Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Lose $1100 in Thirty Minutes

Saturday was the poker celebration of the one year anniversary of Running Aces, and the casino hosted an $1100 event that drew seventy-three buy-ins. My success recently had me pretty confident I'd contend for what I assumed would be close to a $20k first prize. Add to that my intent to improve my third-place standing in the Deep Stack Player of the Year Standings, the winner of which wins a place in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, and I surrendered the entry fee without blinking.

There are a couple strategies to choose from for the start of a big tournament like this (deep stack, 20,000 starting chips). Either play extremely tightly and hope for monster hands or push the pace and create a loose table image to use to trap people. I decided to let the table help determine which I would choose. As I walked to my starting table, I noticed a lot of the better players from Canterbury were there, as expected. I started on a table I knew would be broken quickly, and given that, I should have abandoned the second strategy--a table image would have been of little use.

I sat in the 10 seat and during the first orbit noticed the table's very tight play. I let play go round again and then woke up in the cut-off with pocket 7s, all folding before me. The big blind I knew well as a loose player and calling machine with decent hands...someone I'd seen get very lucky when sticking in hands. Not a bad player, but definitely a known quantity. I bet 3x the BB (3 x $100), fold, fold, and the big blind called as expected.

The flop came A, K, T rainbow. My 7s were likely beat, but since I was possibly representing an Ace, I needed to bet if given the chance. The big blind checked, and I bet 500 into the 700 pot. BB called. He had something, either a pair or a draw. I was pretty sure he didn't have an ace. The turn was a 6. He checked again, and I fired 1000. He called. He had a pair. The river was a 3.

This was where I made my first mistake. BB checked, and I realized I probably had him if I bet enough. At the same time, if I bet too much, he was likely to see my bluff. The main problem came with the player himself. If he had a king, he would call almost anything in the normal range, thinking he might be good. Most players wouldn't. Too big a bet on my part depicted a bluff. I was stuck. I decided to cut my losses and check as well. He had a king. So what should I have done? I should have checked the turn and saved myself 1000. I was down to 17,500 instead of 18,500. Every chip is valuable, even early, even in a deep stack.

Next time around on the button, I looked down at A5s with one limp before me. I raised to 400 (4x), and the limper called. An ace flopped, and I played it carefully, but the limper showed pocket aces. I felt lucky to be left with a 16,000 chip stack. Eight hands later, I woke up in the big blind with AQ and called the cut-off's 3x raise. An ace came again on the flop, I check called the flop and turn, and checked down the flush scare card on the river. My opponent again had pocket aces, and I was left now with 11,800.

This was not how I had anticipated the day would go.

A few hands later I called a raise with ATs, not my normal play. My opponent checked the J, T, 5 flop, so I bet 1200, which he called. If he had a jack or an overpair, he likely would have bet. I put him on AK or AQ, or possibly a pair under the Ten. Worst case scenario would be his checking a made set, but I figured I just couldn't keep running into monster hands, and if so, then so be it. The turn came Ten and gave me three of a kind. Only a made set on the flop could beat me, and so after his check I bet $2200. He called. I now decided he slow played a big pocket pair after the flop or had played poorly the whole way with KQ. Either way, I was good. The river came K, he checked, and I bet $2800. My opponent then went all-in.

Was he just plain stupid with AK and now thought he was good with Kings? Not likely. My KQ scenario was not likely, either. His all-in indicated he was good. What else could I beat? I could beat KJ, but I didn't think it was likely he would raise pre-flop or that he would check the flop. There really wasn't anything else beside another pocket aces or pocket queens I could beat. I realized he had either stupidly stayed in with AQ and now had caught a straight or had slowed played a set turned full house, in which case it just wasn't my day.

I just couldn't put him on a made hand prior to his check raise, and I figured if he were playing it stupidly, he could just as well think two pair was good as he could bet a straight. I called with my last 5000, and he showed Broadway.

It was pretty much the ugliest, worst-luck sequence of poker I remember playing, and it happened on an $1100 buy-in event. To top it off, I took my last $200 to the blackjack table, grew it to $700, and lost it all systematically with $25 bets over the course of another forty minutes. I never play blackjack...

I have no idea who won, and after a tourney like that, I figured I would ask after taking off a few days! My play was not good, and that happens every once in a while. Focus and discipline were not there for me. I could have continued to play and wait for a big hand with the 5000 chips I instead donated at the end. I could have saved 1000 on the first hand I played, and I could have folded my A5. All these actions were simple plays a rookie might make, and when I start making those mistakes in a tournament, it's time to take some days off. I'll likely play Wednesday again after three days rest.

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