Friday, October 22, 2010

We have us a winner

Last night I once again chose the Stratosphere as the convenient locale for the evening fun and games. Unfortunately, play was tight as a drum, and after 2 1/2 hours I was up just $27, with no sign of things getting better.

I had noticed the people taking their seats for the 10 pm tournament. Forgive me for saying this, but I got a strong impression that they were mostly rubes. They looked neither generally intelligent nor poker-experienced. So on a last-second, spur-of-the-moment whim, I cashed out my chips and signed up. I was the last of 20 in. I had done no research, had no idea what the blind structure was, etc. Not exactly the most professional way of going about my game selection. But nevertheless, as it turned out, it was a good move: I winz it.

I took a big early chip lead. First, I took the add-on right up front, which most others did not. You can start with 2000 chips for $40 or 4000 chips for $60, which seemed like an easy decision to me. Then my second hand at the table I was dealt 8-8 and pressed it pretty hard, getting four callers pre-flop, and one on the flop and turn. I think he was chasing a flush draw. When it didn't come on the river and I was facing three overcards, I just checked behind and showed, and he mucked. On the very next hand I had J-J, again got four callers to my raise. Flop Q-J-6 rainbow. Bet, couple of callers, then a large raise. He looked to me as though he were very confident in his hand, so I put him on two pair or a set. Since I thought he would call, I just shoved, even though that was several times the size of his raise. I was right--I was on the good side of set-over-set to his pocket 6s, and finished the hand with nearly 11,000 chips when most people were still at their starting 2000.

It's a good thing I had that lead, because that marked the end of any good hands or situations for the next couple of hours. My stack just slowly dwindled away. By the time we consolidated to one table of ten, I was about 7th in chips. From there I just had to play Short Stack Ninja, shoving to steal the blinds when it was folded to me, which worked enough to keep me afloat. Four places were to get paid, and I was the shortest stack when we were down to six and then five. I kept having the dreaded feeling that I was going to be the honorary bubble boy.

But I hit a few big hands and got comfortable again, knocking out the bubble boy instead of being him. (He tried an all-in steal from the small blind with Q-8 offsuit, and I called with K-Q suited.) Then I knocked out the guy in 4th place when I tried stealing the blinds with Q-6 off, he called from the small blind with suited A-J, and I flopped a 6 on him. (This earned me a stern scolding from the big blind--"Don't ever do that again!"--though I never could figure out why he disapproved.) That put me into second in chips with three left.

I almost became the big stack heads-up when I raised with A-A, and drew a shove from the short stack with 3-3. But, alas, a 3 on the flop skewered me, and we remained at three.

I didn't have to fret about the loss for very long, though, because about one orbit later I called a raise in the big blind with 4-4, flopped a set, hit quads on the turn, and doubled up through the chip leader, making him severely short in the process. He went out a few hands later.

My sole remaining opponent and I were very close in chips. I suggested that we each take second-place money and then chop the remainder proportionate to our stack sizes. He instantly agreed. It turned out that I had a little more: 54,500 to his 47,400, which allows me to tell myself that I actually won the tournament. :-) After tipping the dealers, I ended up with $434 on my $60 buy-in. For three hours of play, that's not half-bad.

The only mildly interesting hand was right before I took out the 4th-place finisher. I was third in chips, in one of the blinds with 7-7, and called a raise from the chip leader, who was easily the most skilled and aggressive player I faced the whole tournament. Flop: A-K-7. Ding-dong, Avon calling! I would most often lead out betting in this situation, hoping for an all-in raise. But I thought he likely had an ace and would therefore bet this flop for me, and even if he had missed he had a high percentage of continuation-betting. So I checked, and to my surprise he checked behind. The turn was some blank. Surely he won't pass a second opportunity to bet, so I checked a second time, planning a check-raise. But he did check again! Argh! Who suddenly hit him with the cautious stick??? River yet another blank, so I finally fired about 3/4 of the pot. He called. I showed. He looked stunned, then said, "You're slow-playing me? Dude, I was slow-playing you!" He had A-K for top two pair. Dammit! I could have had a full double-up there. He said, "I was waiting for you to bet so I could raise, but at the last second I got a bad feeling about it." In retrospect, I should have gone with my usual default plan of taking the lead. But, of course, if I had done that and he had folded, I would have kicked myself for not enticing him to bet.

Even with that misstep, I judge myself to have played about my A-minus game throughout, which turned out to be good enough. There are very few things that I wish I had done differently. Of course, flopping sets in several key situations doesn't hurt one's chances.

When asked about tournaments versus cash games generally, my stock answer is that I neither much like nor do well in casino tournaments, and stick almost exclusively to cash games. But when I look at my records, it turns out that I cash more than 20% of the time that I play, and finish deep more often than would be expected by chance alone, so maybe I don't suck as badly as I tend to think. Leaving empty-handed 80% of the time feels lousy, but the numbers say that I make money playing tournaments in the long run, so perhaps I shouldn't bad-mouth them to the extent that I do.


Jennifer said...

Congrats on the win!

Crash said...

I read somewhere that the best tournament pros average a 19% win rate playing against each other.

Memphis MOJO said...

Congrats on the ca$h.

Cardgrrl said...

YAY!!! Wish I had my short skirt and pom-pons handy!!!

THETA Poker said...

Congrats! Sure, the swings are much bigger with tournaments than cash games, but they're so much more fun!

NoLimitDoc said...

Good Job Grump.

As an exclusive cash game player that has now switched to an exclusive tournament player I can tell you that this is a much more mental gig. I am experiencing first hand the emotional turmoil that variance in tournament poker can stir. Positive reinforcement is much less consistent than in cash games. One error can end your day. When the donk sucks out on you the day is over as usually you can't re-buy to take advantage of what you now know. Although it certainly does not feel like it, I have profited much more in tournament poker than cash poker...but my good cashes are few and far between. I would love to see you get more involved in tournaments and read your experienced take on this very different form of poker.

Mark T said...

I am undertaking a detailed experiment this year with my local casino's regular weekend tournaments (they have them daily, but I can only play on weekends). I started back in July and am playing every tournament I can, to see if I do as well live as I do online.

So far, inconclusive - I've been up and down and am now right back around even for the year. This after only about 20 tournaments. I'll be interested to see what the "long term results" are like in another few months, but so far I've enjoyed myself and it's become an interesting endeavor.