Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big Score in the Full Tilt $30 Rebuy

**Note: if you have been following along with my NFL picks this season, I made my Pick 5 earlier on Wednesday, which you can view here.

On Tuesday night I had what for me is a big score (unlike some people) in full tilt's nightly $30 rebuy tournament. This thing runs at 8:30pm ET every night, and typically finishes sometime after 4am, and honestly these days I think it is one of the best tournaments for the money out there. It's $30, and it's a rebuy, so you do need some real kind of a roll to sit in this thing with any regularity. But to be honest, I've maybe played the $30 rebuy twenty, twenty-five times in my life, and it's not like I'm ever pouring $30 after $30 after $30 into this thing. No, typically I buy in, and as soon as one or two other people at my table have significantly more than the starting stacks -- including if anyone auto-rebuys right at the beginning -- then I will rebuy as well to get a double starting stack. And then that's pretty much it in most cases, either I go busto on some bullshit and I just don't rebuy, or I manage to stay alive. Because I'm a man, I always take the add-on of course for another $30, but rarely am I in to this thing for more than $90, that's just not the way I treat it. And on a night like Tuesday, I took some tough-ass beats early and late, but all throughout until the very end I also got a whole lot of that kind of "poker luck" that I wrote so much about after my big hit at the Venetian in Vegas last summer.

So, on to the tournament and some nice run-goodery from me. I sat down about 10 minutes late to the $30 rebuy (extended late registration in everything FTW!) on Tuesday night, and you can see I opted for the auto-rebuy to start because I quickly saw that fully five of the other eight players were on double stacks already at my table:

Within a few hands I checked top pair solid kicker in a limped pot on the turn, inducing a river bluff which I raised and took down sans showdown, and just like that I was in the top 20 out of 298 players remaining. That's one of the many reasons why this tournament is such a good thing to play if you're sufficiently rolled: with just a quick rebuy early, you can basically buy your way into a starting stack in the top quarter of the field. After this I had to fold to a couple of flop raises on scary boards, I tried a hammer bluff but had to laydown to a reraise before the flop, and I was back down to around 2000 chips when I called a preflop reraise with pocket 7s and flopped top set. Knowing my opponent had to be strong, I set the trap:

He took it:

but I really wanted some stackage here so I just called again, leaving myself just under 1100 behind and a pot with almost 2300 already in it. A perfectly raggy turn card came -- by my read the best possible card for me against a guy who is hopefully holding a big pocket pair, and I pretended to ponder before just checking it again, knowing I could push the river if he checks behind on the turn and almost certainly get called given my small remaining stack relative to what's already in the pot. He insta-pushed:

Guess what I cracked....

Suck it, Ace Boy! 112 of 265 at break time.

Early after the break, I cracked Aces for the second time on the night, once again with a flopped set. I was in the big blind with pocket Nines, and the action folded all the way around to the small blind in front of me, a gold jersey FTOPS winner for what it's worth, who raised 3x the big blind. I repopped him 3x his bet to 720 chips, he called and we saw a flop of QT9 with two diamonds. He checked to me after I had been the last preflop raiser, expecting the c-bet, and so I did not want to fail to deliver after flopping a set:

to which he instantly pushed:

and boom!

Hoy 2, Aces 0. And with 11,200 and change, I went into the second break in 38th of 207 players remaining, out of 375 who had started for at least $30 apiece. Two to three times as many total rebuys and add-ons as original entrants, just as any true rebuy mtt should be.

