My Main Event
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
My first table at this year’s Main Event was a little more difficult than one could reasonably expect. It included Vanessa Rousso, who may not always play optimally in marginal spots, but is never going to throw her chips away, and also Brian Hastings, who is very good player and very good reader of the game, but fortunately for me was running bad, and no matter how good you are, if you’re running bad you’re not going to win any race you enter.
On the very first hand I’m dealt AdTd. I raise from 100 to 250 and get one caller. Now, it’s not often you win a hand and later feel you have had the most horrendous bad beat, but this proved to be one of those rare occasions.
The flop is AhTsJc. I bet 400 and get a call. The turn is As giving me the second nut full house. I bet 600 and I am called again. At this point, and I appreciate it may be a bit nitty, I am thinking, “FFS don’t have A-J and knock me out first hand!” Although, to be fair, I am not going to get rid of 300 BB on the first hand, no matter how “standard” it might appear.
The river is 5c, I bet 1,000 and am called. My opponent (hereinafter referred to as “Santa”) tables his J-9os as if unlucky to have lost.
The experienced players’ eyes light up like those of an orphan realising he need not ask for more gruel as Santa is here to fill his boots. Those same eyes, however, almost popped out of their heads after witnessing hand three, which turned my elation to despair as I realised what I could have won. Imagine a child who visits Santa’s grotto and leaves with just a mouldy Xmas cracker – yes, it is slightly better than a kick in the nuts but so much less than the wonderful present that could have been received.
So, on to the hand in question. A player raises from early position to 400, Santa calls and the next player re-raises to 1,200. Now, as it happens, the re-raiser turned out to be the table maniac, although he had not officially picked up this mantle at this point. The initial raiser folds and Santa calls.
The flop is T-7-7 rainbow and Santa leads for 1,000, a bet that is called with circumspection. It looked to me like the pre-flop re-raiser assumed Santa had a seven or a ten and, with an over-pair himself, was hoping it was the latter.
The turn is a queen and Santa now bets 2,000, which is called. The river is a four and Santa, again, leads for 2,000. After some histrionics, his opponent re-raises a further 1,500. To put this into perspective, the starting stack was 30,000 with blinds 50/100 and this is the third hand. It seemed obvious that the re-raiser must have pocket queens. Santa thinks for a while and looks like he is going to call. “Oh no! He is going to pay him off with just three of a kind,” I thought. Santa did call. His opponent, as expected, tabled Q-Q. Santa looked at the hand, looked at the flop and then showed his K-9, almost as if he was still not sure which hand had won.
Sometime later Table Maniac got paid off in a ridiculous way after raising from the button, as he did 100% of time it was folded to him, usually a min raise from 300 to 750. The small blind calls and the flop is K-Q-4. The small blind checks and, as expected, the pre-flop raiser bets 1,200, which is called. The turn is a harmless six and the small blind now leads out for 4,000. The pre-flop raiser re-raises to 12,000 and the small blind moves all-in for about 25,000 and, after some thought, is eventually, a little reluctantly, called by Q-K. The small blind tables a hopeful and drawing-dead K-T.
If that seemed like a gift, it was nothing compared those received graciously by Vanessa Rousso, firstly from Santa on a flop of 6-6-4. An initial raiser bets 500, Santa throws in a 1,000 chip and then says “raise” after the next two players have folded. This is deemed to be a forced call, although now every player is obviously aware of the intended raise. Vanessa Rousso then re-raises to 2,000. If she has less than a six in this spot I’d be prepared to expose myself. Back to Santa who stacks off with J-J, not surprisingly to be fair.
Later the player to my left, who looked a bit flairy, but played far too tight, calls a raise and, when Vanessa Rousso re-pops it to 2,000, again calls. The flop is J-8-9, she bets 3,000, he moves in for 25k with A-T, and she instantly calls with top set.
It was one of only four hands he had played in six hours. This could be described as an interesting and probably -EV hand selection strategy.
I finished the day on 67k after showing a slow but gradual increase in stack-size at every level, primarily playing small pots and staying in control of the hands I played. I had A-A twice and K-K once and lost all three, without doing serious damage in any of the hands.
