Monday, October 22, 2007

More Final Table Action!!!

There is more EXCELLENT news in this post. Even though it's long, it's a must read for anyone interested in my poker exploits.

On Saturday I decided to play a few multitables. I'm just about on pace to reach my points goals for the end of the year and earn my $3,000 bonus. I've found a way to earn points at a much faster rate, but I'll explain all that in a future post. So while I had planned on Saturday being a full work day, it turned into watching college football and playing multitable tournaments on my laptop.

One of the tournaments was a heads up matches tournament. The way these tournaments work is everyone is split up into tables of two players. Those two players play one on one (or heads up as we say in the poker world) until one of them goes bust. Once every table is left with just one player, the remaining players are matched up and they do it all over again. This continues until you're left with one player. Essentially it works just like a tennis tournament where the winner of each match moves on and the loser is eliminated.

The tournament I played started with 230 players (meaning 26 random players got a free pass through the first round) and had a $22 buy in. I've played about a half dozen of these tournaments in the past week and while they're not for big bucks they've given me a chance to brush up on my heads up play.

In order to make the money you need to win 3 matches and make it to the round of 32 which pays something like $45 ($23 net). I won each of my first 3 matches in about 50 hands which takes about 15 minutes. My 4th match took about 25 minutes, which felt like forever, but I won and I was up to $61 in prize money with 16 players left. In my next match, about 10 hands in I got dealt QQ, my opponent got dealt 55 and all the money went in before the flop. He didn't catch a miracle, we were down to 8 players and my guaranteed prize money was up to $161.

I wasn't expecting to make much playing this tournament, but all of a sudden it was getting interesting. Making it to the top 4 was worth $370 and there was more prize money beyond that. Up to this point my opponents were fairly passive and with the exception of the player who went broke against my pocket queens I was able to gradually grind them down before eliminating them. In the round of 8 my opponent was super aggressive. He was making big raises and reraises on almost every hand and I knew I'd need to catch a big hand to beat him.

We started every match with 1,500 chips each and 10 minute limits. In the second limit with blinds of 15/30 I was down to 1250 chips when he raised to 120 from the small blind. I made it 300 to go with AT and he just called. The flop came down T 5 2. I bet something like 250 and he moved all in. I quickly called, he showed 56, I won the pot and he was down to 500 chips. Since I now had a 5 to 1 chip advantage it was easy to finish him off and I was in the top 4.

I have no idea what happened in the round of 4 match, but I know that I won. HA! We were down to the final table which this time was a final table of 2. Second place paid $690 and first place paid $1242 so I was about to play a heads up match (against someone who had also just won 7 straight matches to get to that point) for $552 dollars. Before we even started I suggested that we split the remaining prize money. My opponent (BIGsexy85777 was his name) suggested that we each take $866 and play for the remaining $200. This sounded perfect to me.

Once we e-mailed support and got someone to the table to arrange our deal it was time to play it out. Close to 10 minutes in, with blinds at 10/20, Bigsexy raised to 60 from the small blind. I called out of the big blind with 64 suited (you have to play a wide range of hands against just one player). The flop came down 7 5 4 giving me a pair of fours and an open ended straight draw. I bet out 120 expecting to win the pot right there, but Bigsexy called. The turn was an ace and I checked. He bet out 200 and I called hoping to make my straight. The river was another 4 which was perfect because I was almost sure to have the best hand and it didn't look as scary as a card that would make my straight. I figured I'd get some action and I did. I checked hoping my opponent would bet and that's just what he did. It wasn't a big bet, but he was running low on chips and when I moved all in he was forced to call. He had A6 for one pair, I had trip fours and it was all over.

Add another notch to the tournament win belt and another $1,066 to the coffers!

But that is not the real good news. I can hear you all thinking now "(Gasp!) You mean there's something more significant that happened to you this weekend." Yes there is, and here's the story.

I was planning to take Sunday off to watch football, but I've been doing so well and having so much fun playing lately that I decided to take a shot at a few multitables on the laptop again. I had 4 or 5 duds, but the last tournament I signed up went MUCH better. It was a $55 no limit hold'em tournament that went off with 1,206 entrants.

About an hour and a half into the tournament I had tripled my starting stack of 3,000 to over 9,000 when I had some internet troubles. Something funky was happening the the cable modem and even after restarting everything I still couldn't connect. So I used the highly advanced technique that I learned studying engineering at Berkeley - I unplugged everything to "let it rest." Sure enough 10 minutes later when I plugged everything back in, I was able to get back on.

