Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cork, Galway and why poker players should be more like Paddy Barnes

I've began writing a few posts over the last few weeks but have never got around to finishing them. I wouldn't say I've been super busy but I have been a bit busier than usual and anytime I sat down to write a post, I'd have to leave it half way through and would never get around to finishing it off. Anyway, I just got home from Cork after bubbling the IPC Macau main event so no better time to write a blog!

It was a funny ole tournament but tbh, it always felt I was more likely to bubble than win it. Day 1, I dropped as low as 6k and then went as high as 50k. I then dropped as low as 7k and finished the day with 57k. Lot of weird/strange/non-typical spots. Overall, I think I played ok bar one absolutely horrendous call. I value bet KK on the river of a AA544 board and got raised (I think I bet 3k and someone shoved for 8k total). It should be an easy fold as he has less than KK precisely 0% of the time, but having picked up AA, AA, KK in three consecutive hands (losing with two and winning a small pot the other), I tilt called off and obviously was against AJ. The other big hand of day 1 which brought me from 50k to 15k was when I raised pre with A4s and got called in two spots. The flop came J42 with two spades. I c-bet planning to get it in if needs be. The player to my left calls and the turn comes a 6c. I bet out 3.5k and he makes it 8.5k with 18k behind. It's a really weird spot and my read was that he doesn't call the flop with the set (I felt he was the type to always raise the flop with a set because there was a flush draw). I wasn't really sure what to do so followed the age old adage of "if in doubt...raise!". I shoved and he deliberated before eventually calling with 77 which held. The villian seemed tight enough and standard enough in the first few hours, but after the 77 hand, I witnessed some hands where he'd ch-raise all-in for double the pot with top pair (he lost his chips doing this a few times and running into over-pairs). Obviously if I had this info at the time, I would have played the A4s a bit differently!

Day 2 was up and down again and I always struggled to build momentum. I thought the tide was finally permanently turning when I doubled up with 14 players left (12 got paid). I got it in with AK v AT and doubled to ~220k (150k was average) and blinds were 1500-3000. It was the high point of the tournament and I was finally in a very comfortable position. A few hands later I pick up 22 and call a raise from utg (utg made it 6.5k, blinds 1500-3k). The BB also calls and the flop comes 359. It's checked around and I hit the magic deuce on the turn. It's checked around and I bet 14k. The BB ch-raises to 40k. I call and the river comes a jack. He bombs 80k.

I think the turn call is fine. On the river, I really think I should find a fold. I really didn't think he was bluffing here, the bet just looks too strong. It's definitely possible in theory that he's bluffing, and he is capable of getting creative and double barreling, but I just really didn't feel he was at this stage. 99, 55 and 33 all definitely make up part of his range, and I can't really see many bluffs in there or any hands worse than 22 that value-bet like this.

More importantly, it's a crucial stack size decision. I can fold, and be left with 170k on the bubble with blinds of 1500-3000, or call (and if wrong ) and be left with 90k. The difference between 170k and 90k is v big here, the damage of calling and being wrong is much greater than the reward of calling and being right in this spot imo. I ended up calling and being shown the nuts, 64.

It's not an easy fold to make, but if you're to win a tournament, you should be able to make the right decision in tough spots like that. After that, I was left with 90k and didn't really rise above that. The bubble went on for over 2hrs and no-one was really short stacked. I never really recovered and eventually shoved 10BBs from the button with 78o. The SB woke up with AQhh and held. That meant I bust in 13th place, missing out on a €750 pay-day for 12th.

I was obv disappointed to bubble, but I don't think I deserved much more. I've been a decent run in live NLHE tourneys having come 3rd and 1st in my last two NLHE 'main events' (Caesars €200 and Eglinton's €200 tourneys) and really wanted to keep that going. Obviously doing well is great, but the difference in prize money in €200 tournaemnts and €500 tournaments is obviously noticeable, and both first and second paid 5-figs in this tournament, so I really wanted to cap off a good few weeks with a tasty 5-figure score.

It was a weird tournament and maybe I'll be able to reflect a bit better tomorrow (I literally bust about 3hrs ago). I think I played well, but maybe my style was a little too high variance. I was playing lag enough most of the tournament, which there's nothing wrong with, but maybe there's a few spots where just relaxing and being patient would've been the better option. The 80k call on the river with the set of twos really was the pivotal hand and if I find a fold there, I like my chances. Needless to say though, it was my own fault for not being able to find the fold and I really can't complain or say I don't deserve what I got.

Other things that have been going on since the last post include race week in Galway and the Olympics. Race week got off  to a bad start but thankfully finished well. I went up Monday for the €110 PLO tourney and came 11th in that, losing a pot for 25% of the chips in play with AJQ9 vs KKJx on a Q97 board. After that I played a wild enough PLO cash game. I never really hit a hand or a flop and was just waiting all night. Eventually the opportunity arose and I managed to get my ~€600 stack in with AQJT one suit up against T952 rainbow. The flop came ace high but a nasty two on the river gave my opponent two-pair. I reloaded for about €250 (hoping for a bit of a spin-up and it was the last money I have in my pocket) and then lost a funny hand where I value bet AJT5 on 5587 board. The river came a 9. It was late and my first reaction was that this was a bad card for my A5 as now a lot of 6xxx hands make straights. Then I checked my cards again and realised I made the nut straight. There's obv the chance of houses beating me, but I was value betting the lone 5 on the turn so I figured I may as well value bet the straight on the river. I shoved and my opponent asked for a count before saying 'ah I have a house I'm calling'. He had K965 so as it happened, the river was an unfortunate one for me!