Around midway through the third hour, I managed to only lose a grand on this flop:

Gotta love that though, huh? This guy on my left had a massive stack all throughout this tournament, and for the two hours-plus I sat next to him the guy was a serious thorn in my side. But I was just as much of a thorn in the side of the FTOPS jersey guy to my right, and since it had getting on an hour since the last big card I spiked to beat someone out of their stack, I called his preflop open-raise from his small blind with my 98o from the big blind. I knew this guy was aggressive so I was planning on some kind of a steal if I did not connect with the 98, the type of hand I love to play in no limit holdem. The flop came down J57, giving me the very well-disguised double belly-buster, so I called when my opponent led out for 480 into the 720 pot. On came the turn card:

and if you look closely there you can see me using a little bit of a time tell by letting this shit run almost all the way down before I ended up just calling, really wanting to get him to bet me his stack on the river but afraid of losing him with a raise here if he were in fact on a bluff.

Ace on the river, boom he's all in:

I paused for a moment, considered that KQ would be a reasonable hand for him to play this way but decided that if I lose like that it 's just going to have to be, and I made the call:

Bloom. I flop two sets and crack aces twice in the first two hours, and now I'm cracking another guy's flopped set by calling with good odds on flop and then hitting my draw on the turn. Hawesome. Now I was 28th of 215 remaining with over 13k in chips, and suddenly I had enough of a chip lead on most of my opponents that I could really start to bet and raise them right out of pots, which is exactly what I did. I c-bet more aggressively, I raised a few limpers multiple times and got them all to lay down, that sort of thing that you need to do in the middle stages to maintain and to continue to accumulate in any large mtt. I was aggressive when could take control of the hands, but I wasn't reckless with my calling. I laid down in situations like this:

because the risk-reward is just not there given the big stack I've already accumulated and the chance I am just racing for a quarter of that precious big stack that has enabled me to be able to push the table around. So aggressive, yes, but not a calling station by any means.

I got my first jab in at this big stack to my left late in the third hour, when I open-raised in late position with K9s and he called behind me in the cutoff to see a heads-up Queen-high flop, but with two of my suit. I checked it and he led out ridiculously small (less than a quarter of the pot, which I could only assume meant he had made a solid top pair or better and wanted to make sure he got paid a little). With the King-high flush draw, I obviously called:

When I hit my flush on the turn, I checked it again, feeling like my flop call plus a lead-out on the turn would be too obvious, and my opponent made the incredibly weak move of min-betting for less than one-tenth of the chips in the pot at the time:

I mean what do you even say to that bet? To me I was now utterly positive he had top pair and just wanted to try to get some cheap information from me since he had been fearing the check-raise if I made a flush. Well, I figured, if he was so sure I would check-raise him with a flush that he was willing to bet 9% of the pot to find out, then I'm not gonna give him the information he wants. So I just called, making it seem like maybe I had some other kind of a hand, maybe second pair, maybe now a flush draw or something:

The river brought a second five, which I figured gave this guy a stronger hand with two pairs now that I had not let him think I had a flush on the turn. So, I think he liked his hand early, and I think he tried to find out if it was still good on the turn and I told him it was. So if he thinks his hand was best on the turn, and it just improved, then let's make him call a big bet here:

He called. And bloom, almost 9k in chips to me:

Good read, good play by me from start to finish. Horrible play by him btw, utterly and completely horrible on every single street. A few minutes later came the third break, where I sat in 24th of 147 remaining with nearly 18k in chips.

Very early in Hour 4 I made another big hand, flopping my third set of the night after calling a preflop raise with pocket deuces. I checked my flopset to the raiser, who had been unusually tight at the table and I figured probably had some kind of a solid hand, and when he led out for 900 into the 1640 chips in the pot on the pretty much raggy flop, I once again opted to slow play and just call given the absence of draws I was concerned about on the flop:

When the top card paired on the turn, I checked, figuring if he had just made trips then he would surely bet here, and that I did not want to lose him by making him think that I had just made trips either. This time he checked behind, and suddenly the whole thing started to smell a whole lot like AK. He raised preflop and I called. He led out with the proper c-bet on the raggy flop, and I called. Then he checked behind on the turn, which further validates the notion of his bet on the flop just being an Ace-high c-bet especially since he really should be betting there again on the turn if he thinks he is ahead. So now I've got him on AK in there, so when this card hits the river, I wanted to make sure I put him all the way to the test in a spot where I doubted he'd be able to find a fold after just a couple of calls from me:

