I played two Double Chance NL Holdem tournaments this week, the second one much more interesting than the first. In both I came across players enjoying, briefly in the first case and seemingly continuously in the second case, the all-important benefits of a run of positive variance.
The Fitz, €50+5 16/05/2006
Not a whole lot to say about my play in this tournament. I started off on table 3, a quite passive table, which I enjoyed for the first two levels. I won a few small pots and seemed to be motoring away, until the following setback during level 2 (blinds 25/50). I found 77 in early position and limped, along with 4 others. The flop came down J87 rainbow. Checked to me, I threw out a pot-sized bet. The chap to my right, table chip leader, re-raised to 900. He had a huge stack, which he had built by being a calling station and hitting most of the flops. His range here was huge, and I would be pot-committed if I called his re-raise. Certainly, it was possible he had the nut straight or a higher set, but equally he could have two pair, TPTK, top pair pickure kicker, middle pair ace kicker, virtually any part of the flop. So it was a clear decision, and I pushed. He called with 9T for the nuts. The board didn't pair and I didn't see another 7, so I need my topup!
He went on limping into every pot and hitting almost every flop, and was the tournament chip leader when he was moved off our table 5 minutes before the break. A Fitz regular turned to me and said she wondered how long it would take for the sharks at the other table to take *our*chips off him! With the blinds at 75/150 and going to 100/200 after the break, I needed to double my 1500 as soon as possible. The final three hands (pre-break) were called, and I found AQo UTG+1. UTG folded - now, what to do? I wanted to double up and was happy to get into a race. Despite it being a passive enough table, I decided to limp and hope for a button raise or similar. No such luck, 3 other limpers and I had to fold to a bet on a raggy flop. The very next hand, AA UTG. I really needed to take down a nice sized pot, not just the blinds! Hmm...min raise? Nah, I'll limp again. Again, no luck with a LP raise and 5 of us see a safe-ish flop, no flush or straight out there, though both draws could have been out there. The blinds check and I pushed my remaining 1400 or so, hoping for a call from someone who had a part of it. No bites and I reach the break with 1750, with an average stack of approx 4k I'd say.
Not a lot to report after the break, brianmc was moved to my table with a decent stack and proceeded to build his way up by playing a tight, smart game. With blinds at 100/200, I found AKs in LP. Scarily, an absolute rock (think Harold equivalent) to my immediate right raised to 900. Now I knew he would only make this bet with a premium pair or AK, nothing else. I had to think about it for a minute, but I only had 7.5xBB left and really would have been foolish not to take a probable 50/50. I pushed, it was folded around to him and he called (please not aces or kings, please not aces or kings) he flipped jacks and I hit a K on the flop to double up. A level later I found AA again on the BB, made a nice raise to scare away most of the limpers, the table shortstack called and called my bet on a scary picture-heavy board, he had AJo for mid-pair and out he went. I was in decent enough shape, but with the blinds increasing I needed to continue winning these sized pots to stay in contention. I went card dead, however, and went out in 25th or so (approx. 75 runners) when I pushed for 3.2k or so with J9o on the SB and was called by the BB with 22 (blinds were 400/800), no help for me.
As an aside (and to link in with the theme of the effects of periods of positive variance), the player who I had contributed my first stack to earlier in the tournament was knocked out in 50th or so, during the 1st blind level after the break. He had donkeyed away his massive stack on the table he had been moved to - hopefully he had learned a lesson or two about the pitfalls of being a calling station and lack of discipline / patience - obviously it is more fun to try and see each and every flop, but for most players it isn't the best strategy.
The SE, €50+5 18/05/2006
I didn't head in on the Wednesday night for the €75+5 Double Chance due to the Champions League final being on - doubt they got much of a crowd because of this. Being a Spurs man, I thought to myself that despite my dislike for Arsenal, I wouldn't mind seeing a British team win the trophy...I found out that I actually wanted the gooners to lose after Eboue dived and Campbell scored their only goal, and I felt my traditional feelings of disgust rise within me. Come on Barca! Deserving winners in the end.
