Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 19: Stupid Calls & Lucky Draws in MSPT WI Championship
This past weekend, the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) stopped at my home casino, Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells, for an $1,100 buy-in Main Event. It’s the only major tour that comes to the Badger State, so obviously it’s a big deal in the local poker community. What made it even more special this year was that it was officially rebranded as the Wisconsin State Poker Championship.
The tournament, which had been preceded by a series of qualifiers and super satellites, attracted 463 entries (blowing out the previous stop record of 383), and I accounted for two of them. That’s because I played Day 1a, busted, and promptly reentered. My original entry, which came courtesy of a $250 qualifier, came to an end after an opponent flopped a set of fours against my pocket rockets, which was just one of seven times I looked down on aces on Day 1a (they won the other six times, fortunately).
While things didn’t go according to plan on my first bullet, they went a little better on my second as I finished as one of the 34 survivors among the 197 Day 1a entrants, ultimately bagging 93,000 (18th of 34). Along with the 54 Day 1b survivors, 88 of us returned to Day 2 to play to the money (top 45) and onward to a winner.
I thought I’d examine three notable hands I played during the tournament, each to varying degrees of success (or failure). I hope you’ll learn something from each.
Making a Terrible Call
My starting table was great. Players were raising liberally and overplaying hands. In fact, we had someone nearly go bust in the first 15 minutes despite the fact players started with 20,000 in chips and the blinds kicked off at 50/100.
In Level 2 (75/150), I raised to 400 from early position holding , one of my favorite hands. Another player flatted, and then a player in late position three-bet to a hefty 1,800. This is where I made my first mistake by opting to call (I still don’t know why I did it). That priced in the limper, and the three of us saw a flop of .
I checked with top pair, the flatter followed suit, and the three-bettor bet all in for his last 7,000. I knew there was a good chance I was behind, but I thought to myself, “Why did you call with this hand if you weren’t going to play it when you flopped a piece?” It was bad logic, but it’s what I used to make the call. The third player folded and sure enough my opponent rolled over .
Of course I was drawing live, but that doesn’t change the fact I made a stupid call. I was appropriately punished as both the turn and river blanked, sending my stack from 22,000 down to 15,000.
Lesson Learned: More times than not, making bad calls preflop will cost you later in the hand.
Getting Lucky at Just the Right Time
By the time Level 9 (400/800/100) rolled around, I was on my second bullet and fairly short with 15,925. There were some massive stacks at my table, including that of Jeff Petronack, who had so many chips he opened frequently to put the pressure on us short stacks. Eventually I got tired of it and decided to make a stand.
It happened when Petronack opened to 2,000 from early position and action folded to me on the button. I looked down at the paltry , but nonetheless decided this was my spot. Petronack had folded to numerous three-bets, so I knew he didn’t have a big hand every time he opened. If he happened to have the goods, at least I would have live cards (save the unlikelihood of him having pocket sevens or fours).
I shoved, and that’s when I ran into it. The player in the small blind, the same one I had doubled in the above hand, thought long and hard before moving all in over the top for roughly 20,000. The big blind folded, as did Petronack, and the small blind tabled .
I stood up to take my leave, but then the dealer fanned the flop. I spiked trips and took a commanding lead in the hand. Neither the turn nor river proved harmful, and I scored a much-needed double.
Lesson Learned: When your best-laid plans fail, you can always get lucky. To that end, don’t ever be ashamed of sucking out in a poker tournament. Having reported on such hands hundreds of times, I can assure you that everyone who makes the final table got lucky at some point or another.
To Flip or Not to Flip
On Day 2, in Level 17 (2,500/5,000/500), I had worked my stack up to 158,000 when I opened for 11,500 from early position holding . Ashor Ochana, who began the day as a big stack only to dwindle, then shoved all in from middle position for 137,000. It marked the second time in three hands he had shoved over my open.
Johnny Brzozowski was to his direct left and hit the tank. During this time, Ochana was facing Brzozowski, and I could clearly see his leg moving up and down. This can mean a lot of things, but my experience told me he wasn’t confident. In fact, my read was that he was nervous about Brzozowski’s tank. It seemed to me Ochana didn’t want to see a flop, probably because he held either two paint cards, a weaker ace, or most likely a small pocket pair.
I told myself if Brzozowski called I would fold, but alas he did not (he later said he laid down pocket tens). Action folded back to me, and by that point I had decided I was willing to flip for a nearly 300K pot (I was extremely confident in my read). I put in the chips, and sure enough Ochana revealed . It was the race I expected. If I could somehow win this hand, I’d have enough to chips to coast into the money and more than likely make a run at the final table.
