Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Erev Christmas Present

*****Warning! Warning! Alert! Alert! Ultimate Bet Content Ahead!*****

Booo Yahhhh!

Just look at this thing. 160 runners, deep stacks to start, super awesome structure, and over $5300 for first place. 160 runners! This is like playing a 180-man sng on stars or full tilt, only with 20 fewer players, about a 20x better tournament structure and with a whole lot more money on the table. Sure you have to be able to handle a perceived increased risk of shenanigans from all the stuff that's been going on with UB lately, but you know what they say -- with increased risk comes increased reward.

Even with the great structure and deep starting stacks, the whole tournament took just a shade over six hours to win. And just as with my final table run in the 9pm ET bounty tournament at UB, the structure and stacks are so solid that I was able to withstand a bad loss deep in this thing -- running AQ into AK when down to 5 at the final table against the tournament short stack -- and still have enough chips to be able to make a move.

There were not too many big hands on my way to this mtt victory, few enough that I can recap them here. The strange thing about this particular tournament run was that I suffered no suckouts for, and no suckouts against. Dam that is a good feeling, I have got to say. Another strange but not unusual thing was that I received generally very poor starting cards, and most of my big pots were either on big flops to shitty starting hands, or, more commonly, just based on my reads and not a whole lot else.

My first big hand got me about a 50% increase from the 5000-chip starting stacks in the first 20 minutes or so of this event. I open-raised preflop with A4s from mid-late position, and only the small blind called my raise. Being in the blind, and since he didn't reraise me, I'm putting him on a middling to fair hand. No big pair, but maybe two big sooted cards, a medium pair, a connector, something like that. The flop comes 789 rainbow, the small blind checks, and I c-bet around 75% of the pot to try to take it down here:

The small blind smooth calls my flop bet. I still don't have him on much, maybe a pair or a piece of the straight draw, maybe an underpair, or maybe even just two overs. With the deep stacks there is plenty of opportunity to float in the earlygoing in this thing, and I didn't really have any read on this guy coming in to the hand, other than that he had done nothing but play straightforwardly so far in the tournament. The turn card brings another 9, pairing the top card on the board. I believe he would surely have raised that scary flop if he had held top pair or better, so I can't see him having made trips here. But with the pair the board has gotten even a bit scarier, and since I think he has to fear trips now, I opt to bet out strong again, this time around 80% of the pot:

The small blind surprises me by just calling again. Dam. While I already figured I was behind in the hand, two check-calls is a pretty solid line, indicating at least a pair and a draw, or maybe two low pairs, a flopped set or something similar. I don't plan to lose any more chips on this bluff.

But then look what happens, when the river brings a harmless offsuit 3:

Suddenly the small blind insta-bets, leading out for the full pot size after I had raised preflop, bet the flop and had gotten called, and had led out again on the turn and gotten called. This is like a delayed donk-bet -- again this is the poker forum term for leading out into the preflop raiser, and it almost never indicates a truly strong hand. Let's say this guy has a boat or something. I've just bet him preflop and on each street after the flop so far, even after getting called twice. Why would he insta-lead out here, and for such a large size relative to the pot, if he had a big big hand? The answer, it seemed to me, was he would not. Maybe he thinks I was on a straight draw that did not fill. Maybe he thinks he can scare my one-pair hand out of the pot, or that I was betting a hand like AK all along. I don't know. But my gut told me this guy was full of it, so I took my Ace-high hand and did this:

Almost an allin raise, leaving just a short stack behind which I think sometimes looks even scarier than a straight-up allin push. Again, I'm not trying to say that this is such an awesome play -- for one thing, my opponent, who at this point I have on a one-pair hand like a pair of 7s or 8s, could easily just donkey-call my bet, and of course I lose to any single hand he would possibly call with. And I have to give the guy a little bit of credit to think he could fold here. But his insta-donk-bet on the river just screamed out to me that he would fold to big action and didn't want to bust this early with his hand, so I changed my plan at the last second and followed my instinct.

Booom. Who knows what he had. Like I said, I think he had one pair and decided that I was trying to bully the pot, but then figured at the river that I had Aces or somehow had connected big with the board. Nice way to start things off, especially since I never even connected in the least with what proved to be a very scary board.

Near the end of the first hour, I got very lucky in that I picked up QQ and ran it allin against a shortish stack who turned up JJ. We both waited until after the flop to get the big money in, but when it came all rags he overpushed on me and at this point from watching him for an hour I knew he would make that move with any top pair and possibly even a draw. With all the flop overpairs I run into higher overpairs on a nightly basis, this one felt good as it popped me up over 11,000 chips and into the top 5 of the field during just the first hour of play.

