Genting Poker Series, London
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
After the very successful leg 1 of the new Genting Poker Series at Star City, Birmingham, which had a guaranteed prize pool of £100,000 and actually made £146,000, it was down to London’s Fox Poker Club for leg two, which promised to be even bigger and better.
It soon became apparent that the player numbers would wildly exceed even the most ambitious estimates, which is testament to the great structure, the great mix of players attending, and also the significant windfall available for the very reasonable (these days) entry fee of £430.
An example of the effort the Genting team make to accommodate player requirements is the fact that, with significantly more players than the Fox Poker Club could cater for, they successfully commandeered, at short notice, an additional Genting venue, the beautiful Palm Beach Casino in Mayfair.
To successfully administer this – a feat that includes the allocation of tables, provision of equipment and, most importantly, quality dealers – was a big ask with such little time, but it paid dividends, with 580 players turning up to create a prize pool of £232,000 and a first prize of about £48,000, plus a £1,600 seat to the Grand Final at the Palm Beach in December.
I was drawn to play at The Palm Beach and sat down quite hopeful that I would do well with the great structure that suits a solid plodder like me. It didn’t work out that way, though. I had several horrible spots where it seemed impossible not to lose chips, having open straight and flush draws twice, with my hand failing to improve both times beyond one that seemed optimal to fold on the river. I also flopped two pair, which got counterfeited on the river before my opponent offered me a ticket to value town, which I eagerly accepted.
It seemed I was destined to fail. In one, a player min-raised, I called with K-K, aware that there were two aggro players to my left felt obliged to squeeze in any situation available in order to show some “flair”. So I presented them with one such situation, but unfortunately they both just called, which brought another player in, meaning I was going to the flop against five players. The flop was QcJc7s, it was checked to me and I bet 500 (into 2,400) and every player folded. It felt like losing the pot.
Later on I was on the button with 7-7 and called a min-raise going to the flop against four opponents, which I much prefer to do when set-mining. Given my age, we were too deep for me to be 3-betting with small pairs, even from the button. I know I don’t 3-bet enough from all positions, but being too deep to justify doing it seems like a good way to remove any penis envy issues associated with playing “weak”.
Anyway, the flop was As3s7s, which was a nice flop for my hand, although it would have been a lot nicer without three spades, but this wasn’t the time to be greedy for perfect flops. Surprisingly, it was checked around to me, so I decided to check behind and hopefully catch someone if it bricked on the turn. Plus, with position, I was going to have the most information to help make a decision if it wasn’t a total brick (or juicy pair up).
The turn card was a lovely 3c, giving me a totally disguised full house. Now players with made hands, such as those who may have trapped a made flush on the flop, or flairy players without hands, would surely get active on the turn.
However, it was again checked to me so I bet a small amount, hoping it looked like I was taking a stab, as would be my duty with any two cards. I was also looking to induce action from players with a flush draw or from those unable to refrain from jumping on apparent weakness. I received a single caller who check-folded the river king.
So, basically, every significantly good hand or spot I had resulted in virtually zero action; never an ideal set of scenarios and one unlikely to result in a +EV end result.
I next got involved in a significant pot when a player raised from early position who, despite his apparent advancing years, had twice previously raised pre-flop and then triple barrelled, only to fold when called on the river. This seemed a decent spot to potentially extract some value with my A-Q in position and I called his raise.
The flop was a very promising Q-J-4 and, as expected, he bet and I called. I could have raised here, but then he folds all worse hands and all air hands. While you could argue that I might raise to “find out where I am”, that line, in my opinion, is more abused than a smooth, lilywhite-bottomed chap in a Central American prison.
The turn was a lovely ace and he, as expected, bet out again and I called. The river was a horrible king, which meant that A-K was now winning, as was any hand containing a ten, but given his potentially wide-open raising range, and also his propensity to fire as many bullets as the aforementioned inmates of the Central American prison, I fully expected him to bet regardless, and I was not going to fold now just because a scare card had hit.
