I lost my copy of this Halloween special this year, so I carved pumpkins without it on in the background. But later, as I folded hand after hand after hand, all I could think about was "I got a rock". For the first 2 hours I did little bug fold lousy hand with an occasional bluff utilizing my tight image. I would play say J8o like it was TT and if the flop was lousy, bet and take a small pot down. This kept me alive as I played 3 legitimate hands in those 2 hours.
I built up to about 15k (we start at 10k) and then took on an all-in from a short stack of 5k and got unlucky. When we break the first table (down to 2), I have just a starting stack size. This would really continue with me stealing blinds to stay alive. This was difficult as it seemed that almost every hand someone came in for a raise. The crucial hand was no different, as the cutoff raised 3-4xBB and in the Blind I look down at AQ. As I learned, since a raise commits me to the end and its pre-flop, I need to raise all-in and put maximum fold pressure on my opponent. Not to be as he had KK and snap-called. An Ace on the turn doubled me up to 20k and put my opponent on the short stack. I continued to be card dead and he goes on a tear and we both move to the final table.
I played strategic poker for the first 4 eliminations, but I may have waited too long to change gears. After playing a significant number of rotations at the bubble, I was ground down to the shortest stack. The player on my right was stealing my blinds more aggressively and it was really hurting me. He has me covered and if it was folded to him on the button or SB, he would think for a few seconds and move all-in. I would fold my 6 high hands.
Then, suddenly, he opens UTG for a raise. Very unlike him and I stew over JJ for about 2 minutes before folding it. That is a tight fold! But I gained an accidental advantage. He thought I was trying to fold to the money. This was a misread on his part, but combined with the fact that he stole my blinds 4 times, it was an easy assumption to make.
The next rotation, again it folds to him in the SB and he says "all-in" expecting me to have to fold most hands. Instead I say "I can't let you roll over me all night. I call." He shows J4s and I table my A3. Although he flops a flush draw, it doesn't get there and I double up and he now is the short-stack. He grunbles the rest of his table life about how unlucky he is. But I just dont see it that way. One of the things I like about this league is that despite finishing second last year (the top two had a big lead over 3rd) and cashing in the 24k this month and studying the game, very few players give me any respect at the table. (the guy who came in first is the exception.) The player on my right has some history as I have eliminated him twice before when I cracked his Kings with some marginal call so that may play into it, but even at the final table someone gave him props for being such a good player. Me, I am just bumbling Lt. Columbo.
Heads up at the end, the chips leader had $180k in chips and I have just shy of $40k. 4.5-1 chip deficit. I never blinked at the challenge. We played a couple of rounds normally and suddenly I woke up. I recalled all I have learned recently about chip utility and action and applied the lessons the heads-up play. I knew that I could not play small pots of post-flop with this big of a margin. The very next hand I start moving in every hand where I have what I expect to be 2 live cards. If he folds, I get $5k. If he calls without a pair, I am only 60-40 which are BETTER ODDS than the 4.5-1 I have in chips. Eventually he calls my 97o with 2 Broadway cards and a 9 doubles me up. Now, despite going to 90k, I think that maybe my opponent doesn't realize how more dangerous 90k is what now is his $140k. I move all-in instantly again (as though I was not even thinking about it) with KJs. He calls with AT and I resign myself to the cards. I hit a King AND a Jack and he realizes how bad it is when he pays if off and is left with just 45k. I continue to move in every hand, which was easy since I got KJ the next two hands also. And just like that, I finish first. Sure, I had to eeek out a big pot with only a 40% chance, but I feel like it was a really smart strategy to give myself a chance, and my opponent was willing to play giant pots instead of waiting for a hand to crush me with. Although, these 2 scenarios are eerily similar, in both cases I had the shorter stack which dictated the best action to take.
Overall, AA once (won the blinds), KK zero times, QQ once, JJ once (folded), AK a couple of times. This is the thing about 3 table MTT. You can survive much longer when you are card dead.