Luck Box Central

Friday night I bought in for a double stack at a local $20 tournament with not many good players. I used some aggression to take down a few pots early and built up a nice stack when a moderately tight player raised in middle position. There are two callers and I decided to call light with 75off in the big blind. The flop came 643 rainbow and I check called the flop. Only the original raiser remained. The turn is a ten and I check raised and he called. The river was a Q and I bet almost 1/2 the pot. He called and shows Aces. Cracked another one!

I managed to best one particular player several times and when he raised my BB I decided to call him with 33. The flop came 344 and after several streets of action we managed to get it all in on the river. He showed Aces and fours and I won, of course, with my flopped boat.

 

A good player shows up late and starts running over the table by betting large preflop when he is in position and especially on the button. He gets called down one time and wins a pot with QToff against KQs when a ten comes. I decided to look for a spot to limp reraise him all in at some point later when the blinds were high enough to make that worthwhile.

The moment finally came about an hour later. I limped under the gun and he bet a bit more than pot on the button. It folded back to me and, after a dramatic pause, I jammed all in with 42 of hearts. Surprisingly he snap called with 7d7c. While that was a better hand that I thought he had, the bet was for 95% of his stack and I thought he would have thought better of it.

Anyway since he has me out chipped, I stand up to leave. Then the flop comes all hearts! The turn is another heart and I cringe. Then the river comes another heart putting a flush on the board which, given my hand, means a chop! However then I noticed that the turn was the 3h meaning that my 4 plays after all and I would take the entire pot. Whew!

 

It is nice to take out a good player and build a large stack at the same time but I subsequently discovered that this tournament allowed a massive $20 or $40 add-on followed by quickly multiplying blinds. An hour after the break my “big stack” with 8 players left and 3 getting paid only amounted to 16BB. I did my best to stay aggressive but got carved up a bit. With 8BB left I started looking for shoving spots. I thought I found a good one with 76off but ran into aces again in the small blind. This time I flopped a 6 but could not improve further and that was it.

Between the buy-in, add-on and the time charges, it ended up costing me $118 to play. If I had known the structure was so bad after the break I could have saved my $40 add-on but really it did not matter. Given the prize pool of under $1800ish and just 3 positions being paid, it is not worth it to play these events except for fun as they are not beatable in the long run no matter your skill level. Still it was a fun night and I got some stories out of it, so I am not really complaining.

Let’s talk about some poker hands …

I played in the $500 monthly NLHE tournament at the Texas Card House again. Let’s look at some hands.

I chipped up some early and was on the button during Level 3 with QQ. I made my standard open raise and the BB, who I knew could be spewy at times, called. The flop was Q73 rainbow. The villian checked to me. My normal play here would be to check back as I am ridiculously far ahead. I knew, however, that this player might see a small bet as a sign of weakness that he could attack. So I bet a bit less than 1/2 pot and, to my delight, he went all in which was about a 4x pot bet. Of course I snap called and got my first big stack going. He showed AQ for top top and so I was super lucky on that cooler.

About an hour later in Level 6 my stack was still above average but not huge. I was in the small blind with 55. Middle position raised and the cutoff reraised. Normally it is raise or fold in the small blind and no way was I going to raise here. However I gave it some extra thought and decided to take the risk of cold calling knowing I would have to fold in the event of another reraise. The Big Blind also called and, fortunately the original raiser just called.

The flop was JJ5 giving me the boat. I checked and it checked around. Of course that is very unusual for a paired board. Maybe my boat was not going to get me any chips after all. The turn was a 7 and I decided to check again. The big blind checked and then the original raiser made a 1/2 pot bet. Almost immediately the hijack went all in. I had him covered a bit and I immediately went all in myself. If he had 77 I was going to kick myself, but no way was I laying down this boat. The big blind, who was also shorter than me, then tanked and eventually called. The original raiser sighed and said “I guess my overpair can’t be good here” and mucked. The hijack showed AJ and the big blind showed J9 and so I was in great shape. I faded the river and tripled up. A pretty amazing hand. It was entirely possible that all four players decided to slow play the flop assuming they were ahead.

Much later we are down to 16 players left. 10 get paid with 10th place getting $1,000 and 1st place getting just over $12,000. I have been amazingly card dead and so only some stealing has kept me in the hunt with 16 BB which was slightly below average.  There were 4 tiny stacks but clearly I would need to chip up in order to make the money and give myself a chance to go deep. I am in the Big Blind with the blinds at 2K/4K with a 500 ante.