Anyhow, since I'm off to Westport this weekend for a stag do (and despite needing a good night's sleep last night to properly prepare for tonight's boozing!) and won't get to play poker for a good few days, I really was up for the tournament last night. There were almost 60 runners, including such greats as Culchie (Mick), Nick from Vegasnights, Ianmc and DocO. I also got to met a new boardster or two over the course of the game. The tournament finally kicked off at 9.20, they really, really need to get time-management under control, everyone had been sitting down for at least 10 minutes before the first hand was dealt.
Thankfully, it was worth waiting for. I was sitting on table 7, seat 9. Folded around to an experienced player in LP, he made it 150 to go (blinds 25/50). I finded QQ as my first hand, on the button no less. I raise to 400. The SB folds. The BB dwells...and goes all in. ACTION! Good for the table buzz, that sort of thing. The initial bettor in LP dwells a bit himself, shakes his head (he really wanted to see a flop) and folds. I have to have a think myself, but the pot is nice and big and I'm only behind two hands. Not knowing the player in the BB, I have to assume he is of pub player standard and as a result could have a big enough range. I call. He has AKs, so almost a 50/50. However, the player in LP says to me before the flop is dealt that he had AK himself, so it is no longer a 50/50, I'm way in front. No help for the BB and I double up first hand. I proceed to go on a run, dominating the table (some good, experienced players there, happy to say!) and, after the table is broken up and I'm moved to table 1, I go into the break with approx 6.5k after taking my top-up, starting stack 3k.
I really was enjoying my poker, and headed into the post-break period as I ended the 1st session, playing well and continuously accumulating. When 5 players limped on my BB (blinds 200/400), I raised to 4k - limpers tax - and scared them all away. I raised 1200 into the table chip leader (another one of these calling stations who hit a few flops) with A6d, SB folded and he called. Flop was Q64 with one diamond. He checked - I put him on Ax or a mid pair, he hadn't hit that Q as he certainly would have bet it. He also would definitely pot it on the turn if I checked it, that was how he played when faced with weakness. I wanted to take the pot then and there, and confidently threw out a bet of 1500. He hummed and hawed for a while, then relucantly folded. I showed him my hand to get a reaction and hopefully find out what he had - he had folded 77. I was now really motoring, table chip leader and throwing out bluffs, semi-bluffs and tricky play to steadily accumulate chips. With three tables left and 21 players surviving, I was moved to table 3, where it seemed all the tournament chips were sitting. I went from chip leader on table 1 to joint shortstack on the new table!
Who had all the chips? Well, two good players had nice stacks in the high-teens / mid-20ks (I had 12k I think), but the ubiquitous, salmon-jumper wearing Chief Brody (a shout out to rounders123 for naming this legend) had all the rest. He probably had a good 40k, a good 25% of the chips in play! I asked the chap on my left how he did it (like I didn't know) - a series of inprobably and sickening outdraws, this man loves to gamble, is very agressive, knows nothing of odds, and a 2:1 shot for the rest of us is an odds-on favourite for him - he must have sold his soul to the Turn and River Gods for their eternal blessing. I have played against him many times, and despite some players I respect sticking up for him, I think without his obscene outdraws he would be regarded as one of the poorest players around (ok, maybe that is overdoing it). To him, middle pair is king, he'll stick his entire stack on it. K8s is worth calling almost every pre-flop raise with, in case he hits. The one thing he is good at, the one thing that saves his bacon (other than the suicide-inducing outdraws - hmm, may have mentioned these earlier, now I seem to think of it?) is his appreciation of agressive play - if he senses weakness, he will always ask the question with a big bet. Most other players are not willing to risk their tournament on top or middle pair, and as such he has a second way of adding to his stack. In addition to his playing style, I find him a dislikable character for a number of reasons I won't go into - it is funny to dislike someone you don't know and very unlike me, but these various little things (mostly non-poker related) add up and it just rubs me the wrong way.
