There’s a World Poker Tour Deep Stacks series running at Maryland Live right now, and last night I managed to take second in one of the prelim events, a $570 multi-flight NLHE tournament. This was despite a shaky start where a questionable (Who am I kidding? There’s no question about it; it was bad.) decision at the end of Day 1 to four-bet-call it off with AK vs one of the other tournament chip leaders left me re-starting Day 2 as the shortest of 27 remaining players, with just 11 big blinds.
Fortunately, I managed to win the first few pots of the day, first with an open shove to take the blinds, then with an UTG raise which went uncontested, then calling a shove with AT in the BB to beat A9 from the SB for a full double.
After that, I was back in action. As I mentioned, I ended Day 1 with a major regret from the then-largest pot of the tournament, but I can honestly say that from Day 2 I can think of only very small things I wish I’d done differently. A few hands I’m proud of:
Bluff on the Bubble
We’re on the bubble, with 20 players remaining and 18 to be paid. Blinds are 1500/3000, and I raise to 6000 UTG with Tc 8c. The only player at the table to have me covered 3-bets to 12K (he said later this was a misclick and he meant to make it 17K, which I believe), and I call.
Flop (34K) Ks 9h 7h. I check, he bets 15K, I raise to 45K, he calls.
Turn (124K) 4h. I bet 45K, he calls.
River (214K) Qc. I shove about 120K, he folds AK and asks me to show. I oblige.
Better Bet Sizing Through Tells
Still on the bubble. Blinds 1500/3000. The player in the BB has only about 60K to start the hand. An active recreational player with a big stack raises to 7500 from the HJ. I have him covered and raise to 20K. A very tight player in the SB looks at his cards and instantly jams ~65K. I put him on KK at worst and am ready to fold, but then the original raiser calls, so I decide to see a flop.
Edit: I have 66!
Flop (~215K) 884r. Checks through.
Turn 4. Checks through.
River 6. Bingo. Original raiser checks, and I am trying to think about how much he might call just an Ace. In my head, I settle on a small number, 40K.
As I grab chips, he says “Dammit!” and kinda bangs the table. I know that sounds so blatant that it must be an act, but in the moment it really felt like genuine frustration at the fact that he knew I was about to put him in a tough spot. This suggested to me that he would actually consider calling a larger bet, so I bet 75K. After much agonizing, he called with an Ace. The all in player had AA, so I scooped a big one there.
Bluff Catching at the Final Table
Blinds are 2500/5000. UTG1 limps, Chase limps in MP3, the SB folds, and I check my option with the mighty 42o.
Flop (22,500) Q54r. Checks to Chase, who bets 12,500. I raise to 30K, UTG1 folds, and Chase calls. Lots of good things can happen when I raise. Although I may well have the best hand (I don’t think Chase needs much at all to stab at this), it benefits a lot from protection. It’s even possible that I can push UTG1 off of a better pocket pair and get called when I’m ahead against Chase, if he has a draw or just a random float.
Turn (82,500) 5. I bet 45K. This is actually a pretty nice card for me. Even though it reduces the combos of sets and two-pair that I could have, I still have all of them in my range, whereas Chase has only an ever-dwindling number of 54, 44, and 55, some of which I block (suits are actually relevant here, as I imagine he might limp 54s but not 54o, but I don’t remember them). I don’t know how much Qx or 4x he’s limping, and the turn makes 5x less likely for him.
He calls. I now think his range consists of 76, Qx, pocket pairs, 54, 55, and 44 (at least some of which may check the flop). My plan is to check-call river if the straight draw misses, as I don’t think he has much incentive to jam a better pair for value.
River (172,500) 2. I check, he jams 98K, I call, and he shows 97s, which quite surprising to me. I don’t recall whether he had a backdoor flush draw on the flop, but he definitely did not have a flush draw on the turn, so I guess he just thought he was going to straight up own me. Whoops! 🙂
In addition to giving me a comfortable chip lead at the final table, this call had several good effects. It eliminated one of my toughest opponents, and it sufficiently awed most of the table such that they were not inclined to mess around with me.