He couldn't fold, and I busted him for another 12k in chips or so to start really getting up there in chip stack:

Up to 12th place out of 142 remaining. I stayed around this level for a while, blinding down a bit but also continuing to aggressively bet and raise where it made sense enough to maintain my stack. Eventually, I raised and called a reraise preflop with pocket Queens against a much shorter stack than mine, and when the flop came down a super-raggy 862 rainbow, I min-raised his flop c-bet to put him to the test.:

He pushed, I called, and here I was ready to chip up again into the top five in this tournament:

When boom:

Oh the gheyness. Such utter, utter shit. You guys know how much I hate duping someone hard in a hand and then still getting effed. Instead of 4th out of 127 remaining, I was 33rd thanks to a postflop suckout. Time to start rebuilding. And I was able to get a bunch of chips back on what I think was a poorly played hand by my opponent here even though I don't know what he had. A guy with a near-average stack who had been very active raising before the flop raised again, and a big stack in front of me had just called the raise. I had KQo, which figures to have at least a solid chance against most holding these guys could have, so I did the raise-the-limpers move that I love so much because people never want to believe you actually have anything:

When the flop came King-high, I figured I had gotten exactly what I wanted here so let's see if I can take this down right here and now without giving my opponent a chance to catch up:

He folded, and I never had to show what I had raised those limpers with, which clearly really weighed on the big stack in front of me after I had been betting and raising so aggressively for the past couple of hours already. So much so that, on the very next hand when I raised his limp again -- this time conveniently with AK -- he went nuts in response:

It's gotta be a pair, right? Anybody folding here? I had a nice stack but here was a chance to get a really tremendous one put right on a silver platter for me. I pondered it but figured I had to call since I did not think he would have auto-pushed for such a ridiculous overbet if he was actually holding Kings or Aces. Check it out:

Tilt push, anyone? Seriously, what a poor, poor play by him, but at least a good illustration of what consistently aggressive play can do for you at the poker tables. Oh, and thanks to this guy's big stack, I was suddenly in 1st place with just 103 runners left in the $30 rebuy mtt with a 25k guarantee:

Shortly before the fourth break, some guy with a just-below-average stack repopped me allin preflop, and I called him with my AKo and some chips to burn in case I lost to a pocket pair, for a shot at grabbing another 26k in chips to add to the numbers next to my name on the leaderboard:

But alas, this again was not meant to be:

So that was suckouts against me for a 22k pot and then a 26k pot within the span of about 40 minutes, in a tournament where at the time the first-place stack remaining was only just over 60k in chips. And yet somehow I was still only down to 6th place! Yet another example of a principle I have mentioned time and time again in my various other tournament recap posts here: the suckouts and bad beats are inevitable, as are the lost races and the setups, but one of the key aspects of any deep mtt run is accumulating enough chips to survive those suckouts, since you simply cannot avoid them. Lucky for me I was in just such a situation here, although I cannot describe how pissed off I was knowing I literally should have had twice the second place's stack at this point in the event but instead was way down in 6th while two other donkeys were still alive and braying around with my chips in their stacks. I resolved to find a way to get them all back.

In Hour 5, I won almost 30k in chips in this peculiar hand. I open-raised from the cutoff with A8s, and only the big blind called to defend his blind. The flop came AQ4, and being against the big blind I assumed I was likely ahead, so I led out for 2600 into 4500 and he just called. The call was a little concerning but I figured I would wait and see what the turn brought and re-evaluate, and down came an offsuit King. KQ certainly was a worry but then he checked instead of leading out on the turn, so I checked behind just to be safe with a beatable hand, having already been called on the Ace-high flop. But I knew in the back of my mind these guys have seen me steal-raise 8500 times already for the past few hours, so he might well not put me on an Ace here, who knows. Anyways, the river came an annoying Ten, putting four to a straight out there, and my opponent immediately insta-shoved for the full amount of the pot:

