Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tunica: Day Two - Not Deep Enough

Event 12

Buy-in: $700

Entrants: 380

Finish: 70

It was a long day but not long enough.

For the first three hours, I was stuck in neutral. I was never higher than my starting chip stack but never low enough to be in true danger. Somewhere in this malaise I reached a new level of poker enlightment.

Almost exactly one year ago, in my first live multi-table tournament, I discovered the level of tired - the point where you are doing something continuously and the untrained mind begins to wander. In that larval stage, my thoughts turned to how comforting it would be to not be playing poker - to be back in my hotel room.

Mired in mediocrity, yesterday I reached this point after only a few hours. Frustrated, I mentally committed to just getting the hell out. Then the wheel turned and the old surrender turned into a new fight. I remembered and old poker maxim - in order to live, you must be willing to die. One year ago, I wanted to die, but on this day, I wanted to live.

I immediately became more aggressive, eliminated two players and by the time I was moved to a new table had built my stack up to 25,000.

The new table had several short stacks and only one really dangerous big stack. It would be the sight of my greatest triumph and my greatest failure.

I played with one of the players at this table the night before and felt I had a good read on him. I knew he liked to gamble. Not crazy gamble but I knew he would raise in late position with less than premium hands.

With me in the small blind and this player in the cutoff, he popped for three times the big blind. I looked down at a pair of eights. There's a couple of ways to play this but more about that later. I immediately knew exactly how I would play this hand all the way through. It's a clarity that some players refer to as the zone. Also Sara was standing just behind me and our recent intense discussion on playing pocket pairs may have influenced my play.

I re-raised. He called. The flop was A-8-x. Now for the twist. I had decided to bet out no matter what the flop contained and I stuck with the plan. Most would check here hoping he would push but I wanted to make like I was trying to steal. I bet out 9000. He immediately pushed all in and I immediately called. He never caught and suddenly I was up to nearly 60,000.

Later, Sara told me that I would have been in trouble if the 8 hadn't hit on the flop. I told her I would have played it the same way. She seemed shocked but I explained that I felt I knew him and if the flop was a bad one (which it was not) I would have easily pushed him off. But if it was a good one for him (which it was) I still would have put him to a test. Sometimes you just have to test another player - risk dying to live.

Not long after this critical hand came another pair. This time I had pocket tens in early position. I popped the pot wanting to take it down right there but not averse to some action. I got one caller. The flop came K-J-8. Not a good flop for me and my brain froze. I checked.

First mistake. Never give up the inititiative. The caller had about 17k left and immediately pushed. Since I gave up the initiative I should have taken my lumps and surrendered right there. Instead what followed was a horror of hubris and ignorance.

I felt I had a read on him. I felt he caught the 8 and not the face cards. For the first half hour I sat at this new table he had been a stone cold silent gargoyle. Now suddenly he was talking. Laughing. Taunting me. This didn't seem right so I called. He casually flipped over a K-Q. I didn't improve and was suddenly back down to around 30,000.

Over dinner break, three things about this hand haunted me.

After the hand for the next hour, the silent gargoyle turned into a jolly joke-making round ball of Russian. What I saw during the hand was not a tell. It was his real personality. If the hand had happened even 10 minutes later I might have made the correct read. Instead, my arrogance led me to believe I knew what I did not.

Worse, I did not pay attention to my presence in the tournament and tournament management is one of my strengths. If I had taken the time to glance at one of the tournament monitors I would have seen I was easily above the tournament average in chips with only 80 players left and the money in sight. These factors would have certainly mitigated my risk.

And worsest, I destroyed my table image. After the 8's play, I was a strong player willing to make strong plays with a large stack - the kind of player everyone steps around carefully. After the foolish 10's call, I was just another cowboy willing to risk too much on too little. To everyone else I wasn't quite an idiot but I was close.

Then things only got worse. Immediately after dinner break I was moved to a table which had several monster stacks. I was a mouse in the company of elephants.

Now with only 22k and the blinds increased again, I had to find a place to get all my chips in and double up. On about the fourth hand with the big stack in the big blind, I looked down at J-J. I pushed. He called with pocket 4's. Perfect. Then the board made a straight and we chopped the pot. On a hand which should have pushed me up to 40k, I had made exactly half the blinds and antes.

Just a few minutes later the same guy took me out. Same situation but he had just been in a hand which cost him half his stack. When I pushed he really agonized. He easily had me covered but I could tell it was weighing on his mind that two hits in a row would hurt. He finally called and flipped over 10-J. I flipped over A-9. There was a jack right in the window and no ace in sight.

The end is always so sudden. One second you are alive and the next you are dead. I knew I had been a wraith for a while so I had little hope but it still hurt. I had been on the cusp of going very deep and had no one but myself to blame. But with poker, re-incarnation is only the next entry fee away.

Today, I'm taking a mini-break. I'm going to watch Sara in the ladies event, then head to Memphis to visit the Stax Studio museum. Then I'll re-incarnate at the $200 buy-in later this evening.


Unknown said...

We missed you last night at the Wild Hog Supper and Manuel's after.

The Stax Studio museum is one of our favorite spots in Memphis. If you have time check out the Ornamental Metal Museum, too. It's a unique collection and sits on a beautiful spot on the River.

Stefan said...

"To everyone else I wasn't quite an idiot but I was close."

Funny stuff. Entertaining read.