Running like Dwayne without the drugs
Monday, 17 August 2009
Soon after arriving in Vegas I agreed to meet Karl Mahrenholtz at The Venetian to play the $500 PLO tournament. We sat next to each other and I hardly won a hand. Unfortunately I did not ask Karl for a percentage saver and he went on to win $24,000. Instead, after my untimely exit, I went to play $2/$5 PLO cash with the locals.
There wasn’t much value on the table, but neither was there much threat, and I ended up breaking about even after a couple of hours play. In one hand, the most aggro player on the table raised pre-flop and, after another caller, I called too with 6h7hTcJc. The flop came a fairly pleasant 6c8s9h, giving me the nut straight and two pair. “The Aggro” c-bet as expected and the very tight player called.
It seemed unlikely that the aggro player had the nuts and even less likely that the tight player did, as tight players do not tend to like giving away free cards to aggro players. I could have re-popped it then and there, and may well have taken down the pot if I had; however, as I had position, and a flat call would give the impression that I had a draw rather than a made hand, I felt I could take the chance to just call and hope a blank card hit on the turn. This way, I might be able to extract more from The Aggro, who might feel he could represent a made straight as we had both just called his flop bet.
The turn was As, which, despite now offering a spade flush draw, was a nice blank for me. Surprisingly and rather disappointingly, both players checked it to me, so I bet $300 with $170 behind.
The aggro player folded and the tight player called, asking me if I wanted to run it twice and also if I wanted to finish the betting there. I said that I did not want to run it twice (I prefer to do that if I have a draw rather than a made and definitely winning hand), but I didn’t mind whether we bet it further or not as I only had $170 behind, plus a small stack of singles for tipping the dealers and cocktail waitresses. So I offered him the option of deciding whether we do or not before the river card was dealt.
I may have given up an edge by allowing him to decide whether betting should continue after the river, but I thought it was quite community spirited and I was only trying to be nice.
He decided to continue on the river, which made it seem a bit pointless to have asked me the question in the first place. The river paired the seven, at which point he set me in. I called and, as the dealer was passing him my remaining $170 in red $5 chips, he was kind enough to insist on having the single $1 chips also. Nice touch, I thought.
In another hand, with a player straddling for $10 UTG, it was folded to the small and big blinds, both of whom made up the total $10 straddle. So there were three players, each having put $10 into the pot as the straddle player was offered his option to check or bet. He decided that he wanted to raise $40 and the dealer took the bet and moved to the small blind player to call. At this point the player in the big blind questioned whether or not this $40 bet was allowed given that it was Pot Limit.
Then followed a five-minute discussion as to what the maximum raise should be, which no one seemed too confident about and two different floor people were beckoned over to help solve this complex situation.
One floor person was saying it was three times that, plus the trailing bets. They seemed to have no understanding of what Pot Limit actually means and even less understanding of very basic mathematics.
After a group discussion, they decided that the amount he could raise was $30, at which point I tried to be helpful and said, “Another way that works is to calculate what 3 x 10 is or, if that is too complex, 6 x 5.”
Another player was saying why don’t you bring all the money into the pot (i.e., the six $5 chips) see how much is there and that’s how much he can raise. His new book “PLO for Americans” will be coming out in the coming months.
I then moved onto the $10,000. which saw some very dubious play from many (mainly American) players, who seem to take the view that any double suited hand is the nuts pre-flop and will not fold any such hand regardless of the action.
I have long known that the main reason why the “big name” American poker players do so well in the WSOP is because they are put into every single event at someone else’s expense, and that affords them more opportunity to “run well”, which I believe is the most important aspect of winning any large poker tournament, particularly when there are many very good players and even the bad players have aggressive tendencies.
I have often seen such players running from one tournament area to another playing as many as three events at the same time, and on more than one occasion have heard them ask the players at the table “what game is this?” as they turn up to play.
