Monday, September 24, 2007

WCOOP Event #14 Recap

I started off yesterday playing a few cash tournaments and two WCOOP satellites to the day's $1,050 event. The WCOOP satellites were both very low risk, high reward tournaments. One was an $8 with rebuys and one was a $2 with rebuys. But both had 5 minute limits and rebuys for 12 levels (this is contrary to most turbo rebuy tournaments which have rebuy periods lasting only 6 levels).

I thought it would be fun to try the crazy loose strategy with very little money on the line, but when the time came, I couldn't do it. I certainly played looser than normal, but I couldn't just fling my chips in there with nothing hoping to get lucky since I've spent 7 years training myself to do otherwise.

Despite that fact, I started off kicking major ass. We got 2,000 for each buy in and rebuy and 4,000 for the add on in both tournaments. In the $2 I needed to finish in the top 5 of 611 and in the $8 I needed to finish in the top 6 of 312. At one point I had over 150,000 chips in both tournaments simultaneously! This put me in second chip position in the $8 and about 10th in the $2. I was thinking that it would be one of the greatest achievements of my poker career if I could win two, $1,050 seats in tournaments that I got into for $10 and $25.

But anytime you have 5 minute limits things move so quickly that it becomes a bit of a crapshoot. In the $2 with 60 people left the blinds were up to 10,000/20,000 with a 2,000 ante. I moved in for 120,000 with KQ, got called by AT and lost.

The $8 was more of a heart breaker. With 16 players left (needing to make it to 6th to win) I was in third place (there were many fewer chips in play in the $8 since people did many fewer of the more expensive rebuys and the field was half the size to begin with) and I raised with AK. A player with JJ moved all in for about 100,000 and I called. The flop came with a K and I was a 10-1 favorite. The turn was a blank and I was a 22-1 favorite. Sadly the river was a J, I lost the pot and was out a few hands later. If I'd won that pot I would have been in 1st place with 15 players left with (in my estimation) about an 80% chance of making it to the top 6. So close!

I started the $1,050 event feeling pretty good about my chances since I'd made the money in my previous two WCOOP hold'em events (the chance of that happening for a player of exactly average skill in both events or if it was all luck would be 1 in 57.7). The blinds started off at 25/50 and the players started with 15,000 chips each.

One of the things that makes a big money tournament great is how long it's going to take. If I'm playing a $20 tournament I want it to be fast so I can play a lot of them. But if I'm playing a $1,000 tournament I want it to take as long as possible. The longer it takes the more skill comes into play. The things that determine how long it's going to take are the number of starting chips, the length of time between blind increases and the severity of blind increases (ie do they jump from 100/200 to 200/400 or do they jump from 100/200 to 150/300 and then to 200/400).

It occurred to me that at the main event of the WSOP they also start with 25/50 blinds and have almost the exact same severity in blind increases, but they start with 10,000 chips instead of 15,000! Of course they have 90 minute limits instead of 30 minute limits, but when you factor in the fact that you get twice as many hands per hour online, this tournament structure was not far off from that one. The point is, this was a great tournament set up allowing for plenty of time to have skill come into play.

Early on, I played a hand beautifully, but it didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. The blinds were 50/100 and a player in middle position open raised to 400. I had AA in the small blind and I reraised to 1,000. I was hoping the initial raiser would do something stupid like move all in or make a big reraise, but he just called. The flop came down 6 5 2 with two spades which was a fantastic flop. There was almost no chance that I was behind and I knew I'd get action from just about any middle or big pair. I bet out 1,200 hoping to get raised, but my opponent just called. The turn was a 5 which was another great card.

I figured there was about a 98% chance that my opponent had either AK (not very likely since I had two aces AND he'd called a sizable bet on the flop, but still a slim possibility), a pair between 77 and KK or a flush draw. By far the most likely hand for him to have was a pair. Conventional wisdom would tell you to bet again here and almost anyone would have bet again. But, I was almost positive that my opponent had an over pair to the flop and I figured that if I checked, he'd think that I had a hand like AK and bet his pair. I could then raise him and put him in a real bind. Even if he didn't have much of a hand I thought he might try to steal the pot with a bet. Checking when you know you have the best hand hoping to induce a bet from a worse hand is one thing that separates the pros from the weekend warriors.

