Poker? I Hardly Even Know Her...

It had been planned for a while. This past Saturday my friend Slick, who of late has been grinding out a living playing poker, and I were to head up to Grand Casino Hinckley for one of their weekly poker tournaments. Late Friday night I got word from Slick that he wouldn't be able to go, but since I rarely get to play in live tourneys, apart from the monthly home game I play in, I decided I would still make the trek. Well, come Saturday morning I woke up with a throbbing headache. Not good, but after a steaming shower, and a fistful of ibuprofen I was feeling a little better, but I was still was lacking the mental focus I would need to play at the level needed. Add in the fact that Slick and I had planned to split any winnings if one, but not both, of us cashed, and I almost stayed home. After some thought I decided to make the drive and reevaluate after lunch. With 45 minutes to go until the dealers' first riffle I was feeling pretty good, and so I plopped down my $150 entry, and $20 fee, and drew for my table and seat.

The tourney was scheduled for 2:00, and armed with my iPod, two bottles of water, and some reserve Advil I took my seat. And waited. We got started late because one of the dealers needed a potty break. By 2:15 the cards were in the air, and we were on our way. My first hand was an easy fold, and I settled back listening to Coltrane's A Love Supreme. There was plenty of time. Even though the blind rounds were only 20 minutes, we were starting with $10k in tournament chips, and blinds were nice and low at $50/$100.

On the second hand there was one caller to me, and I looked down at the JsQs, and made the call. The player on the dealer button made a minimum raise, which made me suspicious. Both blinds folded, and the caller ahead of me folded as well. I was sure the raiser had Aces or Kings, but the pot was big enough to warrant a call. I couldn't have been happier with the flop, it came 9TK, with no flush draw. I checked, and the raiser made a modest bet of $200. Now I was sure he had AA or KK, and I raised to $800. He called instantly. The turn was a 6, and there was still no flush draw possible. I bet $800 again, and to my delight my foe moved all of his chips into the middle. My only worry was that he might have pocket Kings, and the river card would pair the board, but he was holding AA, and finished 88th out of 88.

A few hands later I was in the big blind when a player in middle position raised to $600, and it folded to me. I looked down to find two red Aces, and re-raised to $2000, he instantly pushed, and flipped up 99 when I called. I was a little nervous when the flop gave him an inside straight draw, but my Aces held and I was sitting on almost three times the starting chips only ten minutes in.

Then the deck went cold. Ice cold. For two hours. I picked up an occasional pot to maintain my stack between $20k and $30k. There were just over 30 players, and the blinds were going up to $3k/$6k. I only had $19k, but the stacks were fairly even, putting just about everyone in the "red zone," and I knew things were likely to get crazy. And they did. People were busting out left and right, and I decided to see if I could wait just a bit before making any moves. We went from just over 30 players to just over 20 in under 10 minutes, and things calmed down a bit. The players that had increased their stacks were tightening up a bit, and those who were short-stacked had also tightened up unless they opened the betting. I took advantage of this, along with the short handed tables, and picked a few blinds and was up to almost $40k, when the 21st player busted, and we were down to 2 tables. I was moved to the table with all of the chip leaders. I wasn't happy about that, but I picked up a few hands, and was up to $140k by the end of the $3k/$6k round. Not too shabby considering how crazy the first ten minutes were.

I was able to maintain a stack better than $100k as we approached the final table, and once the bubble burst I had an above average stack with about $120k. I had gotten to the final table just playing good solid poker, but once we were in the money, not to sound smug, but I played some outstanding poker. It only took one hand before we lost a player, and we were nine handed. There wasn't much in the way of action for a while, then two players busted on the same hand, and another player was out on the next.

We were down to six, and there were two players holding big stacks. One of those players would give me all of his chips. He called from under the gun, the small blind called, and I looked down at 6T off-suit, and checked from the big blind. The flop came 668, and the small blind checked, as did I. My foe made a bet equal to about one-third of my stack, the small blind folded, and I pushed all of my chips in. I had been watching this guy, and I had the feeling he had recently read Caro's Book of Tells by the way he would "Study" his opponent when faced with a raise. Well, I've read it too (a few times actually), and I knew what he was looking for. The common thread in most of Caro's "tells" is that weak means strong, and strong means weak. I generally stay away from "acting" and try to keep my mannerisms the same from hand to hand, but I felt this was a good time to summon up my inner Stanislavsky. He was staring at me, and I decided to stare right back, a sign of aggression, and generally coming from an opponent that does not want a call. Turns out my hunch was right, and he called with K8, and my hand held up to give me just over $200k in chips. This guy still had me out-stacked, but I was ahead of the other big stack. On the next hand another player busted, and we were down to five. A few hands later it was folded to me, and I raised from the button with A7 off suit, hoping to just pick up the blinds. The small blind folded, and the big blind gave me the stare down again. This time I really wasn't looking for a call, it wouldn't have been horrible, but I wasn't thrilled about my hand. So, hoping he remembered what happened a few hands back, I gave him the stare right back again. It worked, and he folded. Now, I had him covered, and was about tied for the chip lead. On the very next hand I picked up pocket Queens. I raised to two-and-a-half times the big blind, the button folded, and our friend re-raised from the small blind. I pushed all of my chips into the middle, and again got the stare. I stared back for a few seconds and then broke my stare and looked away. The moment I broke my stare he called, and flipped up pocket sevens. My hand held, and I had a massive chip lead as we started four handed play.

The two short stacks busted out pretty quickly, one being all-in blind, and I had a 2:1 chip lead as we went heads up. He folded the first couple of hands, increasing my lead by a good deal; the blinds were $20k/$40 by this point. I picked up pocket Nines at one point, and raised to just over two times the big blind, and he pushed. I called, and he had KJ suited. He caught a King, and doubled up. After folding my big blind to an all-in bet we were about even. The tournament director announced that blinds were going up in thirty seconds. We posted our blinds, and as the dealer was shuffling, she asked if we wanted to chop. Normally I would have declined, but the next blind level would be $40k/$80k, and we both had about $400k in chips. Not much room to play poker. There was roughly a $2000 difference between first and second place, and if we continued to play it would really all come down to luck.

We agreed to an even split of the remainder of the prize pool (almost 50% of the total prize pool. $150*88 players... you do the math). How fortunate for me that Slick had to back out, or I would have been splitting that again. I really would have loved to take first, but chopping was the right move. With blinds that high relative to our stacks, it wouldn't matter if I was facing Phil Ivey, or my cat. OK, maybe not my cat, she is a total donkey.

*Need help with the lingo? Check here.


And the Words of the Poets Were Written on the Subway Walls...

Li'l Sis has been tagging again. Well, not really, but soon the walls of a subway stop in Chicago will be graced with her words. Actually it may already be, as I am a bit late getting this post up.

In related Li'l Sis news (or not so news) she has started a daily (kinda) blog where she features her hero of the day. The blog's name? Appropriately enough Hero of the Day.