I came back up Wednesday night and sat into a 3 handed PLO game in the Eglinton waiting for things to pick up. I bought in for €100 as the game hadn't really 'started' yet. Whilst 3 handed, I lost 2 bullets and was down €200 before even getting going. Unfortunately, around this time, people starting pouring in from the pub and the demand for NLHE games was high. There weren't many PLO players around so they were forced to make our table a standard 1-2 hold 'em table. This meant the game now turned into a 1-2 drunken hold 'em game with about 7 of the 10 stacks at the table being €50. I stuck it out for a little while, but really the whole thing was just head wrecking so I decided to cut my losses and head home early. For some reason it didn't cross my mind to head to the 4 aces - this obv would have been a better plan.

I came up for the €225 main event on Friday and thankfully managed to put a nice gloss on the week. There were 56 runners with a €12k guarantee and I managed to chop this heads up for €3250. I could give a full analysis of the tournament, but tbh, I think I solved tournament poker this tournament. I wasn't once all-in, never got pocket aces, and only got dealt pocket kings once. So the secret? The secret to winning at tournament poker is........just always wake up with a hand in your big blind when somebody shoves. Simple as that! I woke up with hands in the BB an extraordinary amount of times and everytime it seemed someone was shoving. Waking up with hands, having the odd one hold up and playing reasonably decent is usually a good formula for doing well at tournaments.

So that was a nice end to race week. The cash games in Limerick have been going ok. We organised a 2-5 PLO €500 min game about 3 weeks and I managed to win some money in that. There's something about the action of a big cash game that I really love. Having constant action, non-stop possibilities of winning lots of money and also the constant possibility of losing all the money you have in front of you is definitely exciting and something that I do really enjoy. The game wasn't exactly a once off, but it wasn't planned to be a weekly game either. I'd say if we could manage to have it once every 5 or 6 weeks we'd be doing well. If anybody would be interested in playing a game like this, let me know and I'll pass your number on to the card room manager.

Since that game, things have been quiet enough and there hasn't been any big winning nights or big losing nights. Even nights that had a lot of potential ended up being tame enough for me personally as I wasn't involved in too many of the huge hands.

So, last thing I have to talk about is, the Olympics! The Olympics were abolsutely amazing and I really, really enjoyed them. I'd consider myself a fairly big soccer fan, but I have to say, the Olympics won hands down over the Euros in terms or entertainment and enjoyment. Waking up, rolling over and watching whatever was on RTE 2 became the pattern during the two weeks the games were on. I enjoyed watching all the different sports and genuinely was distraught when they were over. BBC's coverage was excellent and London really did host an excellent games.

I punted a bit during the Olympics and did well overall. There was a thread on IPB with plenty of Olympics betting discussion and I managed to get a few good tips from that. Along with those, I also had a Bolt 100m/200m double, and a Bolt/Felix/Pearson treble, who all won. I never really doubted Bolt and came very close to lumping a sizeable amount on him to win the 100m/200m, but the second day I went into the bookies, the odds dropped from 7/4 to 6/4 (I made the original bet at 7/4 and was going in to put more on) which was just enough to give me cold feet and just leave myself with the original stake on Bolt.

Team Ireland's performance was magnificent, and despite equaling our best Olympics of Melbourne in 1956, we also had two 4th places in the Sailing and the 50k walk, so 5 medals could very easily have been 7. Katie Taylor and Paddy Barnes had to be the stars of Team Ireland for me. Katie Taylor was just unbelieavble, you only realise how good she is when you are watching a fight between two world class male boxers, and then watch a Katie Taylor fight and you see how far and above she is. She did get a bit lucky against the Russian in the final, but on balance, there's no denying she deserved the gold medal. Paddy Barnes is an absolute legend too imo. He is what I'd consider a 'proper athlete'. A winner comes first and losers come everywhere else. I remember the contrast between Barnes and Sutherland (RIP) in Beijing. Sutherland was fighting DeGale who he had beaten something like 5 out of 7 times they fought, so basically, the silver (and more than likely gold) medal was there for the taking for Sutherland. Instead though, he was so happy having an Olympic medal in the bag, he didn't seem as hungry as DeGale and lost and was eliminated. Sutherland said after the fight he was delighted having won a medal at the Olympic games. When Barnes was asked after losing his semi-final, he responded with "I don't want it, they can keep it". This was in the immediate aftermath of the fight, and in the weeks following Paddy did say he was proud of winning a medal, but I think his attitude is the correct attitude. You have to want to win and not be happy or content with anything else. I think this type of attitude is very applicable to poker. You have to want to win and not be willing to settle for anything less than a win. It's very easy to do (both in cash games and tournaments), when you have €X locked up, to drop your guard a little bit and be 'happy' that you've already won x amount. You can't ever be happy with that, you have to want to win. Similar to Barnes, after the fight you can be proud of your achievement and happy with your performance, but you should never be happy to settle for less than 1st.

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