As is my tradition, I twittered all my tournament updates live (ltcolumbo) and save the write-ups for the blog. It was an eventful trip, full of lessons and anecdotes.
I arrived Wednesday, a day earlier than usual for a Saturday event. I wanted to play with my recent mentor, Lee Childs (acumenpoker) and he had to leave for a wedding on Thursday, so I headed out a day early with Mrs. Columbo in tow. My buddy Glenn had come in a day earlier, taking a 3 day detour traveling home from a sales trip in Seattle. We had a late lunch and met Lee over at the Rio.
He suggested we play some SnGs and we all 3 bought into a $100 Satellite. Lee went out early. This was great in that he got to sweat me for a few hands. You start with only 1000 in chips in this one. First big man for me was where it was raised from EP and then a 550 all-in from MP. I had TT in the blind and folded. Lee says he would have snap-called there because of the structure, but I thought the table play was poor enough so far that waiting had benefits. The EP showed a weak ace from early position vs. what I think was KQ. The Ace high held, and indeed TT would have won the day. Exactly 1 rotation later, the exact same thing happened. The same guy makes an EP raise and I have TT in the blind again. This time I calculate the max value. I had a ton of information to go on and decide that I folded that last TT for just this reason. I expect that he will make a c-bet if I call, maybe fold if I move in, but probably call. I decide to call and then re-raise his c-bet all-in. I call the $200 and the flop is Q55. He makes the c-bet of $300 and I move in for $800. He had AQ. Oops. Nice plan, if it would have worked.
Score: Lee 1, Columbo naught.
So Lee and I head off to grab another SnG, this time a $300. (We left my buddy still in the $100 SnG, and he would end up chopping first.) This table had much better play and you started with $1500 instead of $1k, similar to the online structures. Although there were plenty of good hands, I recall very few remarkable ones. Lee went out early again, and after watching us get down to five and me almost breaking the 1 seat (but he had me covered so he has a few chips left), he had to get packing. The “seat 1” was a guy who sort of looked the part. A bit over-weight, longer hair than corporate, an earring and the sort of liaise-affair demeanor to the whole thing. From the point of 5 left and down, the seat 1 doubled up four times leaving us heads up with the same chips stacks. We chopped the $3k. Score 1 for Columbo. I then realized, they paid it out in T-chips, which I would have to sell at some later date, since I pre-paid for event 39.
Glenn and I then had a nice time at the Cuban cigar bar in the forum shops with a mojito, a drink regaining its well deserved popularity.
Thursday I went down to play the Caesar’s $330 deep stack at noon. Great structure, 200 players. I felt this was a much more manageable size than the 500 players at Venetian and a whole lot cheaper too, as Venetian was running a $1k today. I played very well.
Had to get away from a couple of hands, and even made a credible bluff and my opponent laid down a better hand. But with over half the field out and running well, things took a turn for the worst. I am a BIG believer that players, especially cash players, put too much credence in hand decisions ‘in the moment’ and not enough about ‘context’. Hellmuth sometimes accidently discloses this same strategy during tirades on bad beats. (Although he takes credit for setting up players). The idea is that everything that happens at the table, good or bad, changes your image at the table. And if I play a hand poorly or weakly, I don’t have to berate myself. I simple need to USE that to my future advantage. It’s the tournament meta-game that few players utilize. In this case, a new kid at the table, sits down and watches me raise pre-flop, then check fold after the flop. A weak play to say the least, but the flop could not have been worse and I saw no reason to contest at that point. So it comes around to me again and I raise pre-flop and the same kid calls from the BB. I can see it on his face; he wants to take advantage of me and is calling light. He has any-two-cards. The flop comes down and I hit two pair. I make the c-bet and he check-calls. I know what comes next. Give him the chance to try and take the hand away. The turn comes and I weak-lead. Heh, I am sure he is coming over the top, his body language and bad acting betraying him. The board looks relatively safe, with only a gut-shot really there. He pushes into me and I snap-called. He suddenly looks very embarrassed and turns over his QT. I show him my two pair and he starts counting out the pay-off. He didn’t even know he had outs. He had a double-buster draw, but played it as a stone bluff. When the J hit the river and he won, he only knew it because everyone at the table let out an “ohhhh”. Instead of being positioned to finish my run, I was out just at dinner and none too happy. But what could I do? I read the kid perfectly and I read the situation perfectly. He had zero idea of where he was at. And if I could see his hand, I would do it again, so I can hardly count that as a mistake.
