Posts Tagged ‘speed tournaments’


Bremerton Lanes Daily 11:00 AM Poker Tournament

January 26, 2010

It’s well known that poker room managers like to start their business day with a fast-paced, short stack no limit texas hold em tournament in the hopes that it gets customers in the door that will later provide the (much more profitable) rake in the live games. It’s a reasonable concept because these tournaments attract players and any degenerate gambler with the adequate funds is going to stick around to play live. However, these turbo tournaments are the bane of any self-respecting poker player that’s worth a damn because the blinds often go up rapidly, the starting stacks aren’t deep, and the cost of playing doubles each round. This usually makes it a race against the blinds and it’s not unusual to find yourself making the final table with the chip lead and still feeling like you need to make a move before the blinds swallow your stack. This rapid structure greatly reduces the skill factor involved and the money bubble often consists of a bunch of desperation all-in moves and cashes are mostly determined by whoever luck is shining upon that day.

That’s not to say there’s NO skill involved. I think it’s correct to gamble early on in these tournaments, while the blinds are still small, and hope to build a big enough stack to weather the huge blinds that are in the near future. If you’re only playing top hands early on, you’re going to find yourself short stacked in no time unless you run into some favorable situations with those hands.

It’s also important to know your opponents, their tendencies, and whether or not they are adjusting their play properly to the structure. For instance, at a full table, with the blinds at 300-600, a good, smart player with 4800 opens on the button to 1100. You are in the small blind with 1800 behind, holding AT. In my opinion, this is a great situation for your hand and a clear shove. You’re getting called 100% of the time, but that’s okay since you assume the smart player knows he has to pick up dead money to keep his stack afloat and is capable of raising a wide range of hands in this spot, so your AT figures to be ahead of the majority of his range.

In contrast, let’s say the blinds are the same, your opponent’s stack and raise sizes are the same, only this time he’s a known nit raising from early position. You’re still in the small blind with the same stack and hand as before and everybody folds to you. This is a very different situation even though it’s nearly identical. Against this opponent, especially considering his poor position, your AT doesn’t match up nearly as well against his range. You should almost never expect to be ahead in this spot because he’s usually going to have a big pair or a hand that has you dominated. A nit simply isn’t going to mix it up or risk a hefty percentage of his stack on a blind steal. There is a small chance he could be holding a hand like 88 or KQ in that spot, and you probably wanna ship it against those hands, but I’d estimate those medium pairs and KQ represent the very bottom of his range and you can find a better spot to get your money in. So yeah, there is still skill involved and adjusting your play to your circumstances and opponents can increase your win rate… but ultimately, if you make the top 5-6 spots, the blinds are going to be so big you’re going to be shoving with almost any hand you get involved in… which means, you gotta hit the board better than your opponents in the end game; there’s no outplaying them after the flop.

Anyways, enough with the lessons and on to the Bremerton Lanes tournament. I’ve lived on the east side of Bremerton for the past three years, so I’ve been playing in the absolutely terrible tournaments at All-Star Lanes and Chips Casino. Chips was the closest to my house, but it’s also host to the worst tournament I’ve ever played in. The blinds always double, the levels are super fast, the fields are small, and the starting stacks are mediocre at best. The luck factor is in full affect at Chips. On top of all that, they almost never had enough people stay for a live game after. I hated playing there, but it was the most convenient tournament for me to play in and I did relatively decent in it. On the plus side, Chips is the only casino that doesn’t charge a tournament fee and the blinds do start extremely small at 10-20… but an hour later, when you’re at the 800-1600 level, it’s pretty irrelevant.

I moved to West Bremerton a couple months ago and finally made my way into Bremerton Lanes today. I figured it would be just like every other local tournament, which explains why I wasn’t in a rush to play in it. My first surprise was the quality of the chips you play with. They were clay, heavy, and dope… like in the bigger live tournaments I’ve played in; not like the cheap plastic chips that All-Star and Chips use. Not a big deal, but impressive nonetheless.