The prize money started at 135th place and with 137 players left I was faced with a tough decision. I had 35,000 chips (average was about 26,000), the blinds were 500/1000, I was in the big blind and the player in the button raised to 3,000. I called with KT of hearts and the flop came down Q J 5 with 2 hearts. I had an open ended straight draw and a flush draw and one over card. While I didn't have anything yet, I'd hit something about 55% of the time. I considered betting but decided to check. My opponent bet out 4,000 and I just called. The turn was a blank and I check called 8,000. The river was another blank and we both checked. My opponent turned over Q9 and won the pot.

When that hand was over, I felt like a real wuss. My opponent had about 2,000 fewer chips than I did and after he bet on the flop or the turn, and all in raise would have been a great play for me to make. Two spots out of the money I can't imagine he'd have called with Q9 if I'd put him to the test and I really felt like I'd missed out on some chips. I vowed to play better, and more aggressively for the remainder of the tournament.

But a minute or two later I was in the money and still had enough of a stack to work with. I was starting to fade and as we got down to about 80 players, I had 18,000 chips while the average stack had shot up to 45,000. Then I caught a nice break. One player raised to 6,000 and another moved all in for 25,000. I called with AK and the first player folded. I flopped a K, beat my opponent who had JJ and was up to about average.

I've forgotten exactly how it happened, but I made some big hands, got some action and by the time we were down to 45 players I was in first place! I suppose that's a lot to gloss over, but it's not like this is a short post!

The next key hand came up with just under 40 players left. Average was close to 100,000 and I still had more chips than anyone in the tournament with about 275,000. The blinds were 2500/5000 and the player who was in second place with about 250,000 chips raised to 15,000. Another player made it 30,000 to go and I was on the button with QQ - the third best possible starting hand.

By my estimation, I've played about 1.5 million hands of hold'em in the past 7 years which means I've been dealt QQ about 7,000 times. I could probably count the number of times I've folded QQ before the flop on one hand (I've never once folded AA or KK before the flop). Up until this year I never would have even considered it. But in this case, I just couldn't think of anything that the player who made it 30,000 could have except for AA or KK. I decided to trust my read and I folded.

The initial raiser immediately went all in and the other player instantly called. The player who had almost as many chips as me had KK and the other player had AA! If I'd called or reraised the player with KK surely would have raised again. The flop was all cards below ten and I'm certain I would have lost almost all of my chips had I decided to play. Folding this hand made me literally thousands of dollars.

I was still in first place and that's pretty much where I stayed as players started dropping. I wasn't making any huge hands, but I was stealing blinds left and right and the other players were letting me walk all over them.

Unfortunately, when we were down to around 14 or 15 players I hit a major speed bump. I lost half of my chips with KK against AQ. ACK! I think I've mentioned recently that in order to go really deep, just about everything has to go perfectly. I figured this had was the beginning of the end for me. But it wasn't!

10th-18 paid $482. Which wasn't bad, but 9th paid $904, 8th paid $1,387 and it was up and up from there. It seemed like everyone had plenty of chips compared to the blinds and I felt like it was going to take forever to make it to the final table. Luckily the players acting just after me were very tight so I was able to do plenty of raising without anyone playing back at me. This kept me afloat.

We made it down to 9 players, and then 8 and then 7. I was guaranteed $1,989 and had a stack that was just about average at that point. There were 3,600,000 chips in play and the two players to my right each had about 1,000,000. The reaming 5 of us all had between 200,000 and 400,000 and were just trying to outlast each other.

Then something dramatic happened. One of the players with 1,000,000 chips busted the other by making a straight flush against the other player's top two pair! Now one player had 2,000,000 chips and the rest of us were way behind. But we were down to 6.

Luckily, the leading player was not any good at all. In fact someone who'd been eliminated earlier was talking smack in the chat box about how terrible he was. He should have been raising 75% of the hands at least since the rest of us were all sort of trying to wait each other out. 6th place paid $2,592 and moving up one more spot to 5th was worth another $600 which was about 11 times the initial buy in.

Another thing that was lucky was, he was just to my right, meaning he had to act just before me. I'd squeaked into second place with around 500,000 chips and every time he folded, I raised. Someone went broke in 6th and then another took home 5th place money ($3,196), but I wasn't involved in either elimination.

Now were were down to 4 and I was guaranteed at least $3,919. I had 500K, the player with 2 million still had the same amount and the remaining players had 300K and 800K. As soon as we were down to 4 the player with 800K started talking deal and he was pushing hard. He was saying things like "Any smart player would make a deal" and "we should really make a deal, should I call support?"

For once I wasn't really interested in a deal. I thought I was clearly the best player left, the worst player has almost all of the chips, and I'd be taking something like $2,000 more than 4th place money when I had a shot at much, much more. I told the guy pushing for the deal that I'd listen to the exact numbers, with the plan of only taking a deal if I could get much more than the equity of my chips was worth (ie I might take and extra $3,500 when my chips were only worth another $2,000).

