I advance to Day Two of WSOP Event 24

I don’t have a ton of chips, but I’m still alive!  This is the event that I finished 24th in last year, so I’ll try to outdo that performance this time.  We start at 2:00pm Vegas time (5:00pm at home) and if I do well, I’ll be playing long into the night.  I have less than half the average stack (after having double the average stack two short hours earlier).  That is the nature of this kind of event, a few hands up or down equate to massive, massive swings.  Hopefully I’ll keep them in the right direction tomorrow.


Tournaments and Tilt

One of the things I pride myself on as a poker player is that I have an extremely high resistance to tilt.  At this point in my poker life, I have seen every possible way to go down in flames.  I’ve been called by terrible hands that had no chance to beat me yet somehow did, I’ve seen one outers on the river, flushes lose to straight flushes, AA beat AA, you name it.  I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve seen Aces cracked.  That’s just the way it goes.

In my best game, limit poker for cash, it is relatively easy to imagine that the long run will eventually catch up to the lucky player.  He still sits there with your money and you will keep making better decisions and get his money.  Even if you don’t get his actual money, there are many others just like him in the endless parade of poker players and you will get their money instead.  The stakes are the same.  One small bet here, one big bet on the river, it all works the same.  Each situation plays itself out a thousand times.  Math is cold and heartless and eventually the water will seek its level, etropy will relentlessly increase and I will accumulate their money.  There is absolutely no reason to get upset when fate deals you a cruel blow because it is just a tiny blip on the road.

I think tourney players tend to tilt more because their landscape is so much different.  They can shrug off some situations because they occur so frequently that the pattern can be easily discerned.  You hear it in the halls every day: “I shoved my short stack and he woke up with Aces.”  It is always said with the same “what can you do?” shrug familiar to all poker players.  People see this pattern enough so that they can let those go.

The problem for tourney guys is that many situations don’t happen often enough to allow you to have that precious distance from the result.  You will not be heads-up in a major tourney that often.  You will not be on the bubble of a $10,000 sat that often.  You will not get the chance to spring the trap that you have patiently laid over the course of the day a thousand times.  Your stack fluctuates and the other player’s stack fluctuates and always the blinds relentlessly increase.  The payouts rise preciptiously as you go deeper and deeper and the insults of fate dealing you the evil card when you are the 80% favorite bite much harder when you sit on the final table.  The beatiful never-ending sameness of limit poker situations promise a future where the bad beats will equalize.  The tourney player who reaches the final table of the WSOP may not ever be there again.

In my opinion, this is why the tourney players storm out of the room and curse and stomp.  They play all those hours for a few brilliant moments where the money is the highest and the pressure is the greatest.  When they lose in those moments, it feels different than the every day losses of the cash game grinder.


WSOP Trip Report Part Three

There is one event in poker that everyone wants to play more than any other.  The Main Event of the WSOP is the best and most prestigious tourney in all of poker.  Everyone wants to play this one.  Even someone semi-jaded on poker like myself.  The problem for most of us with the Main Event is that it costs $10,000 to play.  As you will remember from my screed on backing I believe that winning in any specific tourney is extremely difficult.  The only rational way to deal with this fact is to play in events where you can afford to lose.  The most common bankroll requirement mentioned for tourney players is from 50 to 100 buy-ins.  Therefore, to play in a $10,000 event, you should have a poker bankroll of between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  My poker bankroll is not within that range.  In fact, I suspect that the number of players with that kind of bankroll is shockingly small.  Like, I don’t think you would believe me if I told you — that kind of small.

Obviously, if you can find someone else to pay your way, that is a good way to avoid the problem.  Another is to avoid playing with proper bankroll management.  One of those “just this time” kind of bad bankroll decisions.  That is how I played two years ago.  While I had not won $500,000 at poker, I had certainly won more than $10,000 so I figured I’d take a shot at it.  The allure of the Main Event is just that strong.

