Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's been a while...

...since my last final table of a large multi-table tournament, but it was worth it. The tournament was a $10 1r1a at Full Tilt. This means in the first hour, you can rebuy more chips, but only once, then a final option to add on at the first break.
What this means is that if you take the rebuy option straight away (which I did) you are very deep stacked early on and have a lot more freedom to play more marginal hands than you would otherwise.
I ended up 4th out of 362 players for a nice prize of $740. Not bad for a $30 entry. All things considered, with the exception of a couple of missed resteal opportunities, I don't regret any of the plays I made, and am very pleased with 4th. I'm not thinking "I could have won if I did this or that". I'm very happy with the result.
To be honest I did get dealt some good cards, and they usually came at convenient times which meant I could profit from them. For example, in one period, I had raised with good cards 2 hands in a row and everyone folded. On the 3rd hand, I get dealt AA. I raise again, and of course someone doesn't believe me and takes a stand by reraising me. Thank you! Timing is everything in poker. You may get good cards, but sometimes you don't get paid with them.
But I was also pleased at the way I played. I tried to play it carefully and thoughtfully. I didn't take any risks, or make any outrageous bluffs. So many times, I've gone out of tournaments because of a bad decision due to the fact I've not thought through enough how to play the hand properly.
There was one key hand which came fairly early on that could have put me on tilt for the rest of the tournament, and sent me crashing out early. I raised with AA and got a call from a player on the button. Flop was a harmless 2Q8. I bet just over half the pot, he calls. Turn was a 6. I bet a bit more, this time just over 3/4 of the pot. Again he just calls. What hand can he have? I suspect something like a pocket pair, AQ, KQ, maybe QJ or he has an overcard, say AJ or AT (although more unlikely). He could even be on a flush draw (there were 2 diamonds on board). River was a scarey Q. Again, I continue my line and bet out 3000 into a 4900 pot. He goes all-in. I have him slightly covered, but will be crippled if I call and lose. I did think for a while before folding. He claimed in the chat box that he had nothing and that he put me on KK. This could be true, and would be a bold move if he did, although I think he would have shown the cards if he was bluffing. This could easily have been a ploy to disrupt me and put me on tilt. I'm pleased that I didn't let this affect me as it did cost me half my stack. However, after a few blind steals over the next few orbits, I soon build it back up again.
There were also a couple of hands that I really liked the way I played. On both occasions I read my opponents for not having anything and was able to take the pot away on the river. In the first hand, I have AQs in the big blind and call a raise from middle position. Flop is 945. This is unlikely to have helped him. I check to the raiser and he makes a standard continuation bet of just under half the pot. I just call. turn is a safe 7. I check and he checks behind me. Now I know he has nothing. River is a 3. I bet 7000 into a 13,500 pot and he folds.
On the 2nd hand, I have K8 clubs in the small blind. A player limps in 1st position, I complete and the big blind checks. Flop is 98A. What could player 1 have? Well, he could be slow-playing a monster, but I'd rather discount that for now. I'll soon find out, but generally a player just calling from 1st position will have a mid to small pocket pair, maybe 2 suited cards. I doubt they have an Ace. I have paired my 8, and that may be ahead. I check, big blind checks, and player 1 bets exactly half the pot. I call with a view to re-evaluate on the turn. Turn is a 4. I check and player 1 checks. River is a 7. I lead out with a half pot bet and player 1 folds.

The whole hand history can be found here: guar.txt/9050 (you need to register first).

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Vic - 30th May 2008

I played at the Grosvenor Victoria (The Vic) yesterday in their Friday £30 freezeout tournament. I had played it once before and finished 6th then, so I knew the standard of play there. The tournament capped at 72 players, although with alternates, we ended up with about 86. Top 9 got paid.

I didn’t play a hand for the first couple of orbits, then I went on a rush.

Victim #1 – I raised UTG with JJ and got called by the button. With the board showing T976, the button pushed on the turn. I was worried he’d called my pre-flop raise with 88 but that thought lasted about 2 milli-seconds. I called and he showed A9 for 2nd pair. I doubled up.

Victim #2 – UTG limped. He had been quite loose. I had AT in late position and raised. UTG pushed, but he was so short I had good odds to call. He showed 89o and I held.

Victim #3 – UTG limped as did a couple of others. I held AJs in the BB and raised. UTG called, the others folded. Flop was A high, I bet out, UTG pushed. I called and he showed AT. I held again.

Victims #4 & 5 – One guy was so short he was all-in pre-flop anyway. A limper in front of me and I call with J9s in the cut-off. Flop JJ9. I check, BB checks, MP bets 500. BB announces raise to 1000 out of turn. His bet is binding but I elect to just call the 500. BB raises as he had to, MP folds, I push. I can’t remember what the others had now.

