Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lille-ing it up

Plus ca change.....or has it?

One thing you can never really be sure about until you've had a six figure score is how it will affect you in the aftermath. Some people find it tough to get back to the ho hum routine of the grind, finding it hard to take a tournament seriously when the buyin is less than the price of a meal in Vegas and first prize less than a WSOP buyin. So I wasn't sure how my first night back on the online grind would go, and not just because I was struggling with jet lag.

I needn't have worried. I clicked right back into my normal button clicking routine like nothing of significance had happened in Vegas. Andy Black was telling me once how he reserves his A game for the big occasions and just mucks about in smaller games. I responded that the buyin has no obvious effect on my performance: I give the Fitz EOM the same focus as an EPT. He responded "Yeah, you're boring like that".

So first night and indeed first week back went well, as I went about routinely winning satellites, still my online staple. This dovetails nicely with my plan to play a lot live for the rest of the year (even before Vegas I felt I was in the best form live in years). I had already qualified for FPS Lille, UKIPT Bristol and Estrellas Barcelona all within 6 weeks of Vegas, and beyond that the plan is to hit the EPTs in Malta and Prague, and UKIPT Edinburgh.

My other immediate objectives are to put in some quality off the tables type study work (which I've done a lot of this year but had to take a backseat in Vegas), and regain the physical fitness lost in the desert in Vegas. Before heading to Lille, I did my first speed  training session in the park, and my first long run since before Vegas (I wussed out after 20 miles and it felt tougher than the 30 milers I was doing routinely every Wednesday pre Vegas so it's clearly going to take a while to regain that level of fitness). I did have a rare fleeting moment of self congratulatory contentment during the speed session when I flashed back to all the hard sessions I did in the past year that got me to Vegas in the best physical shape for several years. I'm not generally one for looking back as much as planning forward and it is tenuous at best to imagine there's any link between all that running in Hartstown Park and the run good I benefited from in Vegas, but I guess there's no harm in taking pride in the process and the hard work that went into my preparation for this year's WSOP.

Lille and Lillois.....not the same place

The trip to Lille was a little more arduous than it should have been. After procuring tickets to Bruxelles Midi station, it took a little working out that due to Belgian bilingualism this was the same place as the Brussels Suid that appeared on timetables. We had also bought tickets from there to Lille on a train that was supposed to leave at 16.14. Checking the first timetable we saw, there was indeed a train leaving at that precise time heading to Lillois, which we assumed was the other name for Lille.

Well, it turns out Lillois is not the Flemish word for Lille, but a rather sleepy looking burb of Charleroi. It took a whole train ride to there to ascertain this, and required a train ride back to Brussels and a new Eurostar ticket to Lille before we were quite literally on the right track.

We checked in and then checked out the casino, which is definitely the nicest and friendliest one I've seen in France. My French wife is quite adamant in her view that the North of France (excluding Paris) is the friendliest part, and my experiences on this trip certainly back her up.

The main and the maniac

My FPS Main event was short and unremarkable. I've recently had a change of heart about the best way to handle maniacs early in deepstacked tournaments. I used to try to steer clear of them except when I was nutted. The problem with that strategy is that by the time you catch a hand they've often hoovered up enough soft chips through pure aggression that even if you catch them you are only making a dent, and by then you've missed out on lots of good spots to get at the soft chips yourself.

So these days I'm much happier to embrace the variance and go to war earlier. When someone diverges from Game Theory Optimal in either direction (by being too tight and passive, or too loose aggressive) they open themselves up to exploitation. The maniac's Achilles heel is the opponent willing to open up all their ranges specifically against them rather than backing off.

Two hours in, I had already identified the maniac at the table. He was 5xing from every seat with close to 100% of hands, so when I picked up Ak behind him I threebet quite happy to five bet shove if he four bet. As it happened, he fourbet shoved. This didn't make me any more reluctant about getting over 100 big blinds in pre with my hand as the way he was playing I thought the shove not only removed monsters from his range (which he'd fourbet call I felt) and all pairs (he was peeling with hands as strong as tens rather than four betting). So I called quickly, hoping I would find him dominated rather than with something like jack ten suited. He did have Aqs, and the king high flop looked very good for me, until he hit a runner runner flush. An unexpectedly quick exit, but no regrets about the hand. I got it in almost as good as it gets in Holdem and if I'd have held I'd not only have double average but also have crippled the only player likely to fight back if I upped the aggression and wielded the stack.

To reenter or rest

There was a reentry option in the form of a hyper day 1c, and I did consider it given the obvious value in the tournament, but ultimately rejected it for a couple of reasons. First, I was feeling a bit tired due to a combination of ongoing Vegas jet lag, Wednesday's twenty mile run and the travel to here, so a solid 24 hours of rest before the High Roller the following day seemed in order. Second, as a matter of principle, I don't think hyper day 1's with the same reg fee as a normal speed day one should be supported. I have nothing against the idea of a hyper day one reentry option per se, but I think the reg fee has to be lower to reflect the hyper nature of the option.

High rollering

24 hours later I was back for the High Roller. My table was almost as soft as my main event one, and I advanced forward on starting stack without too much drama until the first big hand of the day when I took an unconventional line and was rewarded when I flopped top pair, turned the nut flush draw, and stacked a guy with no fold button on the river in a bizarre spot where it's difficult to justify his play on any street. That's the short version: I'll be featuring the long version in a forthcoming column for Bluff Europe.

I continued to advance steadily thanks in large part to my new found willingness to tackle the table maniac, and bagged up over five starting stacks to be 6/45 overnight. Roomie and swap for the tourney Smidge said he thought I was already a lock to cash with 17 paid, but there's many a slip twixt cup and lip.....

How to lose a big stack in four easy steps

I've had short day 2's before, but can't ever remember going from almost double average to out in just over an orbit. How is that even possible, I hear you ask? Here's how.

Hand 1: Third hand of day 2. A very aggressive looking young guy who has already raised or threebet the previous two hands limps utg. The guy just behind who has also played the first two hands flats, so I decide to squeeze to 3.25x with aqs to isolate what I'm assuming are two fairly wide ranges. I get what I want when they both call, but the j87 with no backdoor flush possibilities is about as bad as it gets for my hand and my range so I decline to cbet, and give up on the blank turn when the second guy bets.

Hand 2: Next hand I open k9s from early position, loose but justifiable at a table that looks unwilling to get involved without a big hand apart from my two neighbours to the east (one of whom has already folded, and the other of whom is big blind). Everyone folds to the button who calls, as does the big blind. This time the q54 flop looks like a better candidate to cbet as its less likely to have hit my opponents, so I fire, get reraised by the button, and give up.

Hand 3: Three hands later, I find myself with Ak in the small blind. After two limps, Mr Aggro two to my right squeezes to 6500 and is called by Mr CallsALot on the button. The low variance route here is to call and hope to see a flop but in this spot against these two opponents I think the high variance route of raising to get it in is better. When I call I will generally miss the flop and lose a small pot, but when I raise a number of good things can happen:
(1) everyone folds and I pick up 20k uncontested, a great result
(2) someone decides I'm squeezing light and decides to go with a hand I dominate (another great result) or am at least flipping against (not ideal, but not a bad result either with the dead money overlay I'm getting)
(3) someone calls creating a profitable situation for me post flop where I expect to win the pot more than half the time

After I raised, the limpers quickly folded, Mr Aggro tank folded, and Mr CallsALot tank shoved. After I called and flipped over my hand instantly, he turned over one ace (at which point I thought great, I'm dominating him rather then flipping) and then somewhat slowly another ace. So neither dominating nor flipping. There was brief hope when I flopped a king but the aces held, leaving me with 4 big blinds. I guess the chips were always going in anyway on the king high flop even if I took a more cautious line preflop.

Hand 4: I shove my remaining four big blinds with q9s on the button, and lose to the big blind's k4o.

Although I had no real regrets over any of the hands, I will admit to feeling a bit punch drunk as I walked back out of the casino I had walked into just 15 minutes earlier as one of the chipleaders. Back in the room I gave Smidge the bad news and we did what most depressed poker players do: went back to bed to sleep it off.

When we woke up, we headed out on what we grandly hoped would be a pleasant sightseeing trip through Vieux Lille, but ended up as a rather dispirited trudge through the rain on slippy cobblestones looking at closed shops and restaurants. Lille is not without its picturesqueness though, and I'd definitely go back both for the poker and the sights in better weather.


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