Sunday, March 19, 2006


Played in a smoker again last night. 45 people ponied up $50 to go for a shot at 800. The setting once again was St. Florians, the place I had cashed in the other time I had played. Knowing how bad the level of play was going to be, I couldn't miss this one.

It was also good to see Tiger's Hat again (no, you will not have your name changed here).

I will never claim to be a world class poker player. I am a student of the game, playing online and live, reading books, blogs and some forums. There are many avenues the poker enthusiast can drive down to improve their game. It amazes me how some people will shell out 50 bucks and be pretty much clueless about the simplest of poker strategies.

My first table was encouraging. I had played with 3 of the players before and knew them to be weak loose. The others I would take in slowly and garner an opinion as play went on. Off the top, I figured only 2 of the players would be a concern. Santa Claus down on the end with his "Hold Em" hat and card protector seemed rather loose at first but he clamped down hard after losing a couple of hands and got quite aggressive. The other was Fu Manchu, an Asian player who seemed to know what he was doing. Then again, he pulled out sunglasses and was listening to a pink iPod. The others looked like they were simply here hoping to get lucky.

The tone of the table was set early. Tight play. Everyone was folding to a regular 3xs raise of the blinds. When a flop was seen, a continuation bet took it down. My assessment was that everyone was playing A rag. So when I got K Qs, I popped it and got a caller. On the 7 high flop I bet 3/4 of the pot and won. Next hand, I did the same with A K, bet a 10 high flop and took it down. With A Q I popped it hard with 3 limpers once and took it down preflop.

That felt like the highlight of my early action. My cards were far from fantastic all night. In fact, the biggest pot I won was from the SB. Two limpers are in and I look down at K 3s. I complete for just 50 more knowing the BB isn't going to raise unless he has a monster. Flop gave me two of my suit. I bet half the pot and was min-raised by a weak player. The turn gave me my flush. I checked and called his all in bet. He showed A 7 (he was playing second pair) and was drawing dead. That got me a $10 bounty. Sweet!

But that would be the last and only big pot I would win. Except for stealing blinds, I never started with any strong hands. In fact, A Ks was the best hand I saw all night. No big pairs (I believe 6s were the only pocket pair I had all night), A Q twice and A J once. That was it.

Yet, because I could find spots to steal blinds or defend my blinds, I managed to stay at the status quo and made the final table. There I was a short stack and had to find a way to get to 8th place to get my money back. It felt like it wouldn't be too hard either because the final tables here are extremely tight. Usually there are 3, maybe 4 big stacks and 2 medium stacks and the rest that cannot survive two orbits. Everyone is scared to play, even the big stacks.

That is the only problem with this tournament. The guys running it do a fantastic job with the early rounds, giving you lots of play. However, they run into a time limit where they need to be out of the church by 11 or midnight and then the blinds go up rapidly. They should really consider putting in antes to speed up the action.

At the final table, I was one of those that could survive 2 orbits. I drew the 8 seat so the blinds wouldn't be around for a while. I folded continuously until the BB came and the SB pushed all in. With only 700 to call and getting 3 to 1, I called blind. My 9 4 wouldn't improve and Santa Claus survived. I then made a mistake here. I posted the small blind of 500 and had only 2000 behind. I should have pushed with any hand here but couldn't when I saw 5 2. The blinds were going up and I would only be able to call here. Granted if I go out in 10th I get nothing but if I want to make some money I need chips.

Instead I folded and waited once again for the blinds to come around. When I saw A 7s, if felt like gold, easily the best hand I had seen in an hour. I pushed my last 2000 in and went up again two players. The board paired up deuces and treys and my A kicker was good. I survived for now.

I ended up going down when I had the BB again and this time pushed with my small stack. We were down to 9 at this point and the guys running the tourney had decided to give 9th a free entry into the next event. Being happy with a freeroll, I pushed blindly when the action came around. My lone opponent had a small stack and had pushed with 8 8. I turned up my cards to see 9 7. Ugh. Only one overcard. The flop though gave me a 9 and I was in business. The turn was a rag and the river a 9. But there were 4 spades on the board. My opponent's 8 was a spade. Done in 9th.

At least I collected a bounty in the fray. I still am amazed at how poorly the play can be. Beyond players making dumb calls or bad bluffs, time and time again I saw the mistake of min-raising. A good example was a min raise from MP that the BB thought about before calling. The flop was 2 5 10, two hearts. BB checks and the MP makes a min bet. It is called. The turn is a heart. Again, BB checks and the MP puts him all in. BB thinks and then calls showing 5 2 suited. MP has A K, no heart and the BB takes the pot down. If the MP had raised anything but the minimum pre-flop, he wouldn't have dumped 2/3 of his stack across the table.
That is why I keep going to this event. There are a lot of players who will limp and then automatically call any raise. I am thankful they will never pick up a book.

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