Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hit me baby one more time

There's not much to be said about my fourth bracelet event, the midweek $1500. Didn't play particularly well and got unlucky pretty much sums it up. My default strategy of playing very loose when the blinds are low and targeting the weaker players wasn't working out for the simple reason that there were 2 good players behind who knew what I was at and 3 and 4 betting me willy nilly. It took me a little longer than it should have to work out that default wasn't going to get the job done this time.

Card death didn't exactly help my cause so I decided to batten down the hatches and avoid spew until I found a hand. I had 2200 at 50/100 when I finally found queens. Ali Eslami, playing every hand and 3 and 4 betting for pure devilment, limped under the gun. I made it 400, he flatted, and he called my shove on a 9x6d2d flop with 9d7d. He turned a flush. I had the queen of diamonds and therefore a redraw but didn't get there.

The weekend 1500 started quite brutally. I raised AcJc and Kevin O'Donnell and two others called. The Tc5c2x flop looked like a reasonable one for me to fire a cbet at. Kevin called, the other two folded. The 2c made my flush on the turn and Kevin called again. The 6c on the river seemed like overkill but hoping he was chasing with a one club hand I fired again and called his raise to find myself somehow looking at pocket sixes. That inauspicious start left me with 1500 but the table was one of the softer ones I've been at here and I was back up to 8k quickly enough. After a setback where I ran AKs into a short stack's aces, I moved between 4k and 8k for most of the day. Basically a long grind, the excitement mainly being provided by being drawn at the same table as Almira Skripchenko, chess queen turned Winamax poker pro. This was only Almira's second event so quite the coincidence as she pointed out, particularly since we were also next to each other at the Berlin EPT. Now that I've a sample size of three, I can say with authority that Almira is the most charming player I've ever been at the same table at, even if I was a little upset when she started laughing at my shoes :)

Almira has a rather concerting habit of swishing her hair around periodically (she may be a closet Willow Smith fan). Although the tables here are big there were a few big ol' boys at the table so there was a bit of a sardine effect, meaning I was generally in the trajectory of the hair swoosh. I don't think Almira was aware of this though. Probably just as well: in Vegas I believe women often charge for that sort of thing.

She's also a very good player so I was relieved to have her to my immediate right (in Berlin, I was to her right). By the time the table broke thirty minutes from the end, only me and Almira remained from the starting lineup and I was still stuck on 6k. I doubled up quickly on my new table (tens holding verus ace 9) and then put the boot down as people locked up for the night to finish with 33k.

Coming back to day 2 wasn't a new experience, but having an above average stack was. Having navigated the bubble I got as high as 90k before losing a 100k flip. That meant slipping back to 20 bb territory rather than having a real stack. I battened down the hatches as there were aggro players behind and had 43k when I found a good spot at 1000/2000 (300 ante). I raised to 4700 in the hijack with jacks. A bad aggro player behind 3 bet to 14500 and tank called my shove reluctantly moaning "ok, I guess I got outs" with a2o. Indeed he had: the first card exposed was a 2 and then the dealer spread the flop to reveal two aces lurking behind. Just for good measure the fourth ace popped up on the turn. So another WSOP cash but a real feeling of what might have been. No point complaining though: I'm regularly building decent stacks in these events for the first time and if I keep getting myself into position with a couple of hundred left, I give myself every chance to run good when it matters to land a meaningful score.

I have two or three more bracelet shots before the main event (I'm also planning to play the Binion's main event). I've been keeping my eye in in stts and smaller mtts but not overdoing it either. I'm conscious that after 5 weeks it's easy to be jaded by the time the gruelling main event starts, so I'm also paying attention to what I eat, trying to get some exercise and apart from a few one night with Sean Prendiville, Dave Callaghan and Tom Kitt haven't been drinking either. Rest is important too: I'm sleeping longer than I normally do at home and taking "easy" days before bracelet events.

On my down time I'm reading my old running compatriot Michael Collins' latest novel, "Midnight In A Perfect Life". I can never decide whether Michael is a cynical romantic or a romantic cynic but his books always strike a deep chord with me, and the writing is always beautiful and insightful. In this book, one character points out "We all start with such high expectations", an observation that is particularly true for poker players. Where we differ from others is that most professions can survive the gradual erosion of innocent optimism, but to be a true poker pro, you have to be able to keep wiping the slate clean and reset your expectations to high.



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