Friday, July 16, 2004

A First in Live Tournament Play

Looking down at K,Q of diamonds, I really had to think about calling that all in bet...


I got home a bit early last night only to find my home empty. Obviously the wife had taken the kids somewhere, but she didn't leave a note. Past experiences dictated that this meant she'd be home soon so I didn't have much time to myself. But of course that didn't prevent me from firing up the old Party Poker client, did it?

I spent a couple of minutes playing a bit of $1/$2 Omaha, just to change up the pace a bit. A few minutes into it, a local buddy named Mike who plays online too sends me a message via the Party Poker chat room.

"Hey, I'm playing in a small tournament."

My local home game, normally scheduled for tonight had been cancelled due to a majority of players heading to a Greenville Braves game, the local AA minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. As I was on vacation last week, I was truly Jonesing for some live action.

"Where? When?" I asked.

"Tonight, in Taylors at 8pm."

"Do they need any extra players?" I inquired.

"I'll ask and let you know."

So now after telling my wife I had no poker game tonight, I had to ask her if I could play in this impromptu tournament. God bless her soul for not saying no. Granted, it wasn't an enthusiastic yes, but it wasn't a no.

My buddy called me back and said that the players running the tournament had no problem with me showing up. Luckily, they lived only about 10 minutes away and off I went.

The buy-in was $20 and there were only six players, paying the top two $80 and $40 respectively. I had to make a quick player assessment on four unknown players, but I made the assumption that they were all on the newish side of tournament play. Blinds started at $1/$2 with a T100 chip starting amount. Off we went.

As expected, the action was a bit loose early on with not too much pre-flop raising. I won an early pot after limping in with A,6 and catching 2-pair on the flop. I stood at about T125 roughly 10 minutes into the tournament.

Not too much later, a player named Jeff goes all in against a player named Andy after the turn brings an A to the board. Andy calls the all-in bet showing 8,8. Jeff proudly shows his A,K and becomes the early chip leader after the river offers no help.

The next playable hand for me is 9,9 UTG. I raise the $2 BB to $6 and am called by the SB, chip leader Jeff and the BB, Brad. The flop is 6,8,9 rainbow and I'm feeling both good and guarded since the straight draw is very visible. Jeff bets out $25 and is called by Brad in the BB. It's a great bet at this point, but my instincts tell me he's on a straight draw and doesn't have the straight right now. My instincts are confirmed after I raise all in and he doesn't immediately call. Jeff pondered the call for a bit, and since he was the chip leader, he could afford to call and lose. So call he does and the BB folds. Since I'm all-in, we show our cards and he's holding A,7 for the draw. He has 8 outs and if this were Party Poker, I'd be 100% sure he'd catch one. But luckily for me, the turn brings another 6, pairing the board and doubling me up to take the chip lead.

I play a bit tight at this point, having over T250 with only T600 out in play. A later hand brings me 7,8 in the BB, and I am allowed to see the flop for free. Pre-flop raising at this point is rare, so it's a bit difficult to put people on hands at this point. The flop is 9,8,2. Middle pair for me, but I was the BB so I don't have position. I check and the former chip leader Jeff bets $5. I call and see a 7 on the turn giving me 2-pair but also bringing a straight draw to the table. I check again and Jeff bets another $5, I call. The river is a 6 and now with 4 to the straight on the board I'm a bit concerned. I check again.

Here's where live play is so much more fun for me. After I check, I notice Jeff scramble a bit to gather up chips for a bet. Every other bet by him throughout the night has been rather mechanical and calm. But not this one. He bets out $50 which is about half his stack. From a pure betting perspective, it's an excellent bet as it can easily be seen as both a value bet and a bluffing bet. But it's his actions that indicate to me that he's bluffing. If this were an online game and I had only the amount of the bet available to me as information, I'd fold in a heartbeat. But I had more information this time, his mannerisms. They just weren't consistent with what he'd previously done during the night. So I called, probably 65% sure it was a bluff.

"Do you have the 5 or 10?"

"No, just a pair of 9's."

My two-pair took another decent sized pot and I was staring at about T350, a dominating stack at this point.

I don't think I played many hands thereafter, and watched as Mike, who invited me to the tournament, busted everyone else out until it was down to just us two, heads-up.

During one hand, I raise pre-flop with 6,8 of spades. My buddy calls and the flop is 7,9,10 with 2 hearts showing. I bet T25 and am raised to T50. I re-raise all-in and Mike folds.

I slow play A,Q suited and catch an A on the turn and put Mike all-in. He had been betting into me this entire hand and had to fold once I put him all in. He was down to T47 vs. my T553. How could I lose this one, I thought?

Since I had such a huge chip lead, there was no reason not to put Mike all-in whenever I held a high card. The first opportunity came with me holding A,7. He easily called holding Q,Q and doubled up. Those damn Hiltons! The very next hand, Mike goes all-in again with me holding 9,10 offsuit. I call and he's holding Q,Q again. Hiltons, twice in a row. Don't you have to at least wait 10 minutes before you get involved with them again? I know I do.

So now the chip count is roughly T180 to T420 and the blinds are 10/20. The very next hand, Mike goes all-in again. No way he has a monster hand again and I look down to see K,Q diamonds.....

Suffice to say that I called that all-in bet and Mike turned out to be bluffing with 9,10 offsuit. A K on the flop sealed my very first live tournament win. Granted, it was only 6 people, but let me tell you how good it felt with me bubbling out on so many live tournaments in the past year. My wallet was $60 richer and I drove home very satisfied with my play and the results.

What to do with the winnings? For those in the know, Nepals is having their anniversary party this Saturday night. Enough said.

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