But he checked. Crap! Maybe he had a flush draw? The river was the 3 of spades which was a terrible card since it completed the flush draw and put a 1 card straight possibility on the board. Now I couldn't bet for fear of a flush and if my opponent did have a big pair there was no way he'd bet it now. We both checked and he showed JJ.

Pocket Jacks? What kind of weak ass player won't bet pocket Jacks on a board of all small cards after a check on the turn? Bastard! For about 3 seconds I thought "I should have bet on the turn." But then I remembered David Sklansky's Fundamental Theorum of Poker. It essentially says; anytime you do something differently than you would if you could see your opponents cards, they benefit and every time you do something the same way you would if you could see their cards, you benefit.

The point is, if I saw that he had JJ I would have checked the turn for sure so even though I would have made more money by betting, I still played the hand correctly. That might be a little counterintuitive, but asking yourself if you would have done anything differently if you could see their cards during the hand is a powerful tool in evaluating your own play.

My next interesting hand came with blinds of 150/300. I had Q7 of spades in the big blind and the player on the button raised to 850. I made a loose call in the big blind and the flop came down K 4 4 with two spades. My opponent could really have just about anything. Some players will raise almost any two cards on the button if everyone folds to them and one of the reasons I called is I knew if I got a chance to show my hand, the player on the button would be less likely to raise my big blind in the future knowing I would call with weak hands.

Now that I'd called and gotten a fair flop, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. This was a rare situation in the sense that betting small, betting big, check calling, check folding and check raising were all reasonable options with their own risks and benefits. I decided to check and see how much my opponent bet. There was 1,850 in the pot and he bet 1,500. I was hoping he'd bet something like 1,000 or less which would indicate weakness which would make check raising the clear thing to do, but this was a little tougher. Folding was certainly an option, given the size of his bet, but I decided to call.

The turn was a blank and now I was facing a tougher decision. I was now only about 20% to make my flush and I couldn't call a big bet. Luckily my opponent only bet 2,000. I wasn't quite getting the odds I needed to justify a call, but I figured if I hit, I'd be able to win some more chips on the river. Happily the river was a spade, I bet 5,000 and got called. My opponent had AK and was no doubt wishing he'd bet more at some point during the hand.

I was over 30,000 chips at that point and feeling pretty good. In fact over the next hour or so I managed to win 3 or 4 pots in the 2,000-3,000 chip range and found myself with over 40,000 chips about 3 hours into the tournament. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there.

It wasn't one big hand that did it to me. It was a few failed small bluffs, a few times I missed with good hands against people who hit and a few risks that didn't work out. Essentially the problem was I went over 100 hands without winning a pot bigger than just the blinds. When the blinds moved to 500/1000 with a 100 chip ante about 5 hours into the tournament (I'd been dealt over 300 hands to that point) I was down to just over 10,000 chips.

On the hand that I went broke I was in the small blind with K 3. The player on the button just called and I put in 500 chips looking to see a cheap flop. There was already 3,400 in the pot so I was getting almost 7-1 on my money and I needed to take some chances before I was ground into dust. The flop came down K T 9 with two spades, which looked promising and dangerous at the same time.

I decided I was going to go with this hand and hope for the best so I decided to try a check raise. I checked as did the player in the big blind and the button bet 2,000. I moved all in, the big blind folded and the button instantly called. When the cards turned over I saw that he had A4 of spades which put me at 54% to win the hand. The turn was a blank and I was 73% to win the hand, but the river was an ace and I was out in 1,054th place.

The WCOOP is winding down for me even though Sunday's event was only #14 of 23. Almost all of the remaining events are either too expensive or games that I don't play for big money or both. After yesterday's action my starting bankroll of $2,000 is at $3,082.

I have plans to play two more WCOOP tournaments. One is $320 6-handed no limit hold 'em on Wednesday and the other is a $320 satellite to the $2,600 main event on Saturday. The satellite is special because pokerstars is guaranteeing 100 seats will be given away. I'm sure they'll get more than enough players to meet that guarantee and I feel like this is my best chance to get into the main event which I'd love to play, but is just too expensive.

I might play a handful of satellites here and there, and if I make the money on Wednesday I might make a stronger effort to get into the main event, but I'd like to have some profit to show for all of my efforts even if it's just a few bucks. I think maybe I'll give myself another $142 to work with playing small satellites to various events so that no matter what I'll end with a $300 net profit and my backers will return 15% on their investment.

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