The World Series of Poker, the 2006 version here at the Rio in Las Vegas is balmy…well hot then, damnably hot for most of us…is underway. I will be here for most of it and will have some columns about some key hands and situations as they arise. I have entered event number two and the final event (the 10,000 buy-in World Championship) in which I play on the second of five day ones, and will play in a number of the events between the first and the last open affairs.
It is very hard to win at poker without getting lucky in some key hands. I remember an article written by Mike Caro many years ago in which he starts out in his usual cryptic style with the remark, "You've just won a tournament." Here there would be a lengthy pause if he were a speaker—or a comedian—and then the zinger. "The first thing to realize is that you were lucky." Amazingly people forget this! They scream and dance and pound their own chest and flop upon the table and think themselves to be poker's own gift to mankind. Unnnh fellows, I hate to be the bearer of this news, but you just got lucky.
I am reminded (again) of the little boy in the general store that was eating from a barrel of brown sugar and getting greener and greener as he grew sicker and sicker and finally one of the wise old men in one of the rocking chairs on the porch asked him, "Boy, what are you doing? Why don't you stop?" The lad responded, "I'm just trying to eat it down to where it tastes good again!" I always thought this pithy exchange epitomized the play and results of poker tournaments.
The next time you think God is rewarding you for playing good try to have a touch of humility. The very best player in the world could play over one hundred tournaments and never win one of them. In fact if all the players were of equal ability it is likely that one of them will win eight of the hundred tournaments and be well paid to give advice to another player in this game group of contestants. Got it? Okay, enough opinion.
I have played thousands of hours on the internet and can say quite a lot about it, although I would be pressed to say more than Doyle Brunson does, he comes up with angles about playing on the net that I never even thought of. It is a great place to sharpen your skills and try poker without suffering any embarrassment, which is a fact. But you should also be fully aware that it plays quite differently than being in a physical environment and watching how your opponent does all the little things—considering, putting his chips in, how he asks questions, how he answers questions, how his breathing is altered, how much attention he puts toward various things that are happening around him. On the net it unfolds at blinding speed with the math of a lot of situations driving the results—for good players and great theoreticians as well as bad players. Let me give you some actual hands from my own play to illustrate this.
The first happened a few days ago in a 32 player field of professionals to decide which of us got to play at the televised final table in Las Vegas for one million in prize monies. At 20 players I was 4th in chips with 10,300 and second in chips was the player on my left, Dave Colclough of England with 11,200. We were playing at tables of six, so in this case there were four tables of five each with blinds of 150-300 and small antes, so I had about twice the chips I needed to be "okay" in my system.
It came to me in the little blind and I held Ah9h and I raised it to 900 with the idea that if I was raised I would move all-in. Now this is not the play I would recommend in a money game, nor in a normal tournament, but I have a very strong opinion that it was correct in this situation where only one winner advanced. Clearly it was a very unusual format where first place got 167,000 and second got nothing! Dave called. The flop came 7d5h3h and I bet the size of the pot, about 1900. Several players suggested that it might be better to check with the idea of raising all-in but what I do not like about that play is what happens when he checks behind me? It might come the Kc or Qc or 6c or 4c or a lot of other cards which fail to make me the nuts and now I have gathered no information and with only one card to come am at a big disadvantage. If I bet out and get raised I will have to muck my hand or take what is likely far and away the worst of it. If I check and he bets the pot or more how can I reasonably continue? At least if he calls my flop bet and it comes one of the aforementioned cards and I check and he bets large I can be fairly sure I am beat and throwing the hand away becomes a viable option. On the other hand if he raises my flop bet I can move all-in with two cards to come and may be a decent favorite if all 15 of my cards plus the runner-runner straight are potential winners. What actually happened now is that Dave moved all-in. The exact hand that I expected him to hold was 7s6s which leaves me as a small favorite with the winner of this hand becoming a substantial chip-leader in the event. It is possible that he will have 86 or Kh6h or some other semi-bluffing hand that makes me an immediate favorite and I have already put 2800 into the pot, which has now swelled to 13,200 and requires a call of my last 7500 to win it. I do call and he turns over Ad7s to cut my potential winners down to 12 and make me a small underdog. It comes Qc and 2s and I was gone and David became the chip leader and went on to finish second to Todd Brunson.
Todd will be on television about July 12th on FSN/Mansion with two other pros (Gavin Smith and John Gale) that qualified the next day along with three amateurs. One hand that Todd won deserves special mention as it catapulted him toward the top and made winning it possible. Harry Demetriou was the chip leader and the two of them got Todd all-in when Todd held 5d5h and Harry held 10-10 after which the flop came K-10-9, which looks good for Harry but after it came heart, heart Todd,s 5h made the only flush and he went on to victory—after which he remarked that he had never before been so lucky in a tournament! Now that is the correct perspective!
In hand two I also held Ah9h in the little blind (not much of a hand, eh?) in the Sunday tournament on Pokerstars with 2100 in chips and the blinds being 100-200 with no antes yet. In this hand I limped expecting my unknown, but very aggressive, opponent from northern Europe to raise it no matter what he held. He had 2600 in chips and did not disappoint as he raised it to 600, I now moved all-in and he practically beat me into the pot—with Qc10s. The flop came 10-4-2 a 7 on the turn and a Q on the river and I was a few clicks away from my next effort.
Until next time…play good…and get lucky!
Ed Note: You are always only a few clicks away from your next effort at Paradise Poker Sign Up Today.