Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weep PT. Warning: the hills are alive with the moans of bad beats

Last Friday night I headed down to the monthly game in The Loft in Naas with Phil Baker. It was my first time there and Eddie and Gemma run a great club. I ended up going out in fourth for €600. The tournament was won by Bruce supremo Thomas Byrne who some of you may recognise from this month's Bluff Europe: well done Thomas. I didn't realise Thomas was such a good player, but then again I probably shouldn't be surprised: bookies usually make good poker players.

The deep run there meant no sleep before the flight to Salzburg the following morning. Locating the shuttle bus from Salzburg airport to Hinterglemm proved a bit of an ordeal but at least the presence of Donnacha O'Dea and Daniel Negreanu on the bus indicated that it was going to the right place.

Hinterglemm is basically a village in the middle of nowhere, albeit one that seems to have a permanent holiday atmosphere. 270 people started day 1a. I was card dead for much of the day but worked up to 45k by playing tight and picking my spots well. Then I was two outered on the river in a 60K pot. After that I was short and had to survive three called allins to finish the day with just over 36K.

Card death continued into day 2. I had dropped to 28K when the most interesting hand of the tournament for me played out. A French actress who is a Stars team pro raised in early position to 3k at 600/1200/100. Well known maniac Johannes Strassemann who had been running over the table flatted behind. I decided he was doing it with any 2 to bet her off any raggy or scary flop so I decided to call in the BB with J7s with the intention of check raising him on any raggy flop. As it happened the flop was very good for me, 633 with two of my suit, so I picked up a fair amount of equity. I checked, she checked, and he now quickly bet 6500 as expected. I had a sense that her check was trappy and she was going for the check raise herself as I caught her giving him a sly glance before she checked but given my two overs and flush draw I was now committed to the hand. I reraised to 15k which I think looks stronger than the ship. The French lady looked like she wanted to vomit and went into the tank so I presume she had some sort of overpair. Given I'm in the blinds I could have almost anything here, even a 3, so she eventually folded with a Gallic shrug. Now it was Strassemann's turn to tank it and after the trademark glare, the "How much have you left?", he tried the oldest trick in the book, pretend to folding for my reaction trick. I just laughed, it really is the oldest trick in the book, I think it may even be mentioned in the Bible. Anyway my laugh seemed to have confirmed to him that I was happy with my hand and he eventually folded.

Suitably emboldened, I maintained my stack with the occasional well timed steal until I picked up my first hand of the day, KK, in the BB. Utg raised, I reraised and called his ship. He had TT, the flop came T high, I picked up more outs on the turn with a gutshot, but missed. Crippled down to 7K, I got it in with 66 a few hands later and ran into KK.

You're always disappointed when you bust from a tournament but I had the consolation of feeling I gave it the best possible shot. Early in my career someone described me as a good player but someone who needed to learn how to survive without cards and in this tournament the fact that despite long term card death I was twice in a position where I just had to avoid a bad beat for a big stack has to be a positive.

I played the 1K side event and got off to a reasonably good start, moving up to 15500 (10K starting stack). The standard in this was markedly lower than in the main with a higher local fish content. Unfortunately the stack went in two hands: the first half to one of the locals who limped 75 utg and hit a gutshot straight on after I flopped two pair in the BB. Unfortunately I paid off his pot sized river bet on the basis that the only other two times he'd potted the river it was a bluff. The second half of the stack went to the best player at the table, a young Asian kid who lives in Germany that I played with all day 1 in the Berlin EPT main event. He was playing much tighter in Berlin, which really just goes to show how good he is: a good player can play well both loose when it's optimal to do so (early in a slow deep structure, or when a table is playing too tight) and tight when that's optimal (when there's less chips to splash around and the table is fishier). Anyway, he raised utg, I decided to defend my SB with JTs, and the flop came J98. I check called and then check raised all in when the turn was a rag blank. My thinking was I'm either ahead but there's enough in the pot to make it worth protecting and taking down now, or I'm behind but he's good enough to fold any single pair hand (probably the only player at the table with a Fold button). And even if I'm behind I have outs. I think my read was correct as despite having a set of nines he clearly didn't like making the call, but did of course.