We got down to five-handed with me, a satellite qualifier, a guy named Steve who knew me from Tournament Poker Edge, a likely pro from Michigan, and a guy named Carlos Chadha – more on him in a moment.
The satellite qualifier was absolutely unwilling to put his chips in without a top 5% hand, pot odds be damned. He eventually even folded his SB, leaving himself with just three ante chips. Amazingly, he kept picking up AQ and winning with it to stay alive. Eventually, he busted in 5th place.
The kid from Michigan seemed good-natured at heart, so maybe he was just a bit tilted, because on this particular evening he was acting like a salty circuity grinder. He was the second shortest stack at the table, which meant he was handcuffed by the presence of the satellite qualifier who just wouldn’t die. He was getting frustrated at the guy’s abject refusal to put money in the pot and started just openly commenting on how bad some of his folds were. I was happy to see him go out in 4th.
As I mentioned, Steve knew me from Tournament Poker Edge. Carlos, as it turned out, knew me from Poker Savvy Plus, a pre-Black Friday training site I worked for for several years. He was old school and, now, a high roller. Literally, a super high roller. This $570 was the smallest live tournament he’d ever deigned to play. But he was in the area, and he’d never won a live tournament, and he really wanted to do so.
Much as I hate to admit it, I doubt I was the best player out of the three of us. Carlos had an aura of confidence and deep thought about him, and I never saw him miss a trick. Actually, that’s not quite true. He once called down with an unimproved K2 vs Steve, only to find that Steve was indeed bluffing… with a better King! But I mean, if the biggest “mistake” you’re making is correctly identifying a bluff and calling down with King-high….
A Hero Check
We passed chips back and forth for over three hours. Really the only interesting pot I was involved in began with me raising the button (sorry, I don’t recall the stakes – couldn’t keep notes well while playing short-handed) with Kd Qd. Carlos called in the SB, and Steve called in the BB.
Flop As Td 6c. Checks around.
Turn Jd. Bingo. Carlos checks, Steve bets 75K, I raise to 175K with about 325K behind, Carlos folds, and Steve calls.
River Tc. Certainly not what I wanted to see. I watched Steve like a hawk as the river card came down, and to his credit, he didn’t give anything away as it fell, nor as he checked. Not a lot of people can so casually react to such a significant card with so much on the line, and it was only for that reason that I even considered betting the river. I just couldn’t figure what he could call with, as I think he would have re-raised pre-flop with AK/AQ, A6 and J6 got counterfeited, and from the way he called the turn I didn’t really think he had a bare Ace. I checked and allowed my pride in finding that check to counteract my disappointment in seeing Steve roll AT for a full house.
I eventually busted Steve when he jammed ATs on the button and I woke up with QQ in the SB. That left me heads up with Carlos with nearly even stacks, something like his 1.1M to my 1M. That was only 20 big blinds, so there wasn’t much room to play.
I was hoping I might at least be the more experienced heads up player, but apparently Carlos was an online heads up pro for a while. He certainly seemed to know what he was going on a 20BB stack, which to be honest that part of my game is not particularly tight. I haven’t put much thought into a button limping range, for instance.
It was over quickly, though. Just a few hands in, he limped the button for 50K, and I, now with an 18BB stack, raised to 175K with A7s. He jammed, I called, and he showed me TT. Although I turned a flush draw, I didn’t get there on the river, and Carlos won his first-ever live poker tournament!
Although A7s is a strong hand with just a single opponent and 18BBs, against a weaker player, I might not force the action pre-flop. Against Carlos, though, I didn’t feel like there was any room to pass on thin edges, so I went for the raise-call. Basically it was just a cooler, which in all likelihood was how the match was going to end one way or the other.
We finished play around 12:30, nearly 12 hours after we started, but there’s no rest for the weary. The $1500 Main Event starts today!