So, at 1st break I was up from a starting stack of 2000, to 12,500 and had knocked out 5 guys. My table had started to nickname me “The Terminator”.

After the break, I carried on from where I left off knocking another 2 players out. One was a desperately short stack where I had no choice but to call from the BB with 32o. He had something like K9. I spiked a 2. I honestly can’t remember the details of the other one.

I was chip leader for most of the tournament and used my stack well. I stole a lot and was able to push people off hands more easily than usual. People were saying they were afraid to play a hand with me. I’m not used to that.

My stack wittled a little just before the final table as I tried to take out a couple of short stacks, but I eventually made it to the final 9 with 19,500 in chips. I was probably about 4th or 5th in chips by now, but there was no big chip leader. Most stacks were fairly even.

Blinds were now really high and I had to make a move but couldn’t get a hand. With 7 players left and blinds at 2000/4000 ante 500, I was on the button with about 9000. It was folded to me and I knew I had to push almost anything even though the Big Blind was priced in to call with any two cards. I saw K3 and thought ‘good enough’. BB called with K5, but I spiked a 3 to stay alive.

A few hands later, a short stack pushed. I have 89o, but with only 3300 to call in a 9600 pot, it was and easy call. I was dominated by K9, but that was no match for my rivered straight. Oops! With a couple more uncalled pushes (JJ & AT) I was up to about 40,000.

We soon got down to 4 handed when everyone suggested a chop of the prize money. I ended up walking away with £450 for my troubles.

The Vic is a lucky venue for me. In 6 visits there, I’ve made the final table 4 times. I really must play there more often.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

APAT National Championships - Cardiff

I entered the APAT National Championships in Cardiff last weekend. I actually qualified for the Manchester leg, but as I couldn't make that one, APAT agreed to transfer my fee over.

This turned out to be one of the most frustrating tournaments I've ever played in. I was so card-dead, it was beyond belief. In the 10 hours or so I was there, I never received aces, kings, queens or jacks once. In fact, I'm not sure how I managed to go as deep as I did.

There were a total of 194 entrants with the top 23 getting paid (although I think places 21st-23rd only got their entry fee back). Somehow I ended up in 36th.

I started off okay. After about 3 levels, I had built my stack up from 10k to about 15k. I had just played solid, saw a few cheap flops, and took a few stabs at pots and taking them down. However, after a while I realised I was bleeding chips. I was trying to see too many cheap flops behind limpers with very marginal hands. I therefore decided to tighten up.

As it turned out, I had no choice but to tighten up. I wasn't getting dealt anything worthwhile. Eventually my stack had wittled down to 5300 (I think blinds were about 200/400). I managed to boost my stack a bit when I pushed from the big blind with AK after a few players had limped in, but I got no callers. One fairly loose player folded and showed AJ. Damn! I was surprised he folded that. I managed to steal the blinds the next 2 hands by pushing A9 and A8 respectively and all of a sudden I was back up to about 12k.

This was pretty much my tactic afterwards. I tried to steal blinds by pushing in late position with anything worth pushing with (mostly ragged aces). I did eventually manage to double up, but in rather fortunate circumstances. A player had raised in early position. I pushed with 55. He called with 88, but I managed to flop a 5. I was now able to open up a bit more. I managed to get my stack up to around 39k, again by seeing cheap flops and taking stabs at them.

I did make a couple of mistakes near the end, which if played correctly, may have seen me make the money. On the first occasion, with blinds at 1000/2000, the table big stack raised from mid-position. He had about 90k. I had probably between 25-30k (IIRC). I was on the button with 55. I had considered calling and seeing a flop in position, but I folded not wanting to invest about 20% of my stack on a weak pair. What I should have done in retrospect is try to resteal by pushing. He had been raising quite a lot lately and so his range was quite wide. I probably would have taken the pot down there and then. I had the perfect stack size for restealing. I actually should have spent more time thinking how to play the hand. Lesson learnt.

The 2nd mistake was when the guy to my immediate right pushed his last 5k. He had just lost most of his stack the hand before when his aces got beat. I had played with this guy (Suraj) most of the day (and also at the last regional tournament in London) and knew he'd be pushing light. I looked down at AT. Now, this was a bit of deja-vu for me. In London, Suraj did exact the same thing when he was short. I had AT then and also pushed as I was short, but the big blind woke up with AQ and knocked us both out. I still had that memory when I saw the hand, so this time I just called hoping that if anyone wanted to play, they would just call and I'd make my decision from there. Unfortunately, the guy on my right raised and I folded. In retrospect I should have also pushed. To rub salt into my wounds, the board came down xxKJQ and I would have made a straight.