A very good example of this occurred on my first table in level 2 of the $10,000 Omaha event. Andy Bloch, the noted mathematical genius, joined the table (no doubt from another event) and in one hand, with the blinds at 100/200, managed to get into a three-way pot, with 16,000 chips in the pot pre-flop, and subsequently won a huge pot with a starting hand of 2-3-5-J. Now, given his mathematical genius, I am sure he could produce a complex formula using hand ranges and EV to justify each stage of getting his chips into the pot, but I think a far likelier explanation is that he simply thought the WSOP had introduced a new $10,000 championship event of cribbage.
I was later moved to a table that included Steve Sung and Scotty Nguyen. In one hand I raised with K-K-T-A and received three callers. The flop was K-3-4 rainbow and Scotty bet just under the pot. I called and everyone else folded. The turn was a nice, safe jack, he bet all-in and I said “call”. Before he shows, he says, “I’ve got ten-high. Can you beat that, baby?”
He actually had a low wrap (4-5-6-T), but I hit quads on the river to win the hand. He had knocked me out in 36th place a couple of years ago with a very similar hand against my flopped set, so I was very happy history did not repeat.
I made it into Day 2 and was unfortunate in that for most of the day when I was in the small blind the player in the big blind was absent, and so my blinds came under continuous pressure. I was more unfortunate in that when it was folded to me on the button I twice raised with K-K in my hand only to find the big blind holding A-A in his hand.
My exit hand, in 67th place, was similar. I raised holding K-Q-9-9 when it was folded to me on the button, only for the big blind to wake up with K-K in his hand, and I did not have enough chips to justify folding to his re-raise.
I then moved onto the eight-game event (HORSE, plus 2-7 triple draw, NL hold em and PLO), where I ran equally badly. This included one early very damaging hand where I re-raised pre-flop, sneakily checked a flop of T-7-6, then bet a turn four, only to get called and beat by a Q-9 that had rivered a queen and then checked it anyway.
I was later privileged enough to be moved to Doyle Brunson’s table. I was short-stacked and got back a little late after lunch, missing my big blind, which was annoying. Given that and my short-stack, I was happy to take a flyer with any reasonable starting hand in the 2-7 triple draw. The opportunity soon presented itself when a player raised, Doyle called and I re-raised and it was capped. On the first draw both my opponents drew one card, while I kept 2-3-7, drawing two cards. I then re-raised without looking at my two new cards (quite flairy, I thought). I then proceeded to get my chips into the pot as fast as possible and Doyle said, “Have you got a self-destruct wish coz you are taking me down with you?” I offered him a very consolatory, “If I don’t win the hand I hope you do!” although, ultimately, neither of us ended up winning it.
I played in two mega-satellites and managed to get to the final of both (with three $10k seats and two $50k seats up for grabs, respectively) but again ran very badly and never managed to win a single hand in either final.
The satellite for the Main Event was most annoying – although it was a bit crap-shooty with 14 players left, I had triple the average stack against a group of generally weak-passive players.
The most aggressive action I encountered had been a ridiculous call. After raising 3K in late position, my opponent called my all-in re-raise with 10-J for his remaining 20K stack (average stack at time was 17K). The fact that another player folded a jack did not prevent him hitting the other two jacks on the flop.
Later in the game I raised with A-K and the same player called. The flop was K-7-7 and we both checked. The turn was queen. I bet and he called, which led me to the conclusion that he probably had a queen and would call a river bet if any “blank” card hit (most cards were “blank”). The river was a horrible queen, so I checked and, after some thought, he also checked showing A-Q. Apparently he was concerned that I might have K-K. Against this type of weak-passive player, I failed to win a single hand on the final table.
There is a rule in the WSOP that if you check behind on the river holding the nuts, then you may get a penalty as you can only have done this due to some form of collusion with another player in the pot. It is apparently unthinkable that a player could be so stupid as to make this mistake unless he is cheating in some way, I beg to differ!