Friday, October 15, 2010

Bomber in the Port of Roses

This blog entry is coming to you from the front seat of the courtesy shuttle taking me and my companions from the Hotel Metropol in PortoRoz, Slovenia to our flight home in Treviso.

In the row behind me, my beloved wife is snoozing. In the row behind her, Thomas "Bomber" Nolan and Vinny "Vincinio" Burke are performing a snoring duet. I'm hoping I'm not the only person awake at this hour but I can't be certain since the driver appears not to have moved in 20 minutes and is wearing a pair of Fly sunglasses.

We got here Wednesday and basically chilled until the supersat on Thursday evening. We had a pleasant few drinks and went out to dinner with Mike and Brian from D4 Events, Ben and Jonno (two young English pros), and two young French guys who have some great results in D4 Events. The live supersat was a fairly quick affair (6K starting stack, 15 minute clock). I crapshooted badly, running AKs into QQ the first time I pushed. This left me short and the next time I pushed, with A7s, I was dominated by AQ. I like to play these live supersats as a sort of advance scouting mission to gather intelligence on how the locals play. The main impression I formed was the LAGs played mostly the same as most LAGs everywhere, bluffing far too much in bad spots and getting unnecessarily tricky slowplaying monsters. The rocks played like most rocks but did the occasional random and usually ill-timed move. Most of both camps seemed to play push fold reasonably optimally.

The main event kicked off on Friday with 74 runners. Poker is clearly in its infancy in this part of the world but I was impressed by the local organisation and think that in a year or two it's likely to be big here, and will breed a lot of good players as central and eastern Europe is already doing.

My basic plan was to revert to the strategy that won me the very first European Deepstack: start tight and then tighten up. Most of my Italian opponents seemed to have no Fold button so bluffing didn't seem like a good idea. I stuck to trying to play hands with nut potential in position, hoping to flop the nuts and bet like billyo. Nice plan but it's fair to say I got nothing like my fair share of playable hands so most of the day was spent mucking 62o pre. I did catch JJ at an opportune time. A loose local opened for the standard amount, another guy playing almost every hand flatted. We were still very deep so I elected to flat in the cutoff. My main reason was the button, an Italian who had clearly read the chapter on squeezing, never seemed to see a squeeze he didn't like. As expected, he stuck in a hefty reraise, my two opponent folded their spanners, and I flatted trying to make it look like a stubborn "you've done that once too often so I'm calling out of position with spanners here" syndrome. Flop was a rather pleasing KJ4 and I checked. To my surprise, my opponent checked behind. Turn was a 3, a second spade to join the two diamonds that had flopped, so I now fired fairly big and my opponent quickly called. River was the ten of spades, I fired again, and after some thought my opponent raised most of his stack. No longer feeling too good about the hand and fearing a slowplayed set of kings, I studied my opponent for a while and eventually decided he seemed to be exhibiting a foot tell and in any case I couldn't be folding here so I shoveled the chips in reluctantly. To my surprise, I was shown 23o. That hand pushed me up towards 100K and by the end of play I had nudged through it to 123K.

I would have had even more but Bomber got moved to my table. After following an early strategy similar to mine of sitting tight, his patience was rewarded when he was on the right side of an AA/QQ cooler. He then pressed on to over 200K running all over the table. We skirmished just a few times and he got the better on two occasions. I raised my button after he limped utg, the BB flatted, and the Bomber now unexpectedly reraised. I've played with the Bomber a few times and never seen him do this move before, so I frankly admitted to him "I have no idea what that means" and decided on a prudent fold as I had a hand that played pretty horribly against anything other than a bluff. It can of course be the old "limp a monster" trick (which he did with his aces later versus the queens), more recently in Ireland it seems it can be a medium pair, or on the Internet it can be air (Assisanato pulled this move at my table in the Berlin EPT with T9s). After the BB folded showing AQ, Bomber showed 54s. I should have known: these pesky Internet kids