I day of misery was ended when I pushed from UTG+1 with QJ. Blinds were 2000/4000 and I only had about 27k left. I was about to get hit by the blinds and figured this hand was decent enough. Besides, no one had been calling my raises until now. I got called by 66 and KK and it was 'gg' to me.

I'm aiming to play more APAT events this year. If I can get 36th with no cards, just think what I can do once I start getting aces ;-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm going to Cardiff!!

Well I managed to get a seat in the APAT National event in Cardiff next month, and I didn't need to go through the "clickfest".

About an hour before the seats became available online, I was emailled by Des at APAT as I had been chasing him for a refund of my entry fee from the Manchester event which I qualified for but couldn't attend. He asked if I wanted to transfer the money for a seat at Cardiff, and he would reserve me a seat straight away. Result!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

APAT Season 2 - Regional leg 3

I was really hoping for a good finish in this event as I wanted to qualify for the National event to be held in Cardiff next month. I played in that one last year and finished 17th, so was keen to play it again. It was quite ironic that I did so well last month and qualified for the Manchester event, knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to make it anyway.

This time, we only had 56 starters, so it was only top 6 qualify for Cardiff. I was sat on the same table as my friend John who I met at the last event. (We both reached the final table then, and he stayed to cheer me on after he got knocked out). Unfortunately he misplayed his AJ against me when I was holding KK. I went all-in and he still called despite realising then that he was beat. Early exit for him, good start for me.

With blinds at 200/400, the following hand came up. It was folded to me in middle position. I raised to 1200 with A8. The short stack on my immediate left put in his final 1100, and the Big Blind pushed his stack. I had to call 2700 in a pot of about 6800. This gave me odds of 2½:1 which was nice, but I wasn't sure how far I was behind. I made the "reluctant" call. Shortie showed QT, the big blind showed AJ. I hit my 8 on the turn to knocked both players out. The big blind was not happy! This took my stack up to 13,800 (we started with 3000). I posted this hand on the BlondePoker forum, and got a mixed bag of answers, so I'm still not sure if it was the correct call or not.

My stack took a hit shortly afterwards when I pushed KQ on a K high board. Unfortunately, my opponent had AA and I was back down to around 9k. After that, I couldn't get anything going. The table tightened up and all I could get was blinds to maintain my stack at a constant level. The blinds were catching up with me and I needed a double-up, but I couldn't get the cards to make a move with.

With blinds at 400/800, I was in the small blind with about 6500 left (after posting the blind). A short stack had raised about 3600 leaving only 800 behind (strange move!). I looked down at AT, the best hand I'd seen for a while. I didn't like it, but figured it was my best chance. I pushed the remainder of my stack. Unfortunately, the big blind also pushed, and I knew I was in trouble. He showed AQ, and the shortie had only QT. I couldn't catch one of the 2 remaining Tens in the pack, and was out around 23rd.

This was definitely a strange tournament in that on each blind level, I kept expecting lots of players to get knocked out, but it never happened. Certainly on my table, everyone had roughly the same stack sizes (~10-15k) and there was no dominating chip leader. It very quickly became a crapshoot without the knockouts.

I had another stab at trying to qualify for Cardiff last night by playing online at BlueSq. Unfortunately I was card dead for most of the tournament. The best hand I had was 99, and even then I had to cold-call a pre-flop reraise hoping to flop a set. My final attempt will be to buy-in directly tonight if I can beat the rush. These tournaments do get oversubscribed very quickly.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More success at APAT

Yesterday was the 2nd Regional leg of the APAT Championships. I went to the heat being held at the Grosvenor Victoria ("The Vic") where last time I made the final table, but out of the money. I was hoping to do better this time.

I almost didn't get in. When I arrived, they told me that there were 2 places left and there were 2 guys ahead of me interested in playing. However I think they may have been known players there who are used to playing at higher stakes as one of the managers came over and told them that it was only a £20 entry with 1st place only about £200. Luckily that put them off and they went to find a cash table instead.

Last month we only had 48 entrants, and I expected about the same number. This time we had 74. There was a limit of 80, but I think a number of players who had pre-registered didn't turn up.

I had a great first session where I increased my stack from a start of 3k to 8k. This was down to me catching some great flops with marginal hands. Therefore they were better disguised. I knocked out a woman directly to my left whilst holding Q8 in the small blind. She went all-in on the river after failing to hit her straight. Fortunately, I had hit my 2 pair.