Glory comes to those willing to take risks, but not always. This was one such instance when it did not. A flop essentially left me drawing dead, which I was after the turn blanked. I sent all but 21,000 of my chips to Ochana, and then busted the very next hand when I shoved under the gun only to run into . The board ran out clean and I was out in 55th place, while Ochana went on to finish 25th for $2,779.
I’ve replayed this hand in my head many times over the last few days. Could I have gotten away? Of course, and with ease at that. I still would have had a decent stack had I folded, and I probably could have grinded my way to the money regardless. In hindsight I wish that’s the line I’d taken, but in that moment I was more concerned with winning. To do that, I needed chips, something I never had a lot of the entire tournament. I had an opportunity to flip a coin for a lot of chips, and I took it.
Lesson Learned: When you decide to gamble, you must be willing to live with the consequences.
While I didn’t cash, let alone make a run at the title, I was thrilled to see my friend and fellow Ho-Chunk Gaming regular Ben Wiora take it to the bank for $114,512. Ben is a great guy who has put a lot of work into his game, and it was exciting to see him finish as the last man standing. He played like a champion, going wire-to-wire at the final table. But remember what I said — everyone gets lucky at some point or another. That was true of Ben, who put nasty beats on both John "JohnnyGstaks" Hayes and Zach Shelton on his way to victory.
You’re going to make mistakes playing poker tournaments, and from time to time you’ll get lucky. Sometimes you’ll gamble and be glad that you did, while other times you’ll shake your head in disgust. Try as you might, surviving a poker tournament really is a lot like navigating a minefield. Focus, tread carefully, and pray for the best.
In this Series
- 1 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 1: Making Reads and Trusting Them
- 2 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 2: Playing in Poker Charity Events
- 3 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 3: Throttle Back Before You End Up Punting
- 4 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 4: Punish the Satellite Bubble
- 5 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 5: What is Proper Accumulator Strategy?
- 6 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 6: A Chip and a Chair Story with “SirWatts”
- 7 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 7: 15 Things About Poker I Wish I’d Known Sooner
- 8 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 8: Examining the Largest Overlay in Poker History
- 9 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 9: Differences Between Rebuys and Reentries
- 10 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 10: Five Must-Read Poker Books of 2014
- 11 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 11: When Will You Finally Break Through?
- 12 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 12: Dealing with a Target on Your Back
- 13 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 13: Knowing When to Call It Quits
- 14 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 14: Embarking on a Year-Long Weight Loss Journey
- 15 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 15: Navigating Multiple Decision Points in a Poker Hand
- 16 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 16: Chris Moorman Tells Me How Badly I Play Poker
- 17 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 17: Richard “nutsinho” Lyndaker on Getting It in Marginal
- 18 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 18: Getting Inside the Head of Poker Pro Brian Rast
- 19 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 19: Stupid Calls & Lucky Draws in MSPT WI Championship
- 20 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 20: Talking Ante-Only Strategy with Greg “FossilMan” Raymer
- 21 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 21: Contributing to Jonathan Little’s New Book
- 22 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 22: Consequences of Acting Out of Turn & Tossing in Chips
- 23 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 23: When It Comes to Chops, Do What’s In Your Best Interest
- 24 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 24: Accepting Bad Beats & Lessons in Selling Action
- 25 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 25: Heinz’ Ace-High Call Shows Why He's a World Champ
- 26 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 26: Is Keeping the Short Stack Alive Collusion?
- 27 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 27: Great Laydown or Bad Fold on Poker Night in America?
- 28 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 28: Calling Hellmuth with Jack-Deuce Offsuit
- 29 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 29: The Philosophy of "No-Chop" Chad
- 30 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 30: Preparing to Play the World Series of Poker
- 31 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 31: Staying on Your Grind at the World Series of Poker
- 32 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 32: The Perilous Decision to Call Off with Ace-Queen
- 33 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 33: Using Poker Skills in Reality TV Competitions
- 34 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 34: Esfandiari Explains How to Recover from Bad Beats
- 35 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 35: Tilly vs. Brunson in Super High Roller Cash Game Hand
- 36 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol 36: Unconventional Play Leads to Good WSOP Main Event Start
- 37 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 37: Lessons in Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low w/ Evan Jarvis
- 38 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 38: Things to Say and Do When You Bust a Poker Tournament
- 39 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 39: How Much Did I Have to Raise to Get You to Fold?