I've sung the Bomber's praises before on my blog: I think he is a pretty phenomenal player. Some players are good but relatively easy to play against, some are bad but hard to play against, a rare few combine the best of both types, and Bomber falls in this camp. To illustrate how hard he can be to play against, towards the end of the day I raised A9s in late position (A9s is the Doke nuts incidentally), and both blinds defended. Flop came 983 and Bomber led at it for 3K from the BB. I quickly raised to 7500 and after the SB folded Bomber snap called. Turn was a ten, and Bomber led again, this time for 10500. The ten was a rather horrible card that slams into the Bomber's range, there are hands he can have that have now moved ahead (T8, T9) and hands that I'm actually drawing dead against now (QJ, J7, 76). Most players wouldn't bet their really strong hands like this but Bomber has caught me on a couple of occasions in other tournaments by betting the nuts or second nuts so strongly it's convinced me he can't possibly have it. His turn bet here has leverage as I need to decide right here right now whether my hand is good. If it's not, it's going to be a very expensive river, so again I chose the prudent fold. I showed my hand hoping it would encourage Bomber to show his and he obliged with 44. So I was basically owned. The difference between Bomber and a lot of players who try that sort of move unsuccessfully is that he recognised the ten as a good bluff spot (he said so after showing the hand) rather than just mindlessly bluffing come what may, and realised that I would see it as a card that would have helped a lot of his range. And because he plays his strong hands the same way, it protects his bluffs, and forces you to guess.

I came back for day 2 eighth in chips and glad of a redraw that took me away from the Bomber to a more Italian table. It was all going to plan when I motored up to 170K without showing a card until I caught my first and only real hand of the tourney, KK. I opened for my standard 2.3x utg, and utg+1 flatted. He was relatively short so when the flop came QT3 and he shoved over my cbet I had a no brain call. Unfortunately he had setted up (tens). A short while later a flopped nut flush got overturned by a straight flush and that knocked me back to 110K. The rest of my tournament was spent essentially treading water around 110K until I reshipped 99 over an Italian raiser who I thought was playing 40K. Unfortunately when he called two yellow 20K chips appeared from behind his stack and it turned out he actually had 80K. The nines were still probably a theoretical reship there, although live there's a case for folding too, particularly when you feel you have a significant skill edge over most of the field. He had queens and held.

After a shipping flurry that saw me rally back up to 70K, I shipped A9o into aces to exit in 18th and that was that. Time to spend some time with the wife, as Mike pointed out.

While I was disappointed that my 100% record of cashing in 50K starting stack events was at an end, I was very happy with how I played. Since Vegas, I think my live form has been patchy at best, with the top of my game performances (Vilamoura EPT, Fitz EOM) being outnumbered by some more lacklustre efforts. I think this is largely a kind of winner's tilt from how well the year has gone for me online engendering a kind of "ah sure it doesn't really matter anyway" attitude, but that's not an attitude you ever want to take into any tournament. I felt this was one of my rare recent perforces where I was focused and at the top of my game picking up good reads. That's the nature of tournament poker: you can play very well or even perfectly and lose a lot of the time, and occasionally you can even play very badly and win. The fact that I managed to build a stack with little or no help from the deck is encouraging. These deepstack events are pretty unique tournaments that allow you to explore the full range of your poker game, and the fact that the high quality "foreign" contingent did very well (the ever impressive Paul Jackson finished third, and Bomber was second, with Paul's young English travelling companion securing the win), while myself, Vincinio and Ben Jenkins all went reasonably deep will hopefully encourage others that these events are worth travelling for.

Slovenia itself is lovely, populated by friendly people who all seem to speak four or five languages, even if they're not familiar yet with Dublinglish. In the lift at one of the breaks, Bomber gave me a quick hand history between floors. After he left the lift, a bemused looking local asked me in Italian what language he was speaking. When I said English, she clearly didn't believe me

Well done to Mike and Brian for putting on this event which will surely go from strength to strength, and to Bomber for his performance both pokerwise and at the table (he had all the locals in stitches). He apparently knocked all but one out at the final table and got headsup with a massive chiplead but then got unlucky after getting it in ahead a number of times. Before he dozed off in the back, he asked me about the Barcelona EPT and expressed a desire to play an EPT. Somebody needs to warn the Scandi versions that there's a madder version of themselves on the way



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