The other good way to get into the Main Event is to buy into a smaller event and win your way into the Main.  This is, by far, the most common way that people find their way to play in the Main Event.  Yesterday, after my less that satisfying performance in the $1,000 stimulus special, Yankees suggested that we order some adult beverages and pay $500 for our shot at the Golden Ticket.  We discussed the fact that the structure was certain to be terrible, but we figured that the players would be even worse.  As Yankees has said to me about 20 times the past two days, “So, whatever!”  This is a nice all purpose poker phrase.  I raised with AQ and he called me with J4 suited and of course he flopped two pair.  “So, whatever.”  I pushed with QQ on the bubble and the big blind who won’t play anything at all happens to have AA.  “So, whatever.”  It works.

There are something like 80 of taking our shot at this sattelite, so you need to finish 3rd to win your $10,000 entry.  So, whatever.  We grab a quick dinner with JFletcher who is our only runner left in the $1,000 event.  We discuss his well thought out strategy over BBQ and he seems poised to win a lot of money.  We figure out that in order for our 2% stakes in his action to take care of the $1,000 we each donked off Jeff will need to finish around 20th.  Jeff disagrees, figuring one would have to finish 6th or so.  It turns out that the answer is 15th so we’ll have to call that a push.  So, whatever.  Go ahead and ship it.

As the sat seems to be taking shape, Yankees and I grow concerned that cocktail service in this distant poker room is very poor.  We a pact to ensure that if either of us locates a cocktail waitress, we will ensure that the other is taken care of.  We start out with a Red Bull from the tray (thank you very much) and I opt for some BOURBON!  I won’t say that we weren’t going to play well, but we were determined to have fun.  Dealing with these kind of turbo sats requires a certain devil may care attitude anyhow.  The rest of the table looked at me like a potential victim when I ordered my third drink.  One of them snorted in dissaproval.  So, whatever.  At the end of level three I had chipped up to 10,000 chips from 4,000 to start.  The table was much less amused by me by then.  I’m no Chris, so I can’t tell you every key hand I played.  In my defense, Chris would have played like four hands in the first 90 minutes.  I played approximately 30.  My favorite hand is after I’ve been raising rather a lot and I’m on the button with 6,000 chips and the blinds are 50/100.  There are three limpers to me and I find QTs.  So, whatever.  Obviously, I call.  Both of the blinds join in and there are seven of us to the flop.  The other three players look dissapointed they missed the party.  The flop comes down 89J rainbow.  Using my advanced board reading skills, I determine that this is a good thing.  The big blind bets something stupid like 300 and the Hijack calls him.  The small blind has yet to act and I have a bet and a call in front of me.  I’m not really the slow playing type, so I raise it up like a happy drunk to 1,000.  The small blind folds and the big blind fixes me with that steely stare that always means “I’m absolutely planning to fold here, but I need to give you my best mean look so that you know I was really betting with a monster hand here.”  So, whatever.  You were supposed to call.  As I rest my hopes on the Hijack, he shoves the rest of his 3,000 chips in the middle with undisguised glee.  His facial expression is extremely brief, because I call as soon as his chips land on the table.  He looks a bit less pleased as I table the nut straight.  I guess he has some random runner-runner outs.  The turn is a blank, yet he continues to stare intently at the board in the vein hope that one of the cards will magically change into something that gives him an out.   Just because God is cruel, the river gives him three Kings.  But three Kings aren’t as good as the nuts now are they?  He says “I guess I shouldn’t have tried to be so tricky with my Kings, huh?”  I nod sagely and agree.  If I see him again, I’ll make him feel better and tell him I probably call with QTs even if he raised pre-flop.  I’m kinda tipsy.  So, whatever.

