You Win Some, You Lose Some

I tried my hand at the SNG tables again tonight. Did pretty well and took 3rd place in my first game. Feeling a little cocky I decided to pony up to the the multi-table NL tourney being held.

By the time the first card was dealt, there were 302 players seated. I played extra tight and watched as 7 of the first 10 hands resulted in all-ins. That’s a little too aggressive for me, especially on a NL table where one bad move and you’re out. But, I guess people were trying to take full advantage of the unlimited re-buys during the first hour. I saw one guy go back in his pockets at least 5 or 6 times. I’m not exactly sure what his strategy was since the payout was only to the top 40 players and even then the prize pool ended up only being $30 or $40 for 31st – 40th place. I guess he must of thought he was going to win big.

Anyway, back to the action. . . I ended the first hour in 24th place out of 220 remaining players. There was a chance to do an add-on for another $10 which I took advantage of seeing as 182 of the 220 remaining players did as well and I would have probably fallen way down in the chip rankings had I opted not to freshen my stack a little.

Of course, I gave back the entire add-on plus some on the second hand back after the break. I had AK and the flop was rags. The only other player in kept betting out at me with medium sized bets. This guy would bet anything though so I wasn’t putting him on anything exceptional. In fact, it’s the previously mentioned guy who went into his pocket 5 or 6 times before the first break. Turn and river are total blanks. He bets out at me on the river and I call. He flips up A5 and takes down the pot with a pair of 5’s that hit on the river.

That took me down to about $8000 in chips. After that I couldn’t buy a hand and every pot I went in on I got pushed around on because I simply wasn’t pulling the kinds of cards that would let me bet more confidently. When you pull low pair, two of the cards are suited (and you don’t have any of that suit) and some guy bets $6000, all-in, it takes a set of cahones bigger than mine to call. Forty-five minutes into the second round, I’m in last place and the blinds and antes are eating me alive. I finally get down to about $400 in chips and I’m in by default when the BB hits me. I pull A9 and get a bunch of callers and my ace is good. Next hand in the SB I get KK and pick up 3 callers and the kings hold up. In two hands I went from $400 to $4500. A few hands later I’m up to $13,000. But just as quickly I take a couple of bad beats and then I got stupid on the last hand and practically gave the money away. I had pocket tens, an ace and under cards hit on the flop and the only caller bets out at me with a good sized bet. He was another one of these guys who would bet a crap hand big trying to push people off the pot. In fact, the big bet I read as being weakness. If he had something he would try to keep me in longer. I had seen him show some real junk on the river so I wasn’t really picturing him on the ace. More junk comes on the turn and the river is another ace. I check, he bets and puts me all in. Of course, he turns over an ace. Oh well. It would have seemed like a brilliant read had he turned over junk. :-)

I went out in 72nd place. Not quite in the money. The total prize pool after re-buys and addons was $8640. Obviously, looking back I think I would have taken a different strategy had I had my wits about me. I should have just tightened up my game and waited for more people to drop out. I was actually in the money when I was up around $13,000. I should have sat on that lead instead of trying to win pots. I think I was also a little tweaked from being pushed around for the last 45 minutes. I was watching pots go to high card in hand after hand. Not even a damn pair and guys are going all in. And here I had pocket tens against a guy I knew was guilty of showing down junk. I wasn’t going to let him push me off that pot! Had I looked at it more rationally I would have just mucked my tens on the flop and stayed in another 3 or 4 orbits until I was in the money. I got caught up in playing the hand when I should have been thinking about playing the tournament. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I know better next time.

Not to make excuses but this was only my second or third NL game. I don’t usually play NL even in the SNGs. It’s certainly a different game. If someone gets hyper-aggressive on you in a limit game you still have some control. You know how much it’s going to cost you to see the river and you can make your decisions accordingly. In the long run, the hyper-aggressive player will probably put some additional bets in your pocket if you tighten up and only play your best hands. In NL when someone gets hyper-aggressive all it takes is one hand to wipe you out. It also makes my money hand, the flush draw, almost worthless since anybody who catches a good piece of the flop is going to go all-in, ruining my pot odds for staying in on a four to the nut flush.

All that being said, I think I’m going to keep playing NL multi-table tournaments a bit and see how I like it. I’m not ready to quit cash games but I like the break in tempo. One of the only other multi-table NL games I played in I placed 100 and something out of 11,000 players so I don’t think I totally suck at NL tournament play but I certainly have a lot to learn. First, I think I just need to get my tournament game down. I still catch myself making moves that are correct in cash games but totally incorrect in tournament play. I also need to get some NL experience under my belt. NL is mechanically similar to limit but strategy-wise is almost a totally different game. I think reading the other players at the table is much more important in NL. Learning to play thier hands instead of yours. I’m far from where I want to be in my limit cash play but you can almost be robotical and if there are enough fish at the table you can make money. But in a NL tourney, those fish disappear via elimination and you have to play against the other sharks sooner or later. In fact, that previously mentioned guy reaching for his wallet every few hands . . . I took him all in three times in that first hour and beat him all three times. After the break he was gone in less than one orbit and I had to start earning my pots which is one of the reasons I went from being in 24th place to being in last place in less than 45 minutes. The table ATM had left and I had to find a new fish.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll be sitting next to Phil Ivey at the final table of a WPT event :-)

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.