Posts Tagged ‘final table’

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2016 World Series Of Poker Trip Report – WSOP #1: $565 Casino Employee Event

July 7, 2016

Live Stream Link: WSOP Event #1 (Part 1)

I’m not going to go into details again about how disappointing my trips to the World Series Of Poker have been prior to 2016, but I can sum up by saying that I was 0-4 lifetime in WSOP events and I think 0-9 total in tournaments at the Rio, including a pretty big choke ten spots off the money in my first ever bracelet event. Every time I looked at the Rio while passing by, I just shake my head in disbelief – it was my worst casino of all-time.

My goal for 2016 was pretty simple: I just wanted to cash one gosh damn time and get the monkey off my back.

My third try in the $565 Casino Industry event that kicks off the WSOP every year got off to a pretty poor start. I chipped down quickly and soon found myself on the rail, but when the Tournament Director was doing his original announcements I discovered that we could actually re-enter if we busted in the first six levels. This was good news and as far as I can recall, this is new for Event #1. Obviously, I promptly re-entered and then the Boom Switch activated.

With my standard stack size of ten big blinds I found a double up with AQ when I turned an Ace to run down my opponent’s pocket kings. Shortly after, I ran QQ into KK all in pre and flopped a set, building my stack up to 30k. I almost found another cooler reversal after a button vs. small blind raising war resulted in my opponent getting all in pre with QQ vs my TT, when the flop came AJT, but the K on the turn gave him broadway and I bricked the river. This unfortunate run out left me just above average chip stack about 100 off the money.

When the money bubble approached, I was where I always seem to be in these situations: sitting on a ten big blind stack. As I’ve noted in previous blog posts, one of the biggest changes I’ve made in my game in the past year or so, is recognizing that hands that are +EV to push in typical small stack situations need to be reconsidered on the bubble and this adjustment has not only increased my rate of cashing, it has also helped me ladder up deeper in tournaments. I managed to nit my way into my first WSOP cash, but as fast as I patted myself on the back for cashing, I just as quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be much of an accomplishment until I actually made a profit – which, with two bullets fired, still required me to outlast 25% of the remaining field.

And then I kept on luck boxing my way into a playable stack. Being in the money, my ICM considerations weren’t really factoring in and I found myself jamming my remaining 6 bigs with the QJ offsuit from UTG1. It folded around to the big blind who had slightly more chips than I did and he went into the tank for quite some time before finding a call with A9 – which is a pretty trivial call IMO. Anyways, after a standard shove followed by a standard call, I found myself on the bad side of a 40/60 match-up that turned into a 20/80 after we saw the T86 all heart flop, with him holding a heart and me not – or as my favorite poker player and Run It Up ringleader Jason Somerville would say: “Fuck City.” I bricked the turn, dropping my winning chances down to 15% and boom, Q of clubs on the river for a double up. Wow.

Immediately following this hand, I looked down at the AJ offsuit from under the gun. I now had about around 13 or 14 big blinds and found myself in a pretty awkward spot. I feel like raise-folding with my stack size is pretty spewy and plenty exploitable and I strongly considered just open-folding, but after some consideration, I determined that was too weak and decided to open-jam. In hind sight, I think it’s pretty close, but I’m leaning towards thinking it’s a fold. I’m not exactly desperate with 14 bigs and I’m sure I can find some better spots to get my stack in. While I’m going to win the blinds and antes quite frequently, when I do get called, I don’t think I ever have the best hand and from first position, I have to get that jam through the whole table. Anyways, I did run into a monster as someone called with pocket kings, but I wind up making a one card flush on the river with the jack of spades. Unreal! At this point, my stack is significantly above average at 76k and I’ve reached the point where I’ve actually made money on my first WSOP cash! I can now feel good about achieving my goal!

Not too long after my AJ miracle, I open to 9k at 2000/4000 with QQ and it folds around to the player I doubled through and he winds up jamming his 35k stack in and there’s nothing to think about here with two queens, but I did have a feeling he was having a blow up. He was, showing the A8 offsuit after I snap called. Unfortunately, the board ran out 94288 and he steamed his way to a significant double up through me. Still, I could hardly complain as I felt like I was freerolling this tournament many times over by now.

