Friday, April 29, 2005
Upon arriving home from work last night, my weekend was officially upon me. Thank goodness - I teach at a local college, and final exams are right around the corner, meaning end-of-semester insanity is in full force as students clamor for a few more points, professors do the final grading push, and committees cram in last minute meetings. I'm pooped and ready for summer vacation!
I decided to hit up my flavor of the month, Full Tilt Poker. (Try it - you'll like it. Cross the fish of Party Poker with some slick software and you've got a wonderful online poker experience. Tell 'em Shelly sent ya - bonus code: hella). I picked a couple $25NL tables and got to work.
Not too much going on. I played for a half hour or so, and was about even on both tables. I thought, "Hmmm, I'm kinda bored...." I decided to check the Tournaments tab and see what sort of action I could find. I wanted to settle into playing for a bit but the ring games weren't hitting me well. Sure enough, a $5+.50 multi-table tourney was ready to start - can I click fast enough to get registered??? I got in with about 30 seconds to spare. Whew! I closed out one of my ring tables and kept the other one going, and ran to the fridge for a can of pop. (Yes, I've outed myself as a midwesterner; thanks to Glyphic for pointing that out!)
Things went well. I caught a couple big pots early on, and found myself with a chip stack in the top ten of 200+ people. At that point, I just hung out and played my monsters. The relative size of my chip stack shrunk a bit as the hot cards were slow and I folded a lot through the middle, but approaching bubble time, I was less than 1,000 chips under average, and was in the middle of the pack (15th or so out of 35 remaining players). I watched the countdown to the money - 27 places paid, but you got little more than your money back until you hit the 18th place. Of course, my goal in these things is always to make the final table, where the money becomes decent. I was confident that I'd make the money, but was a bit shortstacked to be expecting the final table. My plan became: make the money and get my five bucks back, then push and try to double through somebody.
It's funny how these late night tournaments work; once you make the money, people start dropping like flies, because it's late at night (the wee hours of the morning for some people - the money hits around 3am if you live in Chicago). So people just start pushing, happy to have made the money and ready for bed. The next 10 people went out of the tourney seemingly instantaneously, and without much hassle I found myself in the top 16.
My chip stack, however, will not survive limping into the final table. I'm ranked in the bottom few of those 16 people with less than 10 big bets left in front of me. Antes are eating my stack like termites. Must make a move.
They say that you need both skill and luck to be successful in a tournament, and that you have to win those 50/50 races and make a few outdraws to survive. Luck has to at least befriend you, if not an intimate partner. The hand I chose to move on was a case of one of those lucky moments.
I've got A8 of clubs on the button. Action is folded around to me. I raise 4x the big blind (which was almost half my stack as is). I'm either going to take the blinds and antes or go to battle. The small blind folds, and the big blind (who had proven to not like giving up his blinds - big blind defender, even with junk hands) was having none of it. He re-raised me all in. I wasn't surprised; it was time to ride the coattails of these two cards and see where they took me. I called. He turns over KK (whoops!) and I've got one live card. C'mon, ace or clubs! I turned an ace, and my opponent was knocked out of the game with parting words of "you fckin idiot." Nice. Call me all the names you want - I have your chips! My apologies that Lady Luck sided with me this time. (Actually, I take that back - I am not sorry, because that's poker. I have empathy for my opponent's bad luck, as I've had plenty of my own, but no apologies). It was a lucky hit, for sure - one of those lucky hits you just have to pull out of your pocket in order to do well in a tournament. My cards had a 32% chance of winning that hand pre-flop. Not the odds you want to find yourself all in with, but not a big flashy Hammer, either.
At any rate, the game continued on, and with my chip stack in a much more healthy state, I plugged away at now hoping to make the final table. I watched as players exited the game, one by one, and then we were hand-for-hand. I kept saying to myself, "Stay out of the way. You are well positioned here - just sit back and let the final table come to you." It only took a couple hands, and suddenly I was whisked out of my chair and into the glamourous Tv-table-like setting of the Full Tilt Final Table. I love the blue tones - it's all glitzy and cool looking.
I made it!
Somewhere around this time (it may have been right before the final table was set), Glyphic popped up into the chat and proceeded to railbird me. He should really consider professional railbirding services, as he is quite good at it. This evening, we were given some colorful commentary by the Glyph, and come to think of it, I seem to make the money in most games in which Glyphic is on the rail. Coincidence?
I managed to save the sad excuse for hand histories for my final table appearance out of FTP, and with that information I would usually insert some stories of particular hands here. However, Glyphic's commentary was much more entertaining and thought provoking than any hand history could be, so here are some of the gems of the evening.
Some background: I had made friends with several people at the final table. In my experience, online final tables tend to be quite jovial. Everyone is happy to be there, and people congratulate each other - I imagine it to be the online equivalent of a bunch of glasses raised in celebration, back-slaps and hearty guffaws. One guy, jonnypopo, was from my original table in the tourney. Always nice to see familiar faces! We'd run into each other at several tables along the way, so had chatted throughout the game on and off. He'd been on a long stretch of being short-stacked and on life support, and I was rooting that he'd make the final table. He played well and deserved it. He made it, so that was a happy reunion. A couple of the other players were new faces to me, but were chatty, so I made friends.
