On our Vegas trip, Damien, Guerric and myself decided to enroll in a live poker tournament. I've played in a couple before, so this wasn't a completely new experience for me, but it had been a couple of years since I played in anything live.

We ended up enrolling in the 7pm daily $50 tournament at Treasure Island - they had a rebuy option if you busted in the first hour (if there were seats available). The tournament had 30 people and had very reasonable blind structures ($3,500 with 25/50 blinds at 20 minute levels - never in the whole tournament did it feel like an all-in fest, as I've experienced in other tournaments).

I decided to focus like hell on this tournament and really make a stand with my chips. I spent the hour before the tournament just chilling in my room and clearing my mind from all the blackjack strategies (it's amazing how you start seeing poker hands in blackjack and vice versa).

I was able to pick out in the first level who the fishes were, and boy were there tons of the at my table. There was one pretty good player (but he was burdened with information overload and overfolded hands), two dangerous players who knew how to play and were willing to push their chips in.

I decided my strategy would be to play tight-and-aggressive (TAG) and bluff pots against the smart players. And I managed to execute that strategy pretty well. I won't bore you with the pot details, but at the end of buy-in period (blinds ended at $100/$200), I had managed to build up my lead to $8,000 in chips with only exposing a single hand (had to make them believe I wasn't a bluffer!). The rest I picked up on positional bets with weakness, or against fishes who didn't hit their flops. It was beautiful. The two dangerous players I had avoided busted against reaching fishies, so I was ecstatic. The table was prime feeding grounds.

I was in the zone.

Now, you'll know that one of the things I take pride in when I play poker is the quality of our weekly poker games. At Carolina, it was an incredible source of pride that our weekly poker games netted such strong showings in campus-wide tournaments. Anybody who played in our weekly games could go out and run the tables at almost any home game. I recall a particular incident when I went to Duke and was so utterly disappointed in the quality of play I bled chips back to them (I had taken huge pots off of them on some really basic stupid hands).

I'm proud to say that Guerric, Damien and I all survived to the final table (although G did rebuy...). At the final table, blinds started pretty much at $400/$800, and I had about $17,000 in chips (the whole game, I was fortunate in being able to protect a 20xBB stack).

Unfortunately, the two "big stacks" at the table were seated to my immediate left. I couldn't get a read on the guy to my immediate left (he had about 25,000 in chips), but he struck me as a guy who got lucky. Now, the HUGE chip leader was an English gentleman - he had, by my guesstimate, about 40% of the chips in the play - he was seated two to the left of me.

Nobody else at the table concerned me - either they were weak players with decent stacks, or better players with weak stacks. The only person who was capable of putting the hurt on me was the English gentleman.

With about 8 players left, the blinds were at $500/$1000. Although I had only played one hand at the final table, I felt good - I was getting a good read on most the players there.

So here's the story of the hand I busted (it doesn't involve bad beats or anything, so it's rather pedestrian).

I was the button, and two players in the middle had limped in with $1,000. I woke up to JJ in the button against the two large stacks in the blinds.

With $3,500 in the pot as dead money, I knew this was an awesome time to make a move. I made a raise up to $4,000 (1/4 of my stack). The bet was enough that the two small stacks that had called (one of them being Damien) would have to commit more than half their stacks. The bigger of the short stacks only had about $7,500 in chips - I was willing to risk half my stack on a race.

My one hope as I bet this pot was that neither of the blinds would pop it.

But of course, the English gentleman did. Playing the big stack perfectly, he popped it. The two middle players folded, and I was stuck with a decision.

Now, anybody from my old poker days knows I hate races. I have folded races when the blind structures allow it - I don't like risking my whole tournament on a 55% winner (to me, it's the equivalent of going to Vegas and dumping your whole stash on black when you get there as opposed to grinding it out in blackjack).

I had to do the math.

I had about 17,500 in chips with a pot with 4000 committed (leaving me with 12,500). If I folded, this would leave me with 12xBB which would be healthy enough to survive, but I'd have to attack some short stacks with position - but I hated the fact that the blinds would still be sitting behind me, able to pop it. Now, even at 12,000, I would still be about 4th or 5th in chips. With payouts beginning in 4th, I could easily try to just money it. (This is the "Surviving Sally" technique that Damien has perfected).

But you know me - I wanted to win the whole thing.

By my calculations, this pot was roughly 40,000 - with about 115,000 of chips in play, this would give me a commandling lead and I knew that once I had outchipped the two guys behind me, I could play big stack against them.

I felt as good as any that winning this hand would secure me into the two top of the tournament.

So I took the coin flip. I had pegged the English gentleman with AK but was hoping that he had tried it with an AJ suited... he flipped a AQ.

And a queen popped the board with no help.

Alas. All that hard work and focus, to lose on a coin race. 

I'll be honest - I was a bit steamed and exhausted after that tournament (it wasn't a long one) and had to walk it off. Oh well. I can only imagine what Terrence felt at the WSOP.

Damien managed to place fourth, and Guerric and I managed to make some money while blowing off steam at the blackjack tables (we had great fun doing it, too!).

Posted by roy on January 24, 2010 at 11:00 PM in Travel, Poker | 3 Comments

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Comment posted on February 4th, 2010 at 08:10 PM
i read this thing to the end. i have no idea what half of it meant but it kept me on my toes!
Comment posted on February 4th, 2010 at 10:28 PM
oooh - who is this!
Comment posted on January 25th, 2010 at 06:04 PM
sounds like a bueno tiempo