After that speed bump, I started to rush again, doubling up with AJ against AT and then finding JJ vs TT to bust a player. By the end of Day 1, I bagged up a slightly below average 117k with 23 players left. TEN BIG BLINDS.

For Day 2, the tournament moved into the Amazon to the Thunder Dome for the final three tables. I was well prepared on how I was going to play my ten big blind stack, but it all became moot when I found myself all in with QQ vs KK 15 minutes into the new day. Honestly, at that moment, I was sure it was over. I felt like I had used up all the run good I could possibly have. I had already been all in for my tournament life with less than 45% equity four times and doubled up on all four hands. This is just what happens to me deep into major tournaments: I get coolered or unlucky and find myself hitting the rail, feeling disappointed and wondering when I’m finally going to have a breakthrough. I couldn’t possibly pull of another miracle… and when the board read 3236 after four cards, I was already mentally busted from the tournament, but then the dealer brought a Q on the river and all I could say was “wow” in total disbelief. No. Fucking. Way. And that was it. I just said “wow” and shook my head. No celebration. Not even a smile. I’ve been on the other side of that devastating loss plenty of times. There’s no skill in spiking a two outer on the river when all the chips are in preflop, just as there is no skill involved in coolering someone’s pocket queens with pocket kings. It’s just variance – and in this tournament, variance happened to be looking very fondly on me. I’m just never going to rub that in my opponent’s face by celebrating after sucking out in brutal fashion in an extremely critical spot. I guess it happens in sports all the time, but something about doing it at the poker table feels really tacky to me.

However, after that hand, I really started to think that I just might be destined to win this bracelet. I can’t ever remember getting so lucky that many times in a single poker tournament, particularly in the deep stages. I wasn’t just winning flips, I was winning when I was CRUSHED.

With two tables left, I won a huge flip with TT vs AK and found myself sitting around 350k, which had me primed for a final table visit. I played a rare flop in a relatively large pot with KK where I c-bet the flop, checked back in position when the turn brought a 4-card straight in the 789TJ range and then decided to fold when my opponent led out on the ace river. It’s a hand that I’d love to know what he had, but I just couldn’t come up with many hands that I could beat on the river and even some of his bluffing range was good (the smaller two pair hands might think they had to bluff to win a showdown). That hand brought me down to 200k, but with 12 left, I won another flip with 44 vs KQ and not too long after that I found myself holding the chip lead at the final table of a World Series Of Poker bracelet event. Is this real life? I mean, I’ve always felt like I could eventually contend for bracelets but I just never expected it to happen this soon, even though I have started to final table some bigger events recently. What a totally surreal experience.

The official final table bubble lasted an incredibly brutal two hours. Two full levels passed without losing the next player, with everyone playing tight and trying to ladder up and the short stacks doubling up every time there was an all in confrontation. During this time, I lost a big flip and some other smaller pots and found myself with less than half the chips I had at my peak by the time the bubble bursted and we all moved center stage in the Thunder Dome to play for the bracelet and $75,000 up top.

Next thing I know we are being instructed on how to position our hole cards and avoid blocking the overhead cameras for the live stream and my buddy Vince is posting links to the stream on my Facebook post and I can feel the panic start to creep in. I’ve had stage fright issues my whole life – I never gave a speech in class without feeling like I’d rather die and my rap “career” never blossomed because I simply could not perform in front of people. I even had anxiety when I was recording most of the time, despite the fact that my writing ability was honestly ELITE. I have also battled confidence issues that I rather recently realize stem from being wrongfully cut from an all star baseball roster when I was in my early teens. I was always one of the best players on my teams growing up and never had a problem performing on a baseball diamond until that moment, but from then on, I felt an almost unbearable pressure when a ball was hit my way or I was standing at the plate to hit. I choked countless times and performed FAR below my level of ability all the way through high school baseball. I suspect almost no one that knows me even realized how much this affected me and it seems to have carried on with me as an adult in many ways. It’s kind of baffling to me how no one that coached me recognized my problem or knew how to correct it. Anyways, as if the pressure of being center stage, knowing I was being filmed wasn’t enough, when I saw Vince post that streaming link for all my friends to follow, well, I could feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety come over me. I told him to take the link down. If I made a huge mistake, I really didn’t want it to be on full display for all my friends to see. Now, I’m not going to suggest that I have resolved my confidence problems entirely, but somewhere along the way, I realized that I was at a WSOP final table and pretty much no one I know personally can say they’ve done the same thing and I realized that no matter what happened, I had to be proud of my accomplishment and likely, so would everyone else. While I got absurdly lucky in this tournament, I know for a fact that I belong at that table and that it won’t be the last time I get there either. With all this in mind, I was able to find my comfort zone and be at peace with the situation. It’s tough for me to admit some of that, but I’ve never been one to hold back in my writing.

