Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting closer but still no Cuban

Headed down on Thursday afternoon with Cat and Rob. We all played the supersat and managed to scoop 0 tickets between us. I lasted the longest but ultimately went out reshipping jacks from the small blind over a late position loose raiser. This time he had the kings. Oops.

Had breakfast the next morning with Paul Smallwood, Keith McFadden, and the two young lads helping Paul who were great craic and well on their way to being great players: Ross and Wayne (one of whom had knocked me out the night before). Keith gave me some grief about my hair, my plan to grind online for the day and anything else that popped into his head. Keith's a guy I love to bits but he's definitely not a morning person. Went for a walk with them along the beach, weather was amazing. Then back to the hotel to grind online, punctuated by a run in the afternoon.

I got a pretty horrible table draw with the Bomber Nolan to my immediate right (he played extremely well as ever and was unlucky: the Bomber's game is possibly the most misunderstood in the country), Dom next to him, Paul Quinn next to him, and Stephen (ghostface_ste) further down. As Ciaran McConville remarked (very) loudly on another table, "What's Dara going to do there? Nothing, that's what". It certainly seemed that way early on as I drifted back to 11K. I was pretty card dead and the few speculative hands I did play like small pairs failed to mine the desired sets. Eventually my patience was rewarded and I picked up aces in mid to late position. I clearly hadn't switched back from Vegas mode as my initial reaction was "Crap, I'm not going to get any action here since this is the first hand I've played in hours". But hey, this is Ireland, no problem! Almost as soon as I've said raise, Paul's reraised behind me on the button and Stephen's shipped. Stephen had 99 (he was short and had to make a move), Paul folded (TT he claims) and the aces held. Shortly after I got moved to a more favourable table and finished day 1 in good shape and mood. A bit more grinding online before sleep, then up the next morning for a walk before breakfast. Met Gary Clarke and we had a good natter about Irish poker.

Day 2 went smoothly and reasonably uneventfully as my stack gradually grew without any major hiccups, and I came back for day 3 already in the money with slightly over average stack. I definitely got the rougher of the two table draws with chip monster Tom Kitt, Jaye Renehan (one of the best players in the country in my opinion and someone who's game is fundamentally misunderstood by most players), Paul Quinn, Marty Smyth and Richie Lawler all in my half of the tourney. I've been trying to cut down on the hand histories in the blog of late for a variety of reasons but just to be different have decided to take a leaf out of Gus Hansen's book and explain my thought processes in four significant hands to give an idea of the way I think at the poker table.

Hand 1: Paul Quinn is short stacked and ships from mid position. I look down at sevens in the BB. I used to hate making these "racing at best" calls to the point that I generally didn't, but recently I've been happier to let the math dictate, and they say that even if it is "racing at best", it's "usually racing", so you have to assess the equity of your small or medium pair against the shipper's range. Even if I ascribe a tight shipping range of top 10% of hands to Paul (and I think he ships a bit looser to be honest), 77 has 43% equity against that range. With the bubble already broken and the bigger pay rises still far off and the fact that I outchip Paul 4 to 1 means that my bubble factor here is low, under 1.1, so I only need about 6 to 4 if I have 43% equity. Once I determine that the pot is laying me better than 6 to 4, I call. Paul flips over AJ and wins the race. He asks how close the decision was: I reply truthfully that I always call there getting 6 to 4 or better.

The practical implication of losing the hand meant that instead of having a 160K stack with a bit of wriggle room (or a 200K stack if the sevens had held), I now have less room to manouvre with 120K. I have to tighten my opening requirements as open folding with this new stack is horrible, and I have some very active loose players behind me. So I batten down the hatches.

Eventually, patience is rewarded again. Tom Kitt (who is using the leeway his stack gives him to open 80% or more of pots) opens for std 3 bigs to 15K, a guy in a Kilkenny shirt also playing loose flats just behind hin, and I wake up with aces just behind him. A little bit of thought is required: do I want a headsup or multiway pot? What's best way way to get as much money in? With a smaller stack and no antes, I'd be happy enough to flat here and maximise my chip equity in a three way pot, but if I can get headsup, the dead money adds up to 30K, and that seems the preferable option. A ship here could scare the children away so I opt for a standard raise to 45K. This has the added bonus that I'm happy enough to take the risk that both Tom and the Kilkenny guy will call as if they do, the pot is bigger than what I have left behind and there's a 60% plus chance of a triple up (which from a pure chip point of view is better than an 80% chance of the double up).

As it happens, Tom asks how much I have left behind and ship. My chips almost beat his into the pot and he tabled fours. After a bit of a sweat (he picked up a flush draw on the turn) the aces hold and I more than double up and for the first time feel like a real force in the tournament. Talking to Tom at the break, he explained his move on the basis that he thought I might fold AK (a mistaken impression: I'm never folding AK once 40% of my chips have already gone in) and that I might be on a total move with air.

My stack gradually grew until I managed to lose half of it in another pot with Tom, last hand before the FT.

