On Sunday I finished 8th out of 4,394 players in the Sunday Warm-up on PokerStars for a cool $10,985. I don't play tourneys very often and it's my biggest ever tournament cash. It was nice to make it in probably the second most prestigious weekly online tournament.
This was only the third time I've ever played the Million or the Warm-up and I enjoyed it a lot, though it was pretty nerve racking near the end. I managed to get hold of some chips early thanks to some kind donations and one or two suck outs and I was 10th in chips at the first break. From then on things got rolling and eventually some nine hours later we were at the final table.
In the time in between I played on the same table as some great players (Kenny 'Kenny Rap' Weinstein, Anthony 'D1rtyR1v3r' Nardi and Kevin 'BeL0WaB0Ve' Saul), as well of course as some complete donkeys.
I felt like I learnt a lot from playing such a lengthy high profile tournament - The way things change at different points, the importance of the dynamic of the table and your own table image.
I don't even think I am that good at tournaments, but I was able to use the things I've picked up in the past few months to play a pretty solid game with occasional aggression. I thought I played well, generally stole my fair share of blinds and also put in a few nice resteals at crucial times, even tangling with Kevin Saul on a few occasions.
Below are ten hands from the tournament along with a little bit of analysis. Let's hope I'll be writing about another big final table soon.
This is where things kickstarted for me in the tournament and I thought I could do something. An open raise from Carlito who is running at 31/19 and involved in a fair few pots. I elect to raise from the big blind with AJ. His opening range from the hijack is reasonably wide, so I think this is ok, though perhaps a call would have been better to try and play post flop. If he four bet shoves me here, then I think I may well fold in this spot.
The K69 flop gives me nothing more than a nut backdoor flush draw and some overcard possibilities and I check with the mind to probably give up on the hand if he fires. I've put myself in the position where a continuation bet of any kind is decidedly awkward, therefore the preflop raise by me seems like it was a mistake. Surprisingly he checks behind. The turn brings a third club and I decide to seize the chance. Smelling possible weakness after Carlito's flop check behind, I shove all in for 148k into a pot of 144.5k and am called by pocket queens with the queen high flush draw.
And of course I get there and hit my 25% shot on the river. This one sends me dancing around my lounge.
Was it a good shove? I'm not sure, but I felt the pot was there for the taking and went for it. He certainly didn't have to have a hand as strong as he did. So I don't mind my play here at all on the turn. My pre-flop and flop play is another matter.
Carlito is again the villain and I am now more than aware of his unconventional play. A standard open raise with AK is flat called in the big blind. With a flop of 4JQ all hearts I have two overcards, a gut shot and a backdoor king-high four flush draw.
It's checked to me and I check behind. I think I like my play here. The flop quite possibly hits a fair bit of his range there giving him pairs, a variety of straight draw options and perhaps some kind of heart draw too. If I continuation bet, he has a nice stack to check raise all in where I will be faced with a very tough decision indeed. I have a lot of draw options and my hand may even be good right now, the pot is still manageable so I think the check is the prudent play.
The turn is 8d which is a virtual blank, though it does mean he gets there if he has J10. He bets 2/3 of the pot and I choose to flat call. I could elect to raise all in myself here but I do worry that he might have some kind of pair with the ace high flush draw combination which would leave me in decidedly bad shape. I'm in a tricky spot now, especially if and ace or king hits on the river. Of course my AK high may still be good and he may just check and give up the river if he has nothing at all.
The river is a heart giving me a king high flush on a paired board. He bets 96k into a pot of 172k and the clear play here is to just call behind. I think it's a complete zero play to raise all in here, I'm not sure any worse hand is calling (q and j of hearts are out) and there is no need to risk my entire tournament. He shows 54 which I think was actually a good gutsy bluff bet on the river, turning a made flop hand into a bluff. But thankfully I managed to get there.
D1rtyR1v3r is clearly an excellent tournament player. In the top 20 of the Pocket Fives rankings, he knows his stuff for sure. So when he raises from under the gun, despite the fact he hasn't got out of line so far, I know his range could be wider than some other players. That said I'm really not convinced it was the right play to reraise with AJo from the cut off. And indeed, if I was going to reraise, my raise from 60k to 168k was too much. It committed too high a proportion of my stack and a little bit of a smaller reraise would have done the same job. I think if I was going to reraise, somewhere in the region of 140-145k would have been appropriate and easier to fold to a shove.
It folds back to D1rtyR1v3r and he shoves it in my face by going all in. Now this is an awful position and one that could have been avoided.
Including his shove there is now 809,164 in the pot and I have to pay my remaining 413,164 to call. It's a sickener. I could be dominated, but if my ace is live I think I have the correct price here. Perhaps I should have played the odds and made the call here. But if I fold, the blinds are only 12.5k/25k and I have over 400k, so I have plenty to play with. I'm really not sure. I need to put some numbers in Poker Stove and take a look.
It's certainly strong play from my opponent, but as a top player I know he is more than capable of making a move. Would this be the spot he would choose to do it. I'm really not sure.
Perhaps a pretty straightforward hand, but this is the type of spot I've been guilty of making a fold before and I think it was definitely a weakness in my tourney game. I have 9xBB and the small blind open shoves me. He is running at 11/9 over 140 hands, so he's certainly not a LAG. With A5 suited, I ponder briefly, but I make the call. He shows K3 and I hold to double up.
