I know this isn't much of a cash win since it's only $5.50 buy-in with 40+ players, but I thought I would get down my thoughts of how I played before I forgot. Also, I hope that it helps you to improve your poker game.
Stage 1-Early Stages
At the start of an event I put aside about 20% for speculative hands. Tonight, I ended being down almost $500 from my original stack of $1,500--down 33% is not good.
A few hands later I was on the button and was the first in the pot. I was going for a blind steal--so I put in a small raise. Both the small and big blind called.
The flop came down 7 high with 2 cards for a flush draw. The small blind checked, and the big blind bet about half the pot. I had nothing. The way I used to play poker is to just fold. But, I don't play poker that way anymore. When I miss on the flop, I am thinking:
1. Play my opponent's hand. What does my opponent have?
2. Given my opponent's hand and looking at the flop, can I steal this pot on the turn?
I figured the big blind either had top or 2nd pair. Therefore, I thought with an overcard or third card to a flush, I could steal the pot. It sounds crazy but I really believed given my position, I was going to win this hand! I called. To my surprise the small blind also called.
The turn was a Q--not of the same suit as the other two cards, but it was an overcard.
Both blinds checked and I bet 3/4th of the pot. Both blinds folded.
I was now back to around $1,500. Did I get lucky? Maybe.
I slowly continued to accumulate chips by winning small pots uncontested. Either a small raise pre-flop and everyone folded, or a continuation bet on the flop if the flop looked harmless. I don't always make a continuation bet on the flop.
I called a 3x pre-flop raise on the button with 3-4 suited. I know it's a lousy hand, but I was looking at the implied odds. My opponent had about $2,500 and I had about the same. Maybe I'd get lucky. After I called, the big blind also called.
The flop came A high--with a flush draw. I did not have the cards of the same suit, and I had the worse hand. The big blind checked, and the pre-flop raiser bet half the pot. Hmmm...I have air but that's irrelevant to me..(see above thinking).
This is a weak flop bet to me. If I call here and he doesn't have an Ace, he will check the turn and I will win with a bet. And if he does have an Ace and a 3rd card to a flush hits the turn, I believe I can take the pot away.
What about the big blind? Based on the prior hands, I was sure he would bet out if he had an Ace. So...yes, I called...and the big blind folded.
On the turn the flush card came. My opponent checked, and I bet half the pot. He folded quickly. It was a nice pot.
Then, I went card dead for a while..
At the $50-$100 blind level, the player under the gun raised to $350, another player called for $350, and I found K-K. The pot was $850. I wanted to win a big pot. What to do?
I decided that one of these players had to have a big pair; hopefully, the first raiser didn't have Aces. But, if he did..that's poker. I moved all-in to make it look like I had A-K. I typed in the chat box "fold, fold, fold" not expecting to see it appear--I thought when I player is all-in the chat box is disabled (am I wrong?).
Once I saw that players could read it, I typed it in a few more times as the first raiser couldn't decide his play. He did make the call and had J-J. The other opponent folded. I doubled up.
At one point my table was short-handed for a while. I raised pre-flop with a wide range of hands winning without any callers. It was strange how often I was stealing so late in the tournament. My stack kept growing.
If I got resistance, I would decide what to do based on the flop. But this was rare.
I entered the final table with around $9,000-$10,000 in chips. It was one of the bigger stacks, I believe. But it was not the biggest stack.
I went card dead for a while at the final table. This wasn't too bad since other players were getting knocked out.
I did get a hand or two to build my stack. But, no hand comes to mind now.
When I believe it was 6 or 5 handed. I had A-7, and called a pre-flop raise from @zonetrap, and I believe there was one other player behind me who called. The flop came A high, and zonetrap bet very small relative to the pot. I thought I was ahead, and moved all-in. The other player folded and zonetrap had trapped me--as he had A-10.
Excellent play on his part!
I got lucky when my 7 hit the river. It was also a big jump in chips.
Heads-Up I was playing @ffcowboy76. I believe he had a lead of about $40,000 to $25,000.
There were two things I was thinking playing heads-up against him.
1. ffcowboy had been beating me when we played blind against blind at this final table. I was the small blind and he was the big blind. One time I even called him down with K high because I couldn't believe he was hitting his hand. I was wrong as he had a big hand--and I lost a decent sized pot at the time.
2. I love heads-up poker. And there is no way I will lose heads-up. Why do I think this?
When I play heads-up poker, I find that players betting patterns become more obvious. The key for me is to figure out the betting pattern, and play against it. Also, if the player is strong and aggressive, you have a better opportunity to win big pots. Believe me, ffcowboy is a strong and aggressive player.
The problem with finding out betting patterns though is that almost every heads-up match I play, I end up being behind at the start. The reason is that I like to play very passive and observe betting patterns.
The match began. And he was beating me. Over and over again.
Once I had a sense for how my opponent was playing, I changed.
I changed my betting pattern to counter my opponent.
I took a lead, and decided to get passive again hoping to hit something ugly. I was going for a trap. Unfortunately, it wasn't happening and ffcowboy was clearly outplaying me with his bets on the flop and turn.
Now ffcowboy had the lead, and he really was showing himself to be a better player than me.
I once again changed my play to reflect his betting patterns on the flop and turn. It meant being more aggressive with raises and check-raises--not all of the time, of course. But, when my opponent bet size seemed off or weak to me.
I picked my spots and I was slowly making my way back. ffcowboy was too good a player to let me just walk away with a win.
I had K-7, and called the pre-flop raise. The flop came down with two Kings and a rag, and a possible flush draw. I knew that if I check-called the flop, my opponent would slow down on the turn. Instead, I wanted to win a big pot. I figured he had something like A high or a pair given his pre-flop raise. So I moved all in.
After I moved all-in, ffcowboy thought for a while and finally called. He had pocket 4's. I now had a big lead...
But, he didn't go away and he started to win back his chips in the next few hands.
Finally, I had 9-3 and we both called pre-flop. The flop came K-9-6 with 2 spades.
I bet the flop and my opponent raised. Now, he didn't move all-in which most players would do here. Instead, he left about $1,500 behind. What does this mean?
Funny, but I've written about this play in my book! It is one of my favorite plays. In this situation moving all-in makes it look like you are weak and trying to hit your flush draw. Leaving a few chips behind makes it seem that you want the action, and have top pair or better.
I was about to move ffcowboy all in, when I was wondering if he may really have the King. No, I thought, he is an excellent player. This is a great bet.
I moved him in for his remaining stack. He called, of course.
He had a 6 for the third pair on the board and the other card he had didn't help...I was way ahead.
The turn was a 6! Unreal...he hits the miracle card...putting him back in the..
The river was a 9! Talk about suck and re-suck...
I win the #tpt event.
Anyway, I hope this analysis helps everyone who plays. I apologize if I am off on the specifics of the above hands, or forgetting other hands. I also apologize if I offended anyone. Frankly, I thought ffcowboy played better than me most of the time we competed heads-up. I just got luckier than him at the right time.