I am honestly not sure what I am going to write in this post? I shipped a relatively well known local MTT over the weekend and I dont have the notes nor a crystal clear picture of important events burned into my memory. So Instead of starting with hands, I think I'll retroactively try and record my mindset (albeit from a good place).
I have emerged from my recent studying of poker with some different focal points:
1. There are situations where you play against the FIELD and others where you play against the Villains. In some ways, playing against the field is similar to GTO style. I have done some GTO study and experimented with using it as a strategy.
2. I have been working on my post flop frequencies because many tournaments start deep now, and the skills necessary at 100+BB deep are similar to playing cash games.
3. Just because I have weaknesses to work on, I cant forget that I have unique strengths that I need to leverage and need to avoid over-compensating for my weaknesses.
The night before the Invitational, I was playing the League MTT and I was getting dick-slapped by the deck. I had AQ 4 times, all lost. None of my pairs held. The one time I flopped hard, I lost the hand. I had no big starting hands and many, many second best river hands. I made 2 really bad mistakes. I made a CALL out of frustration in a situation where the villain never bluffs, and I then made a fold in a situation that clearly called for a crying call (and I would have won the hand). These mistakes were a result of tilt, where you are running bad so you make decisions based on the fact that you are running bad. That is never good poker. I declared to the table, "I am going to run like a god tomorrow. Variance demands it." or something like that. I meant it.
After the Invitational started, I was faced with my first decision set:
1. I know many of these players. I like to play early levels against the FIELD, but I cant just forget what I know about each player. Should I stick to GTO early?
2. Am I going to TRY or try to AVOID playing big pots early?
3. How am I going to maintain mindset and strategy and avoid getting into my own head like last night?
I made these decisions decisively and early:
1. I am going to play against the FIELD early, playing like its an online MTT. This means small ball combined with speculative hands from position, running fewer bluffs, and ultimately avoiding big semi-bluffs.
2. Based on #1, it didnt look like I would try and just double-up and go "feast or famine". I would try to avoid playing a big pot DEFENDING against a big draw also. I was not going to get all in with TPTK vs. a flush draw if I could avoid it. Instead, giving up some equity to reduce variance (i.e. seeing the turn card before trying to push out draws).
3. Instead of listening to music, I listened to a audio book. This one is counter-intuitive, but it worked like I imagine aderall works for people. By being forced to listen non-passively to something but still being able to watch the hands unfold in front of me, I could remain more detached from the outcomes while maintaining concentration.
I chipped up from my starting stack of $30k to about $60k. I did make a calculated shove once, as I was very, very sure I had the best hand against a big draw with just the river card left to come. When villain folded, I raked a big pot while avoiding any potential disaster.
I started at table 7 (of 9). When our table broke, I figured it was time to give up the "early levels" strategy and start the middle levels strategy. I am still playing against the field, but in these middle levels, stack size and bet size tell you so much more about villain ranges, that I will sometimes defer to those indicators over more common hand reads. I tend to read even more into bet sizes for Players who are cash game heavy. And that served me well for a good number of these hands, although I can recall very few eventful or memorable decisions.
With about 4 tables left, the worst curse that can befall a player set in. I could not get any hands worth playing. I would muddle through and make due, but for the most part it was an exercise in avoiding frustration, self-doubt, and the feeling that the end was slipping away. With 3 tables left, I realized I had yet to see either KK or AA even once today, nor had I flopped a particularly giant hand as of yet. I used my audiobook as a crutch, giving me a distraction to avoid slipping into a "I have to make something happen" mode. Eventually though, that would come. Not Yet. But it got worse before it got better. When we went to 2 tables, I was somehow still alive, but was now all the way down to starting stack size of $30k at what may have been level 600/1200/100. Not quite life support, but with the average stack being closer to $100K, it looked bleak. I was able to just steal and stay alive to the next break. With 14 players left, I was in the bottom 3 with nothing distinguishing the desperate bottom 3 apart.
I walked around the room and saw the invitational plague. I had not remembered until that moment, that there was a plague with the names of the winners on it. I didnt read them. I walked back to the table and looked at the empty chairs and recalled all the times I was playing online and having a terrible run, yet managed to eek it out for a min cash. I thought if I could steal to survive and maybe win one race, I could maybe finish In The Money, 9th. Perhaps I could convince everyone to pay 10th place $300 and increase my chances? I had yet to get my money in behind even once, and I knew that I could no longer think like that. I needed to find some good (marginal) shove spots, hit them hard, and hope.
The first was about to happen. Blind vs. Blind I shove A3o. With about 14 BB and blind vs. blind this really wasnt even a decision, just an act. The BB had KK. The flop didnt have an Ace, and I stood up and said "Good game" when then blank turn card came. The river brought shock and silence. Ace. I was alive.
I recall this happening a second time, only it was my AJ vs. an under pair. With the pair was holding on the turn, I stood up and said "good game" and the Ace came again on the river. It wasnt as huge as a come from behind as the first one, but it was the difference between playing and driving home.
Still 13 or so left and after some folding, I was about half of average now at somewhere around the $50-60k range. Player opens or shoves (I dont recall), another shoves and in the BB I look down at two black Aces. "I finally got them." I said as I tabled the Aces to an crestfallen opponent. I doubled up and then some. With 11 left, I felt like I could easily squeak into the money now.
Somehow, someway, I had survived until my variance train finally left the station. And apparently, it still had a full head of steam...
I made the final table with no other eventful hands? Not sure. At the final table, there were a lot of chips in play. I decided to play it like a SnG and tighten down until I could see who was going to do what and who wanted to go broke. I dont even remember getting from 9 to 6, almost an observer in my mind's eye. Occasionally, I recall some hands, but then I lose the thought to the ether. I am sure there were more important hands, come from behind situations and the like. I do recall calling down 3 streets against the cash game player with TP only to be shown the flopped set. I regretted being unable to make the river lay-down, but at the same time, I felt like it wasnt a particularly bad play overall. The last thing I wanted was the cash players to think they could run over me.
With 6 left, a shorter stack is going to OPEN instead of shoving, letting me see a flop from the BB with 22. I flop a set, turn quads, and then he shoves into me. I flipped over the cards so fast, there was a slight "thud" on the table. Now there were 5 left, and the stacks were deep. I would get another AA at a good time. But what really worked in my favor was time. We had been playing for 12 hours and the players used to playing big cash games were tired and maybe even bored. That and they were frustrated with the player now left of the dealer who was super sticky when he hit a flop. The cash players are used to their pressure plays getting more folds, I presumed. The giant stacks of the cash game players started to dwindle. Then one lost a big hand and I felt like he was not going to try and patiently build it back up. He was going to take variance. So when the opponent on my right opened, and I had AJ, I decided to flat in the hopes I might induce a mistake. He shoved, opener folded, and I called with AJ. He has A2 and said he didnt expect me to be that strong. (Weird what you recall.)
Eventually, I'll get heads up with player on my right with a nearly 2-1 chip lead. I almost won with A8 vs. KJ, but he hit and play continued. I recalled in that moment that I had won a big pot as a dog in a hand with him before the money, so I had this one coming to be sure. Fast forward to the break and we are equal in chips.
After the break, I started to lose ground quickly. I was getting chipped away at, and I was struggling to find a defense. Then the variance train blew its whistle and decided to complete my journey. I hit the board hard in the next 5 big hands we played and I took it down when a turn card gave my opponent TP with a gut shot, but gave me the nuts. 14 hours and 5 minutes and all I could say at the end was "good game". It was. Everyone played really well and I had my fair share of luck at the end to take down the prize.