Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 128: Coolered with Thousands on the Line
Poker can be a brutal game. I was reminded of this after a recent cooler cost me thousands in equity. It happened in a $500 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament hosted by the Madison Poker Community in my home state of Wisconsin.
I was one of 54 entrants competing for a $24,300 prize pool. On Day 2, approximately 25 of us returned to action, and honestly, I was fortunate to be among them. On Day 1a, I was down to 6,500 at one point from the starting stack of 50,000. I worked it up a bit, but was still short in the last level of the night with 21,000 and the blinds at 1,500/3,000/3,000.
Given it was a 90-minute drive to the venue, I wasn't keen to fold my way into Day 2 with a short stack. Instead, I was going to go big or go home, which meant lots of shoves. Fortunately, I got some good cards that made shoving easy and I swiped a ton of blinds as well as occasional bonus chips after successful three-bet jams. Within 20 minutes, I'd worked my stack up to 110,500 at bag and tag.
The Day 2 Setup
On Day 2, the top six got paid and I ground my way there. I was a short stack at that point, but managed to outlast Byron Ziebell for a pay jump. With five remaining, Ricky Landais and I were both short, but I was able to bust him when he jammed the small blind with and I woke up with in the big. My pocket pair held and we were down to four, though I was still the short stack.
I picked my spots carefully and before long worked my way into the chip lead.
I wasn't ready to go, so I buckled down and got to work. I picked my spots carefully and before long worked my way into the chip lead with more than 900,000, at the time about a third of the chips in play. Momentum was with me, I was confident, and I had my eyes firmly set on the $7,000 first-place prize.
Unfortunately, that is the point where it all came crashing down.
The Cooler Hand
With the blinds at 15,000/30,000/30,000, Larry Wagner limped under the gun and I limped from the button as well with offsuit. Dan Dombrowski folded the small blind before Missy Bartelme, who sat second in chips about 100,000 behind me, three-bet to 110,000 from the big blind. Wagner folded and I called,
I opted to call here for a couple of reasons. First, I was in position so I had the benefit of acting last postflop. Second, Missy had shown herself a strong player who was capable of squeezing here with a wide range.
Obviously, I was thrilled to see the flop come down rainbow to give me trips. Missy continued for 100,000 and I just called. I took my time in doing so, hoping to give the impression that I may be floating to try and take the hand away either on the turn or river.
My hope was she would notice I was doing something off-kilter, and combined with the float possibility, would push back with a check-jam.
On turn, Missy checked and I bet 250,000. However, I intentionally did so in a different way.
Usually, when I bet or raise I do so one-handed with big chips. This time I decided to use both hands to slide in two towers of smaller denomination chips. The hope was she would notice I was doing something off-kilter, and combined with the float possibility, would push back with a check-jam.
Sure enough, she did just that for 520,000 total and I wasted little time in making the call. I could taste victory, but then she rolled over for trip queens with a better kicker. The river was a useless , and I went bust the very next hand for $2,940. Still a nice score, but far from what awaited the winner.
I was at the peak of the rollercoaster only to be completely surprised by an unexpected fall. I was focused on setting the trap for Missy only to discover she was setting the trap for me!
Missy Weighs In
The following day I had the chance to catch up with Missy to get her thoughts on the hand. I knew what had been going through my mind, but I was curious to know what was going through hers. Here's what she thought street by street.
Preflop: "Larry had actually been open-limping quite a bit and after showdown I noticed he would do this a lot with hands like jack-ten offsuit and nine-eight suited. When you limp behind I assumed your range to be something like small pairs or Broadway cards (excluding A-K and A-Q as I figured you would raise the button with those). When I raise I'm actually hoping to just take the pot down, as playing out of position against you wasn't something I was looking forward to. However, I planned to check most flops once Larry folded."
Flop: "On the flop I elect to bet 100,000. I assume most middle pocket pairs can call a bet here, and if you do have something like or I want to build the pot. When you call the 100,000 flop I'm obviously hoping there's a queen in your hand instead of something like as I don't see you calling a second street if I bet. On the turn I'm just trying to trap you. If you do have a small pair and I show weakness, I'm thinking you might put a small bet in to try and take down the 400,000 pot. So, I check and you bet 250,000. At this point, with such a hefty bet I'm pretty confident you have queen in your hand so I want to get the rest of the money in the middle. I jam and you call."
Final Thoughts: "It was a cooler and luckily, I was on the winning side of it. I ran pretty solid most of the tournament and had a lot of fun. I enjoyed playing with you and look forward to seeing you at another final table."
I was glad to see Missy go on to win $6,465 after working a heads-up deal with Wagner.
That said, I was disappointed to bust in fourth place, but that's poker. Every now and then a cooler comes along that'll cost you a good deal of money. I can't even imagine having something like that happen at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. This time it was my turn to be on the wrong end of it.