What should and could have been a standard AQ v 66 race turns into a sick cooler for my opponent when his pocket sixes are counterfeited on the river by quad threes, making my ace high play as the kicker. I like my shove here, I think it was the correct play and he also made the correct call, but it was twisted the way the hand went down. Nice to be on the right end of it of course. :)
Kevin Saul raises from early position and I reraise from the button with A7 of spades. Now Saul was opening a lot of pots with just over a minimum raise and it was a strategy that was picking him up chips. Every time so far when someone had played back he'd just folded. With A7 I figure to probably have the best hand. I also have the button just in case he decides to flat call. I like my re-raise size here too. As it turns out he folds this time. If he shoves on me I'm really not sure of the right play here, bearing in mind my opponent is one of the most aggressive on the internet.
Things are getting tough now with Kevin Saul pounding on my blinds. I'm managing to hold my own and not get runover, though this is a tough stretch of play.
I elect to open raise j9o from the cutoff and get min raised by the loosest player at the table, Hasie65 on the button. Options here, we both have chips and the raise is so small that a fold is out of the question. I could shove, but I get the feeling that this guy might call pretty wide, so I decide to call.
The flop is 68T giving me an up and down straight draw. Again options here. Shoving 1.32million into a pot of 736k is a possibility but I don't think the right one. If I donk out and bet something like 2/3 of the pot then its a tough spot if he shoves. Instead I check to him, he bets and I check raise him all in. I think this is a fine play in this spot. He makes quite a call with AQ and I'm a small 46/54 dog. A beautiful queen comes on the turn, pairing him but giving me the straight and now I have just under 3.4 million.
Hand # 494
Kevin Saul had played flawlessly up to this point, lots of little raises and bets, picking up a lot of pots and establishing a chip lead with 20 players left. I believe I was third at this point. But Saul was to bust in 19th place in a sick and crazy hand that had the observers going mad in the chatbox.
Saul ended up shoving his chips in with queen high and the crazy German Hasie65 again made the call with ace high and was again ahead. Blank on the river, Saul is out and we are down to two tables. I am mighty relieved as I was decidedly uneasy whenever Saul was in a hand. He such a good and unpredictable player.
About 15 left now. This time I don't have to draw and hit my hand on the flop, achieving maximum value and doubling up to monster 5.5 million.
Despite the fact it is a draw heavy board, I like my flat call on the flop of Hasie's donk bet. He's shown that he's overvalued any pair and I had to take the chance of giving him an extra card so he would be committed and be forced to call an all in. You can't blame him for betting the turn and when I move all in he snap calls. He's been calling all ins with ace high, so top pair is absolutely huge for him!
Two hands later and now this is a bit of a weird one and one that I think I misplayed quite a bit because of my opponent. Again it is me vs the crazy German. He's now running at 39/27 and with blinds at 50k/100k, he minimum raises from the cut off to 200k which is something he'd been apt to do quite a bit. I wake up with jacks in the BB and decide to pop him. The problem is that I think I make a misclick here. I'm pretty sure I wanted to raise to 800k but I only reraise to 600k. This is a mistake and I believe this raise is too small. Another play which I though would have been fine would have been to flat call, keep the pot small and see a flop.
He calls and the flop comes QT8 with two clubs and I fire a half sized pot bet. I want to take it down right here but it's such a draw heavy board and my opponent is so unpredictable that this is perhaps unlikely. He then min raises me which is a bit of a sickener. Perhaps my lead was a mistake. He's been making really small flop bets, tiny in fact. So if I'd checked to him I could have perhaps seen a turn and maybe even a river cheaply and kept the pot small. However, check calling is rarely a profitable play.
All three options are possibilities here. I definitely have room to come over the top and three bet all in. He'd called two huge all ins with ace high so perhaps it was the correct play. However, perhaps the situation got to me a little and I couldn't pull the trigger. I'd just seen what happened to Kevin Saul and as we were both amongst the chip leaders. I flat called to see the turn and assess the situation.
The eight of clubs is a pretty terrible card for me here. One of the worst in the deck and I ended up folding to a very small bet and feeling sick about it for quite a while. This is one hand I regret a lot, but I've still got chips.
Approaching the final table
Still with around 15 or 16 left I win a race AK v 33 in a 2.4 million pot, but the hand after run tens into kings in a 3.8 Million pot and I'm back in the pack with the rest of the field.
I carry on chipping away, stealing the occasional blinds and keeping afloat. I pick up AK twice but just take the blinds both times and eventually we are on the final table.
My final hand was a pretty standard affair. I shoved AQ from utg+1 with around 11bb's. The button, who was the only one with less chips as me, called and was also all in. The big stack in the small blind then makes what I think it a terrible overcall with AJ. Really bad call. In the end AJ > AQ & AK and he busts both of us. I have more chips at the start of the hand, therefore I take 8th place, so that bad call my opponent ended up making me an extra $3,800. Thank you big4aday!
So that's it. I still can't believe I got through almost over 4,500 players to get to the final table. If any poker geeks would like to make comments about any of the hands then please do!