I can’t exactly remember what the starting stacks were (I’ll note it tomorrow), but they were a good size in relation to the first level of blinds. It seemed like the first round lasted forever. I’m pretty sure they were using 15 minute rounds, which is about 20-40% more play each level than the other local tournaments. Give Bremerton Lanes a huge point.

The blinds doubled after the initial 25-50 level, which is standard, but I was SHOCKED when they announced a 75-150 level after 50-100. Holy shit! The starting stack size is solid, the levels are longer, AND they stagger the blind levels? From 100-200 to 200-400 to… 300-600?! Are you kidding me? Don’t they have a live game to start? I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, despite playing what I thought was perfect poker, I busted out in about 13th place. My key hands throughout the tournament:

Key Hand #1 – blinds are 25-50 in the first round and I still roughly have my starting stack. I’m in the small blind with Q9o. 4-5 people limp into the pot and I complete in the small blind. The big blind makes a stupid raise to 150, a move that clearly isn’t going to knock anybody out of the pot. I don’t know what he had, but the only hands you’d wanna make a play like that with are big suited cards or a small pair with the intention of creating a large pot and hoping to flop huge and get paid off. Hands like AK, AQ, AA-TT need to be raised a hefty amount in order to weed out the garbage and see who really wants to play. Anyways, everyone obviously calls the raise and even though my hand isn’t good, the odds I’m getting are ridiculous and I’m not going to get involved unless I hit the board in a big way or the betting is super weak. The flop comes QQJ. Gin! Most people would check in this spot first to act, but what are they trying to accomplish? Are you checking to see how heavy the action gets before it gets back to you? No matter how heavy it gets, are you really going to fold your trips? If you check and call a reasonable sized bet, even your most unobservant opponents are going to be wary of you holding a queen and, unless they have you beat, you’re going to need to bet the hand yourself on the turn if you want any more money going in the pot. You could always check-raise the flop and that’s not a bad play. There’s definitely some cards you don’t wanna see roll off on the turn (aces, eights, kings, and tens aren’t great cards for you). However, this usually has the effect of ending the pot immediately and your hand is strong enough to take a little action. Since I like to build the pot when I got a big hand, I decided to lead into everyone for 300. Not exactly a hand-defining bet and just funky enough that it’s going to be hard for anyone to put me on a queen leading out into everyone. Unfortunately, I only get one customer and we see a 9 on the turn. Perfect card. If I had kicker problems, I don’t anymore and the only hand that can beat me is QJ. Also, if dude was drawing with KT, he just made the nut straight and I’m probably going to stack him. I decide to check it to further confuse him in case he’s holding a J and if he does have KT, we’re going to get it all in here anyways. He checks behind me. Lame. River is a blank and I decide 700 is a pretty good bet amount for a J to pay off. He quickly calls and I scoop against his AJ. In retrospect, knowing this player very well, I could have bet more on the river and probably gotten called. I’ve seen him make some ridiculously bad calls in the past. Regardless, I’m off to a nice start and raked in a very nice sized pot.

Key Hand #2 – blinds are 50-100. I still have a very good stack and have picked up a couple small pots since my last key hand. The player UTG raises to 300 and everybody folds to my big blind. I look down at AcKc. This is kind of a tough spot in my opinion. Since we have pretty deep stacks, a re-raise isn’t exactly automatic. If I re-pop him and he ships it, I’m going to be sick. I really don’t want to get it in with a drawing hand this early in the tournament when I’ve built myself a nice stack and I’m completely confident in outmaneuvering my opponents post-flop. I opted to just call and see what developed. My hand strength was certainly disguised, another advantage to just calling. The flop comes K63 rainbow. I check and he bets 450. Unless he has AA or flopped a set, I’m in great shape. Since an ace helps me, he’s almost surely drawing to two outs or some kind of running miracle. I decide to throw him some rope and just call. The turn card is a J, putting two hearts on the board. I probably should have bet here since a flush draw is now present and he could check and hit a miracle straight, but I decided to check because I was curious to see what he would do. He bet 500. A pretty weak bet after the flop action. I decided it was time to take the pot down. I raised to 1600, enough to let him know I was priced in if he decided to ship it… and that’s immediately what he did. I knew I was up against three jacks before he even flipped them over. Time to rebuild.