Day 2 was a dream starting table, with ridiculously weak-tight players that made me look like a lunatic. I was by far the most active player on the table and easily increased my stack with virtually no risk at all. The weak-tight players rarely called a pre-flop raise and, when they did, were inclined to check-fold if they missed the flop, only trapping monsters (like weak tight players do) and otherwise mostly folding to any size bet.
The table changed as the weakest of these were quite quickly eaten up to be gradually replaced by abler and trickier opponents, but even they were of medium-type internet-play standard. They might raise a lot but tended to fold to a 3-bet, and, if continuation betting after raising pre-flop, tended to give up on the turn, so they were not so difficult to exploit now and again.
The biggest problem I had was in the small blind when it was folded around to me, and a Dutch player in the big blind, who had generally shown himself to be a very tight, A-B-C player, completely owned me.
Either he ran like Usain Bolt or completely outplayed me with an aggro strategy in blinds which was completely different to that which he employed in normal open play. I failed to properly adjust my strategy to him and he was kind enough to spare me the embarrassment of asking me to shine his shoes while I was passing him my chips.
With 15 minutes to go, I had 120,000 and was feeling very good about the day… and then the wheels came off.
First, I raised with J-Q from early position on the blind of a very tight, unsophisticated player and I got three callers, including the small and big blind. The flop was A-6-6 rainbow and the two players before me checked, so I decided to take a stab as the player behind would probably only call with an ace or a six and fold everything else. He folded, as did the small blind, but the tight player in the big blind called.
The turn was seven and he now bet into me for 6k (into a pot of 16k). Obviously he had either a six or an ace, and against most players I would probably just give it up here. However, this player was so scared of getting knocked out I thought I could make him fold most aces by exerting pressure on him. This is contrary to the advice I would generally give in this spot as I think it is usually a better idea to try to make someone fold when you think they have a marginal or no hand (which is better than yours) rather than trying to make them fold with a legitimate holding.
Another thing that swayed my decision was the way he made the bet. It seemed to lack confidence – although I may have been seeing what I wanted to see rather than what was actually there – and I believed this unsophisticated player was unlikely to be able to think about, let alone carry out, a complicated misdirection tell in this pressure situation.
So, with all those variables, I decided to try to make him fold and I re-raised to 22k. He thought for an age, to the point where I felt he was about to fold, before moving all-in. I mucked and he showed me the six he may have well have had stuck to his forehead. I claimed to have made a tough lay down with A-K.
Two hands later in the small blind, while still a bit “hotted up”, I was again owned by the Dutch player in the big blind.
The next hand, I call a raise with black pocket sixes. The flop is J-8-4, all spaded, and I check-call a bet. The turn is a red six. I check to re-raise but get a check behind. The river is a non-pairing spade and I check-fold to an 8k bet and am shown A-K with the king of spades.
I go from 120k to 68,100 (400 more than I started the day with) feeling like an ex-wife has used her index finger and thumb to deliver a sharp blow to my testicles.
Day 3 started very badly. I won the first hand I played with a raise, and then the next five times I raised I was re-raised once and shoved-on the other four times. Maybe I should raise with better hands next time.
I then find K-K, raise and pick up the blinds.
There was a ridiculous, straightforwardly honest player in seat-1 and I felt obliged to raise his blinds at every opportunity. My stack had dwindled to just 30K when I did so holding J-9. He calls and the flop is 9-5-4 rainbow. He checks, I bet 5k to pick up the pot, as always (as he seemed to be on a sponsored check-foldathon), and he sets me in. I cannot think of any hand he can have that I could be beating as with a weaker nine players like this would tend to bet, not check raise all-in, so I fold and he shows Q-Q which surprised me as I didn’t think he had a sneaky pre-flop flat-call with Q-Q in his repertoire.
Then, despite his being so easy to play against, I manage to double off him by getting it all-in bad against him. I again raised his blind (with a very genuine A-7 suited) and he calls. The flop is a beautiful A-7-5. He checks, I bet, he raises, I shove, and he snaps my stalk off with a set of fives. I was fortunate enough to turn an ace.