Getting a good start early on really helped my confidence, and I played well and confidently without getting any great starting hands. My table was fairly tight/passive and I was able to steal alot. If I did get called, I had the confidence to make a lot of continuation bets which were usually enough to win the pot on the flop. It was also a very odd day in that I saw so many times, hands that were being completely dominated win. For example, I tried to knock out a short stack with AK. He had KT, but hit his straight on the river. I tried to knock out another short stack (in the big blind) holding 62 in the small blind. The flop was Q6x. I put him all-in, but he had Q8 for top pair. I caught a 2 on the turn to knock him out (ouch!). This was the story of the day. I seemed to lose some hands I should have won with, or get lucky to win with ones I should have lost with. I wouldn't say I was particularly lucky or unlucky in general as it all seemed to even throughout the day.

My stack continued to grow by each session. By the end of the 2nd session, I had about 14k, then 25k by the end of the 3rd session (it was as high as 32k, but I made a bad call against a short-stack with only A3 suited - he had 99). Again by playing solid poker, stealing blinds, and occasionally knocking players out, I was never once in trouble.

Evenutally when down to the final 2 tables, and 14 players left, the game really slowed. It took ages for a player to get knocked out. I was probably 2nd in chips at the time, and it got real easy to steal blinds as players were holding out for the final table. Myself and the chip leader (also on my table) had a lot of respect for each other and tried to avoid each other when we could. In fact I even folded AQ to his raise at one stage, not just because he had only been playing strong hands, but mainly because he was the only guy that could bust me. As it turned out, it was a bad, yet lucky fold because the mid-stack acting after me won the pot with a flush (the chip leader only had KJ at the time - so much for my reads!).

We made the final table after I busted Linda Iwaniuk who had been on my right. I know Linda from a couple of previous APAT tournaments and know her to be a very good and sometimes aggressive player. She had got short-stacked and pushed her Q9 only to be unlucky to run into me holding QQ.

I started the final table with 39k in chips. I think I was the 2nd highest stack. With the blinds now very high (1k/2k I think), there were a lot of all-ins. After the first player had got knocked out in 9th place, I had tried to take out the short stacks myself but failed on 2 occasions in short succession with 44 and 66 respectively. I then started moaning about how it would be nice to win a coinflip just once when the very next hand I got dealt JJ. I pushed again and got a caller who thought I was on tilt (that's kind of what I was hoping). He had AJ and my Jacks held up to double me up again.

I then eliminated 2 players when there were 2 all-ins with me holding AK. The others had TJ & KJ (if I remember correctly). A jack on the flop had me cursing my luck once again, but an ace on the river saved me.

Eliminations were coming thick and fast, and in no time at all, we were down to 3 players. There was myself, a Russian guy in a Scotland rugby shirt (???) and another guy who only had one move - all-in. In fact, although the blinds were high, it was still possible to play some poker and see flops, but Mr All-in wasn't having any of it. In fact I once tried to just call in the small blind with a marginal hand in order to see a flop. He still pushed. Myself and the Russian let him know what we thought of him. I got my own back on the next orbit when I was back in the small blind. I only had a measly 84, but went all-in. Mr All-in thought long and hard about it. He said "I suppose it served me right". He eventually folded and I took great delight in showing my hand, much to the amusement of the Russian and everyone watching. That moment made my day.

I had a slight lead over the others when the following hand came up. I had 99 and made a raise on the button. The Russian pushed in the big blind. I called instantly, he showed Q9. Great for me, I'm dominating the hand as 67% favourite to win. However he makes a lucky straight on the river to double up and cripple me. That was so cruel. If I had won that hand, I would have been huge chip leader and would've knocked Mr Russian out. Instead I was down to 19.5k.

However, I managed to make a couple of double ups straight away (I can't remember with what hands), so was back in it. In the meantime, Mr All-in got knocked out by the Russian, so we were heads-up with him holding a big lead. I folded the first 2 hands, but I couldn't afford to fold any more and the blinds of 5k/10k were eating into my stack. Mr Russian went all-in and I had no choice but to call with T4. He showed KK. EEK! No help on the flop, but a ten on the turn, then a 4 on the river doubled me up in a very lucky way. An immediate double up again with 76 brought us to about even in chips, so I asked the Russian if he just wanted to chop the money. The game had simply got to an all-in fest with the blinds being so high. He agreed, however we had to play on for the Gold & Silver medals. A few hands later, he won. All I remember is calling his all-in with A4 to his K5 (I think), but he hit one of his cards to win.

I actually did better in the deal than he did as my prize money went up from £176 to £199 after the chop. I also won a £75 entry to the National Championships next month, which I can't make. I'm hoping I can claim this back.

