Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Aces not monsters in Munster

Early in my poker career, my first experience of running bad for a sustained period kicked off in the Macau club in Cork when I had aces repeatedly cracked in their 1K event.
At first it seemed like that might just be a temporary aberration, a hypothesis supported by the fact that my friend Rob Taylor was having the bizarre (for him) experience of running like God (he ended up winning, as all good players invariably do when they run like that). But ever since it seems that the sense of humour of the poker Gods is tickled by the notion that every time I get dealt aces in Munster, no matter how I play them, they will be cracked.


Last year's Waterford Masters was by popular acclaim the best tournament of its kind in Ireland. This year's event, sponsored by Bruce, continued in that vein and was a great weekend. From a personal point of view, it's fair to say the tournament didn't exactly go to plan. I won a fair few small pots, but my tournament ultimately swung on two big pots, in both of which I was holding the pocket rockets.

Early on, I played more pots than I would normally. This may not have been wise as my table was tougher than average, featuring Richie Lawlor (HowardFinkel on Irish poker boards), Andrew Yates, and most of the table seemed pretty competent. However, my plan was to try to chip up steadily with no great risk while the blinds were small. Nice plan in theory but instead I just drifted back. Then I picked up aces. Utg limped for 200, I made it 650 in mid position, he called (live players don't limp fold much), and the two of us saw a K63r flop. He led at it for pot. I figured his range was mostly single pair hands (either Kx or something between sixes and kings), with some sets and bluffs thrown in. Since it's one of those spots where I'm either a mile ahead or a mile behind I saw no real reason to raise and just called. I'm usually ahead and want him to keep barrelling or betting a one pair hand, and if I am behind I want to control the pot size to minimise the damage. The turn was a J which I'm not crazy about as at least one Kx hand in his range has now made two pair, and he fired for pot again. I'm still either way ahead or way behind so again I called. The river was another K which is a truly awful card as now there's not a lot in his range I'm still good against other than random bluffs , and I was trying to decide if I could call a bet when he thankfully checked. I quickly checked behind and he turned over KTo.

That left me relatively short and the rest of the day, and the tournament, was about grinding a short stack. Less than 20 big blind poker is not much fun at the best of times, but on the other hand it's relatively simple to play pretty perfectly if you have the patience and discipline not just to fling the chips in and hope for the best. I picked my spots well and a few hours into day 2 had moved back past starting stack and up to 20k and was feeling pretty good about myself. When you're a professional, you have to be able to do the bread and butter short stack stuff as well as the more glamorous big stack stuff. Then I ran into the aces again. Fionan opened in the hijack and I found aces just behind. I decided to call rather than raise for two reasons. I'd already smoothed him once and given up when he fired the flop so I figured if we got headsup he'd fire most flops. The second reason is all the stacks behind were reshipping stacks and I was hoping one of them wouldn't be able to resist a light bloodrush squeeze. As it happened, the BB who was doing an excellent impression of a rock shipped. Fionan folded after some thought and I obviously snap called. The BB had queens and flopped a queen. No complaints from me as the hand was standard, he obviously should never do anything but ship the queens there so good luck to him. I played the hand to get action from worse hands. The dealer counted down the stacks and he barely covered me so that was the end of my main event.

I went to dinner with the two Micks (McCloskey and Hamilton) in a really good steakhouse. I then jumped in to the side event which was another of those oh too common frustrating tournament experiences where you never get going before the shovefest, and you lose a race with your first called shove. It was time to retire to the bar for some consolation Lucozades. Poker aside, the weekend was a great social occasion in the company of old friends like Rory Brown, Tom Kitt, Andrew Yates, Sean Prendiville, Mick McCloskey, Ray Kent, Kevin Kehoe (who did a brilliant job blogging the event for Irish Poker Boards: it would be great to see this sort of thing at all major Irish events), Mark McKeever, Marty "72o" Smyth and local legend Nicky Power, and new friends like Gavin Stevens (who does a great job running the Bank casino in Cork by all accounts) and most of the people I played with at the weekend who were great craic. The more I play abroad, the more I realise that the atmosphere at Irish poker events is absolutely unique and something to be treasured.

It's really great to see Bruce supporting local events such as this. It's a challenging time for everyone, not least tournament organisers and the Irish online sites, but these type of games are the heart and soul of Irish poker and are vital to the future of the game here. It would be nice to see the other Irish-based poker online sites do a bit more to support the local scene and events like this. Bruce are also sponsoring the forthcoming Leinster championship and the Westbury festival in August, two more local events to look forward to.

Online, I got back into the grind with no post Vegas hangover. It was essentially a week of hitting crossbars translating into a breakeven week: I was fourth in a Villamora EPT satellite (only one package), fifth in an IWF satellite (ditto) and had a string of final tables on Bruce without ever doing better than fifth. In truth I'm probably not at the top of my online game right now: a combination of impatience and rustiness after Vegas.

I'm back running most days and discovering to my horror that after a five week layoff in vegas, I'm in the worst physical shape I've been in years. That will change. Away from the tables, I've been doing a little work on my Omaha HiLo game as part of the grand plan to diversify, and also on a new direction for the Irish Poker Lounge. More on that soon :)

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