Hand 2: I raised to 23K (blinds 5k/10 ante 1k) with 77 in the cutoff. Marty considered his options on the buttons. I could see he was contemplating a ship. He was playing 125K at this point so while he thought about that I mentally did the arithmetic to see if I was priced in to a "have to call". I decided I wasn't so if Marty had shipped, I'd have folded. Marty seemed to be doing the math too and I figured he remembered my earlier comment that I'd always call with a medium pair getting 6 to 4, so he'd know too that if he shipped I'd fold a hand like that. In the end, Marty flatted, and Tom called in the small blind. Flop came 994, Tom checked, and I checked to see what Marty would do. I was very wary of Marty, mindful of his WSOP ME event exit hand. Like a lot of top players, Marty trap calls big pairs when he's shallow to maximise the chance of the doubleup, so I figured there was a very strong possibility he was on a bigger pair. In the event, he checked. The turn came a 6 and Tom made a tiny bet, 23K into 90K. I flatted, again prepared to get away if Marty came over the top. Marty folded (AJ apparently). The river brought an innocuous looking 8 and Tom bet 60K into 150K. At this stage I figure it's either a bluff or a slowplayed monster. Given the way Tom was playing, I figured the bluff had to be at least the 30% of his range that I needed to make the call, so I called. Tom flipped over T8 much to my disgust. In the immediate aftermath I was uncertain whether I'd misplayed the hand: Albert felt a tickler bet on the flop would have done the trick. Against these specific holdings it's obviously better but against the full range of Tom and Marty's hands I wasn't certain. I went through the hand with Rob Taylor over dinner and he felt I'd played it optimally so that took some of the sting of losing half my stack with a marginal holding. One thing I strongly believe is that if you're going to do line checks with players you respect, the player needs not only to be a good player but also at least as importantly to play a similar style of poker. If you ask someone who plays a very different game, you'll get an answer that may be right for their game but not yours. No hand can be taken in isolation: your game has to make holistic sense, so the way you play a draw, or middle pair, or whatever depends heavily on your overall style.

Went to dinner with Rob, Cat, Marty, Rory and Chubs. Marty and myself barely had time to wolf down a starter before it was time to leg it back.

Hand 3: I'd had time to readjust to my new stack size when I pick up kings under the gun and open for a standard raise. Tom flats immediately behind me and everyone folds. Many players would be wary of calling an utg raise from me but Tom wasn't one of them. He was still playing 80%+ of hands so I mentally assigned a fairly wide range to him here. The flop came 755 and I bet 45K into 80K, hoping to make it look like a cbet. Tom flatted. He wasn't folding much on the final table (he'd previously called a ship with fours on a QQ98 board against a pre flop raiser) so I figured he didn't necessarily have a hand here, but it was more than likely he had something like jacks or tens. The turn brought a 9 and I now quickly went through my options. Against a player playing as aggressively as Tom, my default play here would be to check to induce the bluff or the thin value bet, both of which Tom was doing in abundance. However, two things made me choose the alternative course (the ship): firstly I think Tom reads betting patterns well and would have seen my default play a lot in the past and been suspicious of the check. Against good players you need to mix your play and throw them off balance by playing some hands totally differently from the way you normally play them. Secondly my impression was Tom was looking to make hero folds or hero calls (he had remarked the previous day that he'd made lots of both), so I thought I was more likely to get all the chips in this way if he had, say, tens. Tom went into the tank for 12 minutes and eventually called and said "aces". At least that's what I thought he said: it was actually "eights" and I held. Tom told me after he thought my flop bet was a cbet and the ship a semibluff with something like AKs.

This moved me into third in chips with 7 left, but I hadn't much time to celebrate this happy development before my exit hand.

Hand 4: I raise AKs utg to 40K at 8k/15k. The guy from Kilkenny who has raced and sucked his way to second in chips makes it 140K. Back round to me and it doesn't take me too long to announce all in. While it may seem a little rash to ship the loot into one of the two guys that covers you with ace high lying third in chips when the difference between seventh and top three is very significant, I have no regrets. Against a tighter player like Marty I'd definitely have to consider folding, but against a guy raising very light who had called Chubbs' 4 bet ship with ace 7, I figure I'm getting called by hands I'd love a call from (AQ, AJ etc.) and folding some small pairs I don't want to call. Since he had just moved into second in chips, I thought he'd be less willing than he had been to date to race for 75% of his big stack. As it was, he thought for a while, asked if I had kings, then reluctantly called with queens. The dealer turned over the three flop cards so that only the top one was showing, a king, and for one moment I thought I might be actually going to win a flip, but no, after an age, she spread the flop and a Q popped up from behind to send me to the rail. That unfortunately is tournament poker: more often than not, it comes down to a race.

I was obviously a little disappointed in the aftermath but happy with how I'd played. It's always important to take the positives (and learn from the negatives) and move on in this game. It was good to make my first multiday final table of 2009 having gone out on the penultimate tables in both the European Deepstack and the JP Masters. I joke after that I'm specialising in the 3K cashes this year and it'd be nice to push through to a bigger one, but so long as I keep playing well and getting into position, I have to believe I'll eventually win the flip that counts. It was also a privilege to play with Marty Smyth for so long and watch him give a perfect demonstration of the full range of his tournament skills. A great player and a gentleman too.

The tournament itself was top notch: great structure, great atmosphere, great staff. A big well done to all involved.


Excellent read Dara, really enjoyed the hand analysis.

Unlucky on your exit hand but it does often come down to these massive flips & you just have to win them; simple as that.

Nice run Dara and good trip report. Just sorry i couldn't donate more than 4k to you at the start there with the 9's!

Thanks Thomas, I'm trying to learn to be philosophical about these crucial flips. Ultimately there's nothing you can do about them (except maybe try to avoid them as long as possible) and whether you win or lose them says nothing about the quality of your performance (which is all you can control).

Cheers Stephen, you were very unlucky repeatedly in the tournament, seemed to be one of those days where everything went wrong.


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