He did it all too fast, I felt, and too forcefully in a way that seemed to me designed to intimidate me with the scare card on the river. The more I reviewed the hand, I just didn't think it likely that he had smooth called the flop with a Ten in his hand, except maybe for AT which frankly I didn't think he would have just called with preflop. So I made the large call with not much of a hand myself, and saw this:

Sweet. Please keep float-calling me, people, please. I beg of you.

A few minutes later as we got down near 60 players remaining, I called this guy's allin reraise of me, based mostly on pot odds with a sooted King but also knowing that my range was sufficiently wider in these guys' eyes so he could be pushing a bit light:

And then finally a friendly river netted me another 17k in chips:

Curious about my hand stats at all through 200 hands in this thing? Enjoy:

Yep, nearly 21% of total hands at my table won by me, all night long, all while we've been basically at full nine-person tables throughout. That is big-stack aggression and table bullyage at its finest.

A short while later I lost a race when a short stack with AK called my preflop reraise and flopped a pair to beat my 33, relieving me of around 15k chips in the process, and then by the time I lost 88 to KK on a TT4 flop I was down to just 30k in chips and suddenly all the way down to 22nd of 35 remaining:

But again I perservered, clawing back to the middle of the pack with a number of preflop raises and even with pushing it allin on some overbets on the flop when I sensed that my opponent was too weak to call. By the fifth break, I was in 17th of 28 players remaining with 47,430 in chips to work with. Fortunately, I also had the vesitages of an extremely loose image to help me, and when I raised with QQ under the gun a short while into the sixth hour of play, the cutoff decided to make a move by pushing allin for his 18k stack, which I of course called:

My Queens held (I repeat: my pocket Queens actually held!), jumping me back over 50k in chips, and shortly afterwards I won another 35k when I called this short stack's preflop push just ahead of me:

all of which got me right back up to 10th place with 23 remaining in the tournament and in a much better position to make a run at the final table where the only payouts I care about reside. About ten minutes later, I ended up making a questionable call with pocket 6s, knowing I would be racing, and I somehow survived yet again against A7 for a huge chip infusion and a jump up to 2nd place on the leaderboard. Right where I wanted to be:

Unfortunately, what followed was a period of absolutely no cards to speak of, which then led me to make some ill-advised moves without the cards to back it up, and my chip stack really dwindled while we whittled our way down to the final two tables. The biggest blow came after I called an UTG raiser's preflop raise and then flop bet with top pair here, but then his bet after the Ace on the turn caused me to freeze up and fold despite having sunk more than a third of my stack into the pot when I was sure I was ahead prior to the turn card falling:

Suddenly finding myself in 13th of 15 left and my chances at a real payout fading away, I open-pushed JTs from second position:

and I got called by AK behind me.

Oh, and boooooom:

At this point the railbirds went nuts, even though this really is only what, a 40-60 chance of winning. It's a big win where I was behind, but I was not in terrible shape at all, and it's a move I would make with TJs ten out of ten times given my small chipstack and my unyielding desire to win the whole tournament not just roach my way to the final table. This one got me halfway back, to 7th place of the 13 remaining players, and I finally had some breathing room for a short while, ending the sixth hour of play in 8th place of 12 left:

Early in the 7th hour, I thought long and hard about this decision:

I ended up folding, reasoning that I wanted to survive to the final table where all the money I cared about was, and why risk calling off my stack with zero fold equity and a significant likelihood of being dominated or at least racing? I figured I could wait for a better spot, which was a good thing as the guy behind me called and in the end I would have been eliminated with this board:

Fast forward a few orbits, though, including one failed steal attempt, and I was once
again feeling the pressure, down to 10th of 11 players left in this thing, and once again starting to feel like I wanted to actively court a double-up or just get out now:

