It’s been two weeks since my last blog from the kickoff festival of Season 10 of the European Poker Tour in Barcelona, and plenty has happened in between now and then. I wrapped up EPT Barcelona with the €10,000 High Roller and €5,000 Turbo, but did’t cash in either of those. I did have a really fun night out on my second-to-last night there at Opium. The club was crazy and I had a blast hanging out with a lot of my good friends that were there. This was my 6th time in Barcelona, but definitely was the most fun trip I’ve had there. I can’t wait to go back next year!
As many of you know, I took third in a PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker event on Monday. It was a massive $700 two-day event that drew nearly 3,500 entries. After getting back to Florida from Barcelona, I flew up to Toronto for the weekend to play online a bit, visit some friends, and attend a charity event, but you’ll hear more about that in a future blog.
JUST MISSING OUT ON THIRD WCOOP BRACELET
In Event #24, I played 1,226 hands over the two days. After a four-way chop, I wound up taking third place for $229,965.47. That was $9,000 more than ICM dictated, so I’m happy with it, although I did fall short of the $30,000 left for the winner and my third WCOOP bracelet. In those two days of the event, I played a long 25 hours, but was focused and dialed in for all of it.
When I play online, I don’t use a heads-up display, so paying attention to the action on my tables is very important to me. I feel like I play better when I am really zoned in as opposed to relying on a HUD to dictate my play. I’m not against HUDs, but I just don’t think they’re for me.
I’ve never really blogged too much about my thought process in hands I play, but I’d like to do a little bit of that for everyone here. I’ve selected five hands from the WCOOP event I found crucial in my run, so let’s dig into it.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE STANDARD BOX
The first of the five involves this hand where I had Kc-Qh in the big blind during Level 14 on the first day. My standard line here would be to fold the majority of the time, or possibly cold four-bet fold because I was over 40 big blinds deep, but I really felt good about this spot and my opponents being light. At the time, I felt both players had been playing a bit loose, which led me to believe that a four-bet jam would work here more often than not. I think it’s important to note here that you sometimes have to go against your “standard play” in tournaments if you really want to win. I fully understand that if I’m called here, I’m in a bad spot, but the spot was too good to pass up, and I’m always playing to win.
THE CRUCIAL TRIPLE UP
On this second hand, I found an extremely crucial and timely triple up with pocket queens. When we restarted play on Monday, the blinds were 1,500/3,000 and I had roughly 320,000 in chips for a very healthy stack. Four hours later, though, the blinds had more than tripled to 5,000/10,000, and I found myself down to 15 big blinds. The average stack had risen to about 620,000, putting me in dire need of something positive to happen to turn things around. This hand couldn’t have come at a better time, as the triple up allowed me to get hold of some chips, and I went on a massive rush shortly after this.
I had opened with a min-raise from the hijack seat and just over 15 big blinds. I came in with a raise as opposed to jamming all in because I wanted action on my hand and felt it would’ve been harder to get that action if I had simply shoved. If I had just shoved, “yaffy” would have called me and “paleta25″ would have folded, giving me a chance to only double up and not triple up. While I know I’m unable to know the hands of the other players at my table, min-raising here is key because it allows for my opponents to make a mistake, in which case “paleta25″ did with his big shove from the big blind.
As it turned out, “yaffy” tanked with 23 big blinds behind and eventually called. A lot of people might even make an argument that “yaffy” should fold his Ac-Ks here, but I don’t hate it or really even think it’s bad. Even if “yaffy” loses to me, he basically has to beat the other guy to break even on the hand. If he beats both of us, he’ll have a massive stack going forward. Plus, “yaffy” has already put in 40,000 of his 270,000.
MISTAKES IN A WINNING HAND
A few minutes after tripling up, I played an interesting hand against “javdani” that allowed me to build my stack some more. Despite winning chips on this hand, I actually feel I misplayed it.
As you can see by the action, he three-bet me pre flop, then action was checked by both of us on the flop and the turn. I think one mistake I made here was not betting the turn. The other mistake I think I made was as the way the hand played out, I could have check-raised the river. I really felt like “javdani” was going to bet the river, too, and I definitely would’ve checked if I would’ve known he had K-Q. In fact, I was very shocked he checked back both the flop and turn with K-Q in this spot, especially on the turn when he improves to a pretty powerful two pair and can look to extract some value.
