Wednesday, June 08, 2011

"I guess I should have kept my mouth shut"

One hand from yesterday's HORSE tournament is worth describing for you, I think.

I started the tournament in a deep hole, and for a while it looked like I would be among the first handful eliminated. But just before the first break I had a series of three consecutive miracle suckouts in razz hands (including one where I busted a guy when with the last card I made 8-6-4-3-A to edge out his 8-6-4-3-2) that got me back to my starting stack. Soon thereafter I got moved to a new table, which was much, much softer. Once I figured out how generally meek and passive this new table was, I was able to use a combination of stepped-up aggression and a run of good cards to build a stack that was more than double the tournament average.

(This included, unfortunately, busting my new friend Dave, with whom I had gone to the Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt concert. In an Omaha hand, he opened from under the gun with AAxx. I called for one bet from the big blind with the crummy K-9-8-4 double-suited. The flop was an amazing K-K-4, and I ended up taking his remaining stack. It never feels good to end a friend's tournament run.)

Soon after I got to my third table, the worst hand of the day for me occurred. I called a raise in hold'em with 7-7, and four of us saw the flop of 9-7-2 with two diamonds. The betting ended up getting capped on the flop, and again on the turn of a second 2, with the other two players (i.e., not the original raiser and me) getting all in, one of them with the nut flush draw, the other with 10-10.

The interesting point was when I put in the cap on fourth street, the original raiser was obviously disturbed by how things were developing. He finally called, but as he did so he said, "I sure hope you have pocket sevens and not the pocket deuces."

The tournament director happened to be standing there watching this hand play out, and he immediately and properly warned the player not to be discussing his hand, as it could be considered collusion against the two players who were already all-in.

Well, his words were about as clear as he could be that he had 9-9, and I had stumbled into the bad end of the dreaded set-over-set situation. There was a small possibility that he had aces or kings and was cleverly trying to fool me into thinking that he had top set, in order to shut down further betting, but I didn't think so. He sounded utterly genuine to my ears.

The turn was some brick, and he and I both checked. Sure enough, he flipped over 9-9 and scooped the biggest pot I had seen all day.

(Despite the enormous stack he earned here, he ended up busting out in either 8th place for a min-cash, chiefly because he kept severely overplaying one-pair hands. Slow learner, apparently.)

As he was stacking all of his newly acquired chips, he turned to me and said, somewhat remorsefully, "I guess I should have kept my mouth shut." He realized, in retrospect, that he may have cost himself more bets on the river. Indeed he did.

He ended up with more than half of the chips with which I started that hand, and it took me down to well below the tournament average. I had to play short-stack ninja for two or three hours to recover from that devastating blow. But it could have been even worse. I don't know how much more I would have put in on the river, because the overpair theory was starting to lose force with his willingness to cap it with me, but I think at least one or two more big bets would have gone in.

There are a few players who are skillful enough to talk to an opponent during a hand and extract more information than they leak, but they are few and far between. The vast majority of players who talk about their hands give away valuable information--and this guy was a prime example.

Tommy Angelo is on my mind this week, and I'm reminded of a column that Lee Jones wrote about the experience of playing poker with Angelo. It was in Bluff magazine in 2009, and can be found here. Angelo is famous for advocating "mum poker," and Jones describes seeing it in action and trying to emulate it. It's not the only way to play poker (Mike Caro routinely denounces it as not the approach that will make the most money), but it's worthy of your consideration.

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