Key hand #3 – Not able to find any good situations for a while, I’m in the big blind for 200 and about 1900 behind. Everybody folds to the button, who pops it to 600. The small blind folds and I look down to find two aces. I think just long enough to make sure he’s not folding anything that isn’t pure garbage and ship it in. He immediately calls with A6 and I scoop. A nice, well-timed and needed double up.

Key hand #4 – It’s funny how you can precisely remember every hand you lose when you were a favorite, but some of the hands you win when YOU were behind are a little more fuzzy. That’s what happened here. I can’t remember the blind levels or my raise size, but I do know that I opened with KQ and one of the smaller stacks shoved on me. I did some quick math, decided I had an easy call, and he flips over AQ. Whoops. One of a mere five hands where I’m not getting the right odds to call. I spiked a K anyways and my stack kept rising.

Key hand #5 – I’m somewhere around 7000 in chips and the blinds are 300-600. Someone limps in front of me and I look down at AsKs. I check out the limper’s stack size to see what kind of raise I need to make. He has 1400 behind and I decide on making it 2500 to go, enough to put him all in, and let everyone else know I’m serious about my hand. The small blind ships it for 4800 and the limper folds and I quickly call. He tables AQ and scoops the pot. Brutal. The same beat I put on the other guy in my last key hand, but this time, the pot was MUCH bigger, so it definitely stung and was probably the difference in me not making the money.

Key hand #6 – blinds are still 300-600. It folds to the small blind, the same guy that limped for 600 with a 2000 stack and folded to the raises in the last key hand. He completes to 600 and I look down at A5. I decide that my hand has him beat and his stack size says I should just put him all-in if he wants to play. I’m surprised when calls and ecstatic when he shows K5. See ya later, buddy.

Key hand #7 – After a run of cold cards and no favorable stealing situations, my stack has dwindled quite a bit. I’m down to about 5500 and the blinds are 400-800. A pretty tight player raises to 2000 UTG. It folds to me and I have 99. I go into the tank. Ultimately, I decide to fold since the raiser is kind of nitty and even if I’m a favorite, I’m probably only looking at a 52-48 edge. The small blind calls and the hand plays out very bizarrely. They both check the flop and turn and after the board reads 23756 on the river, the small blind bets 800, gets called, and shows QQ. I pat myself on the back for folding, although I clearly would’ve held up against the initial raiser.

Key hand #8 – The blinds both pass through me without picking up a pot and I’m down to 3800. Blinds are still 400-800 and I feel like my stack is in critical condition. The player that beat my AK with AQ makes it 2000 to go and it folds to me, holding AT. My cards are weaker than they were in the last hand, which I folded, but the situation here is a bit different. I’ve seen enough action from the raiser to know he’s willing to splash around and my stack is starting to dictate my play more than my starting hand. I’d prefer to have first-in vigorish, but my AT was gonna have to do. I shoved it and he had an automatic call with almost any two cards. He shows KJ and the board comes J938K and it’s “GG Mac” in 13th place.

Regardless, because of the amazing structure of this daily event, I can’t think of any other time I’ve busted out of a tournament, lost my buy-in, and walked out of the poker room ecstatic.

Bremerton Lanes has it figured out. They offer an amazing tournament in which the skill factor can heavily outweigh the luck factor and SHOCKER: they attract a bigger field than both All-Star and Chips. Despite the buy-in being steeper than either of those tournaments, they had three full tables and several alternates, and a full live game was fired up before the first tournament table even broke. Basically, slowing up the tournament and providing more play attracted a bigger field and more bodies that could potentially stick around for live play and feed the rake. Go figure. Instead of hustling their customers through a tournament so the casino can take a rake, Bremerton Lanes offers a medium stacked, well-structured event and still managed to get a live game going before any of these other casinos usually do.

I can’t wait to play in the tournament again and I’ll be posting my experiences as they come and tracking my results on the site. Hopefully I can make a big score in it early, so I have the roll to support playing in it on a daily basis.

All-Star Lanes and Chips Casino, it’s time to take some notes.