I have been following what I assume to be the natural progression of the on-line poker player for the last couple of months. I have gotten to the point where I can finish in the money in a single table sit and go just by outlasting a few donks and outplaying a couple veterans. Of course the money in a single table sit and go isn’t that great unless you are able to finish in first with regularity, which I can’t. I can finish in the money probably half the time, and average second place. That means that I am actually making money, just not very much; I am making about a buy-in per ten games played. Certainly not a money making strategy, but it is good practice. I have been using that small profit to enter some of the larger tournaments with the hopes of improving on them as well.
Yesterday, I played in a 20 table sit and go for the third time. This was of the $4 buy-in variety, which is about as much as I am willing to risk in such a large field, at least until my ability improves in that format. I was able to chip up fairly early on when my Jacks turned into trips on the flop and quads on the river. Doubling up on the first level in such a large tournament is huge. This time, instead of passively waiting for premium hands to take down huge pots, I took advantage of the large stack by bullying the table. I still only saw about half of the flops, but I was playing extremely aggressively. I was doing things that I have really never done, like raising pre-flop with a J-9 and putting in a continuation bet on the flop when it came up A-J-x. The aggressiveness was paying off though, and through my first 15 showdowns, I had won 12 of them.
I actually took the lead in the tournament about 45 minutes in and held onto it for at least a half an hour. There were a couple of times where I let the aggressive image override common sense, something that can certainly kill your game; Sure, if you call the short stack’s all-in on the river it shows that you mean business, it does not, however, change the fact that you just called an all-in on the river with a queen high. Thankfully, I was able to keep such idiotic calls to a minimum and was in pretty good shape as we were down to less than thirty players:
Since 18 places paid, the play tightened up considerably at this point. No one wanted to go home so close to the money, and I took advantage of that fact by bullying the table. There was one point where I raised every bet for at least two orbits and was only called once or twice (which I eventually folded since my cards were utter crap). The bubble at 19 players lasted a long ass time since the short stack was at over 4,000 chips and no one wanted to play anything that wasn’t Aces. Once it was down to 18 players, three more busted out within minutes (I am guessing they just wanted to play something after the fold-fest that had been the last twenty minutes). I was still in good position, but almost went out around 12th when I had to make the hardest decision of my on-line poker career.
I was roughly tied with the guy on my left for the big stack at the table with 22,900 chips apiece. We were in the blinds. It got folded around to me, with As 7d. I put in a 3x the BB raise figuring that I probably had the better hand. He called it, but that didn’t mean much since we were both the large stacks. The flop was 4s Ah 2s. I bet 4,000 at it, roughly the pot size, hoping to just end it right there, but he thought about it for a while and then called it -which I am thinking means flush draw-. The turn brought up the 3s, which gives him the flush if he is on the draw I think he is, but it also leaves me with a straight flush draw. I bet another 4,000 at it, and he thought for a bit and eventually called -which I took to mean that he still needed a card for the flush, or thought that he did make a flush, but he was on low cards and worried that I would win with the higher flush. The river was my dream and my nightmare all in one: 5s. I can’t dismiss the possibility that this guy is in the hand with an A-6, that would explain why it took him so long to call; the 6 is hardly a kicker. This is where I will admit that I got scared. I only bet 2,000 at it this time, and he was all-in before my mouse button let up. I got up and went to get a soda, this would be a good time to use my previously untouched time bank.
The soda was a Diet Coke. I put some ice cubes in an old thirstbuster cup and filled it up. Of course it fizzed like nobody’s business, so I had to wait for five seconds or so to let the fizz die down so that I could finish filling it up. I came back to the computer to see that the time bank had only just activated (my refrigerator is only fifteen feet or so from my computer due to an odd house layout). I went out to check on my fish, who are in the aquarium just outside the office door, then came back and sat down. I stared as the timer ticked down, not willing to call his all-in, yet not capable of pushing the fold button when I was looking at a straight flush. I timed out and folded, and with that I lost more than half of my sizable stack without a showdown.
Mercifully, the guy flipped over his cards: 6s 10s. He did have the higher straight flush. I typed in chat “I had the Ace”. He typed back “OMG how could you lay that down?” I typed back “I couldn’t hit the button”. He typed “LOL”. I really wanted to injure him. But do you think I could have got him out of that hand earlier? Within reason of course, I mean I am sure if I pushed pre-flop he would have laid it down, but for all I knew pre-flop, he could have been holding a pair of kings. I am just wondering if I had bet bigger when I hit top pair on the flop if I could have got him to lay down his flush draw. I hadn’t been at the table with this guy for more than a couple of minutes so I don’t really know anything about his play style, but I am guessing I would have had to put in a pretty huge bet on the flop to get him to fold there -and god knows there is no way he is folding on the turn with a made flush and gutshot straight flush draw.
I managed to get to the final table in 7th position, but ended up busting in 9th. About three hands in, again from the small blind, I hit top and bottom pair on the flop, so I pushed only to see the other guy flip over top and middle pair. So, I go home:
It was a hard fought three hours, and I was able to do a lot of things that I have never been able to before -most notably, fold a straight flush. I hope the experience will translate into more final tables in large MTTs, but only time will tell.