This was one of the weirder hands that happened in the tournament, but I was very happy I was the one with the A-J rather than the K-Q because I would’ve probably lost more money than this guy managed to if the hands were reversed.
Adding to the shock value, I had all of a sudden gone from 150,000 and 15 big blinds to 615,000 and 61.5 big blinds within minutes.
THE $200K DOUBLE UP
This next hand happened all the way down at the final table with eight players left. At the time, I hadn’t been able to get much going in terms of momentum, but was lucky enough to be able to maneuver myself to the final table. If you remember back in my last blog post regarding the €50,000 Super High Roller in Barcelona, I was in a similar spot with 10 players left. In that event, I was on the shorter side with a bunch of aggressive big stacks at my table. It’s much harder to maneuver in this spot than at a full, nine-handed table, which is why hanging on and making it the final table is so important. In that event in Barcelona, I wasn’t able to make it to the one-table redraw, but here I was, and then it was much easier to manage my play at the full table.
Closing in on the final table, I was fighting hard. I shoved five or six times, but was never called and at risk. That allowed me to keep picking up blinds and antes to keep me going, but I still wasn’t in a comfortable position yet. Not getting called here when I was shoving proved to be the difference as opposed to the Super High Roller event where I was knocked out in 10th place.
Back to the hand, though, as it was one that truly netted me $200,000. If I would’ve busted in eighth place, I would’ve taken just over $29,000, but it turns out I was able to spike a double and go on to finish where I did. Without this double, none of that would have happened.
The spot itself seemed pretty standard. My opponent, “romanooo64,” had the chip lead at the time and was playing pretty aggressive, especially in the later positions. He min-raised the button, and I shoved all in from the small blind with just over 16 big blinds. With him being an active player, I felt this was a perfect spot for me to get my money in by re-jamming kind of light with Q-J suited. I know I’m never getting called by worse here, but I’m hoping to take the pot down preflop to chip up a bit or take my chances in a flip or as a slight underdog. Turns out that he had a hand to call with, but I spiked a jack and doubled up.
I feel it’s important to note here that playing to win often means taking a little bit more risk than you would like. At the time, I knew I was getting short, but by focusing and paying attention to the dynamic of the table, you can find spots like this to get your money in without having to have a premium hand. Part of winning poker tournaments — or placing in the top three where all of the money usually is — is running good, and I’m fortunate I was able to do so on this hand.
THE DEAL AND THE SUCKOUT
After sucking out against “romanooo64″ for that key double up, I don’t think I was at risk in any other situations moving forward until I was eliminated. When we got down to four players, we struck a deal. My ICM numbers were just under $221,000, but I asked for $230,000 and was able to get it, which made me happy. If I didn’t get the extra $9,000, I requested that we just play on, but everyone seemed like they wanted to make a deal and I felt like I had a significant skill edge. Despite feeling that I had the skill edge, doing the deal four ways allowed me to lock up an extra $100,000. Poker tournaments can be highly volatile in terms of variance, so securing this solid score seemed like a good move. In this WCOOP event, despite any deal, the players would have to leave $30,000 on the table to play for and the WCOOP bracelet, so I had the chance to increase my payday even more, but came up just short.
After making the deal, I lost a very big hand to “Pimmss” where he cracked my pocket eights with pocket threes. I three-bet and called off against his shove of more than 34 big blinds, and we played a pot worth a third of the chips in play and just over half of my stack. If I would’ve won that hand where I was a 4-1 favorite, I would’ve had nearly half of the chips in play and a big lead on either of the other two players remaining.
All in all, I was very happy with my score. I’m back in Florida now waiting for my first niece to be born who’s due any day now! I’m super excited for my family. I’ve been spending a ton of time with them and close friends down here. I plan to go back to Toronto for the last weekend of WCOOP before heading to EPT London in a couple weeks. I can’t wait to play the $10,000 8-game event this Sunday. I won this event last year and am really hoping to go BACK TO BACK!