I got here in time to play day one of an $1,100 event that would otherwise be called the New Zealand championship — but that is likely the name of a tournament held in Christchurch in a much smaller venue. I visited the SkyCity Casino here in Auckland three years or so ago, but now it was without smoking, which I like. Of course the weather outside still reminded me of the years I spent in Portland, Oregon — it rained and rained and rained some more. I think it is far easier to count the days it doesn't rain here as opposed to counting the days where it does.
I had two hands on the way to the final table that illustrate many things. The first happened when the blinds were 200/400 with antes of 25. I was dealt in the three hole and made it 1,200 from a stack of 21,000. The professional-seeming player immediately behind me hemmed and hawed for quite a bit and finally called, from a stack of 24,500. Now if he or anyone else raises the pot I am unlikely to call such a reraise. No one else played and the flop came , I continued with a bet of 1,800, intending to call an all-in reraise, or move all in over a more normal re-raise. To be frank, I hate this situation and curse the day I played this hand, lol, but now that I am here with two overcards and a flush draw I want to put all the money in that I can, or at least I have to in order to see this hand to its logical conclusion. The turn brought the and I bet 4,000, preferring not to be called, and believing myself to be beat if I do get called. My opponent called and it came on the river. I checked the river and my opponent checked after thinking a bit. He held and showed me the hand without my asking as he gave up rather disgustedly.
At the next table (30 runners left at this point), a middle-aged man kept going all in from the two seat and then showing bluffs. He was the table escalator, from big stack to normal stack to short stack to big stack! On the hand that I will describe he limped off a stack of 41,200, as did three others, and I called the 600 big blind from the button with off a stack of 28,400. The two blinds also called and six of us took the flop. It came and with a pair and a flush draw I am ready to gamble with most players. But it's checked to the two seat (I'm in the six seat) and he bets 2,400 and after the other players muck I called. Now I got some flak for calling here, but I had seen plenty enough to know that if I went all in this player would likely call; in fact he would likely call if he had even one pair after I made a flush. So in conclusion, I called. The turn brought the perfect card for me – well, another deuce is maybe perfect — but next to that what comes off is great. It comes and he bets 4,000 at me. I think a bit and move all in. He instantly called with ! Wow! Maybe he had a taxi waiting! Ja, ja! This is the truth about the way he played, though. It would have been an insult if he was slapped, errr, got raised, and didn't slap back…. The river came and I had made a key double-up. Christmas in Julember, as we used to say at the tables, when someone played incomprehensibly.
We played for several hours to get to a final ten players as the short stacks kept sucking out and doubling up, time after time. At 3:45 AM we arrived at ten and the final table and were done for the day.
I was about seventh in chips and wasn't expecting anything in the way of good cards at the final table. We went back to 1,500/3,000 blinds with a 500 ante and I had 41,000 to start the second day's play. Under the gun, I picked up and raised to 9,000, the little blind moved all in when it was passed to him, and he had me covered by quite a bit. I called and he held and after it came we chopped the pot. The very next hand I was in the big blind with and a short stack went all in from the four hole, with the cutoff then going all in from a big stack. It was passed to me and I called. The first player had and the big stack had , and it came and I had tripled up to over 120,000. I soon had 180,000 and was in first place with only the player immediately behind me — New Zealander Chris — being in the rear-view mirror with 130,000 or so.
Later on we had a break at five-handed and I was still a big chip leader. I came back to the small blind where I held KhKd and made it 16,000 over a big blind of 6,000 as first in. The big blind called and after it came I checked, not out of fear, as one will see, but trapping any draw that might bet. The big blind went all in for 146,000 and I was put to the test. Possibly it is correct to pass in game theory, but in reality if I won this hand I was a big favorite in the tournament and couldn't expect to see a set, so I had to imagine he had a draw but only was a favorite over me. I expected to see or if I called, which I did. If he found an all-in here with a set, God bless him. He actually had and was the favorite, although he wasn't favored after the turn brought the . However, the river brought the and all was sunny on his side of the street, with me left with the shortest stack. Should I pass, though? Hmmmm.
I showed my luckbox nature in coming back from the short stack, and almost dead earlier, and it was demonstrated again on the final hand. I held and called on the button, as first to act, for 6,000 more. He checked with from the big blind and the flop brought and he checked. I bet 14,000 as a feeler bluff off a stack of 320,000 and my opponent called. The turn came and we both checked, the river came and my opponent checked again, with me going for an overbet of 80,000, which brought an immediate all-in from him for 235,000. I couldn't imagine throwing this hand away and called after some thought. It was possible to see 5-4 or A-3, but that seemed unlikely, and was.
So until next time… play good and be lucky!
[Editor's note: PokerNews columnist Dennis Waterman's win in the SkyCity Festival of Poker's SkyCity Hold'em Championship was worth $23,680. The festival's final event, the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland championship, is in progress as this piece is published.]