Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Live Tourney for a Change of Pace

Wednesday I decided to take a crack at the $150 buy-in no-limit freezeout tourney at Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Illinois. Call it a whim. There aren't a lot of live rooms near me, and this is the only one within a couple of hours that spreads small tourneys on a regular basis. It was fun, too, though not something I plan on doing on a regular basis.

Well, I get an "E" for effort if nothing else.The reason? Too extreme of a structure, not enough play. Despite the fact that the blinds started at 25/50 and each player received 2,500 in chips at the start, each level was only 20 minutes long, and the levels doubled for the first several stages, like so:

Level 1: 25 / 50
Level 2: 50 / 100
Level 3: 100 / 200
Level 4: 200 / 400
Level 5: 400 / 800
Level 6: 500 / 1,000
Level 7: 600 / 1,200

The rapidly increasing structure promotes increased seat shuffling, too; I'd guess we played maybe 13 or 14 hands per level, when all was said and done. Oh, and there's one other negative factor: This is limited to 80 players only, and you have to show up to register by 10:30 a.m. to have a chance just to be drawn for a seat, and if you are fortunate enough to be drawn, then you get to sit around for another two and a half hours, or play one of the games available in the smaller cash-game room --- limit Hold'em at 5/10 or 10/20.

So, yeah. It was nice to do once, but I can live quite well without making that an every Wednesday thing. And as for how I fared, I hung around for a while but didn't cash, going out in 22nd or 23rd when the top ten paid.

Now for the anecdotes and insights.

The first table I sat at featured a middle-aged man on my immediate left who was clearly a tight, steady player; he confided that he'd won this thing four times prior. He also shared with me his insights on the online game: he had proof that it was totally rigged, that action flops were intentionally programmed into every site to generate more rake.

Like I haven't heard that one before. So I gave him a polite smile and nodded and agreed; there are arguments just not worth the bother to start. Then again, said solid-'n'-steady player then pretty much pigeonholed his game for me when he commented a few hands about what a terrible play another player, a more aggressive type, had made, when this other player sucked out a flush to overtake a pocket overpair. On that hand, the aggressive player made a call with K-6 of hearts, and I believe the other player had made an undersized raise from UTG with pocket tens.

The flop on that one came 4h-6d-7h, and the aggressive player bet 300 at the pot, leaving him with something like 700 chips behind. The player with the overpair pushed all in, and the aggressive player with middle pair and the second-nut flush draw made the call.

When the flush hit on the river, the guy to my left derided the play, citing the "the flush hits one time in three" mantra. Yeah, but the guy had a pair as well, he'd already made a play at the pot, and he was staring at the same silly blinds structure. I'd say the aggressive player's all-in call was at worst a breakeven play, all things considered. Not, of course, that I necessarily would have made it myself. But it wasn't as dog-assed stupid as the steady sort would have had me believe.

As for me, I soon discovered that my raises had auto-respect; I took down two early pots pre-flop with no action, despite having not much to start with... the old "women don't bluff" thing, reinforced by the fact that I was one of only two among the 80 in the event. Cool. I can make that work later, I thought.

Our table was the first to be busted, though, and I took what was essentially my starting stack over to a table at the front of the action. No cards and no action at the new table, either, although I did have to give up one pot I made a play at tin the face of an all-in re-raise. Finally, almost an hour into it, with the blinds at 100/200 and the first break looming, I looked down at A-6 of hearts in the big blind. I was at 2,800 or thereabouts. It was folded around to the small blind, who completed, so I popped it to 600. He called again, and the flop came 5-6-7 with two more hearts. The guy, one of the more aggressive players at this new table, it seemed leads out for 1,000 at me, making the pot 2,200. He has another 700 or so. I have 2,150 left, so I have him covered slightly, and I have the nut-flush draw and middle pair.

I push, he calls, and he shows K-2 of hearts. The jack heart turns and I'm gold. I'm up to about 5,000, and make it 5,500 at the first break.

I sneak it up over 6,000, but I take a bit when I toss pocket tens to an all-in push, when I believe he has A-K and paired a king on the flop. (It might have been a bad read on my part, and was the one play I question myself on.) After that I'm around 4,000, and as Level 4 becomes Level 5 the table degenerates into an obscene push-fest, just as I expected it would. A young kid to my left lays a mild beat on me to send me down to 2,000, and I return the favor only a couple of hands later when my all-in Q-J reels in his A-K, funny only because our back-to-back pushes got this weak/tight player across the way to toss pocket queens, a move this third player would repeat less than a lap later when he failed to call a heads-up pot that gave him 3:1 odds, holding pocket fours.

And that's what was funny about this. Despite the $150 buy-in, which is high for my bankroll, there was a whole lot of really stupid play going on. Most of it was of the weak/tight variety, and one middle-aged guy across from me was sitting on a big stack that I eyed as a target, after the third straight time he limped in from early position with what turned out to be marginal holdings. This player absolutely refused to raise pre-flop, though he always called any moderate raise that followed, and if he hadn't been the veritable card rack on Wednesday he would've been toast.

As for me, I was down to 2,900 or so in the small blind when it was folded all the way around me. I looked at the kid to my left, said "I ought to take a look at these before I push at you," and peeked under to find 4-2. "These'll do," I said, and pushed.

He hemmed and hawed, and finally folded. And yes, I showed the cards for the chuckle. But even though I pulled off as many steals as I could, I just couldn't catch the big hand to threaten the money. I was still at 3,900 as the blinds swung around, and under the gun I found A-K, the second best hand I saw all day. I pushed, the kid to my left moved over the top, and a third player chewed on it before folding. My A-K was all but dead to the kid's aces, and I was out. But out in a respectable way, and uncowed by the competition. And when my personal finances grow, I'll be back, there or somewhere else.

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