Sam Trickett – fish on a heater? Thoughts on tournament poker.[Editorial]

Sam Trickett – fish on a heater? Thoughts on tournament poker.[Editorial]

Monday, 19 September 2011

LOL donkaments. Sam Trickett only wins all the time because he gets lucky. Of course that’s not true – doubtless the man is very lucky, as anyone is to win or final table major large-field tournaments, but as Samuel Goldwyn said (of himself, not of Sam Trickett): the harder he works, the luckier he gets.

The name “Trickett” first entered my vernacular when 2010 Irish Open champion James Mitchell – then known to the London Poker meetup as Worzel and with a mere £5,510 in live tournament cashes to his name – made the final table of the GUKPT Luton Main Event way back when in 2008. I was playing a £33 freezeout at The Fox in Twickenham at the time; the group as a whole railed the final table and were pleased as punch when Mitchell finished third for a cool £45,100. The winner of this event was one Sam Trickett, some guy I’d never heard of and who quite frankly annoyed me for beating James to the title.

That £109,050 score was not Trickett’s first taste of big success – in fact, he had made the final table of the $5,000 NL event at the WSOP just six weeks earlier, shipping $245,927 for fourth place in the event won by Joe Commisso. Prior to that, The Hendon Mob tells me, he had but £15,000 or so in live cashes. Though the signs were there even then – of the eight cashes he made at various GUKPT and Dusk Till Dawn events, six were final tables and two were outright victories.

Of course, we all know what he’s done since then – a runner-up finish at last year’s WSOP $5,000 event for his second final table in that tournament, losing out to Jason DeWitt for the bracelet but still taking home over half a million dollars. Two months later, an EPT final table for €140,000; the next week, he wins the PartyPoker World Open VI for $200,000. In January he won the $100,000 High Roller at the Aussie Millions before finishing second to Erik Seidel in the $250,000 Super High Roller just five days later for a combined $2.925m. When only Erik Seidel can stop you winning, you know you’re doing alright.

Now he leads the Partouche Poker Tour final table, which will resume in November with Trickett heavily favoured to take Vanessa Selbst’s title and a tasty seven figure Euro payout – as well as his first tournament title outside of made-for-TV events and the GUKPT. Fish on a heater? Nah, not really. But Trickett got me thinking about tournament poker in general.

Last night on Twitter – likely inspired by the WCOOP – my feed was full of poker players lamenting the brutality of tournament poker. Clearly, there is a flipside – no one is arguing that Jason Mercier, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, Erik Seidel and Sam Trickett run really hot. No one, however, is arguing that they aren’t some of the best tournament poker players in the world, either. Obviously they are running on the other side of variance that can bust you on the bubble of six tournaments in a row; that same variance that cracks your aces in what seems like every single damn tournament you play is the same variance that enables Jason Mercier to just keep on winning. When will it end, indeed?

Here is the question I put to you – how is tournament poker any more “brutal” than a cash game? Do aces never lose to runner-runner straights in cash games? Does EV only apply in large-field MTTs? Do you never wind up on the wrong side of an A-K versus 8-8 coinflip at a midstakes cash table? The difference is all in our heads – if you get a bad beat at a cash table, you sigh and hit reload. If you get a bad beat at a tournament table, that tournament is over. Bye bye. You’re gone. You can’t reload (shut up, this hypothetical tournament is a freezeout) and you’ve lost your buy-in.

But hey, at least you can’t go on tilt and spew stack after stack. Furthermore, while your tournament might be over, if you are playing online – which I assume you do fairly regularly – then just register for another. PokerStars run hundreds of tournaments an hour. A bad beat at a tournament table should be treated the same as one at a cash table, but instead of hitting reload you simply find the next tournament and enter that. It’s all one long game and you’re playing for the long run.

Of course, the coinflips and ace-crackings happen more frequently in tournament poker because stacks are shallower. But again, just enter another. If anything I find tournaments less tilting – on a variance perspective – than cash games simply because if I enter a $22 freezeout then I can lose $22. That’s it. If I sit down at a NL25 table I could in theory go through my entire bankroll. Plus, have you ever heard of anyone winning $10k at a NL25 table?

I, like Alex Rousso, tire of the grind of cash games. I, like Alex Rousso, have a points bonus to clear as well. Cash games are the best way to do that, but once that bonus comes out I’m going to hit up the tournament tables. It’s something of an epiphany for me – I’m a tournament player. It’s how I started and it’s how my aggressiveness at microstakes can result in building big stacks instead of getting called down by third pair. In an MTT, people look for excuses to fold. I’m happy to provide that excuse.

Sigh... hello. My name is Matt Perry, and I’m a donkament player. With your love and support I know I can get through this.

Tags: Sam Trickett, Matt Perry, Erik Seidel, tournament poker, James Mitchell, editorial