Saturday, July 27, 2013

Back to back?

I've been working on this post for a couple of weeks, but keep forgetting to copy it from my thumb drive to my laptop to post it. I meant to last night, as I came home from the bar early, because there weren't enough people to play the first session of the bar league.

I was really hoping to play and build up my early lead from last week. I won the first session, earning points for a straight flush as well, and finished 3rd in the 2nd session.

After a decent 2nd quarter, I started the quarterly tournament 2nd in chips, behind my "nemesis", Tim. I finished with just over 300 points, over twice the points of the rest of the field, but he finished about 130 points ahead of me.  Each point is worth $100 in chips, which translated into 13000 in chips.  However, I was feeling very confident that I would win. It wouldn't be the first time I won two quarterly tournaments in one year. Tim has also done it, but I'm fairly certain his weren't back to back.

We started with only five players, with a 6th on the way from a dart tournament at the bar's other location. One of the other qualifiers was the cook, and it was pretty obvious he wasn't happy about not being able to play.  The remaining three qualifiers were drop-ins, who had less than 50 points, which practically wasn't enough to make it worth showing up anyway.

Trying to remember how several of the next hands play out makes me think that I need to take notes during the quarterly and year-end tournaments, where it's not as rushed as during the regular weekly games. I took notes during a weekly session once, and a few people asked what I was writing, and it wasn't easy to keep up while playing 4 and 5 handed, when I should be pretty active. 

During the first level, still only 5 players, blinds of 25/50, I woke up with what my esteemed fellow poker blogger Rob calls "the dreaded pocket kings." I think I was 2nd to act. I made a raise to $500, not an terribly unusual raise. I had at least two callers. The flop comes 987 rainbow. The big blinds opens, and I wonder if he flopped a set or two pair.  I re-raise and both blinds call. It's checked to me when the turn is a low rag, a deuce or a three. I bet again, the small blind folds, but the big blind calls again. The river is a 6, the big blind bets, and I fold. He turns over T5 for a straight.

I had at least 4 or 5 other hands like that, where I had the lead until the river, although it wasn't as easy or obvious to get away from them.

There were two hands in a row where I was dealt a pair of 4s, I think they were even the exact same pair. The first hand I missed and folded to a flop bet. The 2nd one, I flopped the set and bet the flop and turn, but check-folded the river when a flush draw hit.

Another memorable hand was a 3 way hand where I was in the BB, and Tim was in the BB. The UTG player limps in, the next two fold, Tim completes, and I checked with 92o. The flop comes Q92. Tim checks, I check, and the player to my left opens. Tim and I both just call. The turn is an A, and I worry a bit that Tim might have been slow playing AQ. We both check and let the player to my left bet. We both call again. The river is a rag. Tim bets, and I call, while the UTG player folds. Tim shows Q9 for a bigger two pair. We both laugh at slow playing our two pair so the UTG player would bet for us.

The 6th player finally showed up just as we were doing the first chip up, so he was let in, sitting between Tim and I.

I was pretty active for the first couple of levels, and my chip stack fluctuated somewhat. I finally slowed down a bit around the 3rd level, when the blinds were 100/200. Tim hadn't been as active as I had, but was better at picking his spots, and had built his stack up some, including at my expense.

Eventually we get down to the same final four from the first quarterly. Jerry makes a comment about how the finish could end up the same as it did last quarter. He's sitting in 4th, AJ and I are close and Tim is in the lead.  However, Jerry makes a comeback, and AJ goes out in 4th. Jerry is unable to do more than that, and again it's Tim and I heads up. 

Another memorable hand occurs when I have pocket Ts. I raise and Tim calls. The flop is AAx. I check here, and realize after the hand that it was a mistake.  The turn is a K, I bet, and he calls. The river is a rag and again it's bet call. He turns over KJo and rakes the pot. I know that's a fault I need to work on, playing slightly scared and not thinking things through. I was the raiser, I should be representing the ace, not fearing it. Had I bet and he called, I could have just checked it down, and not lost so many chips. 

At some point, Tim tells me to stop calling his bets. A few hands later, I'm in the BB with 23o. There's no raise, so I check. I hit a 3 on a double suited board and call a bet from him. The turn is a 2 that puts a 3 flush on the board. Tim bets and I tell him that since I can't call, I have to raise, causing him to fold.

The last hand occurs at the 3k/6k level. I have AQo in the BB. I raise, Tim shoves. I call, thinking I'm either flipping with vs a medium pair or have him out kicked. Unfortunately he's got me out kicked with AKo. The flop is comes 8 or 9 high, and I'm praying for the board to double pair for a chop.  Lucky for me, though, I spike a Q on the turn and survive the river to win!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

First quarter finale

In the final week before the quarterly tournament, I discovered that while I had earned about 90 points with my back to back victories the previous week, I only moved up from 7th to 5th in the standings. I was also unable to successfully defend my bounties, although I came close in the first session. I got to heads up, but with a pretty big chip disadvantage which I was unable to overcome. In the second session I did not fare as well. I had to buy back in and then in my final hand I got it in good with AA against AQo and AJo preflop. Unfortunately for me, they both went all in on the flop of KQx and AJo rivers a T to knock me out for good.

