Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Hello, Hendon Mob!

June 25, 2013

And so it came to pass that I played in a $340 Aria Classic event in late June. My friend Derek had spoken of the value in these tournaments. He compared them to the Aria $125 I knew and loved. I threw up a post on our facebook group about the tourney, and the possibility selling some action. I didn't expect any takers, but two members quickly replied with requests for 15% and 20%. I had to wait on Derek to tell me what, if anything, was an appropriate markup.

I locked up both offers before the tourney started, and thought, “This is pretty cool. I'm getting staked for the very first time, and it's in a tourney where I probably won't embarrass myself.”

Julian Gallo was on my immediate left. I have no idea who that is, but he had left his registration copy at his seat, so I took the liberty of looking him up on Hendon Mob. He was there, with a couple of decent but not breath-taking results in small buy-in events.

As the tournament started, I recogized the 10 seat as a regular from the Aria cashgames, 2/5 and 5/10 I think. I didn't recognize anyone else, and was relieved that I was one of the younger players at the table.

Seat 1 was a grizzled Brit who looked and sounded a little like Sean Connery (I almost told him, “Sir, I *loved* you in Finding Forrester!”), Seat 2 was a Crafty Spaniard, and Seat 4 was a young Aggro Scando. I felt great about being in the 5 Seat, as I had the weaker players on my left, and the stronger, more aggro ones on my right.

I won two nice pots in the first orbit, getting good value in spots where more timid players might have checked. 15K starting stack ballooned to 21K. Great start. 108 runners, with $10.2K up top. Last June was my first four-figure tourney score... can't a guy dream about a five-figure score?

It quickly became apparent that this table was not as awesome as I had hoped. It started when the 3 Seat couldn't find a fold on a queen-high flop with kings against Sean Connery's limp-4bet aces. The new 3 Seat caused all the problems. He jumped all over limpers, and opened every pot from “the office” (hijack, cutoff, button) when folded to him. Aggro Scando was having none of it, 3-betting liberally. Soon, Connery and Spaniard were openlimping, in order to 4bet the two uberaggro kids. I was in the five seat with an explosion of action on my right. I was witness to my first “4bet, then fold to a min 5bet” at a table where I was playing. I had a feeling that any 3- or 4bets made by me would not be automatically respected.

I wondered if I could go a whole tournament never finding any good spots, when the 3 seat min-opened to 600 and the 4 seat smoothed. I 3bet to 1700 from the button with 77, hoping to take it down there, and thinking I would call or 5-bet if they reraised. The flop came AdQd6x, the 3 Seat checked, and the Aggro Scando bet into me. Normally, I raise donkbets, but this was a tough spot to be in if they can't find a fold, as I'm only ahead of a 6 or air, I'm mathematically behind something like T9-diamonds, and I have to account for Seat 3, who could be looking to checkraise.

I folded, shaking off that bad situation. I was comforted by Seat 3, who checkraised and won the pot right there. Seat 3 went on a terrible run, losing just about every hand he played after that. He was out right before the break, and I was hopeful that the table dynamic would improve. My 21K stack had shrunk to just under starting size.

I turned out to be prophetic. Aggro Scando settled down noticeably, and I have no idea why. The table was much more manageable. I got myself all-in for the first time of the tourney, and scored a doubleup. Raised it up with AK, bet the K-high, two spade flop, bet the offsuit ace turn, and shipped the nonspade river for value. I have to assume ace-something of spades called, as the dealer mucked the losing hand. I wasn't about to insist on seeing that hand, as per rules of a tourney all-in. That put me at 26K with the blinds at 200/400/25, and probably middle of the road as far as table stack size.

By the second break, I had run that up to 37K thanks to my queens holding up to stack somebody holding KJs, and it could've been much larger. I had Julian Gallo ship with 87s and next to no fold equity, and I called with AKs. He had been discussing his thoughts on hand ranges, and I had silently disagreed with most of his assessments. This hand was no different, but I was content to have a relatively weak player on my left.

I brought that 37K back to 600/1200/100, while the average stack was 35K, and the chipleader had about 90K on another table. The 6/12 level is usually when things go either very wrong, or very right, for my tournament life. That day, I ran good.

Sean Connery openlimped, and the Aggro Scando folded his button. I was pleased to see that I could call from the SB with 65-clubs. Gallo checked, and we saw a helluva flop: KQ9, all clubs. With about 4K+ in the pot, I thought a checkraise was in order, as all sorts of hands should bet that flop. Sure enough, Connery led for 3500, and I raised to 9K. Surprisingly, Connery shipped it all-in! Obviously, I was up against a pretty strong hand, but you don't flop flush over flush in tourneys very often. There are plenty of strong hands that would take that line that I'm ahead of, but have to fade. Deep breath. “I call.”