At the official FT, we weren’t allowed to use phones at the table, so I mostly stopped posting updates on Facebook that I can easily reiterate here, but I know there were three massive all in confrontations in a short period and when all the dust cleared, I was the player that ultimately suffered the most. Two short stacks got lucky on back to back hands and instead of laddering up two spots, I found myself doubling up one of them when my AQ lost a race to 66 and put me back in short stack territory. I managed to ladder up a couple spots anyway and then I doubled with 77 vs 22 and busted a player in a blind vs blind confrontation when I picked up 44 vs 33. With 5 players left, while sitting on the shortest stack, my most critical hand came up and I wasn’t even in it. One of the big stacks raised under the gun and it folded to the chip leader in the big blind, who defended. After a flop check and call, they got it all in on the turn with the board reading TdJd8d9x and the big blind holding a straight flush and the other player holding a king high flush (and not drawing dead!). Absolutely sick. So with 5 left, the player in second position and a massive stack, winds up busting, and I ladder up with my very short stack. It was quite the coup.

With four players left, I realized I had to pee. I had to pee BAD. There was about an hour until the next break and I asked the TD if we could take an impromptu break so I could go and he refused my request. The next 45 minutes or so have to be some of the most agonizing moments of my entire life. Can you imagine playing on a WSOP final table, with four players left, and pay jumps approaching tens of thousands of dollars, and having to pee worse than you ever have? I had a short stack and it’s not like the bathrooms were nearby. I really couldn’t afford to miss any hands. If you ever happen to watch the live stream, you’ll notice that with about four players left, I am basically never in my seat when I’m not in a hand. I’m walking around the table in total agony. Needless to say, there is no way I could have been on my A-game while this was happening and it honestly baffles me that the WSOP staff would force me to suffer under such conditions. It’s the Casino Industry event – we all work for a living and are likely playing for life-changing money. It’s inexcusable IMO. I doubt they would make Daniel Negreanu jump around the Thunder Dome holding his crotch like an idiot. Well, I outlasted another player during this and managed to make it to the break, but I imagine I made some mistakes in the duration and it’s kind of hard for me to forgive them of the offense. I even asked the remaining players if it was okay and they agreed. Ugh.

I didn’t last long after the break, eventually shoving my short stack in with J8 offsuit on the button. I think I had like 4-6 big blinds, but having that sized stack playing 3-handed is MUCH different than having it at a full table. I could have maybe waited another orbit, but I was close to having no fold equity and it’s critical to have enough chips that you can win the pot without a showdown. The big blind woke up with the K9 and called and I was not able to produce another miracle.

I finished 3rd for just over $32,000. It was an incredible experience and despite my early discomforts, it was a total blast playing on the final table. And just like that, I crossed off most of my major goals for 2016 and the Rio went from being my all-time worst casino to being my all-time BEST.

I initially meant to post a whole trip report, but this was much longer than I anticipated, so I’ll post the rest later. I will also add some pictures and the live stream link when I get a chance.

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Very Good Tournament Poker Story

March 16, 2010

I wasn’t planning on blogging about today’s tournament when I went to go play it, but after the way it unfolded, it’s become an impossibility not to talk about it.

I started off really hot in this tournament, but since I didn’t have the mindset to track my hands, I’m having a hard time remembering exact situations, but I’ll try to come up with a couple key hands.