He then tilts big time and, after calling a 3k raise in the blind which creates a pot of about 7k, he open-shoves 60k on the flop. He then proceeds to double-up after calling raises with 9-5 suited and 8-5 suited by check-raising with massive over-bets and hitting draws against opponents with over-pairs.
I then managed to steal a few pots and get up to 100k, go card dead, run into some hands when stealing and get down to 50k at dinner. It was nice sitting with Javed Abrahams, JP Kelly, Priyan de Mel, Dan Carter and Praz Bansi all discussing their stacks, which were between 100k-200k. In fact, it would have spoilt my dinner if the dinner itself hadn’t already done that.
After dinner I was moved to a horrible table with several very good aggro internet players with huge stacks. I had about 70k and the next lowest had 170k. I grinded away, trying to survive in the hope of getting a more pleasant table on Day 4, and finished with 74k.
Day 4 went horribly for me. I was on quite a difficult table with three good players to my left, including Eric Buchman (fourth in last year’s Main Event) and a couple of aggro-internet players in front of me, which would have been OK if I had been deeper-stacked, but their tendency to make what they thought of as “standard calls” (normally based on the premise that no opponent ever has a hand) made it difficult to do much with a fairly short stack.
Without having a proper premium hand, I raised a few times and got one through, but on the other occasions had two or more callers behind me, missed the flop on horribly coordinated boards and had to check fold.
Eventually I found myself with around 50,000 chips, 75 places from the money, with blinds at 3000/6000. I shoved light a couple of times from the button (with 8-9 and K-2) to give myself more time but was unable to make real progress. On several occasions I was going to raise but someone else raised in front of me and I did not have enough to make them fold and did not want to take my knife of a hand into a gunfight.
I was basically now looking for spots to either open-shove or re-shove with a hand that was strong enough to take account of my very limited fold equity.
John Magriel raised from early position to 15,000 and I looked down at 8-8. I was very tempted to shove but, despite the fact that he appears to be a t least marginally insane, he had raised only three times in about three hours and he had a very big stack, so it seemed inconceivable that I could be better than a coin-flip and could very possibly be dominated, so I folded.
A few hands later a player quite late on raised and I looked down at A-T off suit. I actually feel this is definitely strong enough to re-shove with, even with no fold equity, but I decided to fold (to be honest I could not justify why with any logical explanation and was possibly swayed by a “nit-fear” of being knocked out). Both blinds called. The flop came A-A-7 and it was checked around. At this point I was swearing to myself for missing “my chance”. The turn was king and again it was checked around, leading to more intensive inward swearing. The river was another seven, the blinds checked and the pre-flop raiser bet 15,000. The small blind called (with what turned out to be a seven) the big blind (Paul Magriel) showed a seven and folded and the pre-flop raiser showed A-K. My inward swearing stopped instantly.
I open-shoved with T-J to give me 51k and, a few hands later, a young, quite active player raised from early position, and I, again, looked down at pocket eights, although this was a totally different spot against a very different player-type with a completely different opening hand-range.
Now, I actually did have enough chips to have a chance of making him fold, especially given that his opening hand-range was quite wide and, even if he did call, I had a very good chance of being no worse than a coin-flip. So I moved in for 51K, an additional 38K on top of his opening raise to 13K.
Just winning the hand there and then would be a nice increase in stack size and if he were to call and I were to win, I would almost certainly be able to plod like a nit to the money with little risk.
He thought about it for a long time and then reluctantly called with AsQh, so at least my assessment of his ranges was about right, and if he took that long to call for a tiny portion of his stack holding A-Q, he would most likely have folded a large portion of his opening range.
The flop was Jh2h6s, which was pretty good for my hand. The turn was 8h to give me a set but also give him a 4-card flush draw, and the river was 4h to give him a flush, at which point Paul Magriel was kind enough to point out that his Qh wins, just in case I was unable to spot it.
Roll on next year…