Sunday, November 12, 2006

Decision Time

Decision TimeA couple of days ago I was feeling a little weary of the limit grind and so decided I’d take another shot at one of those FPP satellites into the PokerStars Sunday Million tourney. I tried a 375 FPP, 36-player Turbo No Limit Hold ’em tourney -- the ones that only award one place in the big one. Have to thank birthday boy derbywhite for turning me on to these -- I wasn’t even aware of ’em until I saw he’d written about playing in one on his blog. I had tried this particular tourney only one time before, actually -- about four weeks ago -- when I finished a gut-wrenching second. (I wrote a post about my near-miss.)

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Turbo format (where blinds increase every five minutes) because I thought they tended to value luck over skill. Go card dead for a couple of rounds and you’re in sad shape, usually. However, such tourneys do reward those who can make correct decisions -- particularly those who can pick the right time to exert pressure on their opponents. I got to play a few Turbo tourneys in those WCOOP satellites a couple of months back, and I feel as though I’m starting to get comfortable (somewhat) with the rhythm of these suckers. Playing 6-max limit games probably helps, as there I also usually can’t afford to sit around and wait for monsters and expect to stay ahead of the blinds.

Even so, I had a bit of a scare early on in this one when I ended up all in with pocket queens vs. two others, one of whom held KK. I had both covered, though not by much (about 400). Luckily a queen fell on the turn, and by Level 2 I had tripled up to 4,715 chips.

There are only 54,000 chips in play in these tourneys, meaning that just six minutes in I was already getting close to what the average stack would be at the final table. With such awareness I knew I could take it easy for the next few levels. I took a few small pots here and there, but mostly stayed in line and out of trouble.

By level 7 (just over half an hour into play) we were down to 10 players and I had 3,855 chips. Each of the two remaining tables had five players, and one player at our table had started to make it a habit to go all in with his 5,000-6,000 chips whenever it folded to him. I was in the cutoff, having been dealt AcTd, when I saw him do it again -- the third time in the last five hands, and sixth time overall. I quickly called and he turned over 2dAd. The flop brought two diamonds, but no more (and no deuce) so my hand held up.

That hand brought us to the final table, and I was up to 8,085 chips (3rd place overall). I folded the next eight hands in a row, watching three more players go out as I did. I picked up 44 and took a coin flip with a shorter stack and lost, knocking me back down to 5,160. I was still in decent shape, though -- 4th out of 6 remaining, and with blinds of 200/400 (plus a 25 ante) was in no particular hurry just yet. I won a small pot with big slick. Then a round later I was all in with KK against two smaller stacks. Both held ace-rag, and one of them rivered a straight to take the main pot. But I took the small side pot and was still doing okay with 8,446 chips.

A couple more were soon eliminated and we were down to three-handed. The chip leader had a monstrous stack of 31,991 chips, second place had 14,963, and I was the short-stack with 7,046. I would fall below 5,000 at one point, but managed to outlast the second-place player when his queens fell to the leader’s KJ.

Heads-up! Unfortunately, the chip leader now had 46,129 to my 7,871 -- nearly a 6-to-1 advantage. Damned if I’m not gonna be first of the losers again!

We took turns folding the first couple of hands. Then I bluffed him off a small pot. Then I picked up As8s, went all in, and he folded. Picked up AK and he folded from the SB before I could bet.

I noticed my opponent was playing very passively. I was dealt Jc6c and pushed all in again and again he folded. Then I was dealt 6dKh and just called from the SB. He called behind me and the flop came 9sTh4c. I put in a minimum bet of 2,000 and he folded again. We’d played 15 hands and I now had 15,121 -- not quite twice what I had when we’d started heads-up.

Then I was dealt 5s5h in the BB. He just called from the SB, and I shoved all in. He debated for a moment, then finally called me with 8hAh. I didn’t care for the flop very much -- 2hKd9h -- but the turn and river brought no heart, eight, or ace, and so my fives held up. Suddenly I was ahead with 30,442 (to his 23,558).

Three hands later he made a minimum raise from the SB and I called with 8h7s. The flop came 7c6h5d and I checked. He bet 6,000, I raised it to 16,000, he pushed and I called. He had Td6d. For the first time all tourney, I thought I might actually win this son-of-a-gun.

The turn was the 3h. So far so good. Then the river. Jc. All 54,000 chips came sliding over to my seat. I’d won.

During heads-up (19 hands total), we had only gone to showdown twice -- and I’d won both times. My opponent clearly hadn’t had a lot of experience heads-up. He never really put any pressure on me, despite having such a huge chip advantage, and basically made it possible for me to win the tourney on a single coin flip hand.

Pretty satisfying, I have to say. Hell of a lot more than finishing second again would’ve been.

Do I choose what's behind curtain #1, #2, or #3?So now I get to make a decision. Have a little more time on this one, though. (Yorkshire Pudding asked me this question in response to the earlier post.)

Technically what I won was an entry into this afternoon’s Sunday Million, but I have already unregistered as today ain’t the best day for me to play. That means I now have $215 Tournament dollars in my Stars account, which gives me three options: (1) sell my T$ for approximately $190 cash (there are several sites that’ll buy ’em); (2) pick a Sunday and take a shot at the big one; (3) consider the T$ my new “tournament bankroll” and try a few tourneys with buy-ins higher than I’d normally attempt.

Other relevant factors: $190 would be nice to pocket, but wouldn’t really boost my overall winnings by a huge percentage; the Sunday Million is a “deep stack” tourney (players start with 10,000 chips) with regular (15 minute) levels -- a format I’ve never tried (never mind the quality of competition I’d encounter there); I am not currently a regular tourney player, nor do I have loads of time to play more than a couple of tourneys a week.

Not an easy decision. But a nice one to have to make. What would you do?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW, gg sir!
Congrats on the tourney win - If I were you I would play in the Sunday Millions....I mean, if the lure of a possible 100k prize isnt enough then why are you even playing poker? ;-)
Good luck if you do decide to play it, Im sure you will get a few people around here to rail you!

11/13/2006 5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many congratulations on your win sir! If you're thinking about playing in the Milllion one weekend let us know and I'm sure you'll get some rail birds! Remember that out of the 6k that enter at least 5k of them are usually total donkies if not more. It's a mind field but it could be a profitable one.

I'm sure you'll keep us posted!

11/14/2006 4:19 AM  

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