Anyhow, knowing his style (but wary of the size of his stack), I hoped to get a chance to double up against him. I took down a nice pot during the 400/800 level when the button raised to 2k on my BB - the button was a good player, good enough to make this bet with nothing and good enough to lay his hand down if he thought he was behind (he is a SE dealer I think). I looked down at A7s, and pushed my 12.5k. After a brief dwell he folded. A few hands later the table was broken, as we were down to 18 players. Unfortunately, the Chief and his big stack went to table 1, as I went to table 2. I continued to play well, really I felt I played better than at any time since my final table in City West in January. I was patient when I needed to and agressive when appropriate, using my stack like a baseball bat at times.
Still I only had 15k when the Chief returned to our table, this time with only 4.3k after giving the other 40k away in 15 minutes on table 1. He doesn't know how to keep a big stack but somehow is always seen on the final table, and certainly must be a quite profitable tournament player (don't know about cash games). Again, the explanation for this can be laid at the feat of the Turn, River and above all All-Powerful Outdraw Gods, who have chosen the Chief as their earthly messiah and prophet. First hand after his sits down, he limps (1k of his 4.3k stack?) on my BB, the SB completes and I check with 8To. Flop is Q98 rainbow. The SB checks. Now, what to do? I am probably ahead of him, he limps most of the time with a big stack, but with so little left, I can safely assume he either has Ax, Kx or maybe a pocket pair. He will push if I check, that's the only move he knows. I check, he pushes for 3.3k, 6.3k in the pot in total, I'm probably in front so I call, yep, he had A6o and is in serious trouble.
But wait! I hear a fiendish voice from the heavens! Not the...not the Outdraw God...AGAIN...! Yes, one of his three aces hits on the turn and he's back in business, and I'm down to 9k myself. I very, very rarely suffer from tilt or anger playing poker (to me it is only a game, the stakes are low for a non-student - by comparison the value of my stock portfolio fell by €2k this week and it didn't bother me really - and I'm just not the aggressive, emotion type at all), but suddenly I feel a real rush of anger about the way the cards came down. To make it worse, amid the 'good call - unlucky' comments from the other players, the Chief himself decides to impart some wisdom as he's raking in MY (that's how I felt) chips - 'you shouldn't have even called, did you see the Q on the board?'. WHAT? WHAT?
I've never, ever gotten into verbals at a table but was 1 inch away from madness at this point. I angrily snapped at him (something else I've never done) 'I called because I've played with you before and knew you didn't have anything!'. I really was tilting now. The only thought in my head for the next few minutes was - 'how can I get into a pot with him and get him to double me up?'. Honestly, I didn't want anyone else's chips, only his.
Luckily, I pulled it together. We were down to 10 players now, on the final table bubble and playing hand-for-hand. I still had 9k, joint short stack at the 5-handed table with blinds of 800/1500. UTG I find QQ, pushed, and was called by the BB. Uh-oh, he was tight so was calling with a hand. Uh-oh, his hand were the cowboys. Off I go, at 1:30 and still very, very upset with the world for that hand versus Chief Brody.
Back to my thoughts on positive variance - with so many people playing poker at the moment, I believe (someone who actually knows statistics probably needs to take me aside and correct me! anyone?) that it is possible to enjoy a 'wave' of positive variance, winning the vast majority of the 2:1 shots, for months and years on end. There may be some famous pros out there who are where they are simply because of this - getting lucky when it counts, again and again. Chief Brody is a local version of this - he is very often in the money in the tournaments I see him in, despite his predictable, albeit agressive, play, and often will have a huge stack in front of him. I have never seen anyone else in my life hit so many 3, 4 and 5-outers multiple times per night, it almost beggars belief. Am I wrong to be extremely jealous of this positive variance? Does it not happen to me tournament-after-tournament (it happens to all of us every once in a while!) because I am making the mistake of NOT getting all the chips in when behind? What am I missing?
Looking at my tournament history this year (very positive as it is), one of my problems is my style of play - I like getting it all in there when I'm confident of being ahead. However, this means when I'm outdrawn, it is often for my tournament life. I need to work on applying pressure, building pots, and outplaying opponents WITHOUT risking my tournament life so much - even going all-in as 2:1 or 3:1 favourite, if my opponents cover me, I shouldn't risk my tournament life so many times per tournament. Last night I didn't, ironically enough, as most pots were won without showdown, but I need to take a good look at my tournament play.