- 40 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 40: Practicing Patience in My Deep PPC Poker Tour Run
- 41 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 41: Analyzing a Questionable SHRPO Main Event Hand
- 42 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 42: Analyzing the Play of Neymar Jr. at EPT Barcelona
- 43 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 43: The Value of a Reliable Poker Reputation
- 44 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 44: John “KasinoKrime” Beauprez Rips My PLO Game Apart
- 45 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 45: Satellite Dilemmas -- To Call or Not to Call
- 46 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 46: Seiver Leverages the River in Super High Roller Bowl
- 47 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 47: What Untraditional Moves in Poker Might Mean
- 48 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 48: Thinking About the Future with Sam Grizzle
- 49 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 49: WCOOP Champ “Coenaldinho7” Offers Up His Biggest Hands
- 50 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 50: The Peril of Shoving Weak Aces
- 51 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 51: The Importance of Not Giving Up in Poker Tournaments
- 52 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 52: Does Asking “Check” Actually Constitute a Check?
- 53 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 53: Thomas Cannuli Impresses Even After Main Event Bustout
- 54 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 54: Dealers Aren’t Always Right
- 55 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 55: Don’t Get Married to Pocket Aces
- 56 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 56: Bazeley’s Survival Instinct Leads to Continued Success
- 57 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 57: Playing “Deuces Wild” on the European Poker Tour
- 58 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 58: The Wildest Hand in European Poker Tour History
- 59 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 59: Death, Zombies & Spending Time w/Phil Hellmuth
- 60 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 60: How the Unstoppable Fedor Holz Managed to Win Again
- 61 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 61: Lessons To Be Learned When You Hit the Big Stage
- 62 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 62: Steve O’Dwyer Explains the “Oreo Cookie Tell”
- 63 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 63: What Would Happen to a Chip Stack If a November Niner Died?
- 64 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 64: Forgetting One Chip -- Should It Still Be an All-In Bet?
- 65 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 65: Todd “sharkslayerrr” Breyfogle on Bankroll Management
- 66 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 66: Cash Game Pro Daniel Arfin Offers Sound Bankroll Advice
- 67 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 67: Honeyman Plays Kings to Keep in Opponent’s Bluff Range
- 68 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 68: Why Do I Even Bother Drinking at the Poker Table?
- 69 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 69: Is Your Favorite Poker Pro Left- or Right-Handed?
- 70 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 70: In Order to Live You Have to Be Willing to Die
- 71 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 71: How to Amass a Big Stack Early in a Poker Tournament
- 72 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 72: Answering User-Submitted Poker Scenarios
- 73 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 73: Saying Goodbye with a Top Five List
- 74 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 74: We're Back, Baby!
- 75 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 75: Jivkov on Exploiting Capped Ranges
- 76 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 76: Matt Bretzfield Gets Tricky With Aces
- 77 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 77: Joseph Cheong Gets Crazy with a Pair of Ladies
- 78 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 78: Wyoming Poker Action & Wild South Dakota Hand
- 79 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 79: Calling Controversy at WinStar
- 80 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 80: Going for Value with Matt Hunt
- 81 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 81: Bracelet Winner Ryan Leng on Bad Call
- 82 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 82: Romeopro33 Recounts XL Eclipse Victory
- 83 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 83: Men The Master Doesn't Get Paid
- 84 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 84: Harman Hits Back-to-Back Miracle Turns
- 85 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 85: Jamie Kerstetter on Dealing with Bounties
- 86 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 86: Matt Stout Develops a Limp Dynamic
- 87 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 87: Matt Alexander Caught in Between w/ Two Red Aces
- 88 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 88: John Beauprez on Why He Folded a Set of Jacks
- 89 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 89: Alex Aqel Lets Opponent Hang Himself with Aces
- 90 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 90: David Peters Makes Beastly Call Against Will Givens
- 91 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 91: Poker Lessons from a Game of Risk
- 92 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 92: My Upstuck Diagnosis by the CLC Squad
- 93 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 93: Alex Foxen Coolers Nick Petrangelo in SHRB
- 94 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 94: My $25,000 PSPC Experience at 2019 PCA
- 95 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 95: The Equity of Leveraging Time Extensions
- 96 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 96: Dan O'Brien on Developing Healthy Routines
- 97 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 97: Big Hands From the WSOP-C Potawatomi
- 98 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 98: Simon Deadman Rips Apart My NLH Tourney Play
- 99 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 99: Shoving 10-6 Smack Dab Into Pocket Aces
- 100 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 100: The Revived Re-Entries Debate