Poker championship: Can I pull off the victory?

So this past Friday was the National Capital Poker Tour Championship. Looking for my first win of the poker season, I figured this was a good opportunity to show what I could do against all these regular season champions.

Photo by flipchip •, via Wikimedia Commons

Going for the gold!

Unlike the other poker games I have taken part in, the NCPT championship is a little different. There are no rebuys or add-ons, and everyone starts with $50 in chips instead of $30. So strategies are quite different.

Here were some of the more memorable hands, and quite a few of them don’t include me:

Hand #1

I started off playing a mix of loose and cautious, if that makes sense. I made some preflop calls that I normally don’t make, and I folded some preflop hands I normally don’t. Just trying to mix up my play, but I was unsuccessful. The only two hands I won in the first 90 minutes was when I stole the minimum from someone.

So already being shortstacked, and down to about $30 in chips, I look down at my hand to see AK offsuit. So I raise three times the blinds. Chris decides to re-raise me all-in.

Short history lesson #1: Two weeks ago, Chris put me all-in late preflop in a tournament when I was holding KK versus his AK suited. He hit runner runner to get the flush.

So now he’s doing it again. I’m thinking he has AA, KK or QQ. I know from past experience that it must be a premium hand. Even against QQ, I’m in a poor spot. But I figure I probably won’t get too much more of an opportunity to double up with such a good hand. So I call.

Chris flips over an AK offsuit as well. So I guess we’re going to chop the pot. But three diamonds come out on the flop. I’m the only one with a diamond. Nothing on the turn, but the river brings another diamond, and I hit a major suckout to win the pot.

The odds of a tie preflop were about 97%. And even after the turn, there was still about an 80% of a tie. So that was a pretty bad beat.

But I needed the double up.

So I continued along the same path of slowing wasting away my chips. Here were two hands where I made the right call, and still lost, but it could have been much worse.

Hand #2

I had AQ suited, and simply called (there were already a few people in the pot, so I wanted to wait and see what the flop would bring). The flop showed something like the KH, 3C, 7C. So I have a flush draw. Everyone checks. The turn brings a 10S. So now I have a flush and a straight draw. Someone bets, and everyone folds but me. I decided to call, since I don’t want to risk all my chips on a draw. I have about a 25% chance of hitting something.

The river brings nothing. Another bet, and I quickly fold. But I think I played it all right. Maybe I should have raised preflop, but I never lost too much money, and that’s the important thing.

Hand #3

I’m in the big blind, and it’s folded around to the dealer. He calls. I can’t remember if the small blind called or not, but he wasn’t a factor in this hand, so let’s say he folds. I have a J7 offsuit. I check.

The flop brings J, 8, 3 (suits aren’t important). I raise about $10, since I hit top pair. The other guy re-raises all-in (he is shortstacked as well). So I fold top pair. Turns out to be a good decision, as he had QJ.

Again, I think I played it all right. Any other way, I probably would have lost more money. If I had checked the flop, and he made a bet, I would have called, and potentially lost more money on the turn and the river.

Now it’s time for a poker lesson. It’s always important to make sure you deal properly. Mistakes happen, but sometimes they can cost people, as what happened here.

Hand #4

I’m the dealer, as I am dealing to the far side of the table, one of the cards I’m giving to Paul flips up. It was a three.

A pair of aces is arguably the best hand to be...

A pair of aces was dealt out in a misdeal.

According to our rules, we continue dealing as normal, and that card would become a burn card. Paul gets the last card to make up for the one that overturned.

Betting goes around. Paul raises. Someone else puts him all-in. Paul calls, and shows KK. The other guy had AA. Paul has no luck, and is out of the tourney.

I apologized to him afterwards. I felt pretty bad about the deal. If I didn’t flip that card over, we would have folded K3, and would have still been in the tournament. But because of my mistake, he was out.

But it’s a good lesson to always make sure the deals are as good as they can be.

Not too long after this, we’re going to a break. But there’s a major hand happening at the other table. Here’s what happened from what I can gather.

Hand #5

Matt calls, and then Rohit goes all in. Scott calls, and Matt calls again, since he is pot committed. The flop came 8, 9, 3. I think it was rainbow, but the suits don’t matter in this case. I don’t know if there was betting here or not. The turn brings a jack.

