I return to my efforts in the SCOOP low buyin ($109) main event. In part one I had managed to build a big chip stack with a combination of brazen aggression and running well. Having a clear chip lead on my table, I continued to steal, squeeze and 3bet mercilessly, knowing that I had everyone covered and in such a prestigious tournament people are often loath to put their tourney life on the line without the nuts. In the middle part of the tournament I managed to continue to build my stack up from 1.5k to pass the million mark, thanks in no small part to running well, although again my laggy image helped as did winning a lot of pots without showdown.
Hand 1: Pocket Rockets again
Having had no real hands for a while I wake up on the button with the Aces and see an early position open. I had been squeezing a lot. My image was aggro. They say if you are going to slow play a big hand it is better to do it with Kings than Aces. This is a broad generalisation, but in tournament play facing strong looking early position open deep-stacked I agree. When you 3bet this open from late position you will find that most competent players (rightly or wrongly) will be reluctant to put the 4th bet in (for value) with less than KK. They may even flat call QQ or AK. You block Kings, there are only two left in the deck. That leaves AA…. Of course the situation is much more complex than that, but this is the basic reasoning: keep their range as wide as possible to include all the weak hands that you are crushing. Further if there are any squeeze-happy players in the blinds you might get lucky see a 3bet, watch the ep open either flat call or fold, then you can back-raise! That’s a long digression, but a little relevant to the following hand which looks like a pretty straightforward cooler.
I see the early open face a hijack 3bet and straight away put out a cold four bet on the button against a fellow big stack, expecting to be played back at or called by a wide range. No reason to slow play – the pot is already big and with the rockets I am not blocking any of the other bigger pairs. 5bet, 6bet shove, call and we have the classic Texas Holdem cooler AA v KK. Honestly in this case I don’t see any way my opponent could have survived with his tournament life, but sometimes with Kings it is possible I think. Still lucky me and a massive pot to build the stack further.
Hand 2: Walking Sticks
Otherwise known as Pocket Jacks and if you want to learn how to play them, try Marty Smith’s expert advice 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP9CBtSW0kA. I’m now up to 270k nearly and a new big stack has joined the table to replace the unlucky villain who busted with his pocket kings in the previous hand. The new villain opens the button for min and the loose small blind player flats. I see the Walking Sticks in the hole. Great squeeze opportunity. But before squeezing, I had to decide what to do if I got action. The reason I felt it was a great squeeze opportunity was that I am going to see a 4bet pretty often as I was sure the button would also recognise that with my big stack I could be doing this with almost any two cards (although this isn’t actually true – I would be flatting a lot of my range here too and taking a flop not wanting to mess around too much with the only other stack that can hurt me on the table).
Sure enough I squeeze and in comes the 4bet from the button. My options:
- Fold – no way
- Call – this is what I think a lot of players in that tournament would do, keeping the opponents bluffs in the pot and set-mining against their stronger hands specifically QQ, KK, AA. But let’s look at the odds – when you play a flop with JJ an over card will hit 57% of the time. I’m out of position, the pot is very big and I will not know where I stand plus what happens when an overcard doesn’t flop and he bets the flop and goes allin on the turn?
- Allin – This was my plan, knowing that I am playing to win a 50k pot without showdown. A 20% stack increase. Yes, sometimes I’m crushed against a bigger pair, but even then I have 20% equity if the chips go in and the likelihood of that is very low given the action, the relative positions of the players and game-flow. Further it may elicit a loose call from TT or 99 and folds from AQ, KQ and many other hands with at least 1 over card and decent equity post flop. I’m risking a big portion of my stack but not my tournament life and would still have an average stack in the event of disaster.
In the event I shoved and he snap-folded. For the record I don’t like the click back rather than shove as this could elicit either a loose call or a shove with overcards wasting fold equity.
Hand 3: Aces Cracked
It’s folded to me on the button and I have 87s – a lovely button hand, I open for min and see a 3bet from the big blind. Now this villain was tight. I can’t remember seeing him mess with me or anyone else up to this point. We are not deep enough for a 4-bet bluff as I can easily get blown off my hand and make his easier to play out of position with shallower stacks. I’m not good at folding, especially with such a lovely button hand and a big stack. He has around 35-40 BB and does not necessarily have all big pairs in his range. And if he does, I have just the hand to crack them! If he doesn’t I may be able to win the pot post flop anyway.
I call and the flop comes A69 1heart giving me an open-ender and backdoor flush draw, a lot of equity against any hand, but ahead of almost none plus the Ace will have hit him often. This is not a bad thing because it means I am likely to get paid if I make my hand. He bets a friendly small bit more than 3rd pot. Funnily enough a general read I got in this tournament was that in 3bet pots villains tended to bet bigger with bluffs on the flop and smaller with value. I was able to take down a couple of uncontested pots by clicking back these large continuation bets and seeing a snap fold. Nonetheless, the villain doesn’t have to have the Ace, and raising may elicit a fold from his weaker hands, but would price me in to call a shove and getting a lot of my stack in the middle with the worse hand. However, weaker hands I can float and maybe achieve the same by betting turn or river if checked to. Stronger hands containing an Ace usually, I can draw against and hope to hit.
So I call. I was running well in this tourney and the turn is the beautiful T making me the nuts. Villain bets less than half pot. I’m not sure what I think about this given his actual holding (top set). He is giving drawing hands odds to draw, but then keeping made hands in, but he’s out of position and what happens when he sees a 7, 8, Q, K, J on the river. He will shove for sure, but not knowing if he is definitely ahead. Still I’m not sure there is a better option, illustrating the power of position. I decide to call his bet. If I had known his actual holding, I would have shoved here as it’s obviously the best play against top set preventing that from drawing to a full house. His timing and sizing did feel suspicious, but I was definitely thinking that my opponent has AK or AA here (no not even AQ) and there are twice as many combinations of AK as there are AA (12 vs 6). Against AK the best play is 