Now I could describe my mostly solid play for the first 118 hands of the tournament. I could talk about the hand where I laid down AK-suited preflop to an all-in, suspecting he had aces (he did). Or I could describe the hand where I turned a set and managed to lure second pair to follow me to the river, then pay me off 4,000 chips’ worth. Or I could even narrate the hand where I was in the big blind w/56-offsuit, flopped bottom pair, then correctly raised the SB who’d bet the turn w/44.
But no, I’m gonna describe this here embarrassing nightmare of a hand instead. I figure this one includes at least a couple of lessons that might be of use to somebody (maybe even me). To give a little context, I had 8,900 chips, at the time the third-biggest stack at the table. The blinds were 200/400 (with a 25 chip ante), so stealing had become worthwhile. On the previous hand I had been in middle position where I’d been dealt a pair of eights. I would’ve open-raised the hand, but the fellow with 20,000 chips sitting to my right beat me to it with a preraise to 1,200. I let my eights go, although calling might not have been a bad move.
That brings us to the next hand -- the fatal hand. I was dealt , and when it folded to me (still in middle position) I raised to 1,300. That might well be interpreted as the first error of the hand. I might’ve been partly influenced by the missed opportunity of the previous hand. Still, while the preraise here might have been sketchy, I’ll defend it by referring to the table dynamic. I had developed a somewhat tight image, so I thought my raise would be respected. I also thought the players left to act -- mostly short stacks -- would likely fold since we were getting close to bubble time.
However, the player to my immediate left -- the only one left who had me covered (with 13,004 chips) -- called me. “Trouble,” I actually said out loud (no lie), as the rest of the table folded. I was already mentally letting go of the hand when the flop came .
The pot was 3,425. I had 7,600 chips remaining and my opponent 11,704. The action was on me. I checked and my opponent made a tiny bet of 800 which I then check-raised to 3,600. Without hesitating, he went all-in. Facing what had by now suddenly become nearly 4-to-1 odds to call, I put in my last 4,000 chips. Our cards were turned over.
What do you think he had? What do you think I think he had? (This is the truly embarrassing part.) I actually thought he might have KQ and that somehow I would get him to fold if he thought I had AK, AQ, or a big set. Terrible, terrible logic. Think about it. What hands would he have called my preflop raise with that he could possibly fold to me here? Ace-rag, perhaps. A middle or lower pair. KT, QT, etc. That’s right . . . every hand he would fold would be a hand I had dominated. Conversely, every hand with which he’d call (or raise) my check-raise with would have to be a hand where I was dominated (e.g., AK, AQ, AJ, KK, KQ, QQ, JT). Sort of thing pegs me pretty obviously as an amateur, no?
As it turned out, he had probably the least threatening of all of these possibilities -- the . With two cards to come, I still had ten outs to tie or win (the case ace, the three kings, the three queens, and the three jacks). Come on, paint! But the turn was a deuce and the river a seven, and I was done.
If we forgive the reckless steal attempt preflop, there are still at least three more errors I made in this hand (quite a lot for a hand where the action ended before the turn!). Number one, my check on the flop meant I’d missed an opportunity to find out if he liked the flop or not. Number two, my crazy check-raise essentially screamed I did not want a call (perhaps someone might play the same way here with AA, KK, QQ, AK, or KQ; nevertheless, my opponent wasn’t deterred from correctly putting me to the test with his all-in). And number three, I put my tourney life on the line by calling off my remaining chips.
Perhaps somebody might defend me in there somewhere, but I know I didn’t have to go out on this hand. I’m capable of folding after a failed steal attempt. I’m even capable of keeping pots small and check-calling my way to a manageable loss. But I didn’t, and thus screwed myself right outta there.
Hopefully my decision not to edit my tournament experience in a way that covers over my flaws will benefit you somehow, dear reader. Avoid Shamus’s shame! Don’t needlessly put your chips at risk! For now, though, let’s cheer ourselves up with a video (coincidentally, titled “Amateur”) demonstrating how to edit oneself more flatteringly: