Tough Stuff

Running bad is the hardest thing to write about. Not only do I want to forget about it and play more to book a win and feel better, but it’s hard to write about losses without sounding like I’m telling bad beat stories or sounding arrogant when I’m talking about how I expect to do better than I have been. Even so, I should definitely keep up with my blog, even when I’m running bad, so I collected some interesting hands from the Monster Stack tournament today. I lose most of them, but there aren’t many since I was only in the tournament for two hours.

My first big pot was at the 75/150 level. I had about 16k after stealing a few small pots, and my opponent had a similar stack. I raised from middle position with Ace-Queen offsuit, and got one call from the big blind. I was in the five seat, and he was directly across from me in the one seat, which turned out to be very important to the play of the hand. I had a perfect view of his face and eyes directly in front of me. I raised to 400 and he called, while both blinds folded.

The flop was TT5 with two hearts. My opponent stared at the board for just a second, looked up at me, waited for ten or fifteen seconds, and checked. This very slow check in a spot where the player will almost always be checking, is bullshit the vast majority of the time. What does he need to think about here? Does he have a ten and he’s trying to decide if he should bet it? Nope, he just doesn’t want me to bet or wants me to keep it small if I bet so he can call.

I didn’t think my opponent was a pro because of appearance reads and behavior, but I didn’t know much else about him. He was also not a rank amateur because he knew the game, made reasonable sized bets, and didn’t exhibit the behaviors of a new player. This knowledge of him, along with the stall before he checked to me, told me that he probably had a flush draw, a small pair, or two big over cards, and didn’t want me to bet him off his hand. I can’t be sure with so little information, but I thought it was likely that he held one of these hands.

I bet 500 in the pot of 875, and he called fairly quickly, further convincing me that he didn’t have a tough decision to make earlier in the hand and that the slow check was just an attempt to slow me down.

The turn was an non-heart 4, and he checked to me instantly. I checked behind because I wasn’t terribly sure of my read and because I wanted to keep the pot small. Encouraging him to bluff the river with missed over cards and flush draws was also a good reason. Most players will never bet a small pair for value on a board like this, so I could call a bet on most river cards, knowing that I was beating his range easily if he bet.

The river was another off suit 4, and this changed things quite a bit. He would now check any ace and probably call a bet, bet his busted flush draws for fear that I had an ace, and bluff with 33 and 22 while check-calling with 55, 66, 77, 88, or 99. Unless he made some miracle like trip fours from his busted flush draw, or my read was bad and he did have a ten, I was set up perfectly to call any bet and check behind any check. If he checks I usually lose, but I am just throwing money away bluffing in this spot when almost all of his checking range will call a bet and beat me.

This is one of the spots where I don’t have much of a hand, only ace-high, but I am ecstatic to see my opponent bet the river. I watched his eyes count the pot, and he bet 1625 into a pot that was 1875. I stopped, thought back through the hand to be sure that this was a good spot to call light, decided that it was, and called. I genuinely expected to see 22 or 33 most of the time, and grinned a little (only on the inside) when he showed me a pair of deuces that had been counterfeited by the double board pair. I won the pot and was up over 18,000.

It was not only some live reads, but also a lack of tells that helped me make this call. I thought my opponent was a player who would likely have shown some excitement if he had flopped, or rivered, a monster. I had seen nothing to indicate real excitement, thus my read for a weaker hand range was even stronger.

After watching the table for about 45 minutes, I was starting to feel more confident. My opponents were mostly passive, their bet sizing wasn’t scary, and I was comfortable playing a few extra hands. My opponent from the previous hand raised to 400 in early position, and I called with the seven-nine of diamonds in late position. The big blind also called.

The flop was 974 with two clubs, about as good a flop as I can ask for. The original raiser lead out for 700. I knew that there were draws on the board, and while I wasn’t that scared of one of them having the draw, I was worried about one of them assuming I had the draw if I just called. If I call and the third club or a ten, six, or eight falls, it kills my action, and if a four falls I would be losing to the over pair that is a big part of the original raiser’s range.

I raised to 2,000, and was surprised when the big blind reraised to 5,200. The original raiser, now faced with two raises, looked unhappy but eventually folded, so he almost certainly had an over pair to the board. I thought about the big blind’s range. He could have any two pair since he was in the big blind, and also a lot of draws. I didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he wasn’t a known pro or dressed like an internet wizard, and given the tournament we were playing, I went with the assumption that he is often going to be an ABC player who does not have a ton of experience or education.

My only fear was that he had top pair and a flush draw, because the nine was the non-club card on the board. A set of fours is going to be rare here since he was in the big blind and his range is so wide. It also seemed odd that he would three-bet the flop cold with a draw. He either has top pair with a flush draw or a big draw here every time. If he has one of those hands, he is going to call off all of his chips now, and I don’t want a club to fall when he has a straight draw and ruin my action, so I went all-in and he called immediately as I figured he would.

He rolled over the Ace-nine of clubs, hit a club on the turn, and my stack was down to 4,800 at the 150/300 level. Depressing, but my motto this year is –

“Never, ever, ever, ever give up.”

and I haven’t given up yet. I don’t think I have any quit left in me when I’m playing tournaments these days. I will fight to the end, regardless of my stack.

An orbit later, a new player in the cutoff seat raised to 700. He didn’t look like a strong online player, no hoodie, no headphones, and he was well into his thirties. Strong online players are the only group that I am careful about restealing against. They know when a resteal stack is behind them and won’t raise hands that they won’t call a resteal with.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “resteal”, it basically means to shove all-in over a late position raise with between 11 and 22 big blinds. This is a very basic definition, but it fits for this example. The math is simple, and I have even done seminars on it and worked with many students on correct resteal strategy because it is such a powerful weapon.

I had Queen-Ten off suit in the small blind and went all-in, knowing that the math was there and that my play was very profitable in the long run. He folded and I was up to almost 6,000 chips.

Two hands later I was dealt the same Queen-Ten off suit, and raised when it was folded around to me. The button and the big blind called me, and the flop was A87 rainbow. I considered giving up there since I would often be called down by any ace and a big portion of my opponent’s hands included an ace. With nothing to back me up, I would have checked and folded, but it was close and I had a gin card left in the deck. I thought I had enough fold equity, combined with my gin card, to make a continuation bet profitable.

I bet, and the button called me, though he didn’t look excited about it. I figured he either had a mediocre ace or a pair like 99 or 66 and was calling a bet to see if I would shut down on the turn. The big blind folded.

The turn was my gin card. Think for a second about what my gin card was. What card do I want to see on the turn?

The jack was the card I was hoping for. It gave me a double-gutshot straight draw, and another over card to his pair if he had 99 or a small pair. I could confidently go all-in now since my stack was almost exactly the same size as the pot. He might fold a small ace here, amateur player do it all the time, and he would certainly fold most of his other hands. He thought for a while, and definitely considered folding, but in the end he called and flipped over Ace-Ten suited.

I missed my straight draw, wished everyone luck, and hit the rail.

There you have it, and unedited, rambling, account of my two hour trip through the Monster Stack tournament. Much of my summer has gone like this so far, but I’m still feeling good, playing well, and determined to never give up. I want it too bad to go home knowing that I gave away a chance at another bracelet.

The live reads in this article were all courtesy of my new Blue Shark Optics pro model. Check it out HERE and use my bonus code FOX2014 to save 10% on your online order.

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