Another shot at the NCPT title

Last week, I once again tried for an National Capital Poker Tour title.

Photo by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com

Clonie Gowen wasn’t too excited by my play through the first six rounds of blinds. I soon made up for it.

It was tough this time around. Some really aggressive play from people, a really loose table and trouble getting cards led to a rocky start. But some good reads and lucky cards led to a great comeback.

Below, I highlight three hands I participated in, and one I didn’t that was just insane. See what you think.

Hand #1

Early on, I looked down at a pair of tens. Being the first to act, and nine people at the table, I raised three times the blinds. Abner called. Everyone else folded.

Now, if you want to know what type of player Anber is, imagine Gus Hansen, only if Hansen played loose. Anber can have any two cards, and he’ll call with almost anything. So I’m a bit wary of what he has, but I’m guessing I’m way ahead. If he had anything even close to resembling a hand, he would have re-raised instantly.

The flop comes Q, 7, 4 rainbow. Anber first to act, and checks. I’m pretty sure I’m still ahead here, so I bet. Anber calls. Again, really loose player, so he could still have anything. I’m guessing I’m still ahead, or he would re-raise.

Turn brings a 2, I think. I want to slow down here. I don’t want to get too invested into the pot, because I’ve seen Anber suck out a lot. And I know whatever I do, even if it’s an all-in, he would call easily. So after Abner checks, I do as well.

River brings a 6. Anber bets $10 into a $10 or $15 pot. I insta-call. He shows something like 8-5, giving him the straight.

I feel like I played this hand the best I could. I limited the money lost. I had the best hand the whole time until the river, like I figured. He had to suck out to win with a gutshot straight on the river. Someone at the table (the best player at the NCPT) actually told me that eight other guys at that table would have insta-called with the same hand.

So I lost, but played it about as well as I could have. Any differently, and I would have lost everything.

So pretty much after this, nothing happened for ages. Horrible cards. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone on my end of the table were pretty much being blinded away because we couldn’t get anything. Russ, Dean, Chris and I were brutal. For a couple of hands, Dean and I would combine our hands (after both folding, of course), and our hands were still brutal. Combined, we weren’t able to put together even a calling hand.

Over the course of the night, Chris had AK four times (I think suited three times), and lost on three of them. It was just a weird table.

Hand of the night

Of course, it didn’t help that we had some super-aggressive people at our table. For as loose a player as Anber is, Jason is looser. So of course, the two of them get involved in a hand that will go down as one of the greatest hands in NCPT poker.

Photos by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com

Gus Hansen can’t believe how loose the play is at this table.

Jason raises preflop, Anber calls. Jason raises on the flop and turn, just to be called both times. Then came the river. Now, I don’t remember the exact cards, but I know for sure there was an ace and a 10 on the board, and three cards less than that. I don’t think there were straight or flush possibilities.

Jason bets again. Anber re-raises all-in. Jason thinks about it for a minute, as it would have knocked him out of the tournament if he calls and loses. He finally decides to call. Anber shows queen high. A complete bluff. Jason turns over his cards to show king high!

Wait, did that just happen? Someone kept calling the flop and turn with nothing? And then someone called an all-in on the river with king high?

Anber couldn’t believe it. He asked, “How can you call with that?” Jason’s response was “How can you move all-in with that?”

But that’s the way the two of them play. Now you know why I played the first hand the way I did. No matter what I did, Anber was going to call. Unless you’ve got the nuts, it’s better to limit the money you could potentially lose.

That hand aside, nothing really happened, at least for me. My biggest decision came right before the second break.

Hand #2

I have about $39 in chips. Not quite shortstacked, but still close to the bottom. I’m first to act, and see 7-8 of spades. To me this is a very playable hand, but not one I want to move all-in with right now (especially with a few people shortstacked, and some aggressive people). So with the blinds at $3-$6, I decided to just call and hope to get lucky. And if someone re-raises three times the blinds, I could still call and not be pot-committed.

There are a few callers, including the big blind, Russ. The flop comes 7-6-3, with two diamonds, no spade. The big blind checks to me. I put in a $10 bet. I’m hoping no one caught anything, and I can steal the $25ish pot right there. Everyone folds except for Russ. He thinks about it for a minute, and moves all-in.