I used my instincts in a potentially hairy situation again early in the second hour when I open-raised A9o from the button, and the small blind just called me with a stack of around 2/3 of my own. The flop came Ace-high, and once again my opponent insta donk-bet me, the full size of the 1800-chip pot:

I mean this was instantaneous. Once again as I have discussed many times of late here, I just could not see how this guy would make a play like that if he was holding AK, a set or a similarly strong hand. Most players will check to the raiser and then go for the raise either after I bet on the flop, or the allin move on the turn in that spot. Even the tricky ones who might bet out into the raiser a la Doyle Brunson are typically not insta-pushing there, and typically not for the full size of the pot. The last thing AK wants to do there is scare away a guy who might have open-raised a lower Ace, or for that matter might be stealing from the button and be willing to put in a sizable c-bet given my big stack at the time. So I put him on either a weak Ace or simply an attempt to steal the pot from me. So I smooth called him, opting to see what he did on the turn for some more information before deciding how much I really wanted to commit to the pot. But I felt like I was ahead at the time, that is for sure.

The turn brought a raggy 5, completing a possible heart flush but I could not put him on the flush draw given his insta-bet on the flop. What's more, the guy insta-pushed for almost his entire stack on the turn, to the point that he clearly did not give any thought whatsoever to any strategery on the play. So no way he had the flush here or any other big hand. My biggest worry was that he had called my perceived button steal from the small blind with a hand like A5 or A3 and had made two pairs, but the insta-betting he was tossing my way just did not seem like the moves of a guy with a secret strong hand. It seemed the opposite. With the second lead even after I raised preflop and called his full-pot bet on the flop, I had to put him on something. But try as I might, I simply could not match up his play with a hand stronger than my own. AT or better would at least be taking some time here, trying to draw me in before betting out, maybe not betting the full pot on both the flop and the turn, especially given my perceived preflop steal from the button. The best I could come up with was maybe a lower Ace, or a Ten plus the flush draw, something like that. So I raised him allin for his last 600 chips, and he called and flipped up this:

Blooom. Another spot-on read and another nice chip-up, taking to me third place overall of the then 109 players remaining:

At this point, I started bullying bigtime. I played many, many pots, leading out for full pot bets on almost every raggy flop I was involved in, taking pretty much every one down as no one wanted to get mixed up with my big stack this early in such a well-structured mtt. I also started raising any even remotely raiseable hand any time the action was not raised in front of me preflop from middle position or later -- hands like any Ace, any sooted King or Queen, any sooted connectors, stuff like that. Basically every single time the situation presented itself. And I don't think I had to lay down more than one time during the entire next hour as my stack slowly climbed from 20k to nearly 30k in chips without a single showdown along the way.

Around the beginning of the third hour, I won a race with 55 against a shorty with AQs, bringing my stack up to 37k, good for 4th place of the 52 remaining players. Later that hour, I lost a race when I opted to call a shorty allin reraise with my pocket 7s. He flipped up the JackAce, and of course turned a boat to crush me back down to 23k, which placed me in 13th of 40 players left at the time. The important thing as I have mentioned a few times with the UB tournaments is that the structure is so solid to these things, that even this big drop left me with more than enough big blinds to not let the loss get to me.

Near the end of Hour 3, I had my biggest hand of the tournament to that point, and also probably the only truly questionable decision I made all night. I was dealt JJ in the cutoff, and while I was deciding how best to play only the second quasi-premium hand I had been dealt all night, the UTG short stack pushed allin on a large overbet of nearly 18 big blinds, and then the largeish stack in middle position overpushed for 30 big blinds all in front of me:

Now, I should say, the UTG guy at the bottom of the screen was a proven raging donkey. He had overpushed allin almost every time he was UTG for the past several orbits on a short stack, and to be frank I really didn't give him much credit for a hand here. In fact, that fact alone was the biggest reason I couldn't put the MP player on a huge hand. If he had Aces or Kings, I assume he would not have overraised but rather just flat-called the big allin from the UTG player -- that's what I would have done anyways -- in the hopes of getting in some more action behind him. So what I was most worried about was AK or maybe AQs, both of which were not only possibilities, but highly likely, or possibly QQ. In the end, though, given how blatantly donkishly UTG had been playing with his UTG overshoves, I figured that widened the MP player's range sufficiently that he could be on a hand like 88-TT, in addition to a small possibility of AJs or maybe even ATs. Now, against 88-TT, QQ, AJ-AK, my JJ should hold up well, so I went ahead and made the call.