My buddy went out 15 minutes later, so we went to the Mandalay Bay Rum Jungle for Brazilian dinner at the dinner break.
Friday, I played some 1-3 cash just to practice situations and reads. I did not win a whole lot, but I did pocket a buy-in of profit. Had another cigar and drinks at the Rhumbar at mirage, then off to my favorite Friday night location, the Hoffbrau House. We stayed late, as it’s hard to drag me out of there. Ein Prosit.
Saturday, it was breakfast at the RIO (corned beef hash) and off to event 39. The structure is very kind in the first four levels and maybe this worked against me a little when I hit a big had in Level 1. Very first rotation and I raise with 55 and get an OOP caller (one of the blinds). I flop a set. The board is AK5. He checks, I bet like 200 into the pot of 300, he calls. The turn is some blank and he checks. Now I bet 600 into the pot of like 700 and he calls. The river is a blank and he checks. He can’t like his hand very much and with out a re-raise pre-flop or on the turn, he does not have AK. He must have like AQ/AJ and is worried I have AK? There is now a good 1900 in the pot, but if I bet, I can’t see him calling. Yet, I have to bet here with the best hand. I know a more reckless player would bet like 1200 here and pray the guy made a donk call. But I just could not place him as being that stupid in level 1. So I make a value bet of 600 and he calls to see the bad news. I did not get to see his cards. He avoided me the rest of his time at the table. Maybe AT?
Despite being up 1500 early, some bad flops and some speculating dragged me back down to the starting 4500 by the end of level 1. Towards the end of level 2, this most amazing hand comes. “What wicked webs we weave”… Limp from total donk in MP. Raise from LP from uber-tight, conservative older man who looks the part of a watch-maker in the movies. I call from the button with 88. Flop is the beautiful K78 with two clubs. Donk checks, LP watchmaker bets out. I think he has AK here, c-betting, but certainly has a good hand. I could raise here, but against two opponents in the 50/100 level, I wish to play more conservatively and keep the pot small against the massive draws so I call. The donk calls and I figure him now for the clubs. The turn is a K!
A short digression here. I focused very hard mentally on Friday at the cash tables on not getting excited over hands. By the end of the night, you could deal me AA and I couldn’t care less. I played every-hand with a blank face, and this carried over to Saturday. Even when the K hit, my heart stayed steady and my expression blank. No one at the table had a clue.
Donk checks, as he is waiting for his 3rd club. Our watchmaker bets out like 800. I look like I am thinking about my hand, but I am calculating how to break two people on the river. If I raise here, the flush draw (who is drawing dead) will reluctantly fold and I will get called by trip Kings and sweat the case king and the board pairing the seven. (And perhaps an ace or two.) I figure he has 8 outs at the most. If I instead call here, club draw calls drawing-dead and if the river is a club, they BOTH go broke. I have no doubt that the trip Kings can not fold either way and that the money goes in. I make the smooth call and sure enough, club donk calls. The river is an iceburg 7 (non-club). Donk checks intending to fold and Kings make a huge bet. He just back-doored the higher boat and I forced to fold the Titanic. I was so frustrated, I had to just fold the next 3 hands knowing I would not be able to play them properly. The spider eaten by the trapped bug.
I managed to chip up and grind through level 2 and so many players are luckier than me. Three times someone floated my c-bet (out of position!) with a naked ace. All three times the Ace came on the turn. Unbelievable. Seriously, all three times.
At the level 2 break, I overheard not one but two bad beat stories of QUADS over QUADS. Yikes. Maybe I am not so much unlucky as I am just plain luck absent.
Its level 3 and I casually re-raise with KK and all the money goes in. KK vs. KK. Chop. Really?
