Despite never winning a league night, I am in second place, making the final table 8 months in a row. I play much tighter in a league, as this is rewarded by the long term prize. Last night, despite being a lock for a top 6 spot, I played my usual game, not a reckless loose game and some others did who wanted to finish high or mentally checked out.
As is often the case playing tight, I went to the final table with a paltry 15k in chips (1/2 of average). I bluffed only once on the way, because it was an optimal spot.
Now at the final table, we are down to 6 and I have just won a big hand from the opponent 2 to my right. He frequently plays the same way from late position, and I took to coming over the top pre-flop with decent hands and raking his raise in.
In this critical hand, I come into a pot with a big pair for $10k, and I had maybe $44k to start the hand. SOLID Player from the blinds calls. Now we are at the bubble, so this is doubly interesting. The flop comes and we are staring at each other and not the flop. He checks, I bet, he check-raises me all in and I freeze. I look at the jack high flop and look back at my QQ and stare in disbelieve. ANY other player at this table I snap call here. But I know this guy. He plays a very solid, mistake free game by and large. And I remember how he plays Kings. He will always raise, but may call a big raise and move in with a flop with no Ace. And with him knowing I will make a c-bet with my big hand, he check raises. It was the perfect play and I would give few players this much credit. I toss away the QQ. He mucks and I survive. After the hand, the player to his right comments that either one of us could have AJ. NOTHING could have been farther from the truth and I was amazed that someone could read that hand so poorly. But then again, this was a clash of players who play big hands strong, and he did not have our familiarity.
Later on, he said he actually had AA. If so, and based on the facts that we are 6 handed and he is in the blind, I can not argue with the pre-flop call (vs. raise). He is going for my stack and its a really good play with a 7 in 8 chance of success. NOTE: IF he did bluff here, it was perfectly timed and I will just admit to being outplayed. so be it.
I was also amazed that the remaining players doubted I had QQ because I did not show. THERE IS A LESSON TO BE LEARNED HERE. NEVER SHOW. You can be honest, but never show. If you want your opponent to know what you had, tell him. There is no reason not to be honest! But let the rest of the table double guess you to death.
Perhaps this is why I got called more than I expected? Someone called my UTG raise with 88 earlier and commented that "I had noting" when I showed KQ. I won the race, but was surprised he SNAP called my all-in raise with 88 for 25% of his stack. (And since when is KQ, 7 or 8 handed, garbage? Especially when its maybe the first hand I played at the final table.)
Later on, when we are past the bubble and FOUR HANDED, I ran AKs into AA and my 88 was called by AQ and I lost a race I needed to win. So I exit 4th, even though I did not make a stupid mistake. All in all, I an thrilled with my play as I enter the final month of training for the WSOP. The 88 hand was interesting in that it was my coming over the top of another one of those pre-flop raises from that same guy, and I expected to just take it down. But the BB surprises us both by CALLING. So now, the original raiser is calling based on odds and I am against 2 players with a middle pair. UGH. But I still think I played it correctly. How many pocket pairs do I wish to laydown 4 handed to a raise from a guy who loves to raise pre-flop. In the end, I lost a race as a tiny favorite, so I have to think "that's poker".