My table breaks minutes before the break and I carry my stack loaded with all the small chips to the next table.  Usually when someone has a million small demonination chips you know that they like to play a lot of hands.  Guilty as charged.  I had not planned well for this sat because I thought I was going to play cash games until Yankees exerted his bad influence self on me.  I tell him I really want to walk the mile and a half to my room and grab my bag with my music and what not.  He agrees to walk with me and we boogie up to the room.  We agree that there can be no doubt that we are the best two players at the event and that the others should probably just give us the 10k and fight it out for the last seat.  As we head back to the room, I realize that I’m not 100% sure which seat is mine since I never actually played a hand at the new table.  When we get back, the event has already restarted and I’m virtually certain that the table I moved to is now populated by a rather portly dealer who appear on verge of falling asleep and no other players.  Yanks points out that there probably aren’t a lot of players with two racks of green chips, but I still can’t find my stack.  The floor man admits to having moved me and I settle into my seat and size up my new seat mates.  The guy on my right seems familar.  As I sit down he begins to talk and he doesn’t ever stop, really.  He seems nice, but I’m glad I brought my iPod now.  You probably saw him on TV:

He actually is reasonably nice and played tighter than you probably thought from TV.  However, I had a dramatic transformation at this table.  There was a ton of raising ahead of me because they had not been trained to fear me like the other table and I don’t think I got a playable hand for more than an hour.  I think I stole the blinds once in a while with nothing first in, but I really became a different player at this table and I wound up having to cough up my mountain of green chips drip by drip.  Not long after the break Yankees busted and I stopped drinking.  I’m not sure which one caused my cards to go bad, but this was a bad stretch of the sattellite.  Soon enough I fell from a chip leader to a good bit below average.  If I played any interesting hands at the table, I can’t remember anything about them.  Yankees eventually became bored with the process of railing an uber-nit and we collapsed to three tables.

Luckily, the blinds were still quite high and my third table was much better for me and once Yankees left, the curse lifted and I got some hands again.  I had like 13 blinds, but the blinds were so high and the structure so fast that no one at the table had more than twice what I did, so nobody really wanted to call me too light.  The most active player at this table seemed to me to be quite bad, so I called in the small blind with 53 off.  I realize that I should have raised it, but sometimes you have to slow play.  The flop comes J46, so I have an open ended draw and I’m seriously thinking about shipping the flop because I should have fold equity and I don’t have that many chips.  When it comes to me, the bad player had min bet and the other limper folded.  With the big blind yet to act, I decide to flat call here hoping to build my implied odds when I inevitably turn my straight.  The big blind folds anyhow, so I wasted my time there.  The turn is another Jack and it brings a back door flush draw.  I look down at my stack and contemplate shoving and then it occurs to me that he is going to bet small again and a turn check-raise will look so strong there that I can’t resist getting all fancy.  It sounds spewy and it could have been if he might check behind there, but he makes another min bet, just as I hoped he would.  I consider my options for a short while as to avoid making it obvious I was going to check raise all along.  He’s getting about 2:1, but I really don’t think he can call.  It would essentially reverse our positions — I would be table leader and he’d be fairly short.  He thinks for what seems like the entire 30 minute level and eventually folds.  He claims to have folded the nut flush draw.  So, whatever.

I fall back into boring old patient mode and drift back down like Chinese water torture.  We have reached a mode where lots of people are shoving 66 and getting called by KQ and what not, so it is not a good time to splash around.  Pretty much every hand that is played is for someone’s stack.  I drift back down to around 12,000 at the second break.  We are now down to two tables and the average is 16,000.  Although I only have 12,000 I would say that 11 of the 16 players are between 12,000 and 18,000.  There are a few real short stacks and a couple of bigger stacks.  12,000 is relatively fine.  And also relatively desperate.  The blinds are 600/1,200 with 100 antes.  The average stack has an M of 6 or so.  So, whatever.

My wifebeater wearing friend shoves over my open-raise.  I have ATs.  I’m getting eleventeen to one and he should be shoving much wider than he probably his, so I snap call.  He rolls TT, but the Ace in the window crushes his hopes.  I have him well covered and he takes his leave with no complaints, just that resigned look familiar to us all.  Now there are something like 12 players and Jeff arrives to rail me around this time.  I’m above average.  I steal here and there, I’m way above average.  I get reshoved on and have to fold and I fold for two orbits and I’m below average.  I feel remarkably calm.  The structure is terrible, but I think I make better decisions than most.  Unfortunately, many of the donks have filed out as we collapse down to one table.  There are a few good players in the field.  One of the best players has a big stack and is quite eager to muscle people around.  At this stage, I decide that this is the best scenario for me.  I hope he steamrolls the short stacks.

