Thursday, August 4, 2011

Leading from the front, getting it in behind

Experience has taught me at least one thing: it always take me a while to re-adjust to playing live in Ireland after Vegas. So I was glad to be able to get the cobwebs off at 2 events before EMOP Dublin, the one this year in Ireland I really really wanted to do well in. After playing ok on day 1 in Waterford, I played pretty bad on day 2. Those post Vegas blues again. I played ok in the Fitz EOM the night before 1B of EMOP, but once the shipping section started I didn't last long. Second hand I shipped was KQ and it ran into Trevor Dinneen's AK. My timing was bad, but at least my friends' was better: Jono Crute, David Lappin and Gareth Cash, in the midst of a pub crawl, turned up just around then to see how myself and Jono's Norwegian friend Espen were faring. I was now free to join them for a few.

The taxi man lecture
Short but memorable cab ride to Grafton Street. Memorable mainly for the taxi man giving us his views on poker, both live ("the fish are all gone") and online ("over"), and trying to teach us how to play PLO, all the funnier given Gareth would be one of the best young PLO players in the country. Attempting to explain the difference between NLH and PLO, his basic premise was "it's easier to get away from a hand in PLO". All reasonable enough until he decided to give us an example to illustrate. Apparently, if you raise with jacks in NLH and the flop coming 762, there's no getting away come what may. On the other hand, you could raise with KQJT in PLO and if the same flop comes, well, now you can get away. Nobody could really argue with this, since as Lappin in the front pointed out drily, "king high basically". The three of us behind were trying to contain our mirth.

Lappin cut the lecture short by suggesting we bail from the taxi a short distance from the pub. Part of the reason I figured a couple of pints mightn't be a bad idea was I was still on Vegas time, meaning restlessness all through the night finally giving way to sleep around midday, and getting up at 7 PM. Since EMOP kicked off at 2, that wouldn't do, so I thought maybe a few pints would make me sleepy. That didn't work out at all, but the night was a big help in another way. The conversation moved to the differences between online and live play, and Lappin in particular had some very interesting ideas. By origin almost an exclusively online player (he's been crushing for years), a recent break from online post Black Friday has seen him playing more regularly in the Fitz, and getting a handle on how live players play and are best exploited. This is something I've put a lot of thought into myself over the years as I try to compete on both fronts. Both online and live are always evolving, and having top class players to talk through the latest developments is always a huge help.

Insomnia - not just a coffee shop
After attempting to sleep at home, I gave up, which meant heading to Clontarf the next day with no sleep in almost 24 hours. Hardly ideal, and also left me wondering "How bad am I going to look in the photos? Maybe I need sunglasses and a mask!". In the end, I decided the return of my trademark red tie might provide sufficient distraction from the state of me.

My starting table looked pretty rough, not least because I had the player I told an Israeli at the table was "currently Ireland's best live player" two to my left.

Luckily we didn't tangle before I got moved. My basic approach on day 1 was to play hypercautiously and choose the lowest variance lines possible. The top French players think and talk about this a lot and they have a point: in my view in deep stacked tournaments with soft fields, it's worth sacrificing a little Ev to reduce variance. Also, given I was supposed to be leading the Irish Eyes team as Team Captain, an early exit would have been embarrassing to say the least. My second table was a bit softer, but still had a couple of good local (meaning Irish) players, notably Richie Lawlor who has put together a string of results recently, and Fergal Gallagher.

I played a few standard hands against Richie, and a more interesting one against Fergal where he three bet me pre, bet the ace high flop small, and then overbet the turn when another ace appeared. My immediate instinctive reaction (and comment to Richie beside me) was "That bet makes zero sense if he has the ace" but in the end I decided to be prudent and just fold. On another day where I was feeling a lot cautious I'd just go with my read there, which was apparently correct based on comments made by Fergal on IPB later. There's no harm in being bluffed now and then though, and fair play to anyone who pulls it off. At least the tie was still holding up.