I continued my processes of thinking good thoughts and being grateful for winning the quarterly throughout the week. The tournament started with only 8 of the 10 qualifiers being able to play. As it progressed, I was able to accumulate chips without much risk. It took a couple of hours before anyone was eliminated. The next two eliminations were not much of a surprise. Then the next player out actually withdrew, as he had somewhere else to be. Up until this point, I was at or close to chip lead. However, right around this time, one of the other players, AJ, took a big chip lead, and I had a brief moment where I thought I might not win, but it quickly left my mind. Unfortunately for him, he ended up being the bubble boy, going out in 4th, earning the consolation prize of $50 worth of rebuy cards. The final three were Jerry, who runs the league; Tim, my main rival; and me. Tim and I were somewhat close in chips, but Jerry was not out of it. After a few circuits, though, it was pretty clear that it was going to be Tim and I heads up. Jerry finally lost the rest of his chips to me. I had a fairly clear, but not big, chip lead with decent stacks, probably 40-50 or more BB. I knew it wouldn't be easy to win, but I was confident that there was enough play left that I could grind it out. I took a small-ball approach, making min-raises on the button somewhat liberally. I slowly built up a big edge, and Tim started calling for a face card to go all-in with. He eventually got one and caught more of the flop than I did. I continued to grind away, trying to get my chips back. The key hand occured when the blinds were getting fairly big, either 3/6k or 4/8k. I was in the same spot Tim had been, looking for a face card. In the small blind, I looked at my first card, a Qd and shoved. Tim immediately called and flipped over a pair of Ts. I took a quick breath and flipped over my other card. I exhaled in relief as it was an Ace. However, I had
to sweat a bit, as I did not hit the flop. I may have had a backdoor straight draw, but I don't recall exactly, which is unusual for me. The turn was no help, but suddenly knew I was going to hit it on the river. Sure enough, Jerry deals a pretty lady. After that, I was certain I would win. Tim and I traded blinds for
several more hands. On the final hand, I was in the SB and had QJ. I min-raised and Tim shoved. I quickly called, thinking I either had him dominated, or was a small dog to an A or K. He flipped over offsuit connectors, something like 67o. The board did not save him, and he admitted he was trying to make a move. With this, I clinched my first league tournament victory in over a year.

I continued a good run last Friday night. I finished 4th in the 1st session, and 3rd in the 2nd. In the second session, we had an amazing hand where 3 of us saw a straight flush on the board, earning all of us the bonus points. I also earned points for having a pocket pair. I should be in the top 3 for the start of the new quarter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Believe in yourself and how to win with pocket kings

It's been a long time since I've posted. Last year ended very poorly for me.  While I played well enough, I did not cash in any of the league tournaments, which is unheard of for me. A lot of it has to do with how losing online poker affected me. I lost some faith in poker, and more importantly, lost faith in myself. In addition, I had "planned" to take a trip to Vegas last year to play in the WSOP. Unfortunately, my wife and I ended up not getting a refund from the IRS, so I couldn't afford to go, and won't be going this year, either.

Things are starting to come back together for me. I've been fairly crushing the WSOP Texas Hold'em app on my iPod. Unbelievable luck has helped a time or two, as well. For example, the other day I flopped a royal flush with AJh, against my last two opponents who also had big aces. All of the money was in by the turn. It's been a couple of years since I've had a royal flush. It was a good feeling.

I didn't play a whole lot online last year, although I started off doing better this year. I've played in a few tournaments and sit-and-gos, mostly on FullTilt. I prefer non Hold'em and mixed games, and have been doing well.

Last Friday at league was another major boost. For the first time in a long time, I won both sessions, earning at least 90 points and moving several places up from 7th in the rankings for the quarter. In each session, I won a big hand with pocket kings, knocking out another player in the process. Both times all of my money was in preflop, and both against AJ. Of course I immediately thought of a blogger I follow, Rob of Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog and his trouble with pocket kings.

In the first hand, we were 5 handed, I was UTG, villian was dealing. Blinds were 50/100. He was somewhat shortstacked. I raised to 1000 and he shoved. He flopped a pair of Js, but was unable to improve beyond that. In the second instance, I was UTG+1, 5 handed, blinds at 100/200. Villian was UTG+2. I had
at least 10-12k, and he had about half that. I looked down and saw the same two red kings I had earlier and raised to 1000, he min-raised, it was folded back to me and I shoved. He took quite a lot of time thinking over the decision. I'm not sure what he put me on, but at that stage of the tournament, with my big stack, and due to points being awarded for being the first to win a hand with the pairs Js+, I have pretty much that as my range. I had him on a big pair, smaller than mine, Qs or Js at best, or more likely AK/AQ. I was surprised when he turned over AJs. That is such a trouble hand in my experience. The flop pretty much sealed things as the first card was a king.

I've been putting more focus on things for which I'm grateful, including my poker skills, and I'm starting to see results.