Still trying to win my first NCPT poker tourney

So once again, I try for a poker title.

I’m sure I had pocket aces when I first looked.

For regular readers of this blog, I play in the National Capital Poker Tournament, which is pretty much a monthly poker game with some friends (on average 18-20 people show up).

Lately, I’ve been playing some good poker, thanks to advice from Paul. I was starting to get shortstacked a lot at the tourneys, and asked him about my game. He suggested I get more aggressive, as I seem to not get involved in a lot of hands.

So I’ve been trying out the strategy the last few times, and it’s been working, although the end result is the same: I don’t win.

Would this month be different? Let’s look at some of my big hands.

But before I get into my play, let me add this caveat: I seem to only remember the hands I lost. I was involved in a lot of hands, won a lot of pots. But I never eliminated anyone, or got involved in monster hands too much. So most of the hands blur together. So even though I played really well, it may not seem like it from the hands you’re about to read.

Hand #1

This was probably my favourite hand of the night, even though it was early and I didn’t win much.

I’m in the big blind position, and look down 5-6 suited (two spades). Everyone folds except for Dom, who was the dealer. He either calls or makes a small raise preflop. So I stay in the hand.

The flop came something like 5-2-9, only one spade. I check, Dom bets, and even though I have a small pair, I call. No reason. Just wanted to stay aggressive and hoped I could steal the pot later. The turn shows something like a three of spades. I check, Dom checks.

The river brings a 4 of spades. I hit a flush. I definitely don’t want to check now. So I make a bet that tempts Dom into calling. He does. I don’t remember his hand, but I think he had top pair. He didn’t realize there was a flush possibility on the board. So it all worked out.

Hand 2

I was going pretty well at this point. I don’t remember what position I was in, Chris (on my right) was in the big blind, I believe. I looked down at QQ, and raised three times the blinds ($2-$4). Everyone folded except Chris, who called. Flop came A-K-rag. Ugh. I’m disgusted. Chris checks, and I bet $10, hoping to steal the pot right there.

Daniel Negreanu approves of my more aggressive play, but not of me losing.

Chris takes a few seconds, and then re-raises all-in. It’s only another $8 or $9, but I know I’m beat. There’s no way he’s re-raising all-in in this situation unless he has an ace or a king. I take a minute, and then fold, showing my QQ. Chris showed me AJ, so I was beat.

Again, I think I played this correctly. I raised pre-flop, and stayed aggressive on the flop to try and win it all. In the end, I made the right call with the laydown, so it’s all good.

Funny enough, a hand or two later, Chris had AJ and moved all-in preflop, and lost to Paul’s AK.

Hand #3

This was the hand of the night that I was involved in (although there were better hands elsewhere). I had A-5 suited (for the record, I had a lot of A-5s and A-4s). There were a few callers, and then Dean raises. Everyone calls again, so I decide I’m getting good pot odds in a family pot, and call once more.

Flop comes 5-4-2. I hit top pair, top kicker. There’s a check, and then Dom goes all-in with his last $50, which is a little more than what’s in the pot. I start to think about calling, but Dean right away asks for a count, even though there’s a few people ahead of him with a decision to make.

So here’s the thing. I am 100 per cent confident I can beat Dom. I’m pretty sure he’s either bluffing or on a draw, but I like calling straight draws. But I’m most worried about Dean.

Dean raised preflop when there were quite a few callers, which signifies a strong hand. And asking for a count right away also signifies a strong hand. I was thinking QQ.

I want to call. If I’m last to act, I would have called, as silly as it may sound. But I’m pretty confident Dean has me beat. So I fold.

Paul folds, and then it goes to Dean. He takes a few minutes to make a decision, and then folds. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone else folds. Dom shows a four in his hand (I can’t remember the other card, but it didn’t have too much of an impact on the hand). Paul, I think had 88. But Dean had KK. We show the rest of the hands, another king would have come up.

Sure, it looks like I’m talking myself up in hindsight, but I was 100 per cent sure I could beat Dom, but I knew Dean had me beat. And that was the reason for the fold.

Hand #4

This is one of those hands that I post just to remind myself to follow a strategy.

Generally, if I’m small blind, I always call to match the big blind. But on this particular hand, there was a call or two before it got to me. I looked down at either 6-2 offsuit or 9-2. I can’t remember which, but I remember there was a two, it was especially bad (I would have played 2-3 or 2-4 since they’re connected). So I decided to fold.

Flop came 2-8-2. Ugh. I would have had a set. I don’t remember if there was betting, but the turn showed the other two. I would have had quads!

Paul was holding a pair of threes, so he had a full house, and took the pot. I probably could have won a little more from him with a small re-raise.

Moral of the story: Always limp in when in the small blind.

Hand #5

Blinds are $2-$4. I have about $89. I look at QJ of hearts. I simply call. Paul is on my left, and raises it to $11. Everyone else folds, and it’s only another $7 to me, so I call.

Is Isabelle Mercier laughing at my play?

Flop comes JT6, with two hearts. I hit top pair, plus a flush draw. Paul bets $11. I re-raise to $30. Here’s where it gets interesting. Paul asks how much I have left (about $48), and then takes his time thinking about it. He spends a few minutes. I’m starting to think he has either a pair of tens, or an overpair, probably QQ. If he has an overpair, I’m thinking he’s worried I am on a flush draw or straight draw.

Paul finally puts me all-in, and I call pretty quickly, as I had already made up my mind I was going to. Paul flips over an AJ. Shoot. He later told me he was worried I hit a set. But I still have a lot of outs. I could hit a queen, or any heart, and I have about a 48 per cent chance of doing so.

The turn brings an ace, giving Paul two pairs. I can still win with a heart that’s not the ace, or a king to give me a straight, but my odds are down to 25 per cent. The final card was a queen, giving me two pair, but it didn’t win me the hand.

I think no matter how I played this hand, the result would have been the same. If I raised preflop, Paul would have called. If I simply called the $11 on the flop, I still would have lost all my chips on the river since I was holding two pair. I played the hand properly, in my mind anyways, but I don’t think I could have changed the final result.

Overall though, this was easily the best I played. I was second chip stack at the table when I was eliminated (about $90 when the blinds were $2-$4). I was aggressive. I played a lot of hands, and usually got them to pay when I had the best hand. I also got a lot of good luck. Normally, I’m more passive, and  at this stage, I’m the shortstack. So to have so many chips was a different feeling.

I like the new way of playing though. If I’m going to lose, I’d rather lose being the aggressor than being passive.

Hopefully my new way of playing leads to a title soon.

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