I finally win a poker tournament

Fore regular readers of this blog, you will know that I’ve been attempting to win a National Capital Poker Tournament for a few years now.

Photos by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com

I finally won my poker bracelet. Note: bracelet may not be as shown. (Photo by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com)

I’ve come close a few times. A few months back, I finished second. I’ve had early chip leads at tournaments. I’ve made miraculous comebacks. But it wasn’t until this past Friday night that I finally managed to win one. It was also a bounty tournament, which means for every person you knocked out of the tourney, you won $10.

How did I do it? Here are some of my key hands:

Early on, I was playing a lot of pots. No real big hands, but winning a lot of small stuff. There was only one memorable hand for me in the first hour or so.

Hand #1

There’s a guy in our tournament, Anber, who is a pretty loose player. He plays a lot of hands, and is constantly raising and re-raising. I find him pretty tough to play against, because you never know what two cards he might be holding. So I try to keep the pots small unless I have the nuts.

It was still early on, so the blinds might have been around 50 cents/$1. He raises around $3. I look down at AQ suited, so I call. There’s no other callers. Flop comes with A with two low cards, but no spades. Anber raises $4. I call. Turn brings nothing. He bets $6. Again I just call. River brings nothing. He bets $10. I call, and take down the pot.

Now, it may seem like I  played this hand pretty passively. But I’ve been burned a lot by this guy. He’ll raise with 9-5 offsuit, for example, and keep betting. So if he hit a five on the flop, he won’t slow down. Then if he hits a 9 on the turn or river, he keeps going. And it’s happened to me when he keeps betting and hits those two pairs or a straight or a flush. So I stay wary unless I have a monster hand.

But in the end, I won about $23 off of him, which was great.

A couple of hands later, I had an interesting situation.

Hand #2

I had a hand like 7-5 suited. Blinds might have been around 75 cents/$1.50. I like playing these types of hands for cheap, so I limp in, as does Dom and Scott.

Flop brings three clubs. Something like J, 8 and a 2. I check, hoping one of them bets so I can check raise. I am most worried at this point of one of them holding a king or ace of clubs, and wanting to chase.

Dom also checks, but Scott bets something like $4. I raise to $15. Seems like a big re-raise, but I figure a caller would be after a flush with a higher club than I have. If they fold, then I win the pot.

They both fold. I win about $8. Maybe I was too aggressive, but if any other club had shown up, I had nothing.

There were no real hands of circumstance for a while. The only real mistake I made was when Pat and I were in a hand. He was shortstacked, and after the river, I bet $10 (there was betting before this, and I don’t remember the cards I was holding or what I was showing). Pat called, and I won the pot. But he was only left with $5 (blinds around $1-$2).

The reason I didn’t like my play this hand was the fact that with a bounty, I could have collected the extra cash by eliminating him. I was thinking he would raise the last bet by going all-in, but he surprised me by calling. I should have just bet $15. If he didn’t call, fine. But I should have been more aggressive in my betting.

The final table isn’t too far behind all this. And we slowly whittle down. I eliminate Chris when he moves all-in with something like AJ, but I’m holding AA.

It wasn’t until the final four that I played my most interesting hands.

Hand #3

I’m in the small blind. Blinds are around $4-$8. The first guy bids something like $32. Gabriel re-raises all-in, about $179. I look at my hand and see 8-9 suited. I loved these hands. I want to call. Rohit, in the big blind, is short-stacked. He’ll probably call with any two decent cards. And there’s still the original raiser to worry about.

I now have more NCPT titles than Daniel Negreanu. (Photo by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com)

I take a minute to think about it. I had the $179 covered. I would have called the $32 easily. But I decide with a raise and a re-raise, I have to fold. Rohit does call, but the original raiser folds. Matt, who was eliminated by this point, said I made the right call.

I don’t remember what Gabriel had (I think Ace-high kicker), but Rohit had JJ. Of course, the flop comes 9-9-T. Ugh. That’s horrible. I should have just closed my eyes instead of looking at the cards.

Rohit wins, and doubles up. But all I can keep thinking about is the fact that I could have been in the final two with about 90 per cent of the chips.

Bad luck starts following me around at this point.

Hand #4

Not too much longer after the missed set, we’re down to the final three.

Rohit is first to act, and raises to about $40 (blinds were around $6-$12). I see 6-6. I think Rohit is bluffing, so I move all-in. He calls, with a J and either a king or an ace. But it’s pretty much a coin flip at this stage, which is better than I could have hoped for when he called. However, the flop brings a jack, and the turn brings whichever of the other two cards he was holding.

So Rohit doubles up to about $500, and I go from chip leader to about $300 in chips.

With the blinds soon going up to $10-$20, I was comfortable with that amount of chips. But then I started a bad trend, until a fateful hand turned it around.

Hand #5

This hand turned around my bad luck. After losing the previous hand I spoke about, I was completely card dead. Not even bluffing hands, or calling hands. Just brutal.

Eventually, the blinds go up to $15-$30. I look down at 10-3 of diamonds in the small blind. At this stage, I just wanted to turn my luck around and steal a pot. Gabriel folded, so I moved all-in. Rohit, the big blind, called with KK. I was sunk. All I could hope for was to fluke into a flush.

A 10 came on the flop, but only one diamond. However, a 10 came on the turn, giving me a set and cracking the kings. Rohit was down to $6. The hand immediately before this, he was a massive chip leader. He lost when he flopped a set, but lost to a straight on the river against Gabriel. Rohit went from about $500 to $6 in two hands.

Heads up lasted a bit longer than I thought it would. We went back and forth. I became chip leader, then he did. Then I did again.

I started to get some really good heads-up hands. At one point, I had pocket twos, pocket nines, and pocket sevens within five hands. So my raises were getting folds. That meant I was grabbing the blinds, which was important when they are so high.

All of that led to this:

Hand #6

The final hand of the night. I had a KQ offsuit, which is an excellent starting hand. With the blinds at $20-$40, I raised to $120. Gabriel raised me all-in (he had something like $300 left). I called pretty quickly. He had an A-4 offsuit. The flop brought a king. And the turn was a queen, giving me the victory.

Plus, with this hand, I ended up with four eliminations, which meant an extra $40.

Overall, I was pleased with every hand I played except for one (where I didn’t bet enough to eliminate someone early on). Even the big hand with my 66 versus Rohit’s KJ offsuit, I liked my play, as it was a coin flip and I was chip leader.

I was aggressive. I raised a lot, played a lot of pots, stole some hands, and got lucky at the appropriate time.

The first victory felt good. Now let’s hope I can do it again.

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