I was really active in the first couple rounds and my stack size was adequately, but not greatly improved from the starting size. With the blinds at 75-150, I raise to 375 with AsTc. I get called in four spots and I’m already pretty uninterested in the pot. The board comes 632 with two spades though and I sense a bit of opportunity when it checks to me. I figure now is a good time to represent an overpair and fire out 700. I get one caller who has position on me. Not a terrible result. The turn pairs the 6 and conventional wisdom says that check-folding here is my best option, but I’m up against a thinking player and I felt like his call on the flop was more out of skepticism than actual hand strength so I felt pretty confident betting another 1200 on the turn. He mucks.

blinds 75-150, someone raises to 350 in front of me and I call with AdTd. A couple other people tag along and we see a KdQhJh flop four or five ways. It checks to the preflop raiser who bets a disappointing 375. Only one opponent is behind me and he has about 1200 left and even though I have the nuts, there’s no need to slowplay my hand in this situation for a number of reasons: there’s two hearts on the board, this is an action flop that expects to hit a lot of hands, pair+straight draw hands are probably coming, and there are several cards that can hit the turn that will kill my action, so I raise enough to put the guy behind me all-in by making it 1300 to go. Everyone folds to the preflop raiser who calls me, which was a little surprising considering I didn’t sense much strength from his flop bet. The turn is a disgusting Ah and my opponent goes all-in for his remaining 2300. I think for just a little bit, tell him I flopped the nuts, get his reaction, and call. He flips over Kh8s which is an amazing hand for me to see. Sure, he has outs to the nut flush, but I couldn’t been drawing dead against a made flush, or he could have been freerolling on me with the Th, so I was pretty happy with the situation. He misses the river and I scoop a massive pot.

blinds 100-200, two people limp in, I have 65os on the button and limp in and the flop comes 743 and the BB instantly goes all-in for 1500. Folds to me, I call and show him the nuts and his K7 is drawing virtually dead. This hand caused quite the stir at my table and the starting hand police were tossing out a lot of criticism about my hand selection. One of my annoying habits as a poker player is that I like to explain my play (as evidenced by this blog), but I bit my tongue and kept my logic to myself. I’m starting to learn that it’s better off to just keep letting my opponents think whatever they want and continue to let them hang themselves against me and misjudge what I’m doing. However, since I’m blogging for my readership, I’ll go ahead and explain my reasoning behind this hand. Let’s take a look at the situation: two people have limped in front of me not really indicating strength; I have the button and will get to see what everyone does before I have to act on my hand after the flop; blinds are 100-200 and I have over 10,000 in chips. While folding is certainly reasonable, calling in this situation is probably even better. The funny thing about this hand is that if my 65 were suited, I doubt anyone would’ve made any condescending comments about my hand selection. While I’d much rather be suited, the difference in value between suited connectors and unsuited connectors is blown way out of proportion. I’m willing to risk 2% of my stack in favorable situations when I could flop something that can bust my opponents. It’s not like I’m going to play a monster pot on a Q96 board.

Blinds 200-400, a tight old-timer raises to 800 under the gun. It folds to me and I have AK in the big blind. I think I have about 14K in chips at this point and I take a look at his stack and he’s still got about 5000 left behind. I feel at this point it’s important to note that I saw this player bet 300 on a QTx flop, bet 300 when the turn paired the Q, and bet 300 on the river, get called, and flip over QT for the nuts. I was kind of shocked to see him flip that hand over… and even more shocked when I saw his opponent flip over QJ. The old man’s betting sequence really didn’t indicate strength and if I was holding trip Queens with a Jack kicker, there’s no way I’m not raising him at some point. Anyways, that hand was in the front of my mind when I looked down at that AK. I think I’d only seen this player raise one other time in the tournament. Against many players, I wouldn’t hesitate to put them all-in in this situation, but I thought it was best to just call and see the flop first against this opponent. The board comes A54. Okay… I’m obviously not folding now, but should I lead out? The answer is clearly no. I’m going to put him all-in at some point anyways, so I might as well give him a chance to put some chips in the pot first. If he has me beat, so be it and if I let him hang himself with Queens and he spikes one, I still did the right thing. I check, he goes all-in, I call and my AK holds against his AQ.

