Monday, March 20, 2006

The Big Stack

I looked around at the final table to find that I had 105,000 in chips -- more than double the next-closest player. I was ahead. Way ahead.

I told myself, "Self, don't stop running over the table now. They're on the ropes."

I had been picking up blinds and knocking out shorter stacks for hours in the Sunday blogger tourney for a seat at the World Series of Poker.

The biggest hand of the night was when I had AA against Statikk's AK. I almost felt bad for him ... almost.

The other players kept dropping, one by one. They were in the danger zone. They had only a couple of choices: Fold or get pot committed.

I had a lot more freedom. I raised and called with AQ vs. KJ. I called an all in with A9 vs. 55. I knocked out Alan with AK vs. K5.

I won every coinflip. I won every hand at showdown. I stole the blinds successfully over and over again.

It wasn't always like that. Earlier in the tourney, I felt like I would just get slowly blinded down as I usually do, and then get involved in a hand and lose.

Early on, I had great hands but couldn't make any money from them. I flopped a set of Jacks on an AAJ flop. No callers. I smooth called with KK preflop and then got all in on the flop against Hdouble (I think that's who it was -- Paradise doesn't send tournament hand histories). He also had KK for a split pot. I raised with AA preflop and got no callers.

It felt like I was using up all my luck early on.

But then things started turning around.

In one hand, I got all in by flat calling with AA from the small blind, and then donk betting the Jack-high flop. I got called by JQ.

An important hand came when I was raised from the small blind with J8s and got called by S.t.B. The flop was J8x, giving me two pair. I bet, and he minimum raised. I didn't want to see the turn. I knew this could be all she wrote for me.

I pushed all in. He thought for a while and folded.

That's when I really started picking up steam.

I started stealing a lot. Not so much that I ruined my tight table image, but enough to gain about 1,000 chips a round when the blinds were something like 100/200.

I concentrated very hard on making relatively low-risk bluffs preflop and sometimes on the flop. The last thing I wanted to do was trap myself with a second-best hand. I wanted to pick up pots with as little resistance as possible.

More than playing the players, I played their stack sizes. Tournament poker is such a game of money management, and I tried to evaluate the likelihood that each of the remaining players remaining to act would push or fold.

Who wanted to get their chips in? Who recently won hands? Who was biding their time? Who was desperate? Who would feel committed even if they just called my bet? What would I do if I was called and it was checked to me?

Those steals were the driving force behind my climb from 6,000 to around 40,000. By that time, I was so far ahead of the rest of the field that I could pick my spots.

I wish I had a better memory of the big hands, but really it was just a matter of getting in with the best of it. I can't even remember how many people I busted. I must have dispensed with at least 10 or 15 players on my own. I wish I had that damn hand history!

It was bloody. I felt invincible. For all intents and purposes, I was. I kept getting in with an edge of a few percentage points, and my hands held up every time.

It takes a lot of luck to advance to the final table in any multitable tournament. I wasn't sucking out on anybody (except for once -- QT vs. AK all-in preflop, and I paired up), but I was very lucky to have my 55 percent to 60 percent hands hold up.

Suddenly, there were five players left. I thought, "Maybe I'll be like Doyle Brunson in that one World Poker Tour tournament where he just demolished the final table." It was going that well for me. The players kept going out in a puff of smoke, which is how Paradise illustrates when someone busts.

Suddenly I was heads-up against Gracie.

I had a commanding chip lead of about 105,000 to 45,000 or so. Maybe even a little more.

We played about 10 hands without the chip counts changing that much. I think I got my stack over 115,000 at one point (these are all rough estimates).

I was ready to put this match away.

I was dealt 99. I knew I wanted to commit with this hand preflop if I could.

I got my wish. Gracie flipped up KQo. The flop was safe. And the turn. And the river ... was a Queen! Damn!

That pretty much reversed our positions. It put Gracie at near 100,000 and me around 50,000. For the first time of the tournament, I lost a hand at showdown.

Gracie adjusted quickly to the chip lead. She took over with the aggressive moves where I had left off. I felt like my stack might just fade away if I couldn't get back in the game.

Not every flop was contested, so I knew that I could pick up some blinds if I played my cards right. I raised with Q2o from the button, hoping that she would fold.

She called.

The flop came Q-high, all diamonds. I had the 2 of diamonds for a crappy flush draw to go with my top pair.

I was all in. She called with an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw as well.

For a moment, I thought the offsuit Ace on the river would save me. But no, it completed her straight.

It was over, and I was surprisingly happy.

No, I didn't win the $1,500 prize to go to Vegas and play in the World Series of Poker.

But I did much better than I thought I would, since tournaments are far from my specialty.

I'm OK with finishing second. My heart was pounding, I was nervous and superstitious. I was worried. I was in suspense. I was thrilled to be doing well in a tournament.

I had more fun in a poker game than I have in a while -- more fun even than those days when I book huge wins. Those victories are a product of decision-making and grinding. Tournaments are more like a roller-coaster ride.

I felt like a champ.


biggestron said...

Great recap!

kurokitty said...

what an awesome run! Congrats!

StB said...

It was bloody. I felt invincible.

Well said. You were in control of that final table. I was content to let you take the others out and take my chances heads up. Guess Gracie didn't want that.

Great job last night! Well played.

cc said...

Just saw this on Pauly's site. Tough, tough, but great run. I couldn't get away to play in this but so glad that a virtual buddy did so well. Wish I could have railbirded you on.

Falstaff said...

Good work, gnome! Well done and well said.

drewspop said...

Great job last night. You were on fire until that Q. Very well played.

Ignatious said...

excellent writeup and playing. you were really playing a superb big stack - i thought you were gonna take it down fer sure. great job and wish we had been able to give away two damn seats. :)

Huge Junk said...

Last year Joe Speaker was sniffing the thing each time we played before busting through in the last tourney for a victory. (if my memory serves me correctly)

Keep up the good play and you'll have another shot!

StatikKling said...

Paradise does send Hand Histories.. From the Main Lobby -> Options -> Email Hand Histories (or something like that..)


StatikKling said...

Also, the AA vs. AK, thats the game.. and also how I got a lot of my chips.. except the roles were reversed, as I held the AA vs AK. When I saw the AA I was bummed, but thats the breaks. You played very well. Congrats!

Mark said...

Nah, I e-mailed Paradise and they said they don't send tournament histories. The hand history option in the lobby only applies to individual hands.

StatikKling said...

I may have been cornfuzzled. They do not email out MTT finish positions, but they do email out hand histories. If you need the placements for the tourney, see

(I extracted the data from the client, much like I do for Full Tilt. :)

StatikKling said...

Maybe I'm still confused. I have my hand history from the tournament. All 246 hands that I played. I had PT setup to grab the last 20 hands every 5 minutes, until I started on the Finish Summary app for Byron, then every 40-60 minutes I'd get the last 100 hands whne I remembered to get them.

Does any site send the hand history for all players in a tournament?

Mark said...

I should have set up PokerTracker to grab the hands as I was playing. I don't know if any site sends out hand histories for all players, but I wanted to get my hand histories at least. But Paradise support said they don't send individual hand histories in MTTs.

kurokitty said...

from Drew (no blogger account): thecaffiend WK: If you are going to quote the language of the zor, please use the term "teh suxz0r". Just a geek curtosy. JK, YAY MARK AND LINUX!!