Shoot, this is what I was hoping to avoid. His all-in is an extra $24 on top of what I put in already. I count my chips. I have $23 left. So this would eliminate me if I get it wrong.

Before I move on with my decision, this might be a good time to have a poll here. What do you think Russ had? Then keep reading on to find out.

Since we’re in the break, I start to think about what he could have. I take maybe five minutes to figure this out. Russ wasn’t getting a lot of good cards or playing a lot of pots. So I eliminated any big hands (pocket pairs, AK to AT), as I think he would have re-raised all-in preflop and at least tried to steal the blinds from all the callers and/or hope for a double up. I don’t think he’s bluffing, because he must know I have something if I bet into four people. For this reason, I also eliminate the potential he has a middle or bottom pair.

So now I figure he’s either got a flush draw, or a seven with a slightly higher kicker (maybe something like 7-9 or 7-10). If it’s a flush draw, and he has two over cards, it’s about a 50-50 chance. If he has a seven with a slightly higher kicker (no diamonds), he’s about a 70% favourite to win. And if he has a seven with a slightly higher kicker that are both diamonds, he has an approximately 84% chance to win. And it’s all possible, since there was no pre-flop raise.

So really, at this point, I figure the best I can hope for is a coin flip. That’s not good. I’m not willing to risk the rest of my tournament at what I figure would be at best a coin flip. So I fold. Russ does show me. He had a 9-5 offsuit. So he had a gutshot in each direction. We ran it though, and I would have won.

flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com photo

Jason Alexander would think I played this hand properly. I think.

I’ve asked two other people about this. And they both said they would have folded pretty easily. They figure Russ had me beat at that point. One guy added that even if I had two pair, he probably still would have folded.

Even though it didn’t turn out in my favour, I do think I made the right call. So I’m happy with how I played, but also disappointed that I didn’t call. But you can only go by the strength of your reads. The only thing I could have done differently was to raise preflop. That would have eliminated Russ, as he probably wouldn’t have called with his hand. But as I mentioned, I didn’t want to call if someone re-raised me all-in preflop.

So I’m down to $23 in chips. After the break, blinds are going up to $4-$8. And I’m in the big blind to start. And there’s still about 12 people in the tournament (top four spots pay). It doesn’t look good.

My first hand after the break is disastrous. I think there was an all-in with at least a call, and I had something like 8-3 offsuit, so I couldn’t call.

So now I’m down to $15, or twice the big blinds. But here my luck starts changing. I start picking up hands and moving all-in preflop (my only option). I may have been called once, but I don’t remember. I end up going all-in about five or six times, stealing the money every time. What’s funny is my worst hand during all this was an AT offsuit. I was just getting really good starting hands.

Eventually, we get down to nine people and merge to one table. I get to deal first, which means there will be about seven hands before the big blind even gets to me. This is key for me. It allows me to be more particular with my hands, as I don’t lose the blinds as often.

Hand #3

At least one person is eliminated before the big blind gets to me. Maybe two. Anyways, there are about four callers, all with bigger pots than me. I look down and see AK suited. Pretty sweet. I figure I should just move all-in and eliminate anyone who has a so-so hand. If I’m lucky, I can double up.

Jamey, who was first to act, insta-calls. Everyone else folds (Paul took a minute). Jamey turns over KJ offsuit. Pretty good. I’m about a 75-25 favourite here. Paul says he folded 88.

Flop shows a jack. Ugh. But there are two diamonds. I still have decent odds (54-46 underdog). I can catch an ace or a diamond to win.

Unfortunately, none of them come on the turn or river, and I’m eliminated. Jamey apologizes for the bad beat. He figured I was putting the squeeze on with a bunch of limpers, and that he was ahead preflop.

I figured it out afterwards. I had $64 in chips before that hand. If I had won, including the people who called then folded, I would have been up to about $150 in chips. Not too bad, considering about 20 minutes before that I was down to my last $15 in chips.

That would have put me in a pretty good position to at least finish in the money. But poker is like that. You make the right decision, but still lose.

In all three of my hands I talked about, I feel like I played the hand right, but I lost all of them. I think I played them correctly. But in the end, it’s all you can do.

Next time, we’ll see if I can improve on my play and make it back into the money.

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