have been eliminated. If I am on a short stack at the final table, I am generally looking to gamble it up as soon as I can to try to get in there and give myself a chance to build a stack to last to the big money positions at the end, but otherwise with a big stack like I had early on Monday morning in the 5050 final table, I planned to reign it in a bit.

In this regard, here was an easy fold with a small pocket pair and the chip lead for me:

Why bother, right? Why give up chips and probably my chip lead when I know I'm going to have to fold to probably an allin c-bet from my opponent 7 out of 8 times I see this flop? Not even to mention the three players still to act behind me. Easy fold in this spot.

Similarly, here was another easy fold I made early at the final table with the chip lead:

No way I'm risking basically my entire chip position with that shitty hand. I love the preflop raise from me, but laying it down here is really the only option. Is he pushing in this spot with A9? I think not. Would you?

Here was another big fold I made, this time of AJs, early at the final table:

With hindsight, I would have won this pot and busted the two final table shorties in the process, but from a philosophical perspective, I will lay down AJ against two players giving action before the flop when I am early that the final table with a nice stack any day of the week.

After the two shorties were eliminated by other players at the table, I managed to knock out the 7th place player when he pushed his short stack allin with presto, and I made the obvious call with my pocket 9s:

And here was the new leaderboard after I eliminated 7th place, with me solidly in 2nd place out of 6 remaining:

A few hands later the overdonkish extreme move-making CIGSnBEER made an allin call with the mighty allin-calling hand of 33 to lose his chip lead for the last time. I was still sitting in 2nd of 6 after this hand, but that right there is a guy who does not know how to play a big stack at a final table, because calling another big stack's allin with your 33 is not the answer.

At the 7th break I was in 3rd place of 6 remaining:

By this point in time, I am steal-raising with every Ace, mostly all pocket pairs, every King with a decent kicker and many connector hands as well, all whenver the action has not been opened in front of me, and sometimes where a stealer in steal position has raised it up already as well. As I've said several times here, there is just no other choice with the blinds at 12k-24k and the antes at 3k per hand. Of the last 6 players remaining, the Ms ranged from roughly 5 to roughly 9, so everyone was short and nobody was particularly extreme on one side of average or the other.

Early in the final hour of play, I reraised a stealer from the cutoff with my TT, and he called for all his stack with AK. The flop did have an Ace, but it also had this:

And 6th place was gone, just like that. Big race wins are always going to be a part of any final table run as well, there is just no way to avoid that, especially in the online world where final table Ms are so low and blinds are so comparatively high. So here I take a nice chip lead into 5-handed play, with my eyes on that $10,960 first prize. And I took one step closer to that big payday when on the very next hand, someone's KK eliminated the 5th place player's A4o, and we were down to 4, with me still in first.

Here was another easy laydown with me holding a slight chip lead and a hand I did not want to go to war with, though I liked my preflop raise:

Same thing here, with another low pocket pair that I liked my aggressive move with but I am not getting it allin with given all the things I've had to say about calling big bets with small pockets in big spots:

I will say this again and again and again, but final table survival to me is as much about what you lay down as what you play. Notice I'm not saying that I don't play aggressive poker, but that when someone puts you to the test and threatens to get your entire stack involved in a hand, it is more crucial than any other time late at the final table to only play big pots with big hands.

About 15 minutes into the final hour, I knocked out the 4th place player on a 6-outer suckout I hit at the river. This was the one hand in over 7 hours of play that I know I misplayed and misplayed badly, but what can I say. I sucked out three times in nearly 8 hours on my way to a big tournament win. I got sucked out on plenty, but I always had the chipstack to withstand it and I consistently put myself in a position to take advantage of the good luck when it came to me by not getting involved in big pots in bad sitiuations all throughout the tournament. Anyways, in this key hand I called movemaker RoothlusJr's preflop raise with my K8s, a move I would make again in this position given what a crazy raiser he had been for the past four hours since I first sat with him shortly after midnight in the 5050. The flop came all unders, plus it gave me an inside straight draw as well. When he bet out on the raggy flop, I read him for a weak hand, so I raised him allin, and he called me, showing me top pair and an inside straight draw:

That right there is one big bad misread by me. And this was one big bad relief:

Boooooooooooom!!! Like I said, I cannot recall ever having a final table run in any of the big tournaments I have won or cashed big in that did not involve a few suckouts along the way, and in fact offhand most that I can remember even included one suckout at the final table itself. So I'll take it here, I knew I wasn't pushing with no outs, even though I didn't have as many as I had thought, and I hit my 6-outer on the end. Basically it was just under 5 to 1 to hit when we got it allin on the flop, and I hit it. Good for me. Fuck you full tilt for all the 6-outers I have lost to in my day. I consider us 1% of the way to even now. Anyways this put me way out in front with just 3 players remaining in the 5050, with 1.2 million in chips to movemaker CIGSnBEER's 645k and fellow movemaker PrahladF's 470k. I had a huge chiplead, and I swear at this point I just knew this thing was my tournament to win. I was not going to give up this chiplead without having the goods.

