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Solid, But Disappointing

February 8, 2009

Two days after my unspectacular flame out at Caesar’s, I was back at the tournament tables. This time though, I was across the seat in the splendor of the Venetian where JDN had convinced me to pony up for the day’s $550 tournament.

Besides me and JDN, 321 other people figured there was no better way to spend a rainy Saturday in Vegas than inside a casino, and when the cards hit the air, we were all competing for a first-place prize of more than 40,000. Yee haw!

Being a slightly higher buy-in than most of the Venetian deep stack events, we all started the day with 15,000 in chips. And, as is my want as of late, my stack size didn’t vary very much through the first two levels of play. I was pretty card dead for much of the first two hours, seeing a steady stream of hands like Q-2, 8-4, and 9-3. Nothing playable. And, when I did pick up the occasional Ace-King or pocket pair, I’d either get no action or be forced to lay down after completely missing the flop. In fact, the only hand that saved me early on was the last hand before the first break where I picked up pocket Jacks on the button.

After raising and getting called by one of the more aggressive players at the table, I fired at a King-high, all diamond flop, despite holding nothing more than black Jacks in my hand. The villain called, and when a brick hit the turn, I fired again, forcing him to open fold his 9-high diamond draw. That hand brought me back to 15K in chips at the break.

The next few levels were equally uneventful, with me winning and losing a few pots along the way. At the second break, I had managed to add a meager 4K to my stack, giving me approximately 19,000 chips with blinds of 300-600. I was hanging around, but not at all comfortable. Thankfully, things changed once we resumed play.

Though I didn’t pick up any monster hands along the way, I finally found some playable cards and slowly chipped my way up to a respectable 35,000 when they finally broke my starting table. As on Thursday, a table change did me good, when on the second hand I picked up pocket Jacks again, and re-raised David Plastik pre-flop to take down a nice-sized pot. My run of cards continued, with hands like Aces, Kings and Queens all standing up in multi-way pots, allowing me to build my stack to about 135,000 by dinner.

Overall, I left for the break feeling pretty confident about my game. I was making good reads and lay downs, and pretty much avoiding putting myself into spots where I was forced to make tough decisions for a lot of my chips. And, with only 60 of the 323 players returning after dinner, I thought I had a solid chance of making the money (27 players would get paid) and going deep.

After dinner, my stack stayed pretty much level until my second table broke when we got down to 40 players remaining. My third table of the evening proved to be nearly as profitable as the second, and I quickly built my stack up to a quarter of a million chips after winning a couple of big pots. Then, with just four players left to bust before the money, I made my one big mistake of the day.

I raised from under-the-gun with King-Queen of hearts and got two callers, including the button. On a flop of King-2-5 with two diamonds, I led out at the pot for 40,000. One player folded and the button, after a few seconds of though, shoved all-in for another 120,000. Considering his position, I figured he would have re-raised me pre-flop with a hand like Ace-King or a pocket pair, and that he was making a move with either a weaker King or a big flush draw. So I called. When he turned over pocket 2s for a flopped set, I could do nothing more than say “good hand” and ship him my chips.

Suddenly, I had gone from being the big stack at the table to being close to short-stacked on the bubble. Not my favorite position. Thankfully, I quickly won a good chunk of my chips back a few hands later when I flopped Broadway while holding Jack-Queen of clubs in my hand. Once out of danger, my goal became just making the money after 12 hours of play, so I tightened up and waited for the short stacks to knock themselves out.

It didn’t take long and within 20 minutes, the bubble had burst and I was assured of making at least a couple of hundred dollars profit for my long day at the table. I continued to play tight and we quickly lost another seven players as people began playing more aggressively now that we were all in the money. One casualty was the guy on my right, who was sitting on about 450,000 chips and who had been raising nearly every pot.

After making his fourth consecutive pre-flop raise to 40,000, he got popped to 140,000 by the button. Without hesitation, the original raiser shoved all-in and, the button, quickly made the call, tabling Kings to the original raiser’s pocket 9s. Five cards later, the button was the overwhelming chip leader, sitting on approximately 900,000 chips.

With the blinds and antes quickly eroding my stack, I managed a big double up when I shoved all-in from the button with Ace-9 of hearts, forcing one player to fold his Ace-Queen and getting an all-in call from King-Jack of clubs. When a 9 fell on the flop and another on the river, I was back in comfortable position. Of course, that didn’t last long as I quickly gave a large number of those chips away when I called an all-in raise with Ace-King of spades and failed to improve against my opponent’s pocket 9s. Easy come, easy go.

Shortly before my final hand, I picked up pocket 3s on the button and was prepared to call the short-stack’s all-in bet when the chip leader re-raised to a flat 200,000 pre-flop. Calling that bet would have essentially put me all-in and, knowing I couldn’t possibly have the best hand, I folded. Now the funny thing here is, even though I knew I was way behind pre-flop, I felt like I was folding the winning hand. The all-in player turned over Ace-King and the chip leader turned over Kings, showing me that I had in fact made the right read. But when the 3 of hearts hit the turn, I knew my gut had been right all along. Sometimes doing the right thing costs you in the end.

Speaking of the end, mine was only somewhat ugly. In a battle of the blinds, I limped into the pot from the small blind with 5-6 off-suit, only to flop an up and down straight draw on a board of 3-4-10 with two spades. I bet and got a call and, when the 7 of spades hit the turn, I shoved all-in. I tabled my straight, and the villain turned over Jack-9 of spades for the flush. Gone in 14th spots with a profit of a little more than $1,000 for a long day’s work.

Overall, I was happy with my performance, if not the result, and I’ll be back at the Venetian later this week to take another shot at the big prize.

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