I played in the 1060 buy-in no-limit holdem event on September 19 at the California State Championship and finished 4 from the money at 22nd. Somehow it was a hard loss for me to take. I have bubbled out many many times over the years and sometimes losing a hand and getting knocked out does not bother me at all, but at other times it bothers me for up to three days! Unfortunately I can never predict how my final hand will affect me if I fail to win it but usually I am okay after I sleep and usually I should not play live games on that same evening.
We started with 1500 in chips and one hour rounds so except for a silly double up when it goes from 100-200 with a 25 ante to 200-400 with a 50 ante the structure is quite decent for professional players. In this case nothing happened for me for the first two and one half hours and then suddenly I was given an enormous gift. I moved to a table with a lot of chips and considerable action when I picked up AA in the little blind with the big blind being 50 and a middle position player making it 250 and the player on my right (with a big stack) calling. I now re-raised it to 600 and both called. The flop came AJ6 and we checked to the button who bet 800, I called and the opening raiser mucked. When you are lucky enough to flop top set you have what I call my favorite draw and have the liberty to do whatever you can to get as many chips into the pot as possible, which is usually your goal. The turn card came a 6 and we both checked. The river was a 7 and I bet my last 375 certain that he would call me with any hand because the pot is now 3450 and even though he suspects the worst and twists in agony if he has the likes of K-10 or 22 it is very hard to throw it away when you will still have 3250 if you lose the hand while getting 10 to 1. So he tried to imagine throwing it away and finally called.
The very next hand he made it 150 to go and I look down at As7s on the button and I immediately call the possible blind steal with my newfound chips and two handed we see a flop of A77 with 2 clubs. Jackpot! Having the button there are many ways to win the hand but hitting it three times on the flop is surely the easiest path to victory, and now I again have the same situation as I did the hand before...which is how to extract the most chips from my opponents stack. Now if he has the stunning winner AA or makes a big set later in the hand I will only be able to say something like "very nice. Good luck to everyone!" and prepare to head for the exit. No matter what you hold it is gambling, but after you hit the flop as hard as I did these past two hands you are happy to get all your chips in and are very likely to win. In this case he now bet out for 275 and without long thought I raise it to 600. Weak players often call here, or trap with strong hands in general, but by raising I accomplish many things. Firstly he will not imagine that I have such a powerful hand. Secondly it looks like it might be a stone cold bluff. Thirdly it looks like I might be on a flush draw and am semi-bluffing. At the same time I am giving him a chance to try to close that draw out with a large re-raise or all-in move. Confused by the raise and hoping that he is against a weak ace he just calls. The turn comes 5c and now there are three clubs on board (A-7-5) with the 7 of hearts. This is not a good card for me unless he has AK or AQ with the large kicker being a club. The fact that he called my raise on the flop gives me some hope that he holds just such a hand and after he checks I bet about two thirds of the pot (1050)just enough that he will likely call, or check raise himself broke if he holds the KcQc or KcJc or most flush draws. He will likely call with a hand like KcKh as well and will strain to call with such hands as JcJh or AhJc. He does call after about a minute of thought and the river comes off the 3 of spades and he instantly moves all-in! I clarify that he is all-in (often a wise thing to do) and call without waiting further, and he turns over AhJd and has given me his large stack in two hands and made me one of the chip leaders as the table sings Merry Christmas to me!
One thing I hear over and over near the end of no-limit tournaments is "I played great, I got the money in with the best hand every time!" which tells me two things about the speaker; 1) he is a loser, and 2) he is not objective about his own game. I hope someone out there appreciates how hard it is to play really well in any holdem tournament, much less a no-limit tournament. I have literally played thousands of no-limit tournaments and still find ways to make mistakes! This is why I will be talking about stages as well as stacks in books that will start coming out next year.
One player in this tournament started moving all-in with three to six stacks behind him that had him well covered as we moved from 40 runners toward the final 18, showing such hands as 99 and AsQs gratis after not being called. This is a style that I highly recommend if you are trying to go broke. It always works until it doesn't. All the hands that he might like to be called by are mucking and the only hands that will call him are those that have him beat. That being said I can add that if you think you are one of the weakest players at the table that is not a bad strategy. For him, on this day, it worked, and he got to the bottom of the money.
As for me I do not think I played very well down the stretch and have to blame myself for first of all becoming vulnerable followed by not pulling the switch on several high risk situations. I drifted down from 9600 to 8500 during the 100-200 with 25 antes level and at last picked up 10-10 in second position and made it 800 to go, it was passed around to the little blind and he fumbled out a call of 600 which was corrected to 800, hmmm, when they fumble around like that they often have a big big hand, but he was such a donkey player that I wasn't sure. I cared even less when the flop came J-10-7 and he checked to me. I bet 1200 and he moved all-in for 1800 more with an instant call by me and he turned over ...JJ! I was drawing to one card and what I thought was a great flop was a disaster for me.
Now I had 4675 in first position and picked up AcJc and needed to take a breather, probably just calling is okay with this hand in this spot but I continued my path to self-destruction with the same raise to 800, An-Tran called off a stack of 12,000 on the button and the big blind acted like he wanted to move all-in for 5000 but could not pull the trigger, and at last he called as well. The flop came Kh5h4s, the big blind checked and I bet 1400. This is an example of casting good money after bad as even with 3650 in front of me I have enough to compete and have a reasonable chance to get to the money or even higher. An-Tran called and the blind mucked (he later told me he had 99 and that seems likely). Kd on turn and we both checked, 8d on river and I checked again as my choice is to bluff all my chips or check and if I think he is on a flush draw (which I did) I only have to worry about AhQh. Whoops, that is exactly what he did have.
Two rounds later I had 2800 on the button with A-10 off-suit and the blinds about to go to 200-400 with a 50 ante when the aforementioned all-in player began his all-in barrage from first position with 3025 in chips. I did not think about it long enough and mucked, with him now showing an Ace with the comment "I was suited!"
Mark Simon, twenty one years old, won this tournament and you can mark that name down right now, because he will be winning a lot more of them before he is done.
Play good...and get lucky!
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