Friday, December 14, 2007

Finish What You Started

Finish LineGonna be playing in the big bad AIPS II Main Event tomorrow -- a $24+$2 deep-stacked NLHE tourney for which I won me a token. What am I doing to prepare for the tourney? Playing pot limit Omaha, of course.

On Wednesday I entered one of those $8.00+$0.80 PLO freezeouts over on PokerStars. I don’t recall ever trying one of these before. There were 154 entrants, making for a prize pool of over $1,200 (first paid $350 or so). I ended up making a decent run, though came up a bit short and finished 11th. Won a meager $12.32 for my three hours or so of effort. Gawd are tourneys a heartbreak (sometimes)!

I want to talk a little about the tourney, but I also want to say another word or two about this “account-purchasing” issue that folks continue to debate following the recent Vaughn-Mizzi ruckus. Indeed, playing in the tourney caused me to think about the issue in a slightly different way, and I wanted to add those thoughts here.

If you find tourney narratives less than compelling -- this one is moderately interesting, perhaps more so if yr an Omaha player -- let me invite you to skip on down to the next section (“Playing It Out”). Won’t hurt my feelings none. (And that way you will have at least followed the directive there in the post’s title.)

PLO $8.00+$0.80 deep-stacked freezeout (11/154)

Played mostly tight early on. We began with 3,000 chips, and with 15-minute levels there was really no need to get too wild too soon. Didn’t prevent a third of the field from flaming out by before we’d even gotten to Level 3, though.

Somewhere early on I flopped the nut straight and ended up doubling through when it held up. Then came a hand where I turned quad queens, then somehow managed to get a player who’d rivered the nut flush to call my last chips. That hand propelled me up over 17,000, which at the time (Level 5) meant I was among the chip leaders with 70-80 or so left.

There began a long, mostly quiet stretch for me. Looking back, I should have taken more advantage of my big stack and seen a few more flops. Overall, I only saw around 25-30% of flops for the tourney -- a little over half what I’ll normally see in ring games. I’m convinced now that I missed an opportunity there during the middle portion of the tournament to pick up some more chips.

At the two-hour break I had 16,360 chips, putting me 13th out of 27 remaining. We were on the bubble (24 paid). Took about eight hands for us to get to the money, then another half-hour or so to get down to two tables. After another dry stretch I found myself down to 13,060 in chips, making me 14th of 15 players left, when the following hand took place.

The blinds were 400/800 (Level 10). I picked up 7hAhJsTh in late position, and when it folded around to me I put in a raise of 1,800. All folded except the big blind -- PBandJ -- who had a little over 14,000 when the hand began (he and I were the two short stacks at the table). The flop didn’t do much for me: Ts5c2c. The BB checked, and I went ahead and bet 2,200 (into the 4,000 pot). PBandJ called. I had about 9,000 left. The turn was the 3s, and we both checked. The river was the Qd and PBandJ again checked. I probably should have checked as well, but instead I bet 5,600 and my opponent thankfully folded. Pretty dicey play on my part, but I was still breathing.

Same guy ended up busting me a little later, though this time I think I played the hand okay. In fact, that earlier staredown hand might well have caused PBandJ to get a little reckless on this one -- and get lucky. Severely short-stacked (with 11K), I raised pot preflop from the SB with 9cQcJhQd and PBandJ called. The flop came Jd7hTs. Figuring I probably wasn’t going to see a much better opportunity, I bet my remaining 6,600 and PBandJ quickly called, showing AcTcKd8c.

Now I pushed with an overpair and an open-ended straight draw -- not great by PLO standards, but okay considering the circumstances (I think). He called with middle pair, overcards, and a double-gutshot. He’s hoping for a nine or queen, but as it happens I’ve got three of those in my hand. (An ace would also help him here if I don’t improve.) Sadly for me, one of the remaining nines popped out on the river, and I was on the virtual rail.