Middle position player with an average stack opens to 10K. One of the better players in the hijack makes it 30K. This guy has a top 3 stack and has been opening and 3 betting a lot. Still he had AK the last two times that he 3 bet. Still I think he is capable of making a light 3 bet. It folds over to me and I look down at AQ hearts.

Now it seems clear to me that this is a shove or fold situation. I want the original raiser out if possible to improve my equity and then I can hope that I am either flipping against something like JJ or perhaps even leading something like AJs or ATs. But what are the chances I am up against AK? In that case I am in big trouble and cannot expect to get a fold from the big stack. Perhaps being so card dead for the last hour put me on tilt just a bit but I went ahead and shoved. Sure enough the original raiser folded and the villain fairly quickly called with AKs. The board was no help and I was out.

I have not questioned my play very much over the last year. Sure I have played with less than my A game on a couple of nights, but the number of individual hands that I think that I totally butchered have been few and far between. Now this one was close, but in retrospect I think it was wrong. I really didn’t need to take this chance at this point knowing that the chances of being dominated was reasonably strong. With AQs I want to either be the 3 bettor myself or else be up against smaller stacks who would be under a lot more pressure to get out of my way. I have, on occasion, gotten people in this tourney to fold AK pre with a big bet but I don’t think that happens very often. Certainly this villain was good enough and had enough chips to make that call reliably.

At least I went out on an aggressive play. One friend thought my play was obviously correct. I don’t but I will admit it wasn’t horrible. Still I think I should have given this hand additional thought at the table before I pulled the trigger. Maybe I might have done it anyway, but there is also the chance that I could have gotten away from it.

2018 Action

On the first Sunday of the new year I jumped into the monthly $500 tournament at the Texas Card House. This time I went out extremely quickly and so that kicked things off in the wrong direction. Late in January I found myself in the Anaheim area to help out a friend and ending up playing 2 long sessions at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino. I really liked this place but the cards did not go my way. I managed a chop in a SitNGo that got me my buyin back but, other than that, it was brick city. Limit BigO was particularly brutal costing me $500 over 3 session spanning 14 hours of play.

In February I was back and things started going better. I won a $500 seat for the monthly $500 and then won a charity event for $1,500. I used to play a lot of these and did fairly well including winning my first seat into a WSOP event. I don’t play many charity events anymore and this time discovered that their payout method these days is VISA gift cards. That is a pain but I guess a win is a win.

The monthly $500 again did not go well as I again busted fairly quickly. At least that keeps the time charge down! After a couple of weeks off from poker I played a small turbo at a new card house in Round Rock and that one worked out fine. Some wild final table action took me from average stack to tiny stack to second biggest stack in the course of about 10 hands. The last 9 players chopped it up and I walked away with $740 which was more than enough to put me in the black for the first time in 2018.

Looking ahead I have booked my flights and room for the WSOP where once again I only plan to be in town for a long weekend. This time, however, if I make another big score like I did in 2017, then nothing is going to stop me from going back and playing the Main Event.

It also looks like a visit to Lucky Chances in the Bay Area will also be in the cards for me some time during April. Most likely I will only have time to play the Sunday weekly tournament, but still I look forward to it. It is generally a lot of fun to check out a new card room and be the unknown player. That scenario often goes well for me.

Wrapping up 2017

After my success at the WSOP I was looking to play more poker and discovered that apparently legal poker rooms were starting to be a thing in Texas. With security people and security cameras, bright appointments and a few amenities including dealers, these private membership clubs were managing to abide by the archaic gaming rules included in Texas law and make it work. There is no rake and no tipping but you pay an hourly club access fee along with your membership fee. Turns out to be a great deal for cash players but tournament players like myself don’t do so horribly either.

I started out at a club just outside of Austin and after a few bad sessions I managed to get to a 2 way even chop in a bounty tournament where I also scored 10 bounties. I felt I was in the top tier of regular players there but the stakes weren’t high and it seemed like the club was not attracting enough repeat customers to stay open for long.

I decided to try another club that was a bit closer to home but had a higher hourly rate. My first event was a $500 buy-in NLHE tournament and after 7.5 hours the survivors did a 7 way chop with yours truly getting the lion’s share for over $4,800. I played more tournaments there but found that the satellites and the monthly $500 events were my sweet spot. In the very next monthly $500 tournament I took third place for $3,200.

I also won a satellite seat to a $1,000 tournament that had an interesting twist: the results were to be posted in the Hendon Mob! The plan was to conduct 3 of these $1,000 events each year and so, for the first time, I would have the chance to reach my goal of earning a Hendon Mob score each year without leaving my home town. That is fantastic.

I washed out of the November $1000 event and yet still managed to end up over $2,350 for my post WSOP poker play during 2017 without ever leaving home. It looks like I will be playing more poker year round as long as these local card rooms manage to stay afloat. Now if only I could get more more players interested in games other than NLHE. If I could mix in some local PLO or Big O cash games or tournaments, then my poker life would truly be sweet.

One hand of note occurred in a charity tournament in November. In about level 6 I had the biggest stack at my table when I got into a hand with the next biggest stack. I reraised his opening raise with KK. He raised me back. I put in another raise and now had 30% of my chips in the pot. At this point he went all in. Now I have never folded KK preflop in my life and, if you had asked me before this hand, I would have told you that I would never do so. However in this particular spot I couldn’t think of a hand that this particular opponent could possibly have other than Aces and so I folded the Kings face up. Graciously the villain showed his Aces to the table, but I didn’t ask him to do that because frankly I was already supremely confident that I had made the right play. Still it was good to know that I could go with my gut and make a play like this in a big spot. Maybe I am catching on to this game a little bit after all.

Trying New Things

I am trying to mix a few new plays into my game but so far they have been no help at all. One technique involves overbetting the river. Of course you do this with a mix of good and/or nut hands and bluffs to extract the most value. It sounds great, but there must be more to it as thus far my overbets have induced folds when I have a good hand and the one time I tried it with a bluff, the other guy called me down rather easily with an underpair. Grrr.

I also got into a discussion with a PLO player who insisted that playing fast and losing the occasional stack with middle set was the correct thing to do. Personally I have found it useful to be careful in this spot and lose less when I might be up against top set. He described a specific situation where you really have to play fast against a check raise and, sure enough, it came up yesterday. I shoved and the other guy had it.

The other excitement yesterday was in a live 17 player tournament where I made a nice late comeback to not only make the money, but get heads up with about 48% percent of the chips. On the very first hand of heads up I called an all-in with A9 off and saw I was up against A6 suited. The board came up rainbow with an ace and 2 low cards and so I was in great shape. A Q on the turn meant I only had to dodge 3 outs on the river. I will stop now since you can certainly guess what happened next.

Despite the struggles I am still up a little since my last post and still within striking distance of my highwater mark on Seals With Clubs. See you on the tables!

Another Night of Live Poker

Two weeks ago I won a 17 player NLHE tournament. Today I went back to the same venue and played in a 19 player event. Things did not go well early on and I never really got anything going. Finally things were desperate enough that I went all-in on the button with A3off when I had 1 limper in front of me. Unfortunately the big blind woke up with AQ and made an easy call. But then the board came with 4 spades to my Ace of spades and I was still alive.

Not too much later we broke to the final table of 9 players. Immediately I went on a hot streak and won 5 hands in a row including a large pot where I flopped a straight with K10 and it held up for a big pot.

The play got wild when we got down to 3 players. I was way up and then almost out and then up again. However eventually the 3rd place guy got busted by the other fellow and I went to heads up with just less than 40% of the chips. The blinds were huge and I went all-in on the first hand of heads-up with ppJ. The other guy called with Q3 and managed to hit one of his two outs on the river to take the tourney. Still in all I was happy to pull down 2nd place money. I am up well over $300 for the year as I have played 4 live tournaments in 2013 and have won 1st place once and 2nd place twice. Not too shabby if I say so myself.

At Least There is Seals

The charity tournament didn’t work out for me. Sure I made some plays here and there and took out some players and made it to the last few tables. However my preflop aggression did not work out as my main mark kept waking up with an ace in the big blind. I eventually took him out too, but the blinds got big enough by then that it was a shove fest for me and things just didn’t work out. It happens.

Happily I found a loose player on Seals playing PLO 1/2 who doesn’t seem to understand how to use aggression properly. I just had to wait for good spots (and in some cases play a little possum to let him take the lead in the betting) and then pot and re-pot and play for stacks. This happened 5 times and I was ahead all 5 times preflop and won 4 of the 5 hands. Added another 500 chips to the growing bankroll in very little time.