He bet about one third of the pot and about 60% of my smallish stack. I called, only to hear the most beautiful of phrases you can hear when you’ve made what could be a losing call: “You got it”. I showed my A-Q and he showed me a nice set of jacks, which was a bit of a surprise.
I had about 3,000 left, about ten big blinds at the time, and decided it’d be a good idea (if not generally accepted as optimal poker strategy) to move all-in blind every hand until I either doubled up or was knocked out.
Then I could re-enter as quickly as a Central American prisoner.
I announced this to the table so I that might feel very slightly less guilty should I put a horrendous beat on some innocent opponent. The very first hand after this announcement, a player pulled the perhaps less-than-sensible move of limp-folding to my shove. He probably could have played his hand in a more profitable way, in my opinion. The next hand I did the same and, as if to be rewarded for his “you got it” comment, the same player woke up with kings behind me. I actually had a decent hand, as it turned out, J-Q suited, and the first card on the flop was a queen, but my hand didn’t improve and we went to a break with me going to the cash desk to re-enter.
Now with my fresh stack I’m in the small blind and so I sit out the very first hand. I look around the table and see two well-stacked players to my immediate left, players who both look like they know very well what they are doing, which suggests I might have a tricky seat.
The first hand dealt to me is aces and one player limps for 400. I make it 1,100 in the cut off, hoping to get one caller out of position as the worst result. The good player to my left calls on the button, the other good player in the small blind also calls, which is disappointing as it seemed a potentially good squeezing spot, and the initial limper also calls. It’s not ideal to get four callers when holding aces, but at least I had position on two of them.
The flop was very decent in the circumstances, Qh9s3c, and it was checked to me. I decided to check this relatively safe flop, hopefully to extract value on the turn if the good player to my left checks behind, although I was hoping that he would be unable to resist the temptation to take a stab on the button, and he duly obliged, betting 1,600. The player in the small blind called (which worried me a little as he may well play a set like this) and the player between us folded. I elected to call as a sort of combo value-extraction on later streets, but also with a hint of concern towards this good player who has called a raise out of position and then just check-called a bet on this dry flop.
The turn was a perfect brick in the 4h. The small blind checked and I once more checked, hoping to get the good player on my left to bet again (hopefully as his only way to win the pot). This would allow me to see the reaction of the player in the small blind. He dutifully obliged, betting about 6,000. The player in the small blind was kind enough to fold, leaving me happy to call again. I could have re-raised here but I figured he likely had T-J a queen of some sort (value-betting against what he could easily perceive me to have – a hand like T-T or J-J), or more hopefully, and possibly, complete air. This was the continuation of my initial plan to catch him by using his own aggression against him.
The river was a very safe looking seven (in view of the flop) and I decided to check again and let him bet. I figured I had significantly under-represented my hand and he could easily value-bet many worse hands, and of course any missed straights or air would have to bet in order to try to win the pot.
As the river card hit there was about 18k in the pot, which was about the size of my stack. I checked and he moved his stack of about 60k all-in, so it was only roughly one third of his stack at risk. Considering he done what I had tried to make him do, and indeed hoped he would do, I called fairly quickly and he showed me a set of nines.
Maybe I should have got away, and yes, I could have made him fold all air hands and weaker hands by re-raising him, although he would obviously not have folded in this instance. You can get a better idea of the strength of an opponent’s hand, and improve your chance of getting paid then and later by certain players, by simply betting these hands regardless, and I am not sure what the best overall strategy is, probably a combination of both, subject to the opponent.
The one problem with my choice here is that when your opponent is doing exactly what you were trying to make him do, it seems to make it much harder to reach the conclusion that you might be losing on the occasions that you are. If I play for another 25 years, maybe I will work it out.
The was eventually won by the honey monster that is Albert Sapiano, who, if it were a track race, would have had Usain Bolt trailing in his wake like a snail with a gammy leg. Congratulations Albert.
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