Monday, May 30, 2011

Million Dollar Tourney

Stations Casinos recently ran a series of five tournaments that they called something like the "Million Dollar No-Limit Hold'em" series.  It involved four open tournaments each with a $200,000 guarantee.  There was then a fifth $200,000 guarantee tournament that was open to the top 25 finishers in each of the first four tournaments plus additional players who accumulated a certain level of results through the first four.

There was a bit of buzz about these events after the first two weeks as the first week's tournament had about a $30,000 overlay, and the second week's tournament had an overlay over $60,000.  Perhaps that buzz (plus the fact that the WSOP Circuit was in town the third weekend) led to a much better turnout for the third tournament (the one I played) and no overlay.  While I couldn't find a report with the exact numbers for the fourth week, a Station Casinos Blog reported that the fourth week involved there "biggest field" of the four guaranteed tournaments so there would have been no overlay that week either.

I satellited in to the third week's tournament which took place at Sunset Station, and did a video about the series.  There were several interesting hands from the main tournament, but including my description of the hands in the video would have made the video waaaaay too long (tl;dw?) , so the hand discussion got trimemd out of the video, but I wil include it below the video:

So, I suppose the best place to start is the hand referenced at the end of the video where I sucked out huuuge, and I'll say up front that I really butchered this hand.  I'd like to think it was an example of "audentes fortuna juvat", but in reality I know that it was really an example of fortune favoring the foolish.  Here's the hand:

We're at level 2 which in this case was 200-400.  My stack is right around the starting stack of 20,000 and both the Villains in the hand have me covered.  I am on the button, V1 is in middle position and V2 is in the small blind.  V1 has been very active before the flop and after.  On the first or second hand of the tournament he raised preflop and fired on the flop turn and river and could not beat third pair when he was called.  That play cost V1 half his stack, but he had ground it back up by continuing the aggression.  V2 had seemed a bit spewy putting a lot of chips in in marginal spots, but he had improved in a couple of those spots to build up a good stack.

The hand in question V1 raised from MP to 1000.  I had seen enough to know that was a wide range from him and wanted to play pots with him while in position.  I flat called from the button with 89os V2 flat called from the small blind, the big blind folded.  Pot is 3400.

I'm happy to see a flop of 8 9 10, rainbow but know that given that board winning a big pot with bottom two is unlikely.  My plan is to play the flop strong hoping to take the hand down on the flop.  V1 cooperates with a lead in the neighborhood of 1600.  I raised on the button to 4000.  Then V2 puts a kink in my plans by checkraising another 6000.  V1 thinks for a bit, mutters and folds (I think he may actually have had a strong preflop hand there) and the action is on me.

Obviously the thought occurred to me that V had flopped a straight with either 67 or QJ, but I really felt that a flopped straight on a rainbow board would have slowed things down a bit more.  It read like his plan was to end the hand right there and that made me think I might have some fold equity, so after thinking through things a bit I announced I was all-in. V2 quickly called.

This hand really points out the relative strength aspect of poker.  Yes I had flopped two pair which is a strong flop to hit, but on that board, given that action, bottom two pair is not very strong compared to other hands that will play hard.  Sets, better two pair hands and flopped straights are certainly all in V2's range here.  Really, the only thing my bottom two can beat is total air or a pair/straight draw combo like 78, J10, Q10 or 68, and even those hands have decent equity against my hand (about 35%).  Given the pot size expecting to fold hands like that is ridiculous as V2 was getting better than 3-1 on a call that wouldn't eliminate him if he lost.

Anyway, it turned out he had top two leaving me with two outs, one of which I spiked on the river.  Wow.

I took a few hands and refocused myself, realizing that I had gotten lucky and vowing to play much better from there on out.  I did just that and really was starting to pick spots and make plays based on factors besides just the cards I had in front of me.  Probably my proudest moment of the day was a hand I played against V1 from the above hand.  Recall that he was definitely playing a LAG style, but tough LAG, not maniacal LAG.

He raised from MP again, and I was on the button, again.  I called his raise w/KQ.  I had chipped up more from my lucky double up above and had decided I had enough capital to make a point with him and therefore called two barrels on the flop and the turn before he finally gave up on the river.  He looked up after I checked the river and announced "9 high" and I rolled over the King high hand for the win.  Some people might call that spewy, but I knew that there was a decent chance that K high was good on his flop and river bets and I wanted to make the point that I wasn't going to be run over.

The last hand that merits discussion was indeed my last hand.  It was instructive, because it had a good lesson about needing to evaluate all parts of V's range in a tougher field.  Unfortunately, I do not remember exact stack sizes on this hand, but I can tell you the three people in the hand were all over 75 bb deep.

I had moved to a new table that again included several good players.  A good loose player raised from MP for about 2.5 bb.  Another player who hadn't been as active, but still seemed like they could make moves three bet from the cutoff to about 5bb.  I was in the SB with AKos.  I knew that was way ahead of the initial raiser's range.  I also suspected that the C/O was on a wide enough range that AK was way ahead there as well.  I wanted to try and take the pot down right there and put in a four bet to 11bb.  The initial raiser tanked for a moment and then folded.  The cutoff instantly min five bet me.

I'll admit that at this point I went into a bit of a vapor lock.  In talking to someone later when they asked me why I allowed as how I didn't think I had ever been five bet before.  In hindsight, I realize now that once the five bet goes in I'm basically being told that I'm playing for stacks, and so it really is a shove or fold situation.  I however, did what people do when they vapor lock and just called.  So now I'm in a huge pot, out of position with AKos.

The flop came 944 with two clubs.  I thought that was a good flop and initially planned on a checkraise all in to what I was sure would be a c-bet.  Unfortunately, the V checked behind.  I decided at that point that I am probably good and the best bet is to shove the turn unless for some reason the card is really scary.  The 2 of spades hit the turn and I thought that was about as bricky as I was going to get, so I shoved.  V went into the tank for a looong time.  At this point, I feel like she is tring to decide whether to call with something like TT or JJ.  Although she had me covered, it was a big call and would cripple her if she lost.  She finally made the call and rolled over 2c3c.  I needed an A, K or a 9 (I had the Ac and the 9 of clubs was on the board), but used up all of my rungood on the earlier suckout and couldn't hit a winner.  I walked off admittedly with my head spinning a bit.

In thinking about the hand later, I realized that my mistake was not appreciating how wide my opponent's range was.  I appreciated that it was wide enough that folding AK there would be bad at least in terms of that individual hand (an argument could be made that given my stack size, there was no need to play for stacks at that point in the tournament) and if V's range was wide enough that folding was bad, then I had enough equity that I could shove profitably there.  I should have pulled the trigger, and if I had, I wouldn't have busted on that hand, I just can't see V calling off basically her whole stack with that hand.

The lesson I learned is that in a tough field like that you have to recognize that a hand like AK is a premium hand and can profitably be played strongly.  Sometimes you're going to run into aces and that's going to but far more often, a shove in that spot nets me more than 20 bb and puts me in very good shape to keep accumulating chips.

So all in all, it was a really good experience to get in and play against some tougher competition.  I look forward to more of that over the summer!

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