Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Back to Poker

Maybe the running break did me good because since I came back I'm running much better in poker terms.

Highlight: second place in the Sporting Emporium Monthly 200 tourney. Overall, I was very happy with my play. Maybe a little raggedy at the start as I still felt very tired from Brno but I woke up as the tournament went on and think I played my best stuff on the last two tables.

Standard seemed very high to me as it always does in the SE (but then I've only played the big games there). So high at the first table I was at that I was starting to seriously wonder if I was the value. I managed to wither down to about half my starting stack early on due to card death until I got lucky with a big blind special chasing a flush draw that never came but backdooring a straight runner runner when my opponent was slowplaying top set. Given that the flush didn't arrive, the poor girl had to think she was betting the nuts when instead she was doubling me up on the river (though as a sign of just how strong the table was, the guy sitting across from me not in the hand knew the exact cards, 7h6h, before I turned them over).

Didn't really get going until Adam The Champ Fallon doubled me up on the second last table with A8s against my AK, and then later got lucky to win a race with 10's against AQ when my opponent hit his Q on the flop but I rivered a gutshot straight.

Was so card dead at the final table at the start I was down to 7 BB until I got a card rush that brought me from shortie with 6 left to headsup. The best thing about it was I could very easily have been gone out in 6th a few hands earlier. I button raised with 8's, and Kevin Fitzpatrick moved all in for a bit more than I had. Normally when you've got 8's on the button and already put 30% of your short stack in it's an automatic call, but I decided to take some time to think it over. Kev had moved all in after some considerable thought of his own. I make no secret of the fact that not only do I rate him as one of the best players I've come across but he's probably the one guy in Ireland I've played against a bit that I really don't feel I have much of a read on. I looked at him for a while and again found him tough to read, but did get a vague sense of strength. I also pondered the fact that he'd effectively committed his entire stack (or 90%) in a situation where he had to think I was calling. I know he knows I'm not one for button raising just for sheer devilment, and he'd seen me decline several opportunities already at the final table, so looking at it through his eyes, he had to think I must have something, and I had to call, and yet he'd still pushed. So I decided I was, at best, at very best, racing, but more likely a horrible dog to a bigger pair, and made a crying fold. He told me later he had a bigger pair (of course I shouldn't necessarily believe him, but choose to).

This was just one example in the tournament where I got away from good but still beaten hands. I've identified my inability to do that often as my biggest glaring weakness so it's good to see an improvement. I probably got away from more hands in this one tournament than in all the others I've played this year put together.

The recovery started a few hands later. Kev got dogged and lost an all in to be left microstacked. He's BB, I'm SB, and he announces he's calling with any two cards (which I knew anyway). I pick up K6, way better than average, and he calls with J6. My hand holds up and I'm clapping myself for edging one more place up the prizes despite being short for so long. A few hands later the hyperaggressive Sean P raises all in from the SB on my BB, I have jacks for an instacall, he tables 76s, and I double up. Card rush from there sees me move from 14K to 100K in half a dozen hands.

Eventually got headsup with Joe (goodluck2me from boards.ie), but outchipped 4 to 1. Shame it didn't last longer as I think it would have been fun but at least I did what I could. Three hands in a row I folded preflop to reraises, when it turns out he had me crushed with kinhs twice and queens once. Then I'm check-raised with J7 on a J22 flop qhen he has a better jack, and I get away.

Getting away is all well and good but all this folding doesn't add to your stack and now his advantage was 5 to 1 so I needed a double up just to make it interesting. Then I pick up 10s after he's raised again. This time I figure him for a lower pair than my 10's, so the choices are trap call, raise or all in. In the end, I go all in, thinking he'll call with a lower pair (if that's what he has) thinking he's probably racing, so a good spot for a much needed double up.

Read was spot on, he flipped over 5's, but my flopping ability failed me. He spiked a 5 on the flop and that sealed the deal. Overall though, I was very happy, and he was a deserving winner having dominated the tournament from start to finish. Very nice guy and yet another example of a young guy half my age already a brilliant player.

Final table was particularly strong I thought, one of three I've been involved in this year, the other two being CHL's January end of month, and European Deepstack (obviously). In all three tournaments, I felt I played my very best stuff at the final table. My ROI on these bigger tournaments with better tables is running at something ridic like +1000%, whereas in the smaller tourneys in the Fitz that I play more regularly it's more like 100%, and in my local pub it's only 50%. Obviously variance is the main reason for this discrepancy, but I do find it easier to play against the better players and bring out my A game. If anything, my play in the smaller tourneys has deteriorated since my big win, I just can't seem to focus and play my best when I know it's going to just come down to whether the Ace rag merchants hit their rags or otherwise suck out on me.

Online, I've returned to cash with a vengeance (though it's early yet, too early to say whether it's just variance or genuine skill edge). Apart from that, I played a few satellites to close-but0no-cigar outcomes. Qualified from a satellite to a satellite to the WSOP Weekly final on Green Joker Poker but never really got going. Also close things for WSOP on Ladbrokes, Labrokes Poker Million (one outered on the river for a ticket!), and Madrid (5th with 4 tickets, after losing a race for the ticket with the other short stack with A6 against K2s - he hit his flush on the BLEEDIN' FLOP), but no actual tickets.

Next major live outing will probably be the new SE 500 tournament just before I head to Manchester for the GUKPT. I've also qualified already for the Irish Masters just after.

Speaking of which, I've decided that if I'm to take this seriously as a potential livelihood at some point, I should start doing professional things like reducing my variance in specific events, so if anyone playing the GUKPT Manchester or Irish Masters would be interested in swapping percentages with me, give me a shout.

Final, a big McLoving well done to Gary Clarke for winning his WSOP ME ticket. The legend grows, Gary, it just grows and grows like...um...a grower.



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