Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slow & Steady Wins the Race?

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I assure you it is in direct correlation to a lack of playing.

However, before it got away from me I did want to post about my best live tournament performance to date. On 8/9 I went out to the local casino and played their weekly $60 Sunday tournament. In the past I've had lots of success in this tournament, and this outing was no different.

There really isn't a whole lot to the story. The structure isn't great, but you do get play for the first 90-120 minutes. Of course, during that time period I saw nary a hand and was essentially even due to blinding off, one small pot won, and a couple of scoops. At that point I went into push or fold mode and stayed there for the remainder of the tournament, all the way to a 4th place finish out of about 120 players.

The details are already getting blurry, so I think my best summary is the one I sent to my brother-in-law, recapping things the Monday morning after:

Yesterday felt like I would imagine it was supposed to feel to navigate your way through a tournament. I never got nervous, just knew what I had to do and played it as smart and deliberately as I could. It didn't hurt that I played push or fold basically from 2:00 to when I busted (5ish). On the one hand its an easy 50/50 decision, but on the other you're putting your tourney life @ risk so you'd better damn sure be right about it. I even made some plays that I wouldn't typically make, but I thought every one of them through, made what I felt like was the right decision, and was right every time. I won coin flips, too, so obviously if that hadn't happened it'd be a different story. I got a lot of compliments on how I played when I busted, from final table people I played with early, middle, and (obviously) late, so that felt good. I mean, to me, I didn't do anything terribly earth shattering, but to know that my perceived table image was that of a strong, respectable player, means what I was doing, I did right. They didn't see me as a pushmonkey, they saw me as a player making strong moves and good decisions, and a force to be reconed with. Or, maybe everybody was making $800 at a minimum so there was no reason to be disrespectful at that point. :-)

When I busted, the blinds were 10k/20k/2k with like 375k in play, so needless to say nobody had a lot of big blinds in their stack. Although in general the structure wasn't terrible. I feel like its missing a couple of levels, but I think it was also fair for $60 and in the casino's interest of getting it over reasonably quickly. If you were fortunate to have a big stack you could play some poker, if not you just needed to get 'em in the middle and hope to survive. And survive I did.

I wish I could play that tourney every weekend. Its ridiculously soft. I can't believe how many people are putting significant portions of their stacks at risk with non-all-in raises when the blinds get big. The structure is *decent*. You basically get play the first hour and 40 mins or so, and if you manage to accumulate a stack you can play for longer. But if you haven't managed to accumulate chips by then, you need to be shipping your stack and putting people to a decision. But people are putting out pathetic raises that big stacks can call easy, then if you miss the flop you have to check-fold or fold to a bet because the big stacks can bet any flop. If you can manage to keep 5-10 big blinds in your stack, the big stacks are WAY less apt to call light, and that's how I skated through from 60+ people left down to 4. Push or fold w/less than 10 BBs may be the most valuable piece of tournament advice I've ever read. Every now and then you'll push a little light in late position and run into a monster, but that's just unlucky. If you're careful about what hands you're pushing in what position, more often than not it gives you control, gives off no information other than you're willing to put your tourney life at stake, puts your opponents to a decision, and even if you don't get called, at that stage there's enough out there in blinds and antes that if you can scoop 1-3 times an orbit its enough to grow your stack w/o even getting to a flop. One can improve their chances to win a tournament probably 50, if not 75% just by sticking to that basic philosophy, but usually people are so afraid of going broke, they blind themselves off hoping to catch a monster, and then wonder what someone's doing calling their 2.5xBB all-in with 89 and beating their AK. I should know. I remember being that guy, and I'm kicking myself for all the money I lost being that guy.

Anyway, I'll climb down off my soap box. Needless to say it was fun and I'm really happy w/the way things went.

So, in the end I actually got my money in good w/AJvK10, but I had won an earlier 60/40 on my biggest mistake of the tournament (I didn't realize a guy had committed himself to the pot when I shoved, but managed to win, thankfully), I had chopped a 70/30 (AJvAx) earlier at the final table, and I had won a lot of flips, so losing a 60/40 to bust is certainly not the end of the world. And I feel like I got the first of the good payouts, making about 10x my buyin, whereas 5th & 6th made about 5-6x, although the 3rd-1st payouts were something to write home about! But I'm really happy with the way things went, and this makes for my 3rd cash out of either 5 or 6 tries in this particular tournament, which as anyone who knows tournament poker knows is pretty remarkable. Its just so damn soft.

I haven't run the numbers yet, but this win *may* have officially made me a winning player on life. I dumped an ugly amount of money in 2005 (the dark days) and have been determined to recover from that ever since, and I know I'm either really really close, or now officially a winning player, which is a giant accomplishment, and as I continue to make progress, I continue to hope for better things to come.

In other news, PokerStars recently ran a promotion where you could take a quiz on their VIP program and get an automatic bump to GoldStar VIP status if you pass. So I've been a GoldStar on Stars since the middle of July and get to keep the status through the end of August. Committed to taking advantage of this and maintaining the status I have played a whopping 2 SNGs during this time. *rolls eyes* I also have the Full Tilt bonus currently active and have yet to play one hand to try and clear it. But I've been busy, and poker hasn't been a focus.

Speaking of being busy, I've gotta split for now. My wife and I had our first baby last Monday, and I've been wasting the morning away at the computer, so I'd better go hang out w/the little fella, because I hear before you know it they're all grown up. :-)

Thanks for checking in, and all the best to everyone on the felt!