Blinds 200-400, folds to the small blind who calls and has 1300 left behind. I have 98os in the big blind. We’re on the bubble to the final table and with my stack size and the situation, it’s usually clear to put the SB all-in here.. but he hesitated a little bit before deciding to call and I felt like a shove from me was getting called 100% of the time. I check and the flop comes AA9 with two clubs. He instantly goes all-in. I actually ponder for a little bit about folding my hand although it seems a little bit ludicrous. Something was telling me that he had an ace here, but the club draw possibility convinces me to call and I’m drawing dead against A2.

That last hand was the final hand before combining to the final table and I entered the final table with about 16K in chips which gave me a top 2-3 stack with 10 people left.

Blinds 200-400, two people limp in, the small blind raises to 1200. I look down at JJ. The SB has 3000 left behind and the two other people in the pot frequently limp in, so I’m not too worried about their hand strength. This is a pretty obvious situation to put my opponent in the small blind all-in and race against him, so I make it 4200 to go. The limpers fold, my opponent calls and my Jacks hold up against AJ.

blinds 300-600, I had been kind of active the last couple of pots, raising and winning uncontested, so when I pick up QcJc under the gun, I decide to limp in since I’d really hate for someone to put me to the test preflop with a reraise and people have been getting away with limping anyways. A couple people limp behind me and both blinds let us see the flop which comes JT7 with one club. I’m already thinking about how much I’m going to bet when the small blind goes all-in for 5300. It folds to me and I go into the tank. There’s only 3000 in the pot, so his bet is slightly absurd, although any reasonable bet on his part would be for about 25-40 percent of his chip stack and probably commits him to the pot… so in a way, it does make sense. This is the same opponent that had the A2 on the AA9 board, which is something I didn’t forget. As I’m studying him, he grimaces very slightly like he doesn’t want a call. This is a pretty reliable tell that indicates strength and I’m now strongly considering folding. I count out 5300 and see where it would leave my stack if I call and lose. I’d still be in solid shape. My read is saying fold, but the devil on my shoulder is saying call. There’s another opponent behind me left to act and he has a lot of chips too, another reason to lean towards folding. Ugh. But I really don’t want to! I give into the devil and call, guy behind me folds, and the SB flips over an obvious 98 for the nut straight. The turn brings a glimmer of hope with the 8c, giving me 11 outs to win the pot, but I brick the river and double him up again. Great read, horrible execution once again.

blinds 400-800, two people limp in, and I have KQ in the small blind. I’m tempted to raise here, but the two limpers have been prone to gamble and I’ll be out of position in a big pot with a mediocre hand if either of them decide to call, so I just call the big blind and we see a K54 flop four ways. This is the perfect rope-a-dope scenario. My hand is now very strong, but it’s completely disguised and I have an aggressive opponent in the pot behind me. I check and it checks to the aggressive player and he bets 1400. I could raise here, but I don’t really care too much for that scenario. If I get called, I’m now out of position in a monster pot and not liking my hand as much, and if I get re-raised, I’d be really disgusted. I just call and the other two players fold. The turn is a 9 and now I decide to lead out for 2500. No need to give him the opportunity to take a free card if he has a hand like QJ, QT, Ax, etc. He’s clearly a little confused, but decides to call me. The river is a ten, which isn’t a great card, and I really don’t want to bet here… but if I don’t, I feel like this is the kind of player that will pounce on my indicated weakness and put me to the test with a big river bet. I decide to bet 3400 since I figure my hand is good and has a decent chance of getting paid off. He goes into the tank and really makes me sweat a bit. He asks for a count of my remaining chip stack and really looks like he’s going to raise me, which would be disgusting. After a while, it looks like he’s just going to call and now I like my hand and am hoping to get paid off. He ultimately decides to muck and shows a KJ and says I obviously have two pair. Wrong read, good decision though, sir.

