Well, I’ve been a bit behind on finishing up my post about the cottage, but that’s mostly because as soon as my work deadline passed, there was poker to play. In fact, I didn’t get back until nearly 3:30am last night, and I’m heading out again in a few hours to another home game.
Last night was my bi-weekly PLHE tournament. Sixteen people showed up, so we had a nice 2-table tourney. In the last three tournaments I’ve finished 1st, 1st and 2nd so I was half expecting an early exit from the proceedings. And things weren’t looking good for me when I blew nearly half my stack pushing a pair of threes when I sensed weakness in my opponent. Unfortunately he couldn’t lay down his second pair. That’s actually one of the trickier aspects of this game. I can make pretty good reads on the holdings on my opponents, but knowing when they will release their hand and when they’ll just be stubborn can be very tough. But playing a pair of threes to a showdown does have some benefits, as two hands later I got no respect with pocket kings and managed to more than double up.
I continued to swing back and forth, top pair good kicker ran into a set of nines. I was betting the hand aggressively but when he raised me all-in on the turn, I smelled a rat and decided to live to fight another day. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t go all in, as I had mentioned he’d gotten lucky with a few substandard hands earlier. I pointed out that he never raised with any of those marginal hands, so it was a pretty easy decision, though it hurt to give up half my chips again. Of course, there were the intangibles of his body language as well that suggested he was looking for a call, but it’s hard to articulate those and really, I don’t want to be giving him too many pointers.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find another playable hand and was relatively short stacked when we merged at the final eight. Blinds were at 100/200 (T1000 starting chips) and I had maybe T1200. In the first few hands, I looked down to find AA and smiled inwardly … well, at least mostly inwardly and not outwardly enough that anyone noticed. With the chip leader limping in and a few other blinds to pick off, I happily pushed all-in, figuring I would get called in at least one place. Everyone else folded but the chip leader didn’t let me down and called with 88. A reasonable call, all things considered, but I was glad to double up and get back to decent chip shape. I still had less than T2000, so I wasn’t in great shape relative to the blinds, but most of the rest of the table wasn’t in much better.
I managed to hang in as the next three were eliminated, but when the blinds jumped to 200/400 and I found myself in the big blind with AQ, I was thinking it was time to make a stand. It was raised ahead of me, but I flat called, figuring the raise could have been made with a lot of hands inferior to mine. The flop came 235 and I had a decision ahead of me. I only had T1100 left and there was T1800 in the pot. I managed to convince myself that my opponent had a weaker ace or something like KQ so I pushed. As soon as I did, the critical thinking portion of my brain spoke up and said “boy that was dumb, he’s probably got a pocket pair and you’re in bad shape”. Well, the critical thinking portion of my brain is no slouch, even if it is a bit slow sometimes, and my opponent quickly called and flipped TT. No help on the turn or river and I was out in fifth, which is the bubble for our tournaments when we have more than ten.
I really should have known better. Calling the raise was fine, but after the flop I should have slowed down and considered living to fight another day. I had the small blind to pay the next hand, but I could have hung on to my last T900 for the orbit to see if I could find anything better. And it was entirely possible that some of the bigger stacks might have tangled and eliminated someone. I wanted to first much more than I wanted fourth, but given the situation I should have realized that the odds in that hand were no longer in my favour.
But the guy who beat me continued to play very well. When we started these tournaments he was supremely impatient and stubborn in hands. So, he ended up playing more hands than he should have and had trouble not chasing draws or releasing second best hands. He was improving in dribs or drabs, but never really threatened to be a consistent top finisher. But then at the beginning of the summer I noticed that his raises were coming in at 3x the big blind. And I noticed him folding a lot more. It smelled like someone had been doing some reading. It turns out that he watched the Howard Lederer’s Secrets of No Limit Hold’em DVD and it completely changed his game. He’s moneyed once since and this time he spent much of the night in the top two chip positions. I didn’t watch many of the remaining hands at the final table as I’d joined a side game, but what I did see impressed me and he kept his cool, continued to play quality poker and took down the victory. Now, when I started these tournaments, no one expected him to win one without some serious luck. And although he did have some lucky hands along the way (as every victor inevitably does) he definitely earned the win. So, congratulations Colin!.
Of course, the tournament was followed by some ring play. When I busted out I joined a table of seven already playing Omaha Hi. Didn’t find many hands and misplayed the ones I did and after many hours of fun but undistiguished poker, I was down 8 bucks of my initial 20 (we only play .5/1). Of course, as is often the case at the end of the night, we’re in a bit of a gambling mood and we played a little high card. And as also is often the case, I managed to donate the rest of my chips to the big winner for the night. Oh well, I’ll have a chance to earn it back in the PLO8 tournament tonight, though my Omaha Hi/Lo game is not nearly as good as my Hold’em. Might be enough though.