Inside the Poker Tour (48)
Maniacs! Maniacs as far as the eye can see. Maniacs everywhere. It feels like there are 3 to 7 at every starting table and even though a lot of them do go over the cliff early some manage to land on top the pile and get to the final table with a lot of chips, usually with more chips than their more sane counterparts who seem to know where they are in hands. Hmmmm….is it time to view their possible plays as being right for tournaments? Is it past time to do so? The World Series of Poker is fast approaching and the fields for all but two events are likely to be larger than anyone can imagine. To get through these fields is very difficult nowadays, to get through the field and have a chance when you are in the money you need chips. Par is much more important than it was in years past (par being the average number of chips for each contestant) when the only thing of large importance was that you had a good 'X' (or 'M' in Dan Harrington's writings, meaning your CPR, or 'cost per round' divided into your stack). Knowing your 'X' drove a lot of your decisions but now keeping within sight of the Jones's is the key thing.
How do you keep the leaders in sight when the usual way seems to be to get into a pot with the worst of it and suck out? New strategies and counter-strategies are in order. The (David Sklansky) idea that 'Kill Phil' is built around is no longer just one for beginners and advanced players, but one that has to be in every player's arsenal, adding to the danger that is already inherent in facing a lot of internet qualifiers and television viewing amateurs that do not know where they are in a hand. In fact they likely do not even know how to cut their chips or peek at their cards!
I am just back in town and played last night in the Commerce's tournament (Heavenly Holdem), where you start with 1500 in chips and blinds are at 25-25 for level one. This was a lot chips about four years ago but now it plays like you have about 500 in chips! There were over 500 runners and after two breaks we were under 100 contestants! Now that is a diet many of us wish we were on! It is the norm these days to have a huge reduction in the field within hours of beginning each event.
At the 200-400 level with a 50 ante my stack was 8500 and I had As2c in the big blind with a player with 2150 in chips limping from up front and the button calling as well off a stack of 2650 when the flop brought Ad-10s-5d and I bet 900 out, not liking my hand very much but willing to call either player, as I know if either of them has a flush draw they will go all-in, and not wanting to check and have to call with the hand while giving a hand like 10c-9d a free card. Of course if one of them has an ace I will have to get lucky or lose over 2,000 on the hand but that is one of the problems one has when you have the "bigger" stack—a good problem but not one you can get away from. The first player went all-in over my bet without much hesitation and I thought he likely held a hand like Ac-8c but I will have to call him anyways. Now the button thinks for 25 seconds and also goes all-in. Now it is very hard to imagine that I have the best hand as I think one of them is on a flush draw and the other one must have an ace with a kicker, so after about forty seconds of fighting off a desire to call I folded. Oh the woes of the rational mind! The up front limper turns up KcQc and the button turns up Jd2d—ah well I was half right! The turn came a blank and the Ks on the river and the KcQc not only won but followed this hand with a small 'rush' and acquired a large pile of chips in short order. Nothing like an incomprehensible play to set things right if you are facing an opponent that thinks rationally! "It was time for me to go home, I was tired!" he offered as he stacked the pot.
One round later I was in the big blind with 6900 in chips when another player, a young serious looking player, made it 1200 to go off a stack of 8000 plus and the button called off a similar sized stack without much thought, I looked down at 9c9h and decide to make the 'sandwich' play that much has been written about lately as I have a (barely) above average stack and the tournament future of either opponent will be in grave danger if they call. I move all-in for 6100 more and the first opponent squirms unhappily for about three minutes and then releases what he says before seeing our hands was 10-10 (all power to the play!), but the button quickly calls and proudly turns up Ac-10s. A-10? off-suit? Wow! Now that is the height of optimism as if I have an ace he will have to hit the ten, and if I have a pair he is an underdog. More relevant perhaps is wondering if he has thought at all about risking his tournament life with this piece of junk? Perhaps he understands the maniac quotient perfectly and called before the flop with the intention of drawing out? Nah, I do not think so! I believe he was simply playing without understanding the situation at all. I always suggest not trying to make a play against an oblivious opponent and this illustrates why. The flop comes KcKhQd and the player that mucked 10-10 says "ace" and his card calling skills are immediately rewarded as an ace comes off on the turn. A ten appears on the river and I head for the exit trying to find a better way to play the hand. After the fact I wish I had just mucked it and lived to fight another day but that is a lot like Monday afternoon quarterbacking, knowing the right play once you see the outcome of the way you did play. The German Doctor Bode always says that the "most likely outcome of what might happen… is what did happen" and he is right again!
On the way out the door Raymond Davis asks me what happened and I used the Barry Shulman suggested grunt. What can one say? Raymond had 22,000 in chips and when I asked him at the second break how he was doing he said, "You know if I am still alive in a tournament at this stage I have a lot of chips!" which is true. Raymond is one of the intentional maniacs, he knows where he is at in many hands but is willing to take risks, and make bluffs, that would make Carlos Mortenson or Phil Ivey smile.
He was one of the chip leaders after day one of the 25,500 buy-in event at the Bellagio last month with over 190,000 in chips and near the end of the day I asked him how many of the hands that he thought he had played. After a moment's thought he replied 72%, but that is because with one dealer he hardly played at all. He busted Gavin Smith amongst others but the memorable hands he told me about were against Robert Williamson. Robert raised on the button at the 200-400 with 50 antes level and Raymond called in the big blind with 6d3d and the flop came J65 and Raymond checked with Robert betting 2400 and Raymond raising to 4800 and Robert re-raising to a large number. Now Raymond says he gave Robert a little speech about playing too many hands and warned him that he was going to bust him. The very next hand Robert raised again and Raymond re-raised with AQ from the button and Robert re-re-raised and they put all the chips in the middle of the pot with both players showing AQ and splitting the pot. The very next hand Robert raised once again with AQ and Raymond just called with 66 and the flop came Q high with a 6 and Raymond busted Robert. Wow! What a fast paced sequence and quick result! Sort of like Ali stinging like a bee, with no butterfly dance in sight!
Until next time…play good and get lucky!
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