Glyphic asked me if I always make friends with my opponents, and I had to think about that one. In sit-n-go's, I generally don't make friends, unless someone starts a conversation with me about my screenname or something like that. SnG's are too short to make friends. But, these long tournaments give you many more opportunities to chat, and during stretches of folding and cold cards, it's all I can do not to get bored and make a dumb play. So, if I'm feeling friendly, I chat. I've never thought much about whether or not that helps, hinders, or has no effect on my game - such as, in how people react to me. I'm sure it's possible that a "friend" would tend to be "nicer" to me in a situation of a borderline play, for example. I'm pretty sure I've seen that happen. I am very careful not to let the same thing affect me and my decisions, though, when making those same borderline plays. Friends are friends... Poker is poker.
To make a long story short, my opponents dropped slowly (at one point the table was described as the "final table from hell," as we did a lot of chip swapping with 5 or so people left). I managed to come back from ranked at the bottom third of the table, to barely having a chip lead over the resident rock at the table (literally - his avatar was a rock, even). Next thing I know, the rock is on life support! I have no idea how that happened, or how I missed it, but it made my chip stack look pretty damn good. I lost a small chunk of change trying to take out my friend jonnypopo (sorry, jonny!) - my QJh hit nothing to his small pocket pair, and he doubled up. After some time, we ended up 3-handed, and then there were two.
It was me vs.. RockStarToad. My avatar: the goldfish. His: the green frog. He had more than a 2:1 chip lead on me at the start of heads-up play, and whittled me down even further. At one point I recall it being 250k to 85k or so. Railbirds started complaining that we were taking too long, but I wasn't going to push with anything. I wanted to win the extra $110 between first and second place. I would fold as necessary, and that was that. RockStarToad was playing a similar game and I appreciated the challenge. There isn't much strategy in pushing all in, hoping for a call (or not), and letting the cards play the game for you. I don't much like that kind of ending. I'd much rather see a battle of the wits and wills, and see two players grind it out for an authentic win. Sure, the cards play a significant role heads-up, but I'm just not a fan of letting them do ALL of the talking with the all-in-or-nothing game.
Here's where Glyphic stepped up the commentary:
glyphic (Observer): :: It's the evolutionary battle
glyphic (Observer): :: Fish vs. Amphibian
Dealer: phlyersphan shows a straight, Queen high
Dealer: RockStarToad mucks
glyphic (Observer): :: Should the Toad have left the water?
glyphic (Observer): :: At this point, he's thinking NO
glyphic (Observer): :: The fish excels at catching river straights
glyphic (Observer): :: It's his natural habitat.
hid3n169 (Observer): man you 2 aren't done yet - [note: he's the rock, who had gone, bought smokes, and come back to post this since getting knocked out. Good game, hid!]
glyphic (Observer): :: Seriously
[After catching some cards, I had become the 3:1 chip leader at this point.]
glyphic (Observer): :: The stack positions are reversed!
glyphic (Observer): :: This is what head's up play is all about
jonnypopo (Observer): man, i went out for a beer and came back
jonnypopo (Observer): and you guys are still at it
glyphic (Observer): :: Fish catches the river again.
glyphic (Observer): :: Can anything stop the fish?
glyphic (Observer): ::Fish caught the nut straight
glyphic (Observer): :: on the river again!
hid3n169 (Observer): blinds gonna be there all in's before they are done
Dealer: Hand #100698337
Dealer: RockStarToad antes 600
Dealer: phlyersphan antes 600
Dealer: RockStarToad posts the small blind of 2,500
Dealer: phlyersphan posts the big blind of 5,000
Dealer: You have been dealt [Qs 8d]
Dealer: RockStarToad calls 2,500
Dealer: phlyersphan checks
Dealer: The flop is [Qh 7c 2d]
Dealer: phlyersphan bets 11,200
Dealer: RockStarToad raises to 44,800
Dealer: phlyersphan raises to 280,724, and is all in
RockStarToad: ah %& gg
glyphic (Observer): uh oh
Dealer: RockStarToad calls 8,276, and is all in
Dealer: phlyersphan shows [Qs 8d]
Dealer: RockStarToad shows [7d Tc]
Dealer: Uncalled bet of 227,648 returned to phlyersphan
Dealer: The turn is [Ac]
Dealer: The river is [Kd]
Dealer: phlyersphan shows a pair of Queens
Dealer: RockStarToad shows a pair of Sevens
Dealer: phlyersphan wins the pot (117,352) with a pair of Queens
Dealer: RockStarToad stands up
Dealer: phlyersphan stands up
glyphic (Observer): PHLYER!
glyphic (Observer): Who's the rock star now?
And with that, I won first place in the $5+.50 midnight tourney on Full Tilt. 230 entrants. $299 first prize. Yay!
Huge thanks to Glyphic for his support and commentary - it was great fun! And congrats to my final table compadres, especially RockStarToad and Mike Hall, who played amazing games, and jonnypopo who deftly survived some would-be knockout punches to make the final table.