Sunday, April 10, 2005

Small Steps

I'm back from the day of driving - only 7 hours in the car today. Rather than bemoan the traffic on the way home, I'll offer up a tourney report from this past Saturday night.

Our local group of gamboolers hadn't had a tourney since January. We like to hold them every so often, perhaps once a month. For various reasons, we just hadn't been able to schedule the next event. Finally, this Saturday, all the proper arrangements were made and 33 people congregated at Teddy Ballgame's subdivision clubhouse.

The buy-in was $75 and the top 5 places would be paid out as follows: $1000, $600, $400, $250, $225. We started with T200 and 20 minute levels, the first three being 1/2, 2/4 and 3/6.

I decided to employ a slight change of strategy for this event. Generally, the players at these things are not so hot and you can get away with limping on some marginal hands, catching a great flop and extracting some chips out of unsuspecting opponents. I tossed that losing strategy out the window this time, instead opting to play ultra-tight the first few rounds.

In fact, for the entire first hour of the tournament, I played 0 hands out of the blinds. That's a 0% VPIP. I was mucking mediocre hands like Q,J and A,9 without a second thought. I did have A8s once in the big blind but the flop had nary a spade.

Fast forward to the final hand of level 3 and I'm in the big blind with 7,5o. It's checked around to me and I see a flop of A,7,7. I slow play the hand and an early position limper bets out T20. It's folded back around to me and I call. The turn is a 6 and I check again. My opponent announces all-in and I immediately call. He shows pocket J's and gets no two-outer on the river to save him. My stack grows to about T275, well above average stack with 27 players still remaining after hour one. The guy I just busted asks me how I could play 7,5o. I inform him that I was the big blind. I leave out the fact that if I held an Ace I'd have also busted him.

During level 5, I actually find a hand to play. Pocket K's and I raise the pot to T60, a 3xBB raise. It's folded all around and inside I'm battling desires to loosen up my play with thoughts that playing tight is still the way to go. We begin to condense tables when we get down to 24 players. During this time, the blinds grow to 20/40 and I feel it's time to get aggressive and steal. I buy some pots with pre-flop all-ins on hands such as AQ and AK. My stack had been T335 and although I was close to average, the blinds were getting a bit large in relation to it.

With 16 players left and the blinds still at 20/40 (players were busting left and right at about this time), I find A,8s on the button. It's folded around to me and I raise to T100. The SB goes over the top all-in for an additional T105 and the BB folds. I figure I'm behind at this point, but getting sufficient pot odds to call. Much to my surprise, the SB was holding Q,Jo and I bust my second player after the flop accomodates my wishes to avoid any paint.

With 11 players left and my table 6 handed, the blinds have grown to 50/100. UTG goes all in for T200 and it's folded to me at the cutoff. I find A,K and decide to push my stack in hopes of isolating what I feel is most likely a weaker hand. Much to my chagrin, the button re-raises as well and my heart sinks. I felt I had been playing a great tournament and now I've just run into a monster. After the side pots are created, UTG flips up his K,9o. I show A,K and anticipate either AA, KK, or QQ from the button. Hope is alive! He shows A,K as well. Now I just have to avoid a 9 and any suited cards that could give him a flush. I accomplish both of those things and the button and I split a pot and eliminate another player.

At 8 players, we re-draw to the final table. At this point the blinds are 100/200 and I have about T800, slightly below average. I signal to my friend DoubleR that I can't wait to bust out 6th, just shy of the money. Bubbling is my destiny.

There are some shorter stacks at the table and I decide to play the final table a bit tight this time in order to get a feel for how loose some players were playing. There are a couple of suckouts, T9s busting pocket 8's. When Matty C's pocket As bust another large chip stack holding pocket T's, I find myself in the money.

At this point the blinds are pretty huge and my stack isn't. The Rankster makes another strong tournament showing, but finally busts out in 5th. I thought I'd be able to fold my way into at least 3rd as a small stack was forced all-in twice via the blinds. The second time, the short stack held 2,7s and found himself up against K,J of the same suit. Unfortunately for me, a 2 on the flop gave the suited hammer a victory. I could not stave off the blinds and had to push with Q,T suited. I ran up against A,K. The flop gave my opponent top two-pair, but that elusive J never came and I went home in 4th.

All-in-all, I was quite happy to finish 4th considering the best hand I had was pocket K's and it only won me the blinds. I've rethought my approach to these tournaments, and it seems to have worked out at least for this instance. There will be many other opportunities, but I'm just finally glad to get in the money for a decent amount as these live tournaments had been a bane to my B&M bankroll.

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