I’ve had an unusual percentage of tournament cashes lately, most recently 6th at the Hard Rock’s 25k Guarantee Friday game (210 players). Could it be that poker is actually a game of skill!? I don’t think it’s just that I happen to be getting better cards, or that I’m on a lucky streak. I think it’s that I’m playing better. At the end of the year, I listed all of my leaks and vowed to fix them one at a time, and I think it’s paying off. Generally when I leave a game, I can think of many things I did wrong, and usually it was in the hand just before the hand that knocked me out. This time, I really think I played optimally, that is to the best of my current ability. Over the course of our poker lives, I think we all have a similar distribution of good and bad cards, lucky suckouts and bad beats. It’s how we play them, and I’m seeing that pay off in 7 cashes in the past month.
Played the second Day One (of three) at the Isle of Capri yesterday, and imagine my surprise to arrive at my table to find Mike Matusow, Chino Rheem and two Mizrachis. Was this the table from hell? Was I the only non-pro? As it turned out, Matusow was seat 10 and I was in 9…the other guys were just hanging with Mike, but seated at other tables. I really wanted to be focused for this event, The Florida State Poker Championship, and the chaos wasn’t helping. I generally have the table figured out and am relaxed and in sync within one round, but with all of the attention to our table, people taking pictures, asking for autographs, etc., it was difficult.
There’s definitely a reason Matusow is called the Mouth. He pretty much took over the table talk-wise, and at first I tried to resist, headserts blaring some 50 Cent, whatever I could do to manage the mayhem, but finaly had to go with the flow. Matusow is in town to give a seminar today on deepstack play, and I really felt like I got a private coaching session. As often happens with table neighbors, Mike shared his every thought, many privately with me. I appreciated his tips regarding my game and was super-impressed with the way he breaks down a hand. His managed control of betting had an influence on our table and got people in line with the blinds, so rather than betting $700 pre on a 50 BB level, people were making it a more reasonable $150, maybe $200. Mike said the biggest mistake he saw at the table was players not understanding bet sizing. The two guys who were willing shovers were quickly gone which was crazy at a format this good.
I didn’t play my usual game, but one of the great things about poker is, it’s never the same. One must constantly adapt, and this was a really different table for me. I probably wasn’t aggressive enough, folded to three bets too much, and in my defense, hit very few hands. That said, I made it to Day Two (tomorrow), although not with a very good stack, although many of the other players who made it until the 10 p.m. cutoff were in the same boat. We’re starting tomorrow at the 800 BB level, and I’ve come back from short stacks to cash before. Hopefully tomorrow will be one of those days.
I think my 4 handed online addiction on Stars is paying off. In that game since you’re always the small or big blind, the gun or the button, you learn a lot about each position and also get lots of action. Most hands are pretty playable 4 handed so you have lots of opportunities to make mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. I definitely think my hand-reading skills have improved, although it’s weird how even when you’re pretty sure what someone has, you can still make a bad play. That’s a leak I’m working on.
For some reason, the weakest floor person at the Hard Rock seems to be the one in charge of the final table during these guaranteed games. After you’ve played eight or nine hours to make a final, you want someone who can run the game competently and who can be at the minimum, pleasant. During a table move I lost a 5K chip. I went back to my old table and everyone helped look for it, and I brought it to the attention of the person running the last tables, but finally gave up. In about 10 minutes, everyone from my old table was shouting…..”we found your chip, it was under the whatever”, and the TD got it but said she couldn’t give it to me. Needless to say, craziness ensued. Finally she threw the chip on the table at my new spot, and I think I forgot to say “thank you”.
With cash games on the way, I hope the rooms here improve by educating their dealers on the right and consistent policies, and by having staff who can professionally run the games. And a little of the Vegas customer service wouldn’t hurt.
Coming in 12th out of 159 (17 paid due to the guarantee), wasn’t what I hoped for after 8 hours.
This is always a great game and was even better on the 15th because the levels were 30 minutes, instead of the usual 20 minutes. Also, lately tournaments have been run better with more oversight and rule enforcement which was much needed. That said, this particular game was a bit out of control by my standards. Too much running around and people not in the game getting involved, etc. I especially wished when it got down to the final, that a better floor person was there (when it’s Nick, he watches the final table which I think is great). Scot and Richard stay pretty on top of things too, but they weren’t there at the end. Also, at this final, we had one of the worst dealers which does make a difference. The Hard Rock has so many terrific dealers with a few duds, so that kind of sucked.