So, 2 events, 2 finals tables (9th and now 2nd). That puts a lot of pressure on me for the next one. I can't complain. I'm really enjoying these tournaments, and last night was probably some of the best poker I've ever played. I'm very happy!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My biggest cash to date

One of my favourite online tournaments has been the daily $13.k Guaranteed (formerly $11k) at Full Tilt Poker. It's a $24+2 entry fee but you can buy in with $26 tokens won through $6 or $8 two-table Sit n Gos. It's because of this, and the fact I love the structure of the tournaments at Full Tilt, that makes me like this particular tournament. The only downside is that it starts at 11pm UK time, which makes it difficult to play unless you don't have to work the following morning. If Full Tilt did an equivilant tournament starting at, say, 8 or 9pm, then I'd play these every day.

I hadn't actually played one of these for a while, but I had a couple of satellite tokens going to waste, so I thought I'd use one last night. What a good decision it turned out to be. Tonight saw a field of 647 entrants with top 63 getting paid.

I decided to play very tight and not take any chances. This tactic does leave me vulnerable to being bullied and relies on not just decent supply of good hands, but with them holding up.

There are times when you can play 'in the zone' and feel like you are getting good reads and making good decisions. This doesn't happen often with me, but last night I felt I played well and was really happy with a lot of my decisions.

The bubble seemed to approach very quickly, and I was frustrated to be card dead for a long period approaching it. But a nice double up with KJ v KT saw me make the money quite comfortably in the end, and it was then I managed to pick up hands and build up a nice stack. Hands such as AT>KJ, QQ>AK, AJ>QQ and A9>88 (when a guy tried to bluff me on an Ace high board) took me to 95k. This was with about 31 players left and I kept this lead for a very long time from here on.

But the hand of the night happened with blinds at 1500/3000. I held AA. A guy in early position raised to 6000. A short stack went all-in. I reraised all-in because I was confident the first guy also liked his hand and would join in. He duly obliged. They had KK & JJ respectively, and my aces held to take a massive pot of 220k and increase my lead even further.

I sat on my lead until the final table. Before then, there was a good loose aggressive player who was stealing a lot of blinds, and was slowly eating into my lead. He was my main threat, and I didn't want to tangle with him...not yet anyway.

We reached the final table with me still holding the chip lead, and I increased it further when I knocked out a short-stack on the 5th hand. I called his push with KJ. He held A3 and I caught my King on the river. I don't normally like calling with KJ, but I could afford to gamble on this occasion.

When we got down to 6 players, I realised that I was about to make my biggest cash since I started playing. Anything more now was a bonus. However, I had held the chip lead for ages, and I was never going to get a better opportunity to win one of these. My chances got even better when my AK outdrew JJ to take us down to 5 players.

During all this, I was on IRC with a few guys watching me and spurring me on. I had also been playing very tight whilst a couple of the more aggressive players kept raising and stealing blinds. I was worried they would overtake me. It was then that one of the 'railees', JRS, said to me that I had to start playing more aggressively. This was a wake-up call. I didn't thank him properly for this piece of advice, but I'm sure he'll read this, so once again, thanks JRS! I decided I would call more raises and try to play more flops. This worked and I was able to maintain my stack a bit better, and tell the others I wasn't going to rollover quite so easily.

The guy I was most worried about went out in 5th, and the 4th place guy gave his chips to the only other player I was worried about, who also kept making a lot of pre-flop raises and steals. The 3rd guy left had been playing well early on, but lost his nerve and just kept up a tactic of push or fold. This was probably the most difficult passage of play.

However, my hopes of a win were dashed with this cruel hand. Blinds were now at 5k/10k. Mr all-in folded, Mr serial-raiser raised to 27k. I called with J8o. Flop was 8QT, giving me bottom pair and a straight draw. Mr raiser bet 28k and I called. Turn was a beautiful 9 giving me the straight. Mr raiser bet 100k. He could have any 2 cards as he was raising so much, but top pair was most likely in my opinion. I reraised all-in for almost 350k. He called, showing the one and only hand I did not want to see, KJ for the higher straight. Only a King on the river could save me by splitting the pot. Alas it didn't come and I was down to 28k. I went out next hand.

So 3rd place for a cool $1,746. By far my best payout to date. I should be pleased, and I am pleased, but there's still that nagging feeling that it could have been the $3.8k for 1st place.

Recently I've been quite frustrated that I still hadn't improved on my biggest cash of $530 which occurred over 2 years ago, yet I'm a much better player than I was then. It's quite a relief that I've finally got a result that I was sure I was capable of. Let's hope I don't have to wait another 2 years before the next one.