Like I said, it was questionable for sure, and I think the money move with a nice stack nearing the money in an mtt like this might be to fold the JJ there, but I explained above my reasoning in making the call. Interestingly, it was the donkey who had the two overs I needed to dodge while the MP player I was dominating, so that was good for me already in that I would win the large side pot even if an Ace or Queen fell, but in the end I miraculously dodged three Aces, three Queens and two Tens plus various runner-runner possibilities to nearly triple up and get into great position for another deep, deep run:

At this point I shifted my focus from bullying everyone sickly to playing aggressive poker but doing what I could to preserve my chip-leading position and make a run to the final table where the payouts start getting big enough to really care about. At a $120 buyin, the event paid only about $580 to the 9th-place finisher, but over $5300 to 1st place, so finishing in the teens somewhere really did nothing I gave a crap about to be honest. So no more dumb plays, no more questionable calls given my place on the leaderboard at the time.

With the structure what it is in the 8pm ET UB deep stack tournament, the tables tighten up dramatically heading to the cash, and really remain that tight all the way through to the final table and beyond. With a lot of cash at stake and with stacks that are so deep, there is just not much reason for anyone to push. It took about an hour to get down to the final table. To illustrate why the Ultimate Bet mtt structure is so attractive, when the final table began, the blinds were 1200-2400, and the average stack was 84000. This means the average player at the final table on Tuesday night had about 35 big blinds. 35 big blinds!! Just think about that for a minute -- where else in the world of online poker do you find that kind of average stack on a final table of an mtt, anywhere?. You just don't. Normally you're lucky if the average stack has 6-10 big blinds at any final table on stars, full tilt or Bodog.

Here I am in 5th place as the final table begins, thanks to my pushing my A8s into a short stack's AQ in the big blind with 10 players remaining:

So here I was, at another significant mtt final table just days after writing here about my lack of focus at final tables, and my failure to play solid final table poker over my last few chances in this spot. This time, I insisted on learning that lesson, and I can't tell you how many times I thought about that post and that promise I made to myself earlier this week about not letting my next final table opportunity fall by the wayside. I played the final table the way I believe you should, which is to be tight early and try to let the smaller stacks make mistakes or otherwise drop out so you can move up the money payouts. To this end, I folded 77, 44 and A7s to allin reraises during the first hour or so of final table play, opting to preserve my chances to double up and make the real big score I wanted instead of possibly calling off into a dominating hand. This to me is proper final table poker, and I played it to a tee this night after wasting my last couple shots at some real money.

At the end of Hour 4, I was in 5th of 8 players remaining in the tournament, needing some chips but willing to wait for the right opportunity thanks to the very skill-favorable UB tournament structure. I got that chance very early in Hour 5, when I picked up my biggest hand of the night -- QQ -- against TT allin preflop vs. the tournament chip leader. This suddenly bumped me up to 2nd place with over 138k in chips. Woohooooo! From this point, it was back to even more guarded play, as the players don't drop out of this thing with anywhere near the pace you see on the other online poker sites with single-digit Ms from even before the final table begins. But I really reined it in here while I waited for others to bust and only chipped up where my chances of winning pots without a showdown seemed highest. This meant that I did not bet out behind on the river with the low end of the straight on a TJQKs board, and my opponent flipped up an Ace as he attempted to get me to bluff into his nuts. On a later hand, then down to 5 players remaining at the final table, I opted not to not bet after the flop my A9 unimproved against a guy who called my button raise from his big blind. We checked it down on the all-rag board, and he showed AQ for the win. Plays like that -- surely different from how I would be apt to play these spots in either the beginning or the middle of most mtts -- are exactly what enabled me to stick around and move up the payouts instead of pushing myself into busting or even getting myself stuck with some difficult decisions in key spots.

As a result of my conservative final table play, though, I was in a distant 4th place of 5 remaining about 5 1/2 hours in to this tournament:

But notice, once again, the average stack is 168k, and blinds are just 4k-8k. Still, even with 5 players remaining, over 20 big blinds for the average stack, with 3 of the 5 left sitting on well more than 20 big blinds. Nice!

My biggest screwing of the tournament -- which again saw no suckouts for or against me from start to finish -- occurred with 5 players remaining, when I open-raised from the cutoff with AQo. The button, also the only player with a shorter stack than me left in the event, reraised me allin for about half of my remaining stack, and I pondered briefly and then called, figuring he cannot put me on a hand like AQ fro the button and that at worst I was looking at a race, which I easily had the pot equity for given the chips already in the middle from the blinds and antes and my own preflop raise. Unfortuntely, he flipped up AK, and I did not improve. So I was down to 5th of 5 left, with 46k in chips while even 4th place was sitting on 190k, and the chipleader at 250k. Still, with 6 big blinds I at least had a few hands left to try to make a move and get back into contention. A few hands later, sure enough I am dealt pocket 2s and I obviously push, getting called by the guy in 4th place who had just doubled through me, with him showing A6s, and fortunately I tripped up on the flop -- my only set of the night for that matter -- and even made quad ducks on the river just for good measure. I was still in last place of 5 remaining, but at that point I was back up to 115k and had around 14 big blinds thanks again to the UB tournament structure that is so solid.

