Monday, September 29, 2003

Winning My First Big One

On Monday, September 29, 2003 I played in my second Limit to No-Limit Hold'em tournament at the Colorado Belle.

The buy-in is $25, no entry fee, $500 added to the prize pool, and $5 bounties on each player's head. The structure is as follows: 5/5 blinds with 5/10 betting limits for the first 20 minutes. 5/10 blinds with 10/20 betting limits for the second 20 minutes, and 10/20 blinds with 20/40 betting limits for the final 20 minutes of the first hour. After that, the blinds usually double and the betting is no-limit.

Rebuys are allowed during the first hour if the player is below their original 100 starting chips. Rebuys cost $10 for 100 chips and greatly increase the prize pool. One optional add-on is allowed after the first hour, only, and costs $20 for 500 chips.

We started with 52 contestants. My table was extremely loose and passive, with few raises before the flop, but 8-9 people seeing every flop. It was not uncommon to see 74o played to the river.

I raised early in the tourney with AKo, but had to give it up by fourth. In the second level, I had AKo again, raised, and this time flopped a king, but was only awarded a small pot, just barely keeping me ahead of the blinds.

In the third level, I was already very low on chips, just trying to survive until the add-on (the rebuy isn't nearly as good a buy as the add-on, obviously), when I was dealt pocket kings. Someone raised ahead of me, I reraised, putting myself all-in. He held AQo and I survived until the break.

I did the add-on, and found myself with only about 700 chips. Our table rapidly broke down after the break, with many players not adjusting to the no-limit structure. At times we were playing five and sixhanded waiting for new arrivals. As we were the last table to be completely broken, we could not move to another table.

I clearly dominated the table with frequent all-in raises that scared the other players, who were unfamiliar with no-limit hold'em. My all-in's never got called, as I picked the right opportunities, in the right position, with the right hands. I was the only player going all-in, except short stacks who had no choice. Most of the other players continued to play limit hold'em, only betting and/or raising the minimum.

I picked up a couple of bounties by busting short stacks who were desperate. My stack continued to increase.

At this table I made a couple of errors. The first was when the big blind was all-in with less than a full blind. I was dealt ATs in early position. I was clearly the chip lead at the time. The players left to act behind me were timid. I threw away such a weak hand in EP, yet I really didn't have anything to lose with this hand, besides one minimum bet, so I feel this was a mistake. I could have busted the big blind, with very little risk, and picked up another bounty.

My second, and worst, error was also before this table broke. A player went all-in before the flop. I was dealt AQo. I called his all-in. Another player, who had just sat down, also called. This player looked very much like a newbie. He was clearly nervous and jumpy. I had no idea what he had, but, in retrospect, I wish I would have raised the all-in, and gotten the kid to fold.

The flop came Ax2. I checked, as did the kid. The turn was a seven. Check, check. The river was another deuce and the kid went out of his mind trying to bet. I groaned. I had played that hand badly from beginning to end. I cannot, for the life of me, explain why I screwed up. Putting the kid on trip deuces, I folded. He only had a pair of sevens, ugh. He still eliminated the all-in, but I watched a pot of about 2k head in his direction, when I should have dragged that pot myself. I have no explanation for my bad play here.

Unfortunately, due to my two earlier errors, and being blinded down with many unplayable hands, by the time we reached the final table, I was the shortest stack. The final ten get paid $50. My buy-in had been $25, plus the $20 add-on. I had won two $5 bounties, plus the $50, so I was at a net gain of $15.

I drew seat five, ugh. No luck of the draw. The button was on seat ten, so my big blind was coming around rapidly. I only had enough to pay my full bb, plus a portion of my sb. I threw away hand after trashy hand, praying for a decent hot-n-cold hand before my bb, so that I could shove all-in. When I was under the gun, I was dealt A5o. I sighed in relief and shoved all-in. I was called by the seven seat, who re-raised all-in. We were head's up. He had pocket tens, ouch. I was tickled pink when the flop came 234 and I had the straight. I lived to fight another day.

During the next couple of rounds, everyone was playing tremendously tight, trying to make the final six, which paid. I was amazed at the number of folds to the bb during this time.

Russ, who is a fantastic Omaha player, whom I spoke about in my Omaha 8 tourney post, was the chip lead and kept adding to his stack with frequent steals. He had about 50% of the chips on the table.

I was fortunate that the player were so tight. I was able to shove all-in with decent hot-n-cold hands during this time and stay afloat. I was no longer the shortest stack.

Finally the survivors had to take some chances. The blinds were so high by this time: 500/1000, and the average chip count was probably only 2-3k, so there could be no more ultra-tightness by most of the final table.

One by one they fell, as I continued to take advantage of the right times to steal pots and/or go all-in and double up with playable hands. I never received a Group I hand during this time, but I had enough hot-n-cold hands to survive several all-in's and/or steal pots.

Russ kept his chip lead by stealing pots at the right time. Then, we got down to the final seven and Russ went on a Group I rush. He was dealt pocket aces, kings, jacks twice, AKs twice all within about 15 hands. He was also dealt AKo twice. No one could believe he had so many premium hands in such a short span, so he started getting called quite a bit. There were too many short stacked, desperate players. They went up against Russ and got eliminated one-by-one. Before I could blink, we were down to the final three, all due to Russ. With only three of us left, Russ had almost all of the chips on the table. I was the shortest stack, but not by much. Both myself and the other stack had enough chips to survive about 10 hands. Russ said that he would take first, if the other man and I wanted to split second and third. Our average payout would be about $600 apiece.

The other opponent had never played against me before, and obviously thought I was "lucky." I could tell he didn't respect my play at all, and thought that I had gotten to the final three by some fluke. He was an older man, who didn't seem to think women should play poker. He balked at splitting with me, and demanded to "play it out." I can handle that, hehehe. I love to get into a situation where a man doesn't respect my play.

During the next few hands, Russ made several plays at the pot. I was fortunate enough to get a few hands which played well head's up, and went over the top of Russ' steals in order to double up. Russ respects my play tremendously, as is obvious in everything he says and does, so sometimes I was able to win the pot without a flop, whereas other times I doubled up through Russ. Suddenly I had the other gentleman outchipped and he didn't seem nearly as confident.

My big break came when Russ was on a steal. I was last to act in the bb. Russ made a move and I looked down to see QQ. I immediately called all-in. Russ had KTo and suddenly I found myself in the chip lead. I had taken small amounts of chips off of Russ over the last 20 hands, then finally crippled him with my queens. Now Russ was the chip dog and I was clearly the leader. The blinds were so high that none of us had a true advantage over the other, and they went up again to 2000/4000, when the total number of chips on the table was only about 25k.

Although I was the lead, I still made a deal, due to the crapshoot quality that the tournament had become. This time, the older man was all too happy to accept a deal. He kept repeating, "You deserved it, you deserved it. You played really well!" I had definitely changed his mind about "women players."

Russ was happy to accept any deal, at this point, since he was such a chip dog and would have to go all-in within the next three hands. Although Russ is a superb Omaha 8 player, he was not as strong in NLHE, where I could push my advantage. He was clearly relieved that the tournament was over.

I netted about $1000, which is my biggest, single win, to date.

I am satisfied with my play, especially my final table play. I am disappointed in my two mistakes, earlier in the tournament, but knowing that I made those mistakes is what makes me a growing player.

Since I have only been playing tournament poker for a year, I would say I am tremendously pleased with my overall results.

Today I am off to play the "big" tournament at the Colorado Belle. The once monthly $100 buy-in limit to no-limit hold'em tourney. Can I cash again????

Hope you enjoyed!