My friend and constant travelling companion Mick Mccloskey (who was living in our shed/studio for the weekend) got himself embroiled in a bit of controversy when he was caught red hand of Ulstered helping himself to the dealers tea and coffee - it seems Mick just can't resist a free drink :)

Towards the end of the day, I started to feel very weary indeed. Irish Eyes supremo Steven Merrick popped up to perk me up with a pint and a query of how it was going ("Not very well but I'm not panicking yet"). It seemed to work: I chipped up late in the day to finish well above average, top 10 in chips.

Day 2
After some much needed kip, it was back for day 2 where the only face I recognised on my table was Tom Kitt (who lasted only a few hands). The table broke almost immediately and initially things went badly as I lost almost half my stack by instalments.

A race won (AK v TT) got me back to where I'd started the day. I then got moved again and found myself wedged between two of my friends, Gary Clarke and Mick Muldoon. Gary was there when it all started for me (when I chopped the European Deepstack of 2008 with him and 3 others). Mick was already something of a legend and someone I always listened to intently at the table as he has such a clear grasp of poker theory and how best to explain it.

I was still struggling to get going when I found myself all in on the bubble. A very drunk Finnish gentleman raised and I found aces in the big blind. I instantly moved all in, hoping this would make my hand look less like aces and more like AK. As he tanked (loudly), my opponent told me he had AK and asked me a number of questions about my hand. I told him I didn't have kings but might have aces. I didn't think he was calling but did everything I could to get it with the speech play and a few reverse tells I often throw in in these spots. These generally don't work against experienced players (Matt Dobbins, looking on, said he knew I had a monster) but on this occasion got the call from AK and the timely double up. Around this time, myself, Mick and Gary found out we were the last three standing in the IPB Last Longer so we duly chopped it for 450 yoyos apiece. My general policy on Last Longers is I don't like having to take my equity in them into account near the business end of a tournament. Shortly after the bubble burst, Gary busted, and Mick was moved into his seat.

By close of play, we were down to 2 tables, and I was down to 8 bbs, which as a number of people commented overnight, is my kinda stack.
Day 3
As we drove back from Clonsilla to Clontarf the next day, I remarked to Mick that it was pretty remarkable we'd both made day 3. Mick hadn't been at all confident: the previous morning he packed up all his belongings into the car in preparation for the flight north after he busted. The power of negative thinking was further illustrated by the fact that I thought it was extremely unlikely we'd both make the final table, much less the top 4. Very first hand of the day, Mick min raised the button and I shoved in from the small blind.

As he dwelled up, he said "You're the math guy....I think I'm supposed to call here", a reference to an ongoing argument/debate we have about these spots where you're pretty certain you're a big dog but priced in. Mick subscribes to the theory that if it's marginal (as in you're barely priced in) and it's for most of your stack (so if you lose you lose a lot of utility and fold equity), you're better off waiting for a better spot. I left him to his decision, happy to take the 72/28 I assumed it was if he called, or the pot if he folded. He eventually did fold and to put his mind at rest that I wasn't exploiting him without a hand, showed him the AK. He confirmed he would have been dominated.

I continued to progress when Bob Elkin shoved his short stack in from early position and I found tens in the small blind and reshipped. The tens held against Bob's A8. Bob is one of allinstevie's crew and is another example of the hidden poker talent in this country: hidden because they're too busy crushing online to play much live.

By now a fairly boisterous good-natured rail was forming, spearheaded by my amigo Feargal "MidniteKowby" Nealon and Steven Merrick.

The party almost came crashing to a halt a few hands later when I found nines under the gun. With less than twenty big blinds, my hand was far too strong to fold, so raise/folding was out of the question. I therefore took the Gus Hansen line of moving in to maximise my fold equity. All well and good except Mr. Muldoon's aces are lurking in the blinds.

I thought this might be the end of my EMOP Dublin as I knew the stacks were close and thought I might be covered. After the dealer had counted them down though, I was left with just over 2 big blinds, one of which I immediately had to post blind. Connie O'Sullivan, looking on, quipped "that's plenty for Doke" and his sidekick Matt Dobbins predicted "the mother of all comebacks" starts here.