A few of the shorter players bust out and we’re down to seven players with blinds of 1,000/2,000 antes of 300.  I’ve dropped down to below 20,000 and I have to pick spots to shove randomly.  My spots seem well chosen, because I take down a few blinds.  I am in the big blind when the UTG player open raises.  I’ve noticed he loves to open UTG, since he gets credit for a good hand.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a good hand.  A very short stack pushes on the Button and he looks disgusted because he knows he will have to show his hand.  I shove A8, hoping to give him an excuse to fold his trash.  I think he wanted to take it, but when we count down the chips there is no way he can fold.  The pot is just too big, so he calls me.  He has A7, which is nice.  The shorty has 22.  Not bad.  The flop has a 2.  Bad. I turn an Ace and manage to avoid chopping the side pot.  The short stack triples and now we have about the same.  That sucks.  The A7 is quite tilted by my call.  Carlos Mortensen’s girlfriend is unimpressed.  And pretty cute.  And she really doesn’t like the big stack.  While I am still mentally adding up my stack to figure out if I won or lost chips (I think I actually lost like 500), the previously short stack shoves the button.  I have AJ, so whatever.  I ship it.  The big blind (the guy with A7 in the previous hand) appears to consider a call.  He says something like “Holy Shit” which the people at the other end think was a call and they go nuts.  He says that it wasn’t a call, and folds.  I stack the 22 guy when he rolls A8.  Now we are down to 6.

We play six handed forever.  I’m relatively tight, as befits a flat payout structure like this one, but I choose my spots and hold onto my chips pretty well.  I’m one of the two biggest stacks at this point, so I feel like I should be nearly a lock for a seat now.  Except nothing goes according to plan.  The shortest stack gets it all in with nine high against TT and manages to suck out.  He was so short that he is still short after that.  The very next hand there is a raise and a call and he shoves.  They both call.  On the turn one of them bets and the other raises. I celebrate the imminent departure of the short stack and silently hope for a double knockout.  Of course, the short stack has AA and now he has more chips than me.  Pretty much everyone takes turn being either the short stack or the big stack.  Every time the shorter stack gets it all in, he wins.  Usually with the worst hand.  The AA guy makes a big bet on a river Ace and the A7 guy thinks about two days before he calls with a set.  Getting like 5:1.  On the river.  My brain explodes.  The A7 guy is convinced he is a genius.  So, whatever.

Yet another break.  We’ve played six handed for like 90 minutes.  The blinds are now $2,000 and $4,000 with $500 antes.  I have 45,000 chips which is above average.  I meander around for this level and still no one busts.  We reach $3,000/$6,000 with $500 and I am forced to check-fold a flop when the A7 looks like he can’t wait to bet in position.  He does and I fold.  Now I’m down to $30,000 or so.  Good player open limps from UTG and poor player calls him.  I find 66 and cram it in.  There is a lot of dead money in the pot and I need chips pretty bad.  The blinds fold, but the UTG limper contemplates briefly and announces he is making a $10,000 call.  Oh well, I figure I need to win a flip here.  Unfortunately, he has JJ so it is not exactly a coin flip.  There is to be no suckout for me and I end up eliminated in 6th place.

I really thought I was going to win $10,000 for the last few hours.  I regret the outcome of my last hand and obviously you can not brag about getting your money in as a 5:1 underdog, but I’m convinced that I made a good play there.  My image was quite tight and I really thought I would pick up an extra $20,000 chips there and be in really good shape again.  I’d do it again, but hopefully I’d be in a flip next time.  So, whatever.  It still sucks a bit.  6th place is worth exactly nothing.  *sigh*