So I laid this one down, though I did think about taking the race with my huge stack and a chance to basically seal the deal:

Obviously though a good laydown by me I decided. Just no reason to race here. And then over two consecutive hands, Prahlad caught CIGS stealing with T7s, and then CIGS lost again for the rest of his then miniscule stack with Q9o, and suddenly we were down to heads-up. Just me and Prahlad, with whom I had tussled for the better part of 90 minutes or so in this tournament a couple of hours earlier. I had put some moves on him so he knew I was capable of doing a lot of shit at the tables, and I was determined to make use of that image whenever the opportunity presented itself. The chipstacks heading into hu play were 1.3 million for me to 913k for Prahlad:

In the end, we played I think just five hands heads-up, before this crucial situation developed. I picked up AK, obviously a superb hand for heads-up play. The first to act had raised almost every pot so far in hu action, so I put in a not-too-large raise to kick things off because I did not want to lose him with my AK here:

He called, and I flopped top pair on a K22 board. This was an extremely friendly flop for my AK, basically with me only fearing a 2 in his hand, which was extremely unlikely given his call of my preflop raise. So I went and bet the full pot here, something I had not been doing at all during the tournament, as my c-bets usually tend to be closer to 2/3 the pot than the full pot. I was hoping Prahlad would be observant enough to have picked up on this, or maybe that he also had a King and might want to play this one for all the marbles anyways:

Again, Prahlad called my bet. I just couldn't put him on a 2, although this did make me think it possible that maybe he held some kind of middle pocket pair, or ideally another King. So, I felt there was only one thing to do on the turn:

Yep. Check it. Avid readers here will know that I love this move. Make like I stole preflop and tried a c-bet on the flop, but that once I got called on that flop bet I am now shutting down my attempt to steal this pot with air. To my dissasisfaction, Prahlad did not take the bait and he checked behind as well on that turn. Dammit. The river brought a harmless Jack, and here was where I considered my options. I figured there was not much chance of Prahlad thinking that the Jack specifically had helped me. I figured whatever he had called me with preflop and especially on the flop might be enough for him to think he was good. If he had the medium pocket pair or more likely the King I thought he had, I figured he would be likely to call any bet from me here at the river, thanks in large part to my turn check as well which, even though he did not take the bait, I reasoned he still would have to assign some meaning, some significance to me having done. So I took the better part of 10 seconds or so before just moving it allin here and praying for the call from Kx or 77 or something like that:

He did call, and I had won the full tilt 50-50 tournament!!

And here was the setup hand that I would not have gotten away from if I were him either, I am sure:

And there you have it:

Woooohoooooooo!! And let's not forget this window, separate from the final board because I have to admit I do love the way it looks just sitting there all alone, naked, just waiting to be taken advantage of:

BOOOOOooooooooooooom!!! And I am excited to report that this now becomes my biggest ever single online win, eclipsing by about $1600 my win of the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament a couple of Aprils ago. It is actually the first time I have won 5 figures in one sitting, and for a $50 buyin you're not gonna get much better than winning nearly 11 grand over 8 hours of play. It was a unique run in its own way for two key reasons I would say. First, I definitely never recall winning 0% of hands preflop over the first 80 minutes of any tournament I have ended up winning a good deal of money from. Absolutely never. That is an amazing turnaround in its own right. And I've had tournament wins where I got shit cards basically all the way through -- that party 40k comes to mind in fact as I recall -- but probably never to this degree in the first hour, and really for the entire first two hours before recording a single pot of any significance. And the other thing was the three big suckouts I recorded on my way to victory. I've always sucked out along the way and maybe if I review my other tournament wins I will see that this is not much different, but I think all three suckouts were dominated-type of hands where I was roughly 20% or less to win when the money got in, and the fact that I won three of those hands on the way to taking down over $10,900 in cash money is still trying to work its way through my tired, aching brain cells this morning. Like I said, I slept a grand total of maybe 30, 40 minutes tonight, as believe you me, it is fucking hard-ass work to try to jump right to sleep after completing a run like this and winning this kind of cashish. As usual I will have some more to say about this in the coming days, but for now I am going to get this post up for you guys and call it a day for the blog. I still can't believe this as I sit here now finishing this post up, I really can't. Check it out one more time to make sure this shit is real, willya?


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