The mother of all comebacks
The mother of all comebacks started with accomplished Finn Aki Pyysing opening utg. Everyone folded to me in the big blind, and although I'm clearly committed and never folding, I looked first before announcing call and pushing the rest of my chips in.

I had 86s against Aki's AK.

After we both missed the flop, I picked up a flush draw on the turn, leaving the two Micks calling for different outs (Muldoon wanted a heart, Mccloskey a 6). In the end it was the other out, an 8, which saved me.

No rest for the crippled though, I'd barely stacked my chips when it's been folded to me in the small blind and I find J5o. I had to count out my stack to decide if this was a push or not.

With about 5 bbs, I have very little fold equity. On the other hand, J5o has almost 50% equity against a random hand so even if I have no fold equity (that is, Aki always calls, regardless of what particular random hand he has), it's still a mistake to do anything other than shove here. If he ever folds (and I suspected the fact he'd just lost a pot to me would reduce his willingness to lose another 4 bbs to me now), the shove is even more profitable, so I quickly decided it was a shove. He tanked for so long I actually expected to be ahead when called, but wasn't. He had Q3.

This time a jack appeared on the flop to double me up again.

I folded for almost an entire round before finding sixes utg, a standard 9 bb shove if ever there was one. Mick Muldoon snap called in the small blind, so fast I asked him "Do you have aces again?". Instead he had ace ten. The top card on the flop was a ten so I figured that was it, but the dealer spread the flop to reveal a 6 lurking behind.

Suddenly I was right back in the game and feeling much happier.

Shortly afterwards we were down to ten after a sick hand where I had to open folded jacks after there was an open, a shove and a reshove before it got to me, and I commented to Mick "One of us is going to make the final table now". "Why not both?" was Mick's inspiring reply.
Pyysing your stack away
It's folded to me in the small blind and playing 15 bbs I find AQs. Rather than open shipping, I elected to make smaller raise to get more hands I dominate in. Aki thinks for a second or two, then announces all in. I immediately announce the call, and he shouts "Fuck!". I'm expecting to see a weak ace, but instead I'm surprised to see the 83s powerhouse. Actually feeling pretty sick about the fact that he's live (at least I have the suit covered), I'm fully expecting to see a 3 pop out at some point but after a sweat when we brick the flop and turn and the dealer slowrolls the river, I can breathe again.

There was some debate and consternation over what had just happened, not least among the Finns who seem to revere Mr. Pyysing (he's literally the guy on the poster), with a number of different theories doing the rounds. The most plausible one was Feargal's that he was a bit tilted after I'd sucked out on him twice and just wanted to win one hand against me even if he had to suck out to do so. The most entertaining theory came courtesy of TD John Scanlon ("Your old guy who wears a patch but doesn't really know what he's doing persona is working nicely for you"). There may also be a germ of truth in that: one of the Scandi bloggers told me after there was fierce debate over the hand on their blogs and people were wondering if I could ever raise fold to a 13 bb reshove. So perhaps Mr. Pyysing might have thought I'm one of those players who might raise fold that shallow (I'm not), particularly on the final table bubble.
Whatever the case, it meant we now had a final table and I now had a stack at last. We broke for dinner while they prepared the final table. We ran into Feargal in the corridor who told us he and Ger Harraghy were heading to a place in Clontarf that had been recommended, so we tagged along. 1014 lived up to its recommendation and it was good to get out for an hour and clear the head before the final battle.
Lol at the guy shoving 83 on the old guy

After getting a text from Jono that read "Lol at the guy shoving 83 on the old guy", it was down to final table business. There were 4 of us with stacks of about a million, myself, Mick Muldoon, and 2 Scandis. One of the Scandis moved into the chiplead when he made a looseish call with KJ in the big blind after JP Whyte shoved from early mid position with eights. I then grabbed the lead a couple of hands later. The now sober Finn who had called my all in on the bubble opened in late position, Soren 3 bet fairly big to 220k, and with queens in the small blind I stuck the lot in.

After a bit of a dwell, they both folded. Soren then went on an absolute heater eliminating Mick Muldoon in a cooler, another player in a race, and before we knew it we were shorthanded. Mick was in a few times and doubled his way back into the mix with me hovering behind him trying to bring him some Doke rungood.

