I've spent the past few days on a golf course in southern Spain where I played a poker tournament sponsored by bookmaker Victor Chandler. I'd won free entry to the tournament back in the halcyon days of September when it seemed I could do no wrong at the poker table.
On arrival I was picked up at Malaga airport by a driver with a card with my name written on it. This was perhaps the most awesome part of the whole trip! When I rolled up at the hotel after an hour of Spanish football chat, I was allocated a suite with champagne, chocolates, two showers and a bidet.
After sampling all four, I went to dinner and met some of the fellow players. Almost all from the UK and Scandinavia, they seemed a little better than I hoped they might be, but I still fancied my chances. This was tempered somewhat after I saw the tournament structure sheet and realised the tournament would be something of a crapshoot.
The next day after a visit to Gibraltar which I will write about in another post, it was time for the tournament.
It was a 30 runner tournament with 10k starting stacks. Five places paid with the prizes from $10k up for $45k and the chance of doubling your money the next day by beating bookmaker Victor Chandler heads up.
I vowed to play pretty tight the first few levels and try to see flops and make a hand before turning up the aggression. However the first hand I ended up getting involved.
Hero (button) 10,000
Scandi in sb 10,000
Middle position limped for 100 and I limped behind on the button with 76 of spades. The sb then popped it up to 450. The initial limper deliberated for ages before folding and I called in position and with a nice hand.
Flop: 5c 8d Kh (pot 1050)
I flopped an up and down straight draw and my first thought as the sb reached for chips was - Man, I've come all the way to Spain and I'm going to end up getting half my stack in on the first hand. But after some deliberation, the sb surprisingly decided to check. I thought about what to do here and decided to check behind and see a turn.
I saw no reason to bloat the pot on the very first hand. I had no information on the villain and if I was check raised then although the stacks would be correct for three betting all in, I'm not sure that I would be able to pull the trigger, nor would I be sure that it would be the right thing to do.
Turn: 4s (pot 1050)
A beautiful turn card giving me the nuts. The sb again deliberated before betting out 500. Just under half the pot. At this point I pot him pretty much exactly on a pocket pair between QQ and 99. I thought AK would be most likely to fire a continuation bet on the flop as would pocket aces. The other option would be pocket kings but that would be statistically unlikely.
Going with my read and with the board pretty dry, I decided just to call and give him the chance to bet again on the river where I would raise him as long as the board didn't pair.
River: 9 (pot 2050)
A lovely 9 on the river meant I still had the nuts and when he quickly bet out 1,000 I thought for around five seconds before raising to 2,500. After thinking for a minute he folded.
Perhaps waiting to the river to raise on such a dry board was suspicious. But I may not have got any extra money out of him if I hadn't waited, so I liked my play.
Nothing too much of note happened for a couple of levels. I won a few pots but my stack remained relatively static. Already though there was very little play left in the tournament when I picked up QQ.
Hero (utg+1) ~12,000
I am dealt QQ second to act and with 30bbs in my stack. With the poorly structured tournament and top heavy prizepool, I'm pretty much committed to going all the way with the hand.
I open 2.5x to 1,000 and the button who has been reasonably tight, reraises me to 2,500. He hasn't played too many hands, but I do remember him opening to 5x at the 100-200 level, so based on that alone, I don't think he is a great player. Therefore his raise is not necessarily a monster. JJ, TT and 99 are in his range for sure, as well as AK and the two pairs that beat me. I am resolved to shoving, when the BB, who I'd earmarked as a good aggressive player, ponders for a moment before he cold four bet shoves all in.
I really don't see there is any way he is doing this with anything other than AA or KK. If he had AK I think he would have thought a little more and I would have detected some indecision, but it seemed to me he was saying to himself "ok here we go" before he shoved. I knew he was good and wouldn't risk his tournament on a crazy move. In the end I folded quite quickly. In fact, I think it was a pretty trivial fold. The button also pondered and folded.
I later found out the BB did indeed have AA and I think the button had AK, so it was a good fold by me.
I remained quite shortstacked approaching the dinner break and was mentally preparing to make a run for the buffet when I got involved on the last hand before the break.
Hero (sb) 10,100
A poor player with no concept of stack sizes, fold equity or pot odds deliberates and then limps. He'd been limping with hands like AJ and folding postflop when he should have just been shoving. It folds to me in the SB and I look down to see A4 of spades. I'm sitting in the ten seat so I look around the dealer to the one seat just to check if he isn't itching to stick his chips in and he seems calm, so I decide to complete. BB quickly checks.
Flop: 7c, 4h, 7h (pot 2,400)
I take a second and check to see what develops and the BB quickly bets out 2,000. The player in middle position thinks and grimaces before folding. And now it is on me.
I don't know a lot about my opponent as my view of him has been obscured by the dealer for the whole tournament, but he seems pretty solid. My thought process runs like this. If he had a pocket pair, I think he would have at least paused for a moment to decide if he wanted to raise. Next, if he had a 7 then the normal play would be to check, to try and check raise or to let opponents get a free card. Now some players do just bet out with their trips here. But neither of his opponents had shown any particular strength and I didn't think he was an imaginative player, so I ruled this out.
This thought process led me to the conclusion that I had to be ahead. Either he had a worse 4, some kind of draw or complete air.
I raised all in and he quickly folded, cursing under his breath and I went into dinner slightly healthier with 20 players remaining.
After dinner the 500/100 level is inexplicably missed out and we go straight to 600/1200. I have only one move left in my arsenal. All in.
I duck and dodge my way around, shoving several times when I can get first in and am in late position. A couple of times I even shove blind as I can't afford to let the blinds go through me.
Finally I pick up KK and bust a short stack to go over 20k.
As we play hand for hand the clock keeps on running and the structure gets even worse. Finally we get down to nine players and break before the final table. I'm sitting in seventh place with 21.1k and the blinds at 1,000/2,000 with an ante and about to rise to 1,500/3,000.
I'm just looking to get my chips in. I start in middle position and vow to shove blind first hand if it folds to me. Sadly I don't get the chance as the aggressive Brazilian to my right opens the first two pots. Next two hands I get trash and am forced to take the blinds. In these hands the other two short stacks have gone all in and won coinflips to double up, leaving me in last place.
With just over 5 big blinds it folds to me on the button and I look down at my first card and see A5. It's an easy shove but sadly the BB wakes up with pocket eights. I don't manage to get there and am knocked out in 9th, with just my bidet to comfort me.
I really enjoyed playing live for the first time in ages, but I was sad that the structure of the tournament was so bad. I felt that with a better structure I could have been more of a threat, but I thought I played pretty perfectly, I was happy with my QQ laydown and didn't make any mistakes.
Maybe I'll come back and win it next year.