Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tournaments, Tournaments, Tournaments...

Since I last posted I played two more tournaments, and I have another planned for tomorrow night.  I'm starting to feel much more comfortable in tournaments and remember many of the techniques I used to remember; for whatever reason, local games are usually tournaments now, while they were cash games before.

I'll summarize the last two tournaments now, then post some hands from the tournaments over the next few days.

* * * * *

The $50 NLHE tournament a week ago went pretty well, although I didn't make the money.  There was one hand that I made a pretty sizable mistake in, although I know why I took the action that I did, and I definitely learned from it.  Overall, the table was VERY tight compared to the last time I played, especially towards the end game.  11-handed to start and $50 buy-in with a single optional rebuy (I don't think anybody even used the rebuy!).  Maybe one of the reasons it played so tightly was because of the 11 players at the table; you really need to wait for a hand in that situation!

I started out slow, like I usually do, but ramped up the aggression when my stack started getting shorter and we were down to about 7 players.  Sadly, I had another aggressive/loose player directly to my left, and he ended up giving me a bit of trouble since he flat called me often and he had position on me.  On the other hand, I started shoving when I had 10 big blinds (as general strategy dictates) and the other players really were shocked with some of the hands I shoved.  I shoved 88 in EP with 9x BB, shoved A7s in late position after a limper (he folded A9o).  At one point, I shoved the button with 44 and the big blind thought forever before calling with 99 -- that might be notable, but he only had two big blinds behind after posting!  (I ended up winning that one with a flopped set)

It felt really good to be one of the more aggressive players at the table and to pick up a lot of dead money.  Ultimately, I had my kings cracked by JJ, but I was pretty optimistic about my chances until that jack flopped!

* * * * *

Sunday, I played a $40 satellite to a $360 single-table satellite to a WSOP $1500 event.  It is just a local guy that is running a sequence of ten tournaments; no rake involved.  He's got a cool set-up too, with Paulson chips and in-table card shufflers!  The short version is that I won it, so I'll be playing the $360 satellite for one of two seats (plus travel money) in a few weeks!

I can also play the same tournament again for a shot at starting with double the chips at the $360 satellite, and I think I'm going to try to play one of the three remaining tournaments since it'd be good experience playing against those guys even if I didn't win.

This tournament went really well though.  I wouldn't say it was mistake free, but I felt that I played pretty well.  I performed a resteal out of the big blind, something that I don't normally do, I made a good call to stack someone in a dicey situation, and I played very well from three handed on to take it down.

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of luck, too.  I don't remember having any second best hands and all my big hands held up.  I was also lucky enough to catch aces and kings and get other players all-in while I was ahead.

The thing that I'm most proud of though is the end-game play when I managed a monster stack well.  While it seems like an easy thing to play a huge stack, there's a few non-obvious strategies involved that not everyone knows about.

By the time it got down to three-handed, I was a monster chip stack.  We started with 13 players at 7K apiece (no rebuys) and I had around 70% of the chips in play.   This sounds dominant, but if you aren't careful that other 30% of chips can double up and you'll suddenly be the short stack.  So my strategy was simple: gather chips but keep my opponents' stacks as even as possible and avoid knocking either of them out.  To see why I wanted to do this, you need to look at the payout...

The payout was the $360 seat for first and $160 for second.  Soon after we got to three handed, we agreed on $120 for second and $40 for third (as the chip leader this wasn't ideal for me, but I know I'd want to do something similar in a similar situation, so I didn't raise a stink).  With a big money jump from 3rd to 2nd and my huge chip stack, it was natural for my opponents to turtle up and try not to be the next one out.  As a result, they'd give up on a lot of little pots until they got a monster hand and took a stand.

And, in this situation, I was able to execute my strategy perfectly.  I started raising more than half of my hands and taking down a lot of pots uncontested.  This included raising out of my big blind often to encourage walks.  In those hands that went past pre-flop, I'd take cheap shots at the pot, but fold in the face of any resistance.  I also folded more liberally to the short stack because I did not want to knock him out.  I even folded top pair once or twice (granted, I thought I was beat based on the way the hand played out, but my constant betting made it obvious when I was beat).  I just continued to hammer on both of them and cut their stacks in half with very little risk.

Eventually, one guy got so short (about three big blinds) that I had to call him with any two cards.  I won that, although if I'd lost, I wouldn't have been too unhappy because I could have kept hammering on both of them.

When we got to heads-up, I believe I had about 80% of the chips in play.  The key for me in heads-up play was to come up with a plan (after my last failure to close out a tournament with the chip lead) and work on executing it.  In this case, my plan turned out to be easy to come up with, but time consuming to execute.  Other than one dumb mistake where I doubled him up with Q8 on a king high flop (he had the king, and I thought I had the king until I looked at my cards again!), I was able to take advantage of his leaks and whittle him down.

And his main leak was pretty simple: he was way too tight in heads-up play.  Oddly enough, he was pretty loose and aggressive when we had a full table of players, but once we got to the money he tightened up a lot.  When we started heads-up, the big blind was 1.2K and he had about 15K in front of him.  Yet, he was folding about half of the time on his (his small blind).  I'm sorry, but you cannot win a heads-up battle if you fold half the time you have the best position on the button.  So my plan was to just wear him down and keep stealing small pots until he made a stand and then gamble with him.

I ended up wearing him down and gambling with him three times (often with the worse hand), but I finally got lucky enough to take him out.  Heads up play probably took a bit over half an hour.  I'd say I was probably raising about half my hands on the button, a few from the small blind, and firing at a lot of pots on the flop or turn.  To mix it up, I'd sometimes check it through to the river when I had a semi-decent hand.

So, I'm very excited about the next tournament, since I'll have about a 20% chance of winning a WSOP entry and playing my first WSOP tournament.  Granted, I'll need to get pretty lucky to win it, but I'm going to go in and play my best.

I'll post again tomorrow with goals for the tournament tomorrow night.

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