I’m not sure if Scott bets here or not, but Matt moves all in. Scott takes his time deciding. He pretty much took the whole 10-minute break. The reasoning was that if he had lost, he’s be down to about $9 in chips.

Finally, Scott decides to fold. He was holding pocket aces. Matt shows T7 for the straight. He wins the pot, and Rohit is out.

So I’m down in chips at this break, but there’s a major disparity at the tables so far. There are a few people hovering around $90 in chips, while a bunch of us have around $40.

I don’t get any big hands for a while. In fact, I go completely stone cold with the cards for the most part. I get lucky once in the big blind holding a five, everyone checks to the river, and I end up with a set.

It’s interesting when you see people go on certain runs. At one point, Dean had quad 7s. Three hands later, he had quad 2s. Unfortunately for him, no one else hit anything, so he never got paid off.

But eventually I make it to the final table, and need to make a big move soon.

As mentioned, I was getting horrible cards. At one point, I had AQ suited, and KK, but my all-ins were never called (I think there were four of the final nine with about $40 in chips, and the blinds at $4-$8, so there were a lot of all-ins).

Then comes the big hand.

Hand #6

I have about $30 left at this point. Matt raises to $16ish. I look at 88, and know I need to double up. So I move all-in. Everyone folds, but Matt pretty much has to call.

Short history lesson #2: Two tournaments ago, Matt high-fived Dom when each of their 7-2 offsuit won against my AJ offsuit when I moved all-in preflop.

Matt shows A5 suited diamonds. After what happened last tournament, I actually expect Matt to hit a runner-runner to eliminate me. But the flop comes with no diamonds. I’m about an 87% favourite to win this hand.

So, if you’re a faithful reader of this blog, you know what is coming next, right? An ace hits, of course. And the river can’t save me. So I am officially eliminated. Sigh.

Matt makes a comment that I’ll probably tear him to shreds in this blog post, but he played the hand properly. There wasn’t much he could do.


I’m just kidding. He was pot committed and the chip leader at this point. Of course he was going to call my all-in. I can’t blame him for the luck of the deck.

In case you’re wondering, in the last three poker tournaments, I have lost major hands that I should have won: KK to AT offsuit, JJ to 44, AJ offsuit to 72 offsuit, KK to AK suited when runner-runner hit, and now 88 to A5 suited. The last three are the hands that eliminated me from each tournament. It’s still frustrating.

I now know my problem. It isn’t losing the major hands, it’s being in a situation where I am so shortstacked all-time. I rarely win hands early, and have never been the chip leader more than an hour into the tourney. How to change that, I’m not sure. More aggression? Playing only premium hands early on? Looser play? I’ll have to figure it out.

After all, if I’m not shortstacked later on, then I don’t need to move all-in so often, or if I do, people won’t be pot-committed to call. For example, with the last hand, if I had $90 in chips, I don’t move all-in (or if I do, Matt probably folds). On the flop, if I bet, Matt probably folds since he didn’t hit. Or if he bet, I probably fold since there’s over cards. If it gets to the turn, I probably fold anything, since there’s an ace now on the board.

The point is, I put myself in this situation by not winning more hands earlier. Now, I need to make sure I change that by getting more chips so I’m not in the shortstacked position later.

Some final tidbits about the rest of the evening:

  • Matt is one of the organizers of the NCPT. He hasn’t won a tournament in eight years (joke of the night: The last time Matt won, there was no such thing as HD TV).
  • Matt was a big chip leader for much of the second half of the night.
  • He ended up in the finals, and had about a 5-1 chip lead, though because of so many chips in play, it wasn’t as big a lead as it sounded.
  • Matt ended up coming second.
  • The winner? Scott, the guy who folded AA earlier in the night on Matt’s all-in call, and would have been down to $9 in chips if he had called.
  • I guess sometimes the best hands you play are the ones you decide not to play.


Filed under Sports blogs I like

2 responses to “Poker championship: Can I pull off the victory?

  1. Jim

    My recent trip to Vegas confirms that I’m a much better cash-game person than tourneys… I don’t know what I need to do either, but I also find myself struggling to “keep up” in tournaments.

  2. M@

    My big hand early on (straight vs AA) was against Mullins, not Scott. Then later, at the final table, I eliminated Mullins when we both went all-in pre-flop with KK, and I rivered a flush. Then after, ya, Scott beat me heads up at the end. Stupid poker.

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