Playing It Out

As I say, I felt a bit unsure about my play during the middle portion of the tourney -- when I had the big stack -- and even toward the end when I know I’d become overly tentative just when it mattered most.

Finishing tourneys is a tricky business for those of us who don’t play them often. Unlike some of the bloggers whose exploits I like to follow -- am thinking of people like Hoyazo, Columbo, cmitch, Kajagugu, TripJax, Blinders, Irongirl, 23skidoo, among others -- I simply don’t have a lot of tourney chops. As a result, I’ll necessarily struggle with certain decisions along the way, decisions which have become something like second nature for more accomplished tourney players.

No way around it, really. Experience leads to familiarity leads to confidence leads to a meaningful edge over less-savvy opponents. The good, knowledgeable player senses the greenhorn’s uncertainty, further widening the gap between the skilled and the untutored.

Poker Road RadioAll of which leads me back to the sordid Vaughn-Mizzi saga. Was listening to Poker Road Radio yesterday (the 12/12 episode with Liz Lieu) and heard hosts Bart Hanson, Joe Sebok, and Gavin Smith each give his take on what happened. Sebok described account-purchasing as “rampant” -- something that has happened with great regularity in the past and (apparently) continues to occur today. Sebok maintained that whether or not an online site’s terms & conditions explicitly outlaw such a practice, one player taking over for another deep in a tourney is simply wrong. Hanson was less explicit, but appeared to agree with Sebok that the practice represents an ethical failure.

Gavin Smith, however, went against the grain somewhat by maintaining both (1) Vaughn and Mizzi didn’t deserve to be banned from Full Tilt for their transgression, and (2) he didn’t think one person taking over for another late in a tourney necessarily translated into a competitive edge.

Regarding the latter, Hanson posed what I considered to be a thoughtful question to Smith: “You’re telling me that you actually believe that if somebody who doesn’t have experience who has happened to get a little bit lucky throughout the course of a tournament, if he turns his account over to a guy that’s been in that position and has won major online tournaments -- thirty, forty, fifty times before -- when they have the chip lead with twenty people left, that that doesn’t give a competitive monetary advantage to those two . . . people . . . [over] that guy who is inexperienced [who is] try[ing] to finish out the tournament?”

Smith replied, “I think it could, yes, [but] I’m not saying that it’s automatically a huge edge.” To which Sebok interjected, “Either way, I don’t think it’s right.”

Have to say I’m with Sebok and Hanson here. When Hanson posed his question, I found myself thinking about my own lack of experience as a tourney player, and how I’d felt less than sure about some of my decisions as we moved through the middle and later stages of my PLO freezeout. I would hope that as I am battling through my own difficulties that my opponents are all doing the same -- that I am not suddenly now having to compete against the online phenoms I’m hearing about every week over on the Pocket Fives podcast.

Smith said he didn’t “feel bad” for the other players -- that is, those who had to compete against the Vaughn-Mizzi team. “I don’t really think they really got screwed all that bad,” he said, adding that he felt worse for Mizzi for being banned from Full Tilt. I’m a fan of Smith, but I do strongly disagree with him here. I feel much, much more empathy for the players who have to deal with an online pro taking over their opponent’s account than I do the pro who somehow thinks it’s okay to do such a thing.

Shamus getting ready to start the big tournamentSo I finished 11th. At least it was me. And for all my opponents in the AIPS II Main Event, please know I’ll be the only one controlling that stupid, grinning frog tomorrow.

I’ll be assuming the same of everyone else.



Blogger OhCaptain said...

Good luck tomorrow. Unless something changes with the OhKids running around, I doubt I'd be able to put enough brain cells towards the efforts of winning it. Things might change, but right now, my only hope is to get to watch it unfold (requires far less concentration).

12/14/2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

I got my token and the wife got stay home from work.

12/15/2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Hope you did well, OhCaptain. (Good gawd did I stink it up . . . back to the ring games for me!)

12/15/2007 4:39 PM  

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