Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to take down a poker tournament

Two years ago, I played in a 30-player poker tournament at my friend Jay's place. It was a grueling marathon, filled with the typical poker drama: Bad beats, suck-outs, all-in bluffs. But in the end I came out on top.

Fast forward two years later, to Jay's birthday party. In typical Jay fashion, he decides to hold a multi-table tourney to celebrate. Along with 5 hours of hanging out with other gambling degenerates, we got treated to a sumptuous Chinese buffet (Beef ho-fun, fried rice, and deep fried pork ... again?!!), and a delightful (in quotation marks) hostess by the name of Joy. Being the good friend that I am, I come out and helped him celebrate the only way I know how: By schooling his dumb-ass at Texas Hold 'Em!

This time around, there were 26 players, and with an insanely slow blind structure, it took us just over 6 hours to find a winner. I gave it everything I had, but fell just short, finishing second to Joy's cousin Chris. Still, I'm very happy with my placement.

So, what does it take to win a multi-table tournament? Here's a quick list for wannabe poker stars like my friend Jon:
  • Luck: Unfortunately, even if you make the correct decisions, you still need to get by lady luck in order to come out on top. I needed the river to help me twice, once to win an overcard/underpair race, and again to save me from a messed up bluff (Queen-Jack beat Ace-King on the river when a 10 gave me the straight). On the flipside, I never got sucked out by anybody at any point in the tourney. I was blessed with a well-timed pair of pocket aces, and more strong A-x combinations than I can count.
  • Shifting gears: Something that I paid a lot of attention to this tournament was how loose or tight I was playing. Typically, I like to play loose, because as the saying goes, "you gotta be in it to win it." But you can't bleed yourself dry, so I made sure to stay disciplined and fold sub-par holdings until I won a pot, or at least until I was in late position.
  • Bluffing: I picked my spots and stole mad pots. The biggest bluff had me all-in on the river, against a player who hit the board (he had a pair of 10s, but there were two nines on the flop). He folded, and I took down a monster pot.
But what happened at the end? I had just tripled up the previous hand, by going all-in blind, and ending up with pocket 10s. Horseshoe up my butt, anyone? That play knocked out the third place finisher, leaving just me and Chris. Now, you gotta understand, I was tired as fuck at this point. I couldn't even multiply 2 by 3, and I had a hard time counting out my chips. On top of that, I was the shorter stack between the two of us.

So the plan was to play ultra aggressive the first few pots, at least until I felt I didn't own that short a stack. Before the cards were dealt, I had committed to going all-in with whatever I had. The only problem: Chris was first to act. My plan should have changed if his move was to raise (which is exactly what he did). My tiredness caught up with me, and stupidly decided to call with a hand I shouldn't have called with. It was a 4-6 of spades! It was suited, which my tired brain concluded gave me a shot at winning. Chris had pocket fives, and 5 cards later, it was all done.

So there you have it, my story of poker glory (and buffoonery). I'll be back next year Jay, let's do it again!

No comments: