Monday, January 30, 2006

The Confused Donkey

Bert Gordon: You've the best excuse in the world for losing; no trouble losing when you got a good excuse. Winning. That can be heavy on your back too, like a monkey. You'll drop that load too when you got an excuse. All you gotta do is learn to feel sorry for yourself. One of the best indoor sports, feeling sorry for yourself. A sport enjoyed by all, especially the born losers.
”The Hustler”

I was once again amazed more by what I saw at the digital tables over the weekend. Some of the hands I was shocked at even when I won them – especially the ones I won. I just couldn’t believe it was happening some times. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

My “bankroll” at Full Tilt started at $50, and by last week it was down to a poultry $12. That doesn’t leave much room for movement and there was a real chance that it could be run dry until next month.

I made a decision that I was playing shit and couldn’t just blame the usual suspects – bad cards, suck outs, the damn drawing donkeys – it was time to place the responsibility where it belonged.

I blamed my avatar instead. I changed it to the Donkey, and set his mood to “confused”. I figured if I am going to play like a donkey, I may as well look like one. And the confused donkey is one ugly looking thing, let me tell you.

I took second place in a 6 person $5 SNG, which was a good start. At the same time I was also enrolled in a $5 MTT, but took a hit early when 88 lost me 1/3 of my stack (vs AdXd, all diamond flop, diamond turn).

Later in the first level, I doubled up with two pair vs TPTK, and then again when I had another opponent out kicked. I was a long way from the lead and below average, but at least I was back to where I could play normally.

I changed my approach in this game slightly. Some hands I usually raise with, I decided to just call with this time and see if they hit. When they did, I got paid and when they didn’t I dropped them. Hands like AJo out of position. I think that hand looks a lot better than it really is.

I was able to limp with 33 about this time, and hit the flop with A38. All I was hoping for was somebody had an ace and nothing else. I checked my set, and looked for a better. I got one, and I just called. The turn was a King, and my opponent went all in immediately. The king brought a possible flush and straight draw, but I don’t think I can lay down this set here against a player I have no read on. I have to call and if he hits a draw or has set over set, then so be it. He had KJ and was drawing dead. Interesting…This doubled me up again and then I noticed I was coming first out of the 60 remaining and I got moved to another table.

When the table shift happened, they were in the middle of a hand where the big stack at the table took out the second biggest stack on the table. He now had 12K to my 8K. Wow, chip leader for less than 10 seconds. And to make it worse, the chip leader was playing fast and loose in the seat on my left. I’d much rather have him at another table, but if he has to be at mine I’d much rather he was sitting in any other seat.

So now I am going to be in premium selection mode – let’s forget all the fancy bullshit. I’ve got chips, there is no need to try to get clever about this. To put it in the simplest of terms – only bet when I’ve got something.

What do you know, it worked! I called a small raise with A4h, and got to see A4x on the flop. The loose aggressive chip leader bet out at the pot, and I raised him back (if he has an ace, he’ll come back. If he was bluffing, I’m probably not going to get any more out of him.). He just calls. The turn is a blank for me, and he checks this time. I check too, because 2 pair is never a monster (one of my laws of poker, I should write them down some time). The river is another blank for me, and he bets out again for about ½ the pot. It’s worth a call from here, as there is no flush or paired board. I call, and he shows AK for TPTK only. I am just below him in chips now. I may have taken the lead, but everyone else keeps dumping their chips to him.

I noticed he was seeing a lot of flops, but hardly any showdowns. I guess this is ok for a large stack, as everyone was scared of him. But I figure you may as well attack the large stack – after all, that’s where all the chips are!

And then I hit another set with 44, and when we put all the money in on the turn he was drawing dead. I am the first player to break the 20K mark, and somebody at the table comments “New Sheriff in town!”. I feel the same way.

I try to knock him out with a naked ace vs a naked king, but to no avail. It looks like he will be amassing enough chips to worry everyone if he doubles up again.

I see a flop with Ah9h, and it comes AcJh2h. He pushed for all his chips, and I think I want this call. He shows KTo for a gut shot chance only. The bad news was he hit a queen on the turn – the good news was it was the wrong queen for him.

I am moved to another table yet again, and the same thing as before happens. It is the middle of a hand, and one player wins a massive pot to put him well above me as the chip leader. Great, my thoughts of dominating the table now have just been dealt a blow again. I have about 19K, and he has 27K

From all the banter going on, I can only guess that he has hit a few draws. We’ll wait to see what the cards will let me do…

And I folded my way from 2nd to 5th without seeing anything worth playing. But I don’t mind too much, as I am not loosing too much ground and still have plenty of chips to play a normal game with. We are down to 3 tables, with only the final table getting paid. At this stage, I would be disappointed to finish outside the top five.

This is the third time I have lasted to the final 3 tables in a MTT on Full Tilt, and both previous times I was a short stack and had to go for broke with marginal hands. Now I had chips so I can’t waste the chance. Me and my confused Donkey are going all the way!

After some back and forth action, the three chip leaders at our table get to pretty even – we also happen to be the three chip leaders out of the whole tournament. I get my first big pocket pair for the tournament, the Queens. I raise and get one caller (currently third in chips, I’m second).

The flop comes 34Q, two hearts. I know both of us don’t want to loose a chunk here, so this could be interested. He bets out a pot sized bet, and I raise him back pot sized again. He thinks and calls. Turn is Jc, and he checks. I decided to check because if he has a nut flush draw, I may not be able to push him off it. Even though a push here with what is the nuts at the moment would be to my advantage, I don’t want to risk it.

The river is 3s, giving me the second nuts which I realised straight away. He checked the river, but would he check quads in this case? I don’t think he would – with quads he would have to put out a value bet or a “I could be bluffing” bet. I put him on the flush draw and it missed, so now I have to put out a bet small enough for him to call, big enough to make it look like I want to steal. I put out about 4K into a 12K pot, and he calls, showing a suited jack of hearts. I have now leapfrogged both of them and into first place by a secured 10K or so.

One of the greatest features at Full Tilt is the “I’m Ready” button. I hate it when you are down to important moments in a SNG or Tournament and you are forced to take a break when the next hand could have everything all over. I found out that this only happens at the final table in a MTT, and we still had ten players left, 1 short of the final table. I checked the stats – I had 35K plus change, second had 17K. Average was 12,900.

The final player was knocked out at the other table, and we are in the money! 10th pays $11, which isn’t really worth it. 4th is $40 and first was $140, so a top four finish would give me enough to be satisfied with my time. Sure, it’s no massive score or anything, but you need to set your goals according to your level of play. A $40 score for a $12 bankroll is pretty huge.

I see a few familiar faces at the final table, and I have started to take better notes on players. The smallest stack (just over a big blind) gets knocked out and then I take out the former chip leader with AK vs K9 (king on the flop). I would have been very annoyed if I was in his shoes. He had a massive chip lead late in the tournament, and walked out with a profit of $7 or there abouts. Personally, I was glad I got him and not just for the chips. That meant twice I was moved to a table with a massive chip leader and twice I managed to take their chips away. I was still chip leader at the final table, but with only just over 25% of the chips I was in no way a dominating position.

The smallest stack was now around 11K, and the blinds were 500/1,000 so they still had some wiggle room, albeit not much. The 11K was seated to my right, and I had him pegged as a fairly decent player, tight with his starting hand selection. He pushed all-in in front of me when I had AQc.

Now even though this is the small stack pushing into the biggest stack at the table, I didn’t like it. AQc is a nice starting hand, but do I want to call off a third of my stack with it here? I know this guy isn’t a maniac, seems smart enough. It could be a steal I guess, but it would only be a guess. I thought he probably has a pair – any pair even – or an ace plus a picture card. Out of all those starting hands, very few am I in front of. The majority it is a coin flip, and with myself in good position I don’t feel like a coin flip for a third of my chips at this stage. So in what can be seen as a very timid or tight move, I folded. In fact, everyone did and he took the blinds and antes so I’ll never know if that was the right decision.

With so many medium stacks in play, I knew if I wanted to get a top 4 finish I wouldn’t be able to do it by folding. I managed to take out one more player with AJ vs KJ on a jack high flop. We got down to the final five when two brutal suckouts occurred – and I was involved in neither luckily. However, it now meant that I was the short stack out of the final three. A short stack, but at least I earned every chip I had damn it!

So I get into a flop with both of them holding Q5o. The board comes J89. UTG checks, and I decide that I need a double up to keep speed with them both. I have 19K vs 45K and 60K. Can I steal this? If not, can I have my turn to suck out?

So for the first time in about an hour, I decided to make a move at a pot that I had no right to. I pushed and with the blinds at 1500 and 3000, the pot was big enough.

Sadly I got one call from UTG, who had QT for the flopped straight and was free rolling on me in this hand. But at least I still have a chance to chop it.

The turn was a 9 and the river another Jack – great, we’ve both got 9’s and jacks with a queen kicker! It’s a chop! What luck for me!

Oh yeah, that’s right. He already had the straight. Forgot about that. Damn it! And it had to be QT too, my new cursed hand that knocked me out!

So I didn’t bother to hang around to see who won, I grabbed my $58 prize and was happy. The bankroll will survive another week.

I played a few more SNG’s and cashed, and then on Sunday I finished out of the money in two when I saw some of the most ridiculous plays I have ever seen.

One was calling an all-in with nothing more than a 6 high flush draw – which hit, but hey what can you do? The other was the famous “bluffing into a dry side pot”. This was in 6 person SNG , which to me makes it even worse.

In one pot, I made a bet with a open ended straight draw whiel holding 67s. I got called, and missed on the river. I checked, and so did he. 7 high was good for the pot. I also won another pot with Jack high. And I still couldn't win these SNG's.

Skipping the stupid plays, all up I had a good poker weekend. As is the goal at the moment, the bank roll will survive another week.

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