Still trying to win a poker tournament

So I played poker with my buddies again the other night, and it turned out to be quite profitable.

Photo by flipchip / Original uploader was Creet at en.wikipedia

Phil Gordon is giving a lecture on how not to play poker like I did last Friday

Like last time I blogged about it, I ended up finishing third out of 23 people, and this time won $130. But it was a strange night of play for me. I was short stack a lot, and never actually eliminated anyone. Strange to make it so far and not knock anyone out.

By comparison, the last time I finished third, I had eliminated four people out of the 13 people there, but because there was less people in the tourney, I only won $60.

Still, making money is good. And it’s always a lot of fun.

Once again, I thought I would bring you inside my head to show you what I was thinking, and so you can laugh at my silly play on some of the hands. I played one hand exceptionally poorly (Hand #6 if you want to skip ahead).

Let’s start right at the beginning.

Hand one.

First hand of the night. I’m in the small blind, and about four people call. I look down and see 5-2 offsuit. Normally, I like to play hands when I’m in the small blind and there hasn’t been a raise. But I figured this starting hand was especially bad. Too many callers, and me with nothing. So I fold. Flop came 5-5-3. I hang my head in shame. I would have won that pot. I can’t remember who won it, or with what, but three of a kind would have taken it. Someone else in early position says he folded the other five. So I’m not having a great beginning.

Nothing much more exciting happened for a while. I was involved in some pots, but didn’t win them.

But then I get something good, which leads me to….

Hand two.

I had AQ offsuit, in early position. I raise. Only one guy calls. Flop comes AT6 (not sure on the six, but it was a low to mid card). The other guy puts me all in. I think about it for a minute or two. I figure there are two possibilities. I think he has either AJ, and if so, I’m in the lead. Or he has two pair, probably AT. I didn’t think he had a set or he would have set a trap and let me bet into him. So I rank his two hands at one of those choices.

flipchip •

Once again not seen at the poker tournament: a girl.

It’s a 50/50 chance. So I finally decide to call, and I remember saying “Two pair, right?”. The guy shows AK. Ugh. Never even thought of that. I would have guessed on a preflop re-raise with AK. Shoot. I only have a 12% chance to win this hand. And I don’t.

I busted out, the first of 23 people to be eliminated.

But wait, I get to rebuy! There’s one rebuy a night, and has to be done in the first three rounds. I decide to do so, and get another $30 in chips.

So I continue to play. I lost some hands holding AK and small pocket pairs. I was down to about $13 in chips at one point.

Somehow, I continued to stay in the game. At one point, I got lucky and tripled up, bringing my total to $39. What’s funny is I have no idea what that hand was. You think it would have stay in my head, but it didn’t.

For most of the night, I never really had a lot of hands, and was usually near the bottom of the chip count. But somehow I kept staying in.

At the first break, we’re down a few people, but I think there’s still 17 or so people. I look at the table next to me. I had $65 in chips. My buddy Matt had $69 in chips. I was officially short stacked, with the blinds continuing to raise and people stealing my money.

But then hand number three happened.

Hand three.

I had 6-2 in the big blind. One guy called, and I’m not sure if there were any other callers. But the flop came 665. I checked, and the first caller raised quite a bit. If anyone else was in the pot, they folded. I move all-in. The other guy is pretty sure he’s beat. I actually don’t remember if he called or not. Even without him calling (I think he did), it was still a substantial pot. I win and get a much needed pot.

We’re down to five people at two tables. We merge when there’s nine people left. So the blinds are killing me. I win a few small pots to stay around, but I am anxious for the merge so the blinds don’t come around to me as much.

Eventually, someone is knocked out, and we’re at one final table. Nine of us, top five positions pay. My seat changes, and I look around the table to size up my competition. There’s Paul, one of the organizers who hasn’t cashed in at the tournament in more than two years. Dom is being super aggressive, and probably has 40 per cent of the chips. There’s a real good poker player to my right (I think his name is Mike). The guy I lost AQ vs AK is on my left. Matt is across the table, and is still fighting strong, considering he was in the same boat as me at the break with the chips. Then there’s a few more guys I’m not that familiar with.

Now that I don’t need to worry about the blinds as often, I can become more patient. My hand comes pretty early into the final table.

flipchip •

Jennifer Leigh was not present at our tourney.

Hand four.

I’m in the big blind. There’s one caller, and the small blind calls as well. I look down at AA. I try to mix up my play when I have AA. Sometimes I call, sometimes I raise. And when I raise, I mix it up, sometimes all in, sometimes three times the blinds, sometimes somewhere in between. Here, I want to see how serious the two callers are about their hand, figuring if they call, they’ve got a pretty good hand. I’m also hoping someone re-raises me all-in for the easy call. So I raise four or five times the blinds. The first guy folds, but Mike in the small blind position calls.

The flop comes down with A-9-2. Mike is first to act, and he thinks about it for a bit, and announces he’s all-in. I call and show my set. He has AT.

