Wherein I play some hands good, some hands bad, some hands mediocre, and bust out just a little out of the money. For my non-pokery readers, this is a heavy poker post. If you’re not into that, read an archived post for a little while.
So last night was the first BBT5 invitational tournament, and I was both happy and disappointed with my performance. Happy that I went deep, busting two out of the money in a tough field, and disappointed that I pissed away a big chip lead in two really poorly played hands. Of course, there was some debate that I acquired the chips in poorly played hands, so that’s only fair I suppose.
Let’s start with two hands that I played (in my mind) well, that built my stack up huge in the middle going of the tournament. In my mind, where I am a good poker player (which, sadly, only is true inside my head, but it’s my blog, so deal with it)these two hands exemplify how my game works when I’m on my game. And for a little while during this tournament, I was on. In the first, I laid a huge suckout on Lucko to double up and grab a bunch of chips. In the second, I won a coin toss against Bayne and pretty much played it as well as I could to get a bunch of his chips. Later on, we’ll go through the steps of the courtesy double-ups I granted Doc Chako and Julius Goat to show that I know when I suck as well as having a few delusions about when I play gOOt.
In the first hand, I was in the small blind with Lucko directly to my right. Lucko had been there for a while, and what I know from his game is that he’s a solid, experienced, aggressive tournament player. He had done some fairly predictable things in the orbits since he sat down, raising in late position almost every time it folded to him, and I surrendered my blinds every time like a good little donkey. In this hand I decided to defend my blind with 9s-3s, mostly planning to (a) call, then fold if I missed the flop entirely, setting up a chance to call and check-raise later with a monster or (b) call with trash and if I hit my baby flush or something stupid like a pair of nines on a non-paint board to snap off a steal by catching my garbage. My thoughts on his range were – 40% any two big cards, 40% any pocket pair, 20% any two napkins with the button. Of course I didn’t break it down that coherently in my conscious thoughts, it went more like this in my head “Lucko is a good player, he likely has a real hand. If I hit my trash and he misses his real hand, I might get a pile of chips out of him.” He had me slightly covered, but we were both pretty deep at this point.
The flop came down A-2-4 in some arrangement of suits, no flush draws. Now I’m thinking he probably hit his Ace, but if I peel one and hit my gutshot I can almost certainly get a bunch of chips, and maybe even double through Lucko here. So I check, he makes a fairly decent-sized c-bet, maybe 2/3 or 3/4 pot, and I peel one off. The turn brings my 5 to give me the wheel, and I check my straight, pretty sure that if he has an Ace, he’ll fire again. He fires again, and I put out a healthy raise. Lucko thinks for a moment and moves all in over the top. I snap-call, he shows AK and is drawing dead. Lucko’s crippled, and goes out a little while later, but not before griping in the chat about how these are the “worst tournaments ever,” and making a few snide comments about bloggers. Now let me make it clear, I am not a good poker player. Most days, I’m not even mediocre. And I think Lucko is a better tournament player than me by a mile. Which all combined to let me double through him in that hand. I may not be a good poker player, but I play with some very good poker players, and I have only stayed alive by learning how to match up against a better player – figure out what they think you should do, and do something different. I couldn’t peel one for the gutshot against BadBlood or Special K, because while they are good players, they have enough hands logged against me to know that I’ll do that, and I would never have gotten a turn bet out of them, much less the re-raise. With Lucko and I not playing each other very much, I used his solid game against him for a double up.
Now, am I saying that taking a card off drawing for a gutshot was a mathematically correct move? No. But was it really a very bad move? Also, I posit the answer is ‘No.” Of course I didn’t go into nearly as much detail thinking through the hand in progress as I did explaining it here, but that’s what thin-slicing is all about. And if you’re not familiar with the term, read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, which every poker player should read anyway. It went more like “He’s stealing my blind again, I need to defend. This hand is easy to get away from if I miss, and if I hit, it’s unlikely to help his hand. I call.” Then something like “He probably hit the ace, so the only way I pay off another bet is if I make my straight, but if I get there he’ll fire again, and I might get him to call a raise, too. I call.” Then “Got there. If I check, he’s almost guaranteed to bet. I check.” Then “Got him. Now let’s see if he’ll call my raise.” Then “Wow. If he really has 3-6, then he’s way, way more creative than I give him credit for, and he deserves all my chips, but I’m almost 100% sure I’m good here. I call.” Then “well, that went well.” So, that’s a long-winded way of saying if you insinuate in the chat box that I’m an idiot, you’re stuck with a long-winded explanation of why I just flat outplayed you.
The next hand pretty much played itself for both of us. I had the button with T-T, and put in a 3xBB raise, which was the identical raise that I made any time I opened a pot all night. Bayne was in the SB with A-J, and called. Reasonable action all the way around. Flop came down X-J-T, and We both checked. I thought I was being all sneaky, and so did Bayne. Tricky poker players :). I don’t remember the turn action, but I think Bayne bet and I raised. The river was another Jack, and I think Bayne checked and I bet about 1.3x the pot, or maybe a little more. I remember pressing the pot button and starting to scroll down, and then I thought “waitaminit, this would be a really good time to overbet. If he folds, I don’t lose out on anything, but if he has a Jack, it’s gonna be hard for him to not call me. So I overbet the pot, Bayne called, and I showed my boat. That one kinda played itself, but I was really happy about adding a level to my thinking on the river bet sizing.
Then I got moved to a new table and donked off all my chips. First I was in either late position or a blind with A-Q, and Chako raised preflop. I thought about three-betting, but decided against it, then the flop came down X-Q-K. Doc led out, I put in a big raise, and he went all in. I called to see his K-Q, and felt like the moron that I was. No Ace for me, too bad, so sad. I could have easily gotten away from that hand with second pair, top kicker, especially when I thought to myself that he had started behind and outflopped me. But sometimes we get in the habit of wanting to fabricate bad beat stories, and that’s what I subconsciously did there. I wanted to be able to whine about Doc’s preflop hand and him catching up and all that shit, but I really can’t, because I played it bad. It was absolutely one of those self-creating bad beat moments, and I gave away a bunch of chips in the process.
I did it again a few hands later when I called Julius Goat preflop with Ac-Jc, and then raised him on the Ace-high flop. I could certainly have gotten away from his re-raise, but I wasn’t quite smart enough, and was trusting in my suckout mojo too much. He showed AK, and I had given away 60% of my stack in two hands. I never really recovered, and although I could have probably folded my way into the bottom tier of the money, when I flopped 2nd pair and the up and down straight draw on a T-Q-K board holding QJ I decided that it was time to double up or go to work on the PokerStars blog. I went to work while JJOK went on to win the thing. Congrats, dude! And thanks again to Full Tilt Poker and AlCantHang for putting this together! I had Dave from Poker from the Rail at my starting table and it was fun playing with him for a while. I’ll be back next week to try and play a little better, and without the distraction of a work assignment that evening, so maybe I’ll do a little better.