Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tournament Poker Strategy, Superstitions, Signs, Shorthanded and yes, I used the "F-bomb"

The Countdown continues...


I drove up to Reno to play in a tournament where the rounds are longer (40 minutes) and the blinds increase more evenly. It was a way to prepare for live play for the WSOP.

Strategy: I have learned a lot more about poker since the book and the blog, and I wanted to put that into action in a live game. I will share some more strategy in this post.

Superstitions: I am a very superstitious person, especially when it comes to poker. It may be stupid to you, but it is real to me. Superstitions are things that other people do that bring me an unfavorable or favorable outcome. For example, I believe some seats are lucky and others are unlucky. Other people say they play a hand like K-10 because it is their "lucky" hand, forgetting all the times this hand has knocked them out of a tournament.

My superstitions are not about my starting hands but everything else!

One last thing about these poker superstitions is that you can't purposely use them against a player, or it results in bad karma.

Signs: No, not the movie. Signs are things that occur that foreshadow what will happen next. Foreshadowing occurs in movies all the time, but most people don't notice them. The same is true in life and in poker. An example: Years ago, I was driving to the airport to take the flight from Oakland to Vegas to enter the WSOP. On the way I get a flat tire. As I'm repairing the tire, I know this is a sign of a bad showing in the WSOP--and not the tire needed replacing (it only had 28,000 miles on it.)

The "F-bomb:" I don't believe in cursing. I curse when I take another farking bad beat while playing online poker, but I've never used it at a live game...until the other night.

The Event

It was a $225 buy-in event and only 98 players entered. 1st place was only $6,000. I was confident since in my life I've played in 8 events in Reno and cashed in 3 of them. It's not because I'm that great a player, either.

For the first two hours, I did not get a hand. The best hands I was dealt was 6-6 and A-4. It was sick. However, I was able to stay even with some late position ante steals. The key was I got a sign. The player seated to my left was telling me if he would play a hand or not before I acted. He would place his card protector on his starting cards, if he had an interest in playing. If not, he was ready to fold. It's easy to steal in the small blind when you know your opponent in the big blind is going to fold.

Having an average stack was not going to win the event. I needed something else to help some good cards! And then something good happened for me...a player spotted a mark on the back of a card. The dealer asked for a new deck. Superstition: If I go card dead, a new deck will bring me luck.

Of course, the new deck gave me much better cards and I was able to build my stack above average. The one strategy which was costing me chips was making pot odds based calls on the big blind. If I was getting better than 2-1, I was calling raises on the big blind and losing.

Playing 7 Handed Poker
Next, to my surprise, the director allowed the tables to play 7 handed for a long length of time. This was a huge advantage to me since most players don't adjust their starting hands for the reduction in players. As Gus Hansen mentions, you should be playing about 30% of your hands in a 6 or 7 handed game.

With my tight image from not playing many pots, I started to raise with a wide range of starting hands. If it wasn't clear that I was stealing a lot, one opponent finally stated after another one of my raises, "The blaster raising it again." It didn't matter what he said, since players kept folding.

And when one opponent called, I would almost always bet the flop since the flops looked safe almost every time.

Another Sign
At the third break, I got a good sign. I received a free $5 to play the slots. I had forgotten about this offer until there were about 5 minutes in the break. I went over to a slot machine, getting ready to lose the free cash. I didn't even bother to sit down. The machine gave me a few small wins and a few more loses. There was about a minute left and I had one more pull left. It hits for a $40 win. I took the ticket and went back to the game. Winning at the slot machine was a good sign.

A good sign that allowed me to get lucky. I hit a set with pocket 10's and doubled up. I was getting some premium hands like A-K and pocket Kings twice. Even when the flop came A-10-10 with my K-K,I bet and won against my opponent with J-J.

I was now way above average as we got our dinner break.

I don't want to reveal my biggest superstition--because it always brings me bad results. I got a double dose of it, and I was not happy as I was going to have to fight off this bad superstition.

Final 3 Tables
I was up to $20,000 and the blinds were $400-$800. I raised with A-K suited, and a new opponent at the table moved all in on me. Uggh! It was going to cost me half my stack to call. I knew Gus would make this call, but I did not want to risk half my stack at this stage of the event. I tried to get a tell on my opponent, but I got a mixed message. I figured that he most likely had a pocket pair and I would be a 57/43 dog. I folded, thinking my "unexpected value" concept is a good one to follow here.

It appeared to be a good play. I quickly got over $24,000 and I was in charge of the table as we got down to 7 handed play.

I raised with A-9 and a new player seated to my left moved all-in. Uggh! It would cost me most of my chips to call. Plus, a few hands earlier I overheard him telling a friend he folded A-J pre-flop. I figured I was beat and folded.

I raised a few hands later with A-4, and again this guy moved all-in. I had to fold.

We were down to 6 handed play, when everyone folded to me in the small blind. I didn't want to deal with another all-in from my opponent so I moved all-in with A-9. He thought about his decision for a while. He had taken a few beats and was down to $8,000. He called with A-7. I was feeling pretty good until....

The player to my right gave me the jinx comment "I like your hand." Another superstition, another time I wanted to vomit....and yeah, the window card was a 7! For good measure so was the river card.

It was only the 2nd bad beat at the table all day (7 hours of play!), unlike what you experience at online poker. I was not a happy camper.

The Final Moments
I was down to $6,000 with the blinds at $500-$1,000 plus the $100 ante. Everyone folded to me again in the small blind. No need to look. I pushed all-in against Mr. A-7. After about 30 seconds, he called. He had 8-6 and I turned over 10-7. The 7 hit and I was given some life.

We were now down to the final two tables, and 17 players left. I was at $9,000 with the blinds about to go to $1,000-$1,500. Everyone folded to me on the button. The blinds were tight players. I just needed Q-6 or better--it was Q-6 and I pushed.

The small blind folded. The big blind asked for a count. This was the same player who I folded that A-K suited to a couple of hours earlier. He called my all-in and turned over A-K. I was covered. The flop was 6-7-8 giving me the lead. The turn was a 2.

Before the dealer turned over the river card, my opponent grunted up on his hand. River card...Ace. He shouted "yes!" I yelled "F-me." I left the casino.

I was so angry that I didn't bother playing the next day.


GiJoeValdez said...

great story and I found it to be very interesting you are that superstitious considering you have great poker skills. I would think your skill out weights you bad luck?

Mitchell said...


To win a poker tournament, I think you need skill, plus a lot of luck, plus avoiding bad luck.

For me, I need all of the above plus throw in those superstitions...

Dodge Taylor said...

Would you really call someone getting a lucky and hitting a 7 on you a "bad beat"? Sure, if you had pocket kings and they caught two 7's on you, that's BAD ... but vs ace 9, i'd call it just unlucky.

How many players cashed?

Mitchell said...

Final table only cashed.

I guess I was only about a 3-1 favorite on that heads-up hand.

What's Your Poker IQ?