I actually play an A2 hand when it’s folded to my button and the BB calls. Flop is T83 and he checks, I c-bet, he calls. Turn is a 2 and when he checks, I move in to shut down his hand. He must have 2 overs or a weak draw. He mucks T9 face up and I act incredulous that he made that great lay-down. “I was sure you had an over-pair”, he said. Score one for the tight image. I made sure to tell him again how impressive that lay-down was. He ate it up. (He was so sure I had JJ, he never even asked at the break.)
At the end of level 4, I raised with AQ from MP. The card rack at the other end of the table, and older guy who has only been playing only a year and won the Venetian deep stack earlier in the week, calls. He is a strong TAG player, and his c-bets are frequently the size of the pot. The flop comes AQx and I let him bet every street, getting all my money in on the river. He tables A5. From that point on, he folded every hand where I raised first to act. This helped me more than once, as he assured the guy next to him (a very weird half-Scandinavian kid) that he had made a good laydown against me since I don’t bluff.
At the break I am at 7800, which is average. Mrs. Columbo bought me a new vegas hat and delivered it at the break, so I took off the Lions hat and switched to the “vegas hat”.
Level 5 sucks. It starts when I play TsTc from EP and the flop comes down 973 all hearts. I check, new-donk bets out, button moves all-in. new-Donk looks ready to call when I fold my now marginal over-pair. Button has AK BLACK for a total bluff, new-donk caller has 77 with the 7 of hearts. WTF? Two non hearts come and again TT would have won had I been a shove monkey with any over-pair. I still say that calling there with TT would have been horrible.
Here is something else. When a player sits at the table and he wants to talk to the dealer or to players, he usually sucks. He’s an ABC player at best and the money means little to him, so he chats it up. It’s just a matter of ticks before they go broke with Top Pair. So many players I watched. Sit, Chat, Rail. And the cash game players who have zero patience for anyone else’s decision and then go into the tank for 20 minutes on a big call where they have no clue as to where they are at. They are like time bombs, waiting to explode and spew chips in multiple directions. Watching these guys stack off to other players at the table and all I can do is watch and hope to get into a similar situation.
Meanwhile, for the next level and a half, I will see no pairs, no playable starting hands, and no suited connectors. It starts when I fold KQ in the BB to a raise and a re-raise. No defending there Over 90 minutes of hands with a 4 in them. At the very end of level 8, I finally get to play a hand with KK. Everyone folds, but since it was a re-raise, I picked up some chips. I used my image and Gus Hansen’s rule that everyone hates playing at the end of a level to make 3 steals. I am 8200 at the break, the board has 9600 as average. We go to dinner.
When I return, the board has some bad news. The average is actually more like 14k and there are 873 left. The levels are 200/400/50, so with 8200, my M is poor (8). At this point I have had 4 hammers, KK twice, and pretty much just the TT hands. The guy who sat down two to my right is another BSD (big swinging dick) from Florida. Likes to push people out of pots, play big hands, but not a big post-flop player. He loses a big hand and tilts. He starts moving all in on my BB hands (we both have about 10-11k now) and I say very matter-of-factly, “I like this. Makes my decisions simple”. He mutters sometime about “making it clear-cut” and I politely smile. Again, meta-game context. He did this about 3 times (1 time I even tossed KTo). The fourth time I had QQ. Surprisingly, he had AJ. Even more surprising, he was very optimistic that his Ace would hit. When it did not, I left him with only 1k in chips. I needed that, and I had spent almost 1600 setting it up over 4 rotations.
At the break, I am 20k, with the average at 22k. Not terrible. 550 left. We go to 9 handed at the tables and I note that despite now having counted SIX hammers today, I have not had AA a single time. KK twice, QQ twice, AK twice, TT twice, KQ 3 times.
In level 7, some douche who plays online as “creative”-something-or-other is anything but. He simple moves all-in with Ax. The first time, a decent player (guy who was the level 1 payoff of my set) raises from EP and he (creative) calls. The button now raises with his AJ. The 44 calls all-in resigned to his fate. They both put him on a small pair. How do I know? Douche moves all in and puts AJ on a challenge here. AJ says he knows first guy has a small pair but doesn’t understand how this guy can move in here without AK. He finally folds and sees he was ahead when AT sooted is tabled. Ace hits the flop and AT doubles up. Less than a rotation later, the AJ guy moves all in with QQ and again, douche snap calls with AK and out draws him and sends him home.