The game started on two floors, then moved upstairs, and finally to the small upstairs room with 3 tables…then down to one! I had around 270,000 in chips which was very competitive and at many times during the last three tables, was the chip leader at my table. Boy, things change so fast at a final table.
-suddenly you’re with all the big stacks, and in this case some really good players
-people are getting knocked out, so just when the blinds are huge compared to your stack, you’re somewhat short-handed and in the blinds more often.
I really had my eye on spots 1,2 or 3 which basically means part of a good chop, but was sick to be knocked out 8th. Poker really is like race car driving, one miscalculation and you’re dead. That analogy carries further in that you’re always watching for a hole to race ahead through. Can’t wait to try again.
Running good, I’ve made 4 final tables this month. The cashes were in some fairly big fields for weekly games (250, 230, 80 and 80). This has given me a chance to think about some situations that come up after the bubble and near the final that we regular players just experience every so often. Here are some thoughts:
Level time matters: Of course we all know this, but so many people continue to play bad format games. I think a big reason for my string of cashes is that the Hard Rock (Florida) added 10 minutes to their Friday game levels (from 20 minutes to 30 minutes).This has made a huge difference to me in two ways: I play better in that time frame, and many people play worse.The other two cashes for me were at Dania where the levels are also 30 minutes but the blind structure isn’t as good as the Hard Rock. Dania skips many blinds so they go up much faster. This is true at the Isle as well. Gets very fast after the break
The worst, and critical time: You certainly have to play well the whole tournament, but when the game is down to say 3 tables with maybe 24 players and you’re playing short-handed at huge blind levels with the need to keep up but also want to make the final…that’s an awful time. The blinds are coming around way too fast and you can’t wait to break into two ten handed tables. Luckily, at one of the games I had a huge chip stack at this point so I wasn’t in as difficult a position. However, a big stack is hard to play there too. You don’t want to sit back and miss opportunities, but you have more to lose and have to be super-thoughtful.
Suddenly at the big stacks meet at the final: Or at least it seems sudden. You’ve been the big stack at your table, then when you move to the final you see the real situation. You’re about average! Or at least there are several other stacks in your range. Again, a strategy adjustment, but now the blinds are astronomical.
Making these finals so close together has been a great chance to think about all the challenges that come up. Can’t wait to make another one so I can put this experience to continued good use.
Let me know any “near the final” thoughts or tips you might have please.
Played a $100 game at Dania last Tuesday night. There were 70 people so seven places paid. Dania recently changed their policy of paying out to ten players if there were over fifty entries which I think is good. It increases the payout and makes it somewhat more worthwhile to make it to the top 10%.
At around midnight, we were down to the final table. (This was my 5th final in a row so I really wasn’t expecting it.) It was pretty quickly agreed that we’d wait for a few of the short stacks to bust out before talking about any chop. The prize pool was around $5,600 as I recall. There was one pretty big chip leader (he kept falling asleep at this point), a few smallish stacks and around 3 mediums of which I was one.
It was suggested that we all take $800, but the chip leader wanted $1,000 or he was just going to sleep it out. It each player contributed $35 the additional $200 would be there to end the game. We were tired, the lights kept going out which felt a lot like closing time, there was one cash table going, but most importantly, it’s crazy to play down to the end at these high blind levels we were facing given the chips in play. I’m sure the pros would have chopped here, and everyone I’ve talked to who plays way more than I do says a chop is the only way to go. It’s bingo nw. We could just play our cards up and the best hand dealt wins. The room for real poker has passed.
There was one hysterical woman who wouldn’t stop talking about the times she was on the bubble and no one paid her, so she didn’t even hear that we actually had a deal: one guy and me offered to give up $100 each to make the chop happen, and I had chips. Finally, reason prevailed. But it reminded me of the problems with such amateur games. The tournament director was paying very little attention to the final table at all, ignoring requests for water. Dania really needs to get its floor act in order to keep the steady players coming. There are plenty of good games now, and while the room at Dania is nice (and I seem to be one of the only people who think so), I don’t think this amateur-hour is going to fly much longer without some professional attention.