The guy with 2,000,000 chips had no idea what was going on. The whole concept of a deal was foreign to him so even though it would have been in his best interest, he wasn't sure. The remaining player wasn't saying a word. I assumed it was because either he had his chat off or just wasn't interested. Upon later reflection I noticed that he was from a place called Kakalak so maybe he just didn't speak English. Regardless, there was no deal to be had.

So we played on. About 15 minutes and 30 hands passed without the chip stack changing much. Then the player with 300K doubled up through the player with 800K on one hand, and busted him a few hands later. We were down to 3 and I was guaranteed $5,306!

Then I caught a major break. The blinds were 20,000/40,000 and I was in the big blind with about 600,000 chips. The player who had been at 2 million chips for the past hour was still right around that level and in the small blind. He raised to about 300,000 which was really excessive given the size of the blinds. I think he was trying to make what was supposed to look like a strong move since I'd moved all in against some of his previous smaller raises. As it turns out this was perfect timing for me since I got dealt AA! I moved all in and he called me with KQ. He totally missed and I was up to about 1.2 million chips!

We were all relatively close and chip wise and I was looking good. The blinds went up to 25,000/50,000 and I found myself in the big blind with A8. The first player to act (the guy who wasn't saying anything) moved all in for about 1,000,000. This was certainly excessive, but this guy had shown that his only move was either all in or fold once we made it to the final table. A8 wasn't a great hand, but unless he had AA I'd have at least a 30% chance to win and it was likely I had the best hand.

So I called. This was a scary call, and I wasn't happy when he turned over 99. But, I was thrilled to see an ace on the flop! I managed to dodge a 9 on the turn and the river, we were down to 2 and I was up to 2.2 million chips! 2nd place was $8,140 and 1st was a whopping $13,869!

At this point I did the stupidest thing I possibly could have done. I offered the other player (who I knew what no good) a deal. I asked if he wanted to split the reaming prize money based on chip count. I just didn't want to play heads up for almost $6,000 no matter what the circumstances. I explained that we should both sit out and I would e-mail support to help us with the deal. He still wasn't sure but he agreed anyway.

While we were having this discussion, we were still playing. I'd raised to 150,000 with total garbage and he'd called me. The flop came down with a bunch of face cards and I was ready to give up on the hand. Then he clicked on sit out in the middle of the hand! The pot which was over 8% of the chips in play and worth almost $500 if we were going to split got shipped my way!

So here we are both sitting out waiting for support to show up (which usually takes 2-5 minutes) and after about 90 seconds I see that he's sitting back in again. What? Then he says "I don't understand what's going on, let's just play." I tell him that I've e-mailed support and when they get here they'll explain it to him but we can play until they show up.

So we play. On the 5th or 6th hand I pick up A9 in the big blind. The blinds are still 25,000/50,000 and he raises to 200,000. I move all in and he calls with QT of hearts making me 54% to win . Jen is sitting next to me and we're both calling for an ace. ACE! ACE! ACE! All I need is for him not to hit, but I'm thinking just put the f-ing ace out there and send me the money. The flop is all cards under 8 with one heart. So far so good. The turn is a heart and I feel deflated. I'm certain that I'm not going to survive the river. Now I need to dodge a Q, a T, or a heart. I just can't see missing all of those cards. I'll still be alive, but now if I make the deal I'll have lost thousands in equity.

Then the river comes's a black deuce! SEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNDDD MEEEEEE THE MONEY BABY! $13,869!!!!!! DING DING DING DING DING!

This was an amazing win for me. I can't believe how well I've been doing lately. I also can't believe that I almost made a deal with that goon. I won a heads up tournament by winning 8 straight matches YESTERDAY! Why in the world would I make a deal when I've got a 5-2 chip lead, I've got my opponent totally outclassed, and my heads up game is a sharp as it's ever been? Very foolish of me, but in the end it makes for a much better story.

What a sweet win!


Eebster said...

I still think you should send the PokerStars support people a muffin basket for taking 120 seconds instead of 90 seconds to make their way over to your table, and thus causing you to play it out and win an extra FOUR THOUSAND dollars!

The Answer Is 42 said...

Congratulations, man! Reading that was an experience in and of itself. You're my hero! =P

Anonymous said...

Way to go DAVE! That was such a fun post to read, and I was so happy that you didn't completely blow it all in the title with something like... HUGE WIN! YAY!

Jennifer Fleming said...

AWESOME! Go Dave! I had a great time telling people at the Buckeye tailgate that you're a pro poker player - I'll have to direct the ones who said, "Wow?!!" with their mouths agape to this post....

OaklandLady said...

It sort of blows me away really . ... i wish i culd have a good day at work and make a crazy bonus ..oh well ..we can't all be rock stars :)

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