He shows KdTc, for top pair with the gutterball straight flush draw. He bricked, and I got a gloriously tense doubleup. I was the table chipleader with 76K – sixty big blinds! - though the Aggro Scando was close behind with 65K.

I played assassin for the next half hour, winning two flips with AK to knock out Gallo and the Aria regular, stomping on their sevens and jacks, respectively. The Scando and I stayed out of each other's way, which let me pick on the table when he wasn't. I stepped up the aggression, but didn't overdo it, and didn't show a weak hand.

At one point, there were 30 left, and I was starting to get a little nervous. I had 157K at 1K/2K/300, while the average stack had 52K. The top 12 got paid, but I had my eye on making a deep run. I really wanted a friendly face on the rail, thinking Rick or Derek would provide some advice, or comfort if I fucked up. I posted on facebook at this point, asking for a spectator. After a little while, I realized nobody was coming to help, and I was on my own. I grew calm. I could do this.

I went on the dinner break with 170K (the table chiplead) and 19 players left. We came back to 2K/4K/500, and this level almost ended me.

I raised in MP with 55, got a lone caller from the BB, a very aggressive, thinking player with almost as many chips. The flop came out QdTd3x, and he smoothcalled my c-bet. The turn was another queen, and we checked it through. The river was an offsuit 4, and he led about 40% of the pot into me. I felt strong enough to bluff-catch, and called. He showed me... aces. “That could've been much worse,” I whispered to the guy next to me.

I made a bluffraise, got shipped on, and counted to 5 before I folded. I had cut my stack practically in half – 90K. The blinds increased to 2500/5K/500, and the same gent with the aces opened for 13K. I thought this an odd size, as the table had generally been opening for min, or min plus a chip. He had the clear chip lead, and was probably going to start running over the table with the bubble approaching.

I shipped my 90K with AQ diamonds... and got snap called by kings.

Oops. “Oh well, it's been a good experience for me. Clyne and Paul will appreciate that I played well and made a deep run, even if I fell short of the money.”

Turn. Ace. I am a phoenix, risen from my own ashes.

At 190K, I need to play smart for a bit. How about some snug, ABC poker for a while? I got whittled down for a bit, then personally busted the bubble. The chipleader opened, and a shorty shoved for 70K. I woke up with aces. I decided not to get cute and smooth. I shipped, and the chipleader folded. After the board ran out and didn't help the shorty's queens, I'm pretty sure I understood enough French to comprehend that he would've knocked us both out.

In the money, with a playable stack? This is happening? With 12 left, I want to play as aggro as I can against the medium stacks, preferrably with the other large stacks already folded.

I took 275K to the final table, and then the blinds went up to 6K/12K/2K. I was 2nd or 3rd in chips, with about 3 pretty short stacks at the table. I was focused on every single hand, and I probably looked at the payout information way too often – first was $10.2K, second was $6700+, and 3rd was $4200+, while 7th was the first four-figure payout. I wanted to give myself easy decisions, avoid risk, move up the payout ladder... and maybe try to win this thing. As always, I wanted to have a decently sized reshove stack. My goal was a balance between risk and reward.

I wasn't faced with another decision the rest of the tourney. The pots I entered pretty much didn't see a turn card. At 7 players left, I had 315K of the 1.52M in play. We played some after the 7th player busted, and the chiplead changed hands, on what looked like a little spewy all-in preflop confrontation of AQ vs AJ. At some point around here, I texted Derek “If I suggest a chip chop, will that make me look like the weak amateur?” He told me to suggest getting chop numbers, and locking that shit up if the numbers looked good. Right before the dealer was about to pitch cards on my big blind, I asked her to stop, and broached the question. Everyone at the table said yes... eventually, like nobody wanted to seem too eager.

The numbers came back, and with 6th place at $1414, the shortest stack was looking at ending the tourney with $2800+. The chipleader was promised $7200, just 3K short of first place money. I was in 2nd when we stopped, though I was closer in chips to the fifth place guy than the leader, and my share was $5025. We couldn't talk the chipleader into playing a hand face-up for the trophy, so he took that home. I tipped $200 – I've heard 4% is standard, and I really like how the Aria runs things. That left $4825 – my share was $3136, which was a good bit better than my previous tourney best of $2200. It made me feel good that I could share my success with people who believed in me enough to put their money behind me. And it was a great feeling to step up a level, have instant success, and realize you can hang.