Before we knew it we were down to 4, then 3 when Mick 4 bet shoved AT into Jukka the one time Jukka had a hand.

Feeling like Brian Boru .... Doke against the Scandis
As last Irishman standing, it was down to me to try to combat the two remaining Scandis. I'd played very tight on the final table til now, keeping out of trouble and only showing down big hands. Now was the time to capitalise on that, as the shortest of the three with less than 20% of the chips. I upped the aggression several notches and for a long time it felt like I was crushing and on my way to an inevitable victory. I moved almost effortlessly from being the shortie to a commanding chip lead with 60% of the chips in play. Jukka was the first to re-adjust to my change of gears and since he had position on me two hands out of three and was playing his stack perfectly and showing a willingness to get it all in regularly, I felt if I could land the killer blow on him, I'd be almost home and hosed.

The turning point came when I had Jukka down to 15 bbs. Soren folded his button and I elected to ship A6 from the small blind, as Juka was reshipping a wide range and with A6 I'd rather just take the blinds and antes and whittle him down a bit more rather than encourage him to stick in medium suited connectors I'd basically be flipping against. Jukka looked like all his Christmases had come at once when he heard me say "All in": I wasn't so happy when I saw his hand (jacks), and even less happy when they held and I doubled him up to a bad stack size for me again.

As the stacks levelled back up, there was some suggeestion of a deal from Soren. I was willing to consider it as I wasn't fancying my seat much now with the gamble happy Jukka to my left, but Jukka didn't want to deal so we played on. Not for very long though: the curse of the rejected deal struck. Soren raised on the button. I considered a reraise with KQs but after looking at Soren for a while decided he looked stronger than strong and instead meekly folded, also mindful of the fact that Soren had been playing very tight since we went three handed. Jukka had no such concerns, shoving in with A9 in the BB, snap called by Soren's aces. A9 is a very strong hand three handed but given how tight Soren was playing at that point and how comfy he looked, I think I'd have let it go. But I guess it was a case of live by the sword die by it for Jukka. A short while later Jukka was eliminated, Soren claiming the last of his chips, meaning he went into the headsup with a 3:1 chiplead. I had 15 big blinds which at least I know how to play :)

Unfortunately, it turned out so did Soren. He played the headsup very well, not allowing me to get away with limping the button or min raising light, and I quickly decided the best plan was to stick to the Nash equilibrium. Finding K8 on the button, Nash says shove with 12bbs, so I shoved. Nash also says call with J9s (it's right on the margin), and after some thought so did Mr. Larsen. I was happy to see that I was at least ahead for now, but not so happy when the board ran out J9754. At least I had outs til the end, but they never came.

It was a great weekend overall for Team Irish Eyes. As the tournament got down to the business end, the Team Irish Eyes shirts started to outnumber all others. Four of us made the final table including my great friend and regular travelling companion Mick Mccloskey, Michael Muldoon and JP Whyte. Robert Shaw, Robert Elkin, Chris Pyke, Sandro Taddei, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Kevin Hanley, Tony Harte, and Gerry Kane all cashed in the main event too. There were also some great performances in the side events, notably from Tony Baitson (who was pipped at the post in the PLO event) and my amigo Feargal "MidniteKowby" Nealon (who hacked his way round the golf course to qualify for the freeroll for a Barcelona package which he went on to win). Pride of place though to the side event queen Shella McSweeney who had not one but two third place finishes.

A big thank you to Connie, Matt and the rest of the crew for making this a great event. EMOP Ireland is here to stay and will surely go from strength to strength.

After the excitement of a live outing, it's back to the online grind for me. I managed to snag a Barcelona EMOP package in the satellite on Irish Eyes tonight, and I'm looking forward to it already. Hopefully a good contingent of Team Irish Eyes members will qualify and make the trip.

My only live outing in the next week is Friday's monthly game in the Bluff Club in Swords, run by my friends Larry Santo and Peter Barable, and one of my favourite places to play in the Dublin area.


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