A couple of hands later when the action folded all the way around to me in my small blind, I paused for a moment like I was thinking, but I pushed allin without any regard for the shit I was holding in my hand:

This time I got called by AJ, and the board came down like this:

And I had done it again, surviving another 40-60 shot to get right back into good position in this tournament. Again the railbirds chorused loudly in the chatbox about what a massive donkey I was, and admittedly the 43o looks a lot worse than it really is, but once again I was pushing there with any two cards and I would do it all over again in spades. I wasn't afraid of getting busted from the tournament as long as I was being aggressive in a good spot with a god chance of chipping up substantially. But I got railed on hard in the chat for quite a while after the JT push and then this 43o, both of which ended up winning and preserving my tournament life, even though I guarantee you almost none of those guys squawking about the play had any idea that each had been a roughly 40% shot at winning. But I guess it's a good sign when your railbirds are as bad as the rest of the players around you there, and in this case it was especially good as I spent the better part of the next hour abusing these assidiots like they've never been chat-abused before, and had a damn good time while I did it too. And this 43o hand bumped me once again back into the middle of the pack, in 5th of 10 left, still just one person away from the final table.

The final table bubble lasted forever, and I never saw a single good hand throughout the entire period. So I had to continue pushing with air in the right spots, but nonetheless my stack continued to dwindle without any good cards to resteal with or make a play for a quick double. Down to 9th of 10 remaining, I once again pushed allin preflop with JTs, this time against one of the big stacks who looked like he was stealing, and again I found myself down 40-60 for my tournament life:

And once again, the same result:

You can imagine what the chat was like at this point, especially with the final table just one elimination away all this while. Finally, after another 10 minutes or so of play, a flopped set beat an overpair on the other table and we had reached the final table, my first real mtt final table since the Venetian, with me starting with a roachy stack in 7th place of the 9 final table runners:

As seems to be the case with most of the big online mtt final tables I have ever been at, there had to be more suckouts than favorites winning through the entire final table run. This did not impact my hands directly early on, but it did impact my ability to survive and climb up the payout ladder because the few people behind me kept getting it allin hopelessly dominated but then sucking out to stay alive, eventually leaving me in last place at the table where I decided to make a stand on a resteal with pocket 7s:

But whoops!

Or not!

Yet another instance by me at the final two tables when I had all my chips in the middle and needed to catch to win, this time a true suckout as I won with a dominated, 20% hand to stay alive and amass that all-important final table stack. And I wasn't about to let that luck all be in vain as I had now vaulted all the way up to the 2nd-biggest stack at the final table.

And then this peculiar hand came up. I raised UTG+1 with AKs, and the big blind wayyy overpushed for his entire stack, a move which I could not explain regardless of his holding, and more importantly, just as I had correctly reasoned much earlier in thi tournament, I just didn't see him doing that with pocket Aces or Kings:

I mulled it for a bit, but eventually I made the call and saw this:

ZOMGWTF does this guy realize he's at a final table or what? I just cannot explain it, other than tilt or stupidity, or more probably a combination of both. Anyways, I doubled up there, sent the first member of the final table packing, and I suddenly had more than twice as much as second place with 8 left. I took out the 8th place guy as well when my pocket Kings held against his AQ somehow, allin preflop of course:

#7 busted a short while later, then #6 also chalked up to me on this allin preflop race:

This again left me well out in front, still more than twice even the second place stack left in the event, and at this point with 5 left I started eying the payouts in those top three spots which were the only ones I would be even mildly satisfied with.