Eventually, still in last place and shrinking once again, I called the small blind's open-push with my A5o in the big blind, and he flipped up A3o. Miraculously, not only did my A5 hold, but the 5 actually played thanks to the 4J29A board. Yessss! Suddenly I was back from the dead, all the way up in 2nd place of still 5 players remaining but now sitting on 235k in chips, with the leader holding 320k.

Over the next ten minutes or so, two players busted but unfortunately I was unable to take advantage, leading others to double up and increase their stacks while I was content to sit on my 200k+ rather than make any dumb moves and jeopardize my chance at the top prize of $5300 and change.

When three-handed, I had my biggest hand of the tournament where I believe my opponent overplayed a strong but not nut hand. I called the 8k big blind out of my 4k small blind with 95s:

putting 18,400 chips into the pot to see a flop of 667. With nothing good and only 9 high in my hand, and yet holding a draw to the inside straight for the nuts, I opted to check, and my opponent checked behind, which proved to be his undoing. The turn filled my miracle inside straight, and when I decided to bet the full pot to make this look as much like a steal attempt as I could, my opponent responded with the dreaded minraise:

The pot was getting big at this point, and my opponent easily had me covered, while I was solidly bigger than the 3rd place stack and did not want to get busted here and settle for the third place payout when I had been so far ahead of 3rd place coming in to the hand. But still, he had limped preflop so I wasn't putting him on pocket pair of 7s or 8s for the full house, and while I figured a boat with 67 or 68 was certainly possible, as was a higher straight with T9, an overpair, a pair with a draw, or of course a single 6 seemed like more likely possibilities to me. I made the decision that my hand was hidden enough and strong enough to go all the way, and once that decision was made, I opted for the pot-sized re-reraise rather than the allin, hopefully giving my opponent just enough rope to hang himself:

And he obliged:

And BLOOooooooooooom!

Now if I'm him in this spot, I like to think I would conceive of the possibility of a boat, any of the three straights, or even just a 6 with a higher kicker and at least might wait another street or two before getting it allin. In the end it was a beautiful setup for me and I played it well, but we were probably getting it allin there regardless in most cases. Anyways, this hand gave me a massive chip lead over both of my remaining opponents, of 565k - 143k - 129k.

From here it was just a matter of pushing hard every limp and every rag flop, but otherwise just try to see some flops and win after the flop instead of trying to take down every pot without seeing the flop given all these chips in my stack. The other thing I tend to focus on in this spot is trapping, which I don't normally like to do at final tables (or otherwise, for that matter) but which can be an awesome weapon with a dominating stack late in a tournament or an sng because your opponents will often feel pressure to attack your limps and try to chip up quick by getting you to fold. So a few hands later when I picked up AQo, I went for the limp out of the small blind to just 8k, and my 2nd place opponent across the table from whom I had won the big pot overpushed allin for his last 147k. I called, he flipped up A7s, and I held to get to heads up with a 730k to 107k chip lead.

The generous guy I was playing against informed me in the chat that he would give me just one chance to agree to a 50-50 chop. Not sure if he was joking or not, I ignored the proposal. On the 5th hand of heads-up play, I once again limped for 8k with A6o from my small blind, and my opponent pushed allin for his last 94k:

I made the call, which was my plan all along ever since opting to limp the A6 instead of raising preflop as I had been often during shorthanded play otherwise:

And booooyahh:

So there it is:

Now I just need to get this money off the site before it suddenly disappears or finds itself sitting in Phil Hellmuth's account out of nowhere, and it'll be alllll gooooood.

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Blogger Chad C said...

You really should give all that money to charity or something you immoral S.O.B! How dare you play with YOUR own money on a site that has better structures, smaller fields, and very nice payouts. Your personal preference means nothing to mondogarage/champ, you should be ashamed of yourself as they are you.....

12:32 AM  
Blogger cmitch said...

Awesome!!! Nice Score!! Congrats!!

Merry Christmas!!!

1:40 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Well done. Enjoy the holidays.


5:26 AM  
Blogger jjok said...

immoral. period.

Gramp and champ do not approve.

grats bud!

6:32 AM  
Blogger PokahDave said...

jeezuz christmas! Nice grab...

9:08 PM  
Blogger Mike G said...

Nice post, well told.

3:05 PM  

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