[b]Hand Of The Tournament[/b]

blinds 400-800, I raise to 2200 with AK and my loose, aggressive opponent from the last hand calls me from the BB. The flop comes T96 and he checks to me. Against a tight nit, I’d certainly bet here and expect him to fold the majority of the time. Against a loose-passive opponent, I’d try and check it down and hope I either catch or that my hand holds up unimproved. Against this opponent, betting is dangerous. He might read me for overcards and raise me off the best hand… he also might have me beat. So I check. The turn card pairs the 6 and my opponent leads out for 3500. I’m pretty sure he thinks I have exactly what I do have, so a bet here isn’t too surprising from him. I know for sure I’m calling, but I do a little posturing hoping I can sell myself for some sort of made, but not great hand. I’m trying to get him to think I might have something other than AK so he’ll have to think twice about betting the river if he doesn’t have a monster. I finally do call and the river is a Q. He doesn’t even take any time to think at all and tosses 5000 into the pot. He’s got about 6000 left which is worth noting. Now it’s time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and I go into the tank. Let’s look at the evidence: I checked behind on the flop and indicated weakness; my aggressive opponent made a predictable turn bet; an overcard to the board hit on the river and my opponent didn’t take any time to think before betting again. If he had a ten or 9 in his hand, he’d have to be slightly worried that I could have hit the Queen and I think it’s highly likely he would’ve check those hands and hope to win a showdown against AK. I really made him sweat it out and he wasn’t giving off too many signs of strength. I counted out 5000 and I’d have about 10K left if I called and lost. There was 16,800 in the pot and I was getting over 3 to 1 odds to call and I thought there was a strong possibility he had me read for AK and was trying to bet me off it. I called, he shows A4 high and I scoop a monster pot with AK high. The table was pretty shocked with this development, calling my call very gutsy, and my opponent was really upset because he “knew I had AK,” but it all really made sense in my head.

After another round, I had built my stack up to 36K and was the massive chip leader with six people left and looking to cruise to an easy first place finish barring an unfortunate turn of events.

And then the fucking power goes out in the casino.

We are all ushered outside and told to wait until the staff decides what to do or the power comes back on. It’s raining, it’s cold, I’m in a T-shirt, freezing, and I desperately need to urinate. After about 40 minutes of waiting in incredibly uncomfortable circumstances, we are ushered back inside guided by a flashlight and told that they have decided to split up the prize pool six equal ways. Uhhh… okay, let’s look at this reasonably: the blinds are 500-1000 and the remaining chip stacks are me with 36K, 2nd place has 21K, 3rd through 5th have about 10K each, and 6th place has two big blinds left. I have 33% of the chips in play and I’m supposed to be okay walking away with the same amount of money as someone that has 2% of the chips? FUCK THAT. No one speaks up, so I say “can we at least discuss some sort of deal?” and the staff reluctantly agrees that we can and a couple of the other players start grumbling. I suggest noting our stack sizes and playing the tournament out at an agreed upon future time. The short stack instantly rejects that notion and we are back to square one. I’m not budging though and the poker manager starts tallying up the stack percentages. Someone offers to give me an extra $100 and split the rest five ways. I’m not thrilled with the offer, since I really feel like I’m going to win the tournament, but there’s always the possibility that I could finish 4th or 5th and not away with any money, so it’s actually a pretty great deal for me and I agree to it somewhat disappointingly. The other players agree also, but I feel annoyance exuberating in my direction from the poker staff and all of the players except one reasonable mind. Call me an asshole, but walking out of this situation with an even chop is not only absurd, it’s poor money management. I don’t play poker for several hours, putting my skills and intuition to the test, hoping I can make the final table and split the money with a bunch of strangers… I play to make money and provide extra income and financial freedom for myself. If I was charitable, I’d donate money to Haiti instead of using it to enter poker tournaments. Find a new hobby, you goddamn leeches; or knuckle up and finish what you started.

So… I finally got my first top finish in the Bremerton Lanes tournament, but it comes with an asterisk and I don’t feel fully validated. It’s been a good two day run for me as I’ve managed to pull in a week’s worth of income during my days off, but I still feel a little empty. I need to win this tournament the right way.