After the previous night's shenanigans at McCarran airport, I didn't exactly get the amount of sleep I'd have liked before Event 56, a normal 1500 NLH event. I wasn't particularly worried about that after a restful few days in New York. In my personal experience at least, cumulative sleep deprivation tends to be a much bigger issue than one or two interrupted nights.
I was a bit more worried when I lost a third of my starting stack in the early going. After my stack contracted to 5k (from 7500) I reminded myself that this was starting stack in the 1k events. When it dipped further to 3500 I started to think it would be another early exit. From that low point though I rallied and made my first day two of the series, bagging up a bit more than average.
I must confess I was pretty relieved to get safely through the bubble. I hadn't cashed a live event since a min cash in the Seniors at EPT Dublin way back in February., easily the longest cashless streak of my career.
I didn't keep count of the streak this time but I'm sure it smashed my previous worst 23/0 streak from a couple of years ago. I was keen to break the streak ahead of Vegas, but it wasn't to be. Ultimately streaks don't really matter unless you allow them to affect your game, so I stopped worrying about ending the streak and slipped into a mentality of "it will end when it ends".
I had a very good day two until near the end when I went into reverse. I'd love to go into some detail on the interesting spots but to be honest there weren't any: just a lot of standard situations. One of those became significant in light of subsequent developments. I opened aq in early position late in the day. D Peters thought for a while (even by his standards) and eventually shoved about 20 big blinds. The small blind who had just been crippled reshoved for less, and I folded quickly. It seems like a pretty clear fold as I had a tight image, had raised from early position, so many of the hands getting shoved for value have me crushed. AQ is a deceptively weak hand: it looks pretty good but against true premiums has only 30-35% equity.
I was happy with the fold when both players flipped over AK. However, the queen high runout does mean that had I made a suspect call, I'd have eliminated D Peters (and he therefore wouldn't have gone on to claim his first bracelet).
Although I'd have liked to get there with a healthier stack, following my first day 2 of the trip with a day 3 was heartening. Overnight I was 13/28, and as fate would have it, I ended up coming 13th. I lost almost half my stack in the early going, mostly standard spots, but there was one hand I could probably have played better.
D Peters opened in early mid position, and I elected to flat with eights on the button playing 35 big blinds. My thinking was the hand was not strong enough to get in for that amount, and I didn't want to 3 bet fold. The small blind (the only player older than me left in the tournament at this point) also called, so three of us saw a 532 rainbow flop. Checked to me, I decided I had to bet to protect my equity (I usually have the best hand now but there's a lot of two over card type hands with enough equity that I'd like them to fold now). Unfortunately I got check raised by the small blind, and D Peters folded. Since my opponent had just arrived at the table, I didn't know anything about him other than he was older. He also had the kind of neat nit stack (no low denomination chips) suggesting someone who has blinded down from the last pot won, rather then the rich in ante chip stack maniacs tend to have from all the small pots they contest and win. As I tanked he also looked very comfy so in the end I thought it's a pretty clear fold. I couldn't find too many hands he'd play like this that eights beat, and even hands I might be ahead of for now have a lot of equity.
I felt a lot better about the fold after seeing the villain fold every hand for the rest of the time we shared a table. If I had to put him on a single hand, I suspect my opponent had jacks. However the hand niggled me for a number of reasons so I spent the next few days soliciting the views of all the best players I talk through hands with. The fact that all but one agreed with the flop fold was heartening, but Gareth Chantler suggested that the flop bet was a mistake and in fact I should check behind my entire range in that spot. Although it's a hand that benefits from protection it's only of the very few in my range I want to bet for that reason, so I should be checking rather than turning my hand face up as vulnerable, on a board where my range is more capped than the two villains (they can have sets, I can't really). Eventually all the other players I consulted agreed with this view,. Dan then went on to suggest that since I couldn't bet even this benign flop for protection, that makes the hand very hard to play profitably post flop, so I would be better off to turn it into a three bet bluff preflop, which is what I think I should have done.
The fact that it took over half a dozen fine poker brains several days to reach this conclusion means I won't beat myself up to much about not finding the optimal line in game (also, not to be results oriented, but if I had three bet, chances are I would have lost at least as much if not more against jacks).
My only other moderately interesting spot was when I got aces under the gun with 12 big blinds. Card death meant I had an even tighter image than usual, so afraid my shove would just get through too often, I elected to min raise. Naturally this is going to arouse the suspicion of strong players (assuming they don't just think I'm some stack size unaware fish) but I thought they were a couple of weaker players at the table who might not notice. As it was, one of the better players had kings and had to talk himself into getting it in (reenforcing the point that this play can cost you action from better players who will interpret the shove as weaker). My aces held for a much needed double.
Unfortunately that was my high point, and by the time we got down to 13 I was the second shortest. I was still hopeful I could repeat my feat of last year (when i was shortest or second shortest all the way from 18 left to headsup). However that requires you to win a few flips, and in this occasion I lost my first one (ace king versus Ivan Luca's nines). I missed out on a 5k ladder by dint of that and another race Luca won a few hands earlier.
I wasn't as deflated by my bust as I thought I'd be, it was more a case of Oh well. I think there are a few reasons for that. The fact that the tournament was a grind from start to finish where I never had a big stack is one. Also, I think I was just relieved to have broken my longest cashless streak and prove I was capable of not just cashing but going deep again. I was also relieved to have provided a decent sweat and return on investments from my investors after a campaign of early exits. The amount of support I got from my rail both present and virtual was very heartening too. A big thank you to Andy Black, Dan Wilson, Padraig O'Neill, Groggsy, Martin, Carlos Welch and everyone else. I'm well aware that railing is a dull affair (particularly railing someone as restrained as me), all the more so when you have no financial self interest (of the name I listed, only Padraig had a percentage). This is one of the times in poker life when you find out who your real friends are.
As I was led to payouts, I saw my friend Daiva wandering around dizzily looking for me, having pulled herself away from sun bathing and waiting for her husband to land. She joined us for commiseration drinks in the Gold Coast, which somehow escalated into a drunken grocery shopping expedition, a rather surreal end to a day I had hoped would end with a bracelet, or at least another final table.
While we were drinking in the Gold Coast I had a quick look at the updates to see how Cathal Shine was getting on. At dinner on day 1, he told us he was going back to a very short stack. When I spoke to him again on day 2, he was still short. When I saw him on day 3, he was still short: shorter than me in fact. When I checked the updates, I saw he was still in,10/10, still short. I was therefore surprised as well as thrilled when we got back to the condo after the night out to hear from Dan and Smidge that Cathal had laddered all the way to second. I probably shouldn't have been surprised though: while he doesn't play that much live, for as long as I've been playing Cathal has been a mainstay on the Irish online scene. I think when I first became aware of PocketFives shinerr was the top ranked Irish player, and over the years when so many other top players have fallen by the wayside, he has remainedahead of the curve, a constant fixture near the top of the Irish list. Great player, great guy, great performance, fabulous result.