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On Wednesday, I decided to go to the evening event at the Oaks. I have not entered this event in many years. It is a $100 buy-in with an $80 rebuy.
After the learning which I posted in my last blog post: How to play against yourself in a poker tournament--I was going to make sure not to finish on the bubble.
The Early Stages
The starting chips are $2,500 and the blinds begin at $25-$50.
At the start of the tournament (and when I get moved to a new table) I like to figure out the following:
1. The betting patterns of my opponents
2. Identify basic table images--who are the ABC players, the tricky ones, the overly aggressive ones, the super tight ones, etc.
3. The tells of the most aggressive player at the table
4 If the player to my immediate left looks at his cards early, and how to connect his actions to whether he will play a hand or not.
5. Any other tells by players
Ideally, I prefer to wait until one round of play has completed before finalizing my opinions of the above.
But after the first five hands, I had already gotten a sense that the players at this table were just limping with any two cards. I was in the small blind and 4 players limped. I turned up A-Q. I usually just limp here since it's early in a rebuy event. But thinking I could make everyone fold, I made a big raise to $350. One player called.
The flop was J-8-4. My opponent moved all-in. I folded. Oh well....I guess I outsmarted myself.
After a while, it was clear the players at this table were very passive and tight. I decided to open up my game a lot. I would call on the button with almost any two cards. I decided to raise pre-flop in a back position.
If there were callers pre-flop and everyone checked to me, I bet and won. If I raised pre-flop and got one or two callers, I made a c-bet.
At the $100-$200 blinds, I got my first premium hand A-K suited. The player who beat me earlier, raised in an early position to $600. It was his first raise of the game, so I knew he had a big hand. However, it was a rebuy event and I needed chips, so I moved all-in. He called with Q-Q. I hit the Ace on the flop.
My most aggressive opponent had two tells; one of which I used for a nice win as well. When he was the pre-flop raiser, his flop bet would give away his hand. That is, if he slid his chips in as a bet, he was weak. If he stacked them, he had a strong hand.
Oh, yeah, his other tell is a very common one: If a player stacks his chips and one or more chips fall off messing up his stack, watch what happens next. In most cases, if a player goes back to fix the stack, he is not that strong. If a player doesn't fix the stack, he is most likely very strong.
Anyway, in this hand my opponent raised pre-flop and I called with J-10 suited on the button. We took the flop heads up. It was A-7-4 rainbow. He slid his chips into the pot as a c-bet. Clearly, if my tell was right, and I raised him, he could only call if he had an Ace. I re-raised. To my chagrin, he did not fold right away. He thought for a while. I guess he had a pocket pair higher than 7's. He mucked and flashed his pocket 9's. Phew!
Overall, though, I was picking up a lot of small pots at this table and I was happy that we would not be breaking up the table for a long time....no! The director came over and decided to break up our table first....what's up with that!
I got moved to a new table, where there were two opponents I played against before. I sat back and waited for a round to get a read on the other players.
The blinds were up to $100-$200. The players at this table were very different than the first one. For some reason, a few players here liked to limp with premium hands. The player with the big stack was one of these players and he sat to my left. And no one would bet the flop unless their hand improved.
I decided to raise pre-flop and never limp. I wanted to clear out the pretenders before the flop. I started to win decent sized pots as I would raise a few limpers, and get one caller. Follow-up with a c-bet and win. My stack just kept growing. It was nice. I would even bet into a pre-flop raiser if the flop was a picture-rag-rag, since I represented top pair.
A key hand: I was dealt pocket 4's in middle position. One player raised, I called, as did the player to my left, and one other opponent. The flop was A-7-4. The first player checked. I thought one of my opponents must have an Ace, so I bet 2/3rds of the pot with my set. The player to my left moved all-in. I called. He had A-7. How he calls a pre-flop raise with A-7 unsuited is beyond me..
I was now up to about $15,000 in chips. I was dealt A-J suited, and a tight player moved all-in. It was only $1,500 more to me, so I called. He had pocket Kings and I lost.
I was up to over $13,000 and decided against the rebuy.
Not too long after the rebuy period, I was moved to a new table. The players here were aggressive and much better. Again, I sat back to get a read on my opponents. It was interesting. The players to my right were aggressive, but the three players to my left were tight.
Given the image of my opponents, and my image of being tight as well (not having played a hand) I started to play against my image. I was able to win with pre-flop raises first in a hand as my opponents on the left were so tight.
I wasn't getting any cards. I was just playing the guys to my left so I could stay alive. I raised with K-5 suited, I raised with A-2, and I raised with Q-8. I won all of them uncontested.
Everything was going well, until the guy to my left got knocked out and a new player took his seat. The new guy was the chip leader and very aggressive. He was a little crazy as well:
Example: He limped in an early position (the first time he limped). A player on the button moved all-in for $12,000. The limper insta-called. I thought he would show pocket Aces. Instead, he showed 5-4 suited. The button had A-10. The flop came with a 4 and this gut won even more chips.
Yeah, I had to tighten up my play. And my image was clearly of a very tight player now.
In fact, the player to my right--who thought he was a genius--would move all-in on me as the small blind whenever everyone folded to him. He did this 3 times and I folded each time since my cards were so bad.
We were down to 3 tables. I was in survival mode. I was waiting to be the first in a hand in a late position or to call the small blind all-in move.
Since I had a tight image, I knew that making a rare pre-flop raise would allow me to win uncontested, unless someone had a big hand.
Example: I raised with pocket 2's. Everyone folded as I expected...except the big blind called me. Uh oh. The flop may have an overcard. The flop was 10-9-5. We both checked. The turn was a J. The big blind checked, so I had to bet. He folded.
As we got down to 7 players at the table, players were pushing all-in and/or raising. I was card dead and would just have to be patient.
The blinds were now up to $400-$800 and I was down to $3,200 in the big blind. Everyone folded to the small blind and for the fourth time he moved all-in on me. I found the K-J and beat his 5-3, doubling up.
The next hand, he made the same move from the button. I found A-Q and called. He had 10-8 and I doubled through him again.
The next hand, he tried again and I called with K-J--taking him out of the event.
Now, I was up to almost $30,000 in chips...it was a big turnaround.
It was down to 2 tables of 6 players each. Only the final table would get paid.
I was in the big blind and a player moved all-in for $12,000. I called with A-Q. He had K-10 and won when the flop came K-10-x and no Jack appeared.
With the loss holding the A-Q, I went from being one of the middle stacks to one of the low stacks. We were down to the final table. Players were aggressive and I was card dead. I would only last about 2 rounds.
Two players got knocked out, and the blinds were so high, I had 2x's the big blind--as I took the big blind. I was going to be all-in with any two cards.
A player moved all-in, I called. I had A-2. He had A-6. It looked like a chop until the 2 hit the flop! The turn was nothing. The river was a 6! Ouch.
I finished 8th and won $300.
Looking back, there was just one hand I misplayed. When we were down to 2 tables, I threw away pocket 4's since both players in the blinds were so low in chips, they would be forced to call my raise. Sure enough, they both moved all-in--but a 4 flopped....oh well.