So I double up. Mike had more money than me, so he was still in the game, but he was pretty short stacked, and was gone not too long later.

Soon after, another hand occurs that was beneficial to me.

Hand five.

Pretty simple. I’m not sure how or who raised who all-in, but me and Dom ended up all-in preflop. I had KK vs his QQ. The kings hold up. This may have actually happened in the final five, I don’t remember. But I think it was at this spot.

I look around at everyone’s chips. We’ve lost a few people and are down to six. I believe I’m in second in chips, which is pretty good. Then my cards go dead, which is pretty bad. I was getting nothing. Even in the small blind, I was getting hands like 2-7 and 3-8 offsuit. Made it pretty difficult to take advantage of my chip stack.

But it took a good while before someone was eliminated to get is down to five. People were being cautious here as they wanted to finish in the money.

Eventually someone is gone and we’re now in the money. Again, a lot of cautious play from everyone except Dom. Fifth place paid $45. Since most people paid $40, that means whoever came fifth would have spent about four or five hours playing to win $5 profit.

Paul has made the money, but Dom has been picking on him the entire final table. Dom was in the small blind when Paul was big blind, and Dom was just raising him every time. To be fair, he had an ace almost every single time. Eventually, and I think this turned the entire table around, they both got all their money in preflop.

Dom raised Paul, and Paul went all-in, to which Dom called. Paul had 88 and Dom had 99. Paul lucked out when an eight showed, and he doubled up.

This hand changed the table for several reasons. One, instead of being down to four players, we were still at five and there was still cautious play. Two, If Dom had won the hand, he would have had about 60% of the chips at the table, and would have been in control. And three, right after this hand, Paul started getting some good cards and quickly took control of the action, meaning he was no longer short stacked.

No, the short stack honour would go to me quite often at this point.

It wasn’t too much longer before Dom was eliminated, and then the guy to my right. So we’re down to three people. Me, Paul, and another guy named Paul (who I didn’t mix up with all that much that night up to this point).

Strange trivia time: The first time I played and finished in the money, the other two final people were named Chris. This time, they were both named Paul. We need more people with the same name so I can finish in the money more often.

Now came my absolute worst hand of the night. Maybe my worst hand I’ve ever played.

flipchip •

Howard Lederer can't believe I checked a full house on the turn.

Hand six.

Three of us left. I had 97 offsuit. I’m in the big blind. Both players call, so I check. Flop came 2C-2D-9D for two pair. A check to me. I bet, hoping to win it right there. Both people call. I’m thinking someone must have a high pocket pair or someone is holding a two for the set. Turn came a 9H, giving me a full house. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m ahead. At this point I want to trap someone. So I check. But the move backfires, as both Pauls check. The river comes AD. The first Paul raises. The second Paul re-raises. I’m screwed. I think someone for sure either has quad 2s, or a higher full house with the ace. I debate calling or moving all in, but can’t justify the call. I fold. First Paul calls. First Paul has a flush. The second Paul has a higher flush. I would have ended up winning the whole hand, and probably could have at least doubled up, or at least tripled up.

What I did wrong was checking the turn. At this point, I probably should have moved all-in, or made a substantial bet. Folding on the river doesn’t irk me. I think that was a smart play, even though I read the strength of my opponents wrong. The play read like someone having an ace or quad twos. There were calls on the flop (people thinking the ace high or a set was good), and I gave them a free card after the turn, and then the ace hits. The mistake wasn’t in the folding at the end. The mistake was playing it wrong at the turn. Argh.

Action was going back and forth between the three of us for a while after this. The blinds were $20-$40, and I would hover between $150 to $250 in chips. I would win some pots preflop, and fold some blinds preflop.

The end came not too long afterwards.

Hand seven.

I have KT at the dealer position with about $200 in chips. Raising three times the blinds doesn’t make sense, since I’m essentially pot-committed to any re-raise, I move all-in. Besides, KT is a great starting hand, and with three players left, can be expected to win about 40 per cent of the time without even knowing any other cards. Unfortunately, second Paul had AJ offsuit.

Photos by flipchip /

One of these days I'll win that elusive bracelet.

The first card shown on the flop was a ten, but an ace also came up. I knew at that point I wasn’t getting lucky on the turn or river. AJ held up, and I was out of tournament in third spot.

For the most part, I was pleased with my play. To come third in a 23-player tourney where I was the first one out, and then I was short stacked quite often, is pretty good.

In case you were wondering, first Paul ended up winning the tourney. He’s one of the organizers, and hasn’t even cashed in at any tourney in two years. So congrats to Paul.

I’m looking forward to the next poker game, and I know what I need to do to win. One is to start off the tournament better. And two is to make sure I keep all the same-name people in the game to improve my odds of a good showing.

(Editor’s note: Due to some confusion, the other two people at the final table were not both named Paul. One was named Dean. For sake of editing purposes, and the fact I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good theory, I didn’t change it in the story. But now you know.)


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