By the time #5 and #4 were eliminated by the same guy at the table, the final three stacks had equalized quite a bit:

and I held my own at or right near the top of the leaderboard for the next several orbits while the three of us remaining switched the lead back and forth, back and forth, jockeying for position as any elimination would cost two to three thousand dollars of cold hard (electronic) cash right out of our pockets. After a good 20-25 minutes of three-handed play, the player across the table from me -- a guy who it turns out had already won this exact tournament twice this month previously and has a lifetime 490k profit at full tilt -- really started to pull away from the other two of us thanks to his relentless aggression, combined with my total lack of cards and the fact that the third player was always shorter than me and I did not want to do anything to cost myself 2 grand by letting him outlive me because I was too aggressive when I did not need to be somewhere:

Then, out of nowhere and for no real apparent reason, the other two guys got allin before the flop with these hands:

and the Kings held up, in fitting with the rest of what happened throughout that final table, leaving me heads up and at a significant chip disadvantage to the 490k profit online poker shark:

After a long time of back-and-forth play, where I was admittedly probably too tight, I eventually decided to push back and make a stand with K6s, and naturally got called by A6:

But then check out that glorious turn card!

Now I had gone from nearly a 2-to-1 chip deficit to a nearly 4-to-1 chip leader, and I was determined not to make a dumb play here to jeopardize my shot at the $8100 first prize. That meant I folded a lot again for a while to tuna's relentless onslaught of allin bets and raises, just praying I could pick up a big hand one of these times that he pushed the rest of his stack into me. Eventually, I got that chance:

I knew I was probably racing, and lord knows I don't love calling allin in a big spot with pocket 7s, but when you combine the fact that he is pushing probably any Ace here (including A2-A6), and pocket pair (including 22-66) and maybe some other sooted Kings and other high-card combos as well, I opted to go for the call here and take what might be my best chance to nab the 8k first prize money against a guy who has flat-out a much better history in online poker than I. I made the call and was overjoyed to see this:

After all surviving those two brutal early suckouts in massive pots, lasting through the 40-60 winners, the suckouts in my favor, and a very slow and tough final table, I had done it. 80% chance to win the 8k first prize!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOF! What can you say about that, right? I mean, I certainly can't really complain, not given the amount of times I had won allin from behind to even be alive in this spot. But how shitty is that, huh? And just like that I had gone from $8100 richer to a 6-to-1 chip underdog to win. Shit!

I fought hard, too, to come back, as I didn't feel the least bit tilty after all the good luck I had run across in this thing. Here I called his preflop allin push and was again 80% to double up and get back to more than respectability:

but I was, again, thwarted, this time by a miracle river push:

And then three hands later, once again I called his allin with a superior hand and yet another shot to double up and get a little bit back into this thing:

But not just one but two pairs once again did me in:

and I was done, out in second place and forced to settle for $5100 and change:

Final stats over 618 hands in the tournament:

And the final leaderboard screenshot, for posterity's sake:

So it took a string of an 80% favorite losing, an 80% favorite pushing, and then a 60% favorite losing in order for me to get busted from this thing in heads-up play, but like I said I can't be anything but thrilled with this result given how many times I had to come from behind along the way in this thing. Of course you never feel satisfied taking second place in one of these things -- least of all when you held a better than 3-to-1 chip lead just a few minutes earlier -- but again I don't see how I can complain too much about the three bad beats at the very end since it took me delivering a number of bad beats late in this thing heading into the final table in the first place to even be here. And that doesn't even get into the twice I cracked Aces with flopped sets early, or the time I cracked the flopped set with a turned straight. I had one of those runs last night were a lot went right for me early and late, and I performed like I always tell myself I should if things would just run well for me for a little while. And coming on the heels of the streak of suckouts I've been dealt over the past two weeks of poker play, this could not have come at a better time.

If nothing else, my really first deep mtt run since my trip to Vegas last summer reminded me for the first time in a long time of just how much fun poker tournaments can be. In chatting with another guy who runs deep in mtts a lot more frequently than I do during last night's big run, we agreed that there is simply nothing in the poker world like a deep run in a large-field multi-table tournament. The suspense, the excitement, the fun, the fear. You cash game donks will just never understand it.

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