I busted from the 500 rebuy in another overpair/underpair all in pre, but as sick exits go, the sickest was my exit from the final event, the 500 turbo. That was quite a fast structure and I got it in with AQo in the BB's v the cutoff's AQo. Unfortunately, he scooped thanks to a queen high flush.

That brought a rather disappointing end to this season's EPT campaign for me. I've decided not to play San Remo or Monte Carlo as I want to recharge my batteries and concentrate on online before Vegas. Online is now where I make most of my money: having always maintained I'm a better live player than online I'm starting to think this is no longer the case. I don't think I did anything wrong in any of the three EPTs I played this year: I just ran pretty horribly and it wasn't meant to be. The positive is I got a lot of exposure and table time with the new generation of MTTers who I believe are going to kill the live game in the next few years. This game is constant evolution and if you don't keep abreast of developments at the top level it's very easy to get left behind. That said, I have the sinking feeling that in the same way that STTs have been "solved" (the optimal strategy determined and now known to so many players that STTs are no longer very profitable even if you're playing optimally), we're not that far off being able to say the same of MTTs. It's noticeable that the top players are all playing more or less the same game no matter how much smokes and mirrors they use to disguise that. This is particularly true when it's shallow: shipping, reshipping and calling ranges are all coalescing to the degree that the top players are almost flipping for the dead money. After establishing myself on the Irish scene last year and proving to myself I can make a decent liveklihood for my family from this game, the objective for this year is a major overseas result (hopefully a life changing one) but it looks like it'll have to be Vegas now, or the EPTs after Vegas.

Apart from the fact that I ran like Billy Bunter after a midnight feast, it was an enjoyable week away from the tables. My first time in Austria and my impression of Austrians is that they're more efficient than Germans, and way more fun. Both the village and the hotels were very charming, the runs up and down the mountain were very refreshing and Mark was great company for the week. Mark's a force of nature, an indomitable indestructible spirit who recently survived a head on high speed motor bike crash and still the madman went skiing! My favourite type of people are always those who just take whatever is thrown at them and get on with it.

I'm a pretty big music fan but normally when I'm away from home I take whatever steps necessary not to have to listen to the local pop. However, I have to say that Austrian pop music is very melodic and for the most part pleasant: perhaps that's not too surprising in the land of Mozart. The whole week was the best organised poker event I've ever witnessed: after the nightmare of Berlin (and I'm talking about the queues to get into side events, not the robbery!), this was a queueless wonder where you just sailed up to the desk and registered (or better yet, did it online), moved into and out of the poker room with no hassle. The food was magnificent and the Austrian efficiency even saw to it that there were no dinner queues. Kirsty at Poker Stars and the Wolf family deserve maximum credit for a great event which hopefully will become a permanent fixture on the calendar.

Mark left on Friday as I was heading over to the poker room to get four flushed. After a run up the mountain to clear my head, I signed up to a couple of online mtts. A few hours later I'm on the final table of one of them on Bruce when I recognise that the maniac chipleader with over half the chips in play is none other than my roommate for the week. Mark had driven home to Slovakia, jumped into the same tourney, and proceeded to start to crush it. Basically he knocked out everyone on the final table so we got headsup. He had a 3 to 1 chiplead but I think we all know how well Doke runs online and needless to brag I turned it around to claim another win on my sponsor's site. Also some measure of revenge for being hussled out of a few hundred Euro at backgammon by Mark :)

Flight home was amusing, or at least I derived a certain wry amusement that I recognised a lot of the faces from the flight over, only now they had additional neck braces, arm braces, casts, slings at the like. All of which did nothing to make me regret my decision not to ski.

Next up of course is the Irish Open. This will be my third run at the Open: I was one of the first out first time round, last year I went out near the bubble, so I'm hoping to continue the positive progress. Before then, I'll be grinding my usual nightly tourneys online, and trying to secure my WSOP qualification on Bruce. The Bruce WSOP package is well worth trying for as it offers more flexibility than the others. See you at the tables hopefully.


Good report as usual... SusieWoosie is mad that you didn't get Daniel Negreanu's autograph for her this time, next time hopefully?!

GL in the IO... crack that bubble!

OK, will try for Susie next time :)


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