First things first: no, I didn’t place. I love tournaments, but this one was tough.
I’m visiting Las Vegas for four days on a work-related trip to NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), but had a little time for personal leisure on Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning, so I decided to play in a 9am Hold’Em tournament here in the poker room of the Excalibur hotel where I’m staying.
54 players, $35 buy-in with $25 going to the prize pool (not a bad house rake), but an absolutely brutal opening chip stack & blinds structure. Each player got $300 in tourney chips, and the blinds went up every 15 minutes. Get this: 5/10, 10/20, 25/50, 50/100, doubling every blind thereafter. Ouch. I’d rather see a few more hands before I have to go balls-to-the-wall, but that was the way the tourney was built.
I knew going in that I’d need to either get lucky and build my stack or push with some moderate hands to buy some pots or I’d be out early. A dozen or so hands in I pushed with :Ad :Jc and after some bullying from a loose player post-flop (with :Ac on the table), I ended up all-in. He showed :As :Th and my kicker held up, so I doubled up to $600. Toward the end of the 25/50 level I hadn’t won another hand and was down around $525 and got my favorite hand: :Qh :Ts, and the flop brought a :9c :Jd to leave me open-ended. I decided to be aggressive and push, so I bet $200 and got all but one player out. The turn was a brick and the flop was :Ad — I’d missed my open-end and had junk, so I went all-in turning my semi-bluff into a full-on bluff (which was only another $200). My error then was that I didn’t realize the player still in to my left was down to his last $150 and was pot-committed. He called in desperation with his :Jh :Qc and his lousy jacks took my pot, leaving me with only $150. If he’d had a bigger stack, with my aggression and two over-cards, I’m confident he would have folded.
What did I learn? Pay attention to your competitors’ stacks. Even a good player will call even if he’s convinced he’s beaten if he’s against a wall and pot-committed. Once I got down to heads-up with this other guy, if I’d been paying attention to his stack I would have checked it down and probably gotten little pressure from him with his middle pair.
A few hands later there was lots of action in the pot and I had :Ad :8d and decided to give my paltry $150 the best chance of growing, so I went all-in and busted out #22.
All-and-all, and enjoyable hour of play, and a valuable lesson that will serve me well in the future.