Now in level 8, we get to new players, both on my right. The first guy in the 10 seat looks the part with his sunglasses and Italian looking hat and 5 o’clock shadow. The guy directly to my right sits down with a huge stack. Must be 70k. He looks the west coast Asian gambler part, but I have no evidence yet, just wild guesses. But let’s be frank here, poker players dress the part. A guy who is tight, does not cultivate these images.
I get my first evidence we I raised from EP and the “seat 10” guy had no experience with my image, nor did he care. As soon as the flop came, he fired out and I knew this was going to be a big pot if I called. I decided not to float with my Ace.
I spend some time thinking about day 2. I’ll need over 30k in chips to be competitive and I’ll have to start playing back at these new players. I’ll have to maybe even put in some post-flop re-steal efforts. I decide that with less than half a level until tomorrow, I’ll put off that strategy for now. I have about 18k and can’t worry about anything but getting my money in good if I get the chance.
Not a couple of hands later, “Seat 10” raises to 2200 UTG. Blinds are 500/1000/100. The big stack in the seat 1 flat calls and I suddenly understand what just happened to my table. I now have two big stacks who have little to no regard for position or pot size. They are going to play every pot and shut out the rest of the table. My only saving grace is that I can move in on a big hand and if they fold, I pick up 5k. If not, I’ll have a hand to double up with. Two folds to me and just like I hoped for, I look down at JJ. Since I did a Phil Ivey on this one and calculated everything before looking at my cards, I had no further thoughts to process. My read was first guy came in light and second guy was just going to flat every pot he could with his monster stack. I move in for something around 16-18k. As I get ready to celebrate, douche moves all-in. At first I figure I am crushed, but then I figure there is a good chance I am up against AK here for a race. So now I hope my read on the first two was correct. They both put on a big show, but I see right through it. I had it pegged. There cards hit the muck and I am thrilled to have 4500 in dead money in the pot, especially when “creative” tables another AKo. I show my Jacks and all I can do is watch my new stack of 36k go to zero when the flop is AKx.
Some players just run well. I saw 1, then after level 7 two at my table that hit every flop hard. Yet, I finished about 400th, just short of the money. I got away from marginal situations and bad beats, had decent reads, and played a solid meta-game. I had set myself up to make a day 2 run and was only a race away, my only race of the entire day, which I couldn’t win. You can’t win a WSOP event without winning a race. That’s just the way it is with 2800 players.
I was very dejected. I remember saying hello to F-train and CK and Al Can’t Hang and LJ during various levels, but the writers area was empty at the end of the day, so I left, feeling like Lane Meyers. -“A man beaten. The once great champ, now a study in moppishness.”
Sunday I played some cash just to remind myself I don’t totally suck. I did not lose a single hand or make a single mistake. When I was up a buy-in, I left and we had dinner at the sidewalk café at the Paris. That sucked. But it was going to no matter what, right?
Now for my $$$ Total disclosure.
SnG profit: $1100, Cash Profit: $400, MTT profit: -$1800.
Lessons learned? Dashiell Hammett describes it in one of his “Continental Operative” stories. “Few men get killed. Most of them who meet sudden ends get themselves killed. I have experience at dodging that. I try to take the survivors for a ride.” That’s how I play. I am not looking to hit giant draws after the money goes in, or to just shove and hope. I am waiting for my opportunity to win without getting killed. I count on getting through the one or two marginal clashes in one piece. This was just not the day.
It took some big round-house punches to knock me out. I could have gone broke multiple times in multiple places, but I didn’t. And I was “lucky” in that I never had to get away from a losing set-over-set, the hardest thing in hold ém. Although happy with my performance, I would not be totally honest if I didn’t say that I am brutally disappointed. Maybe now I won’t scoff when players yell “One Time!”
-Yeah, I still will.
Congrats to Ray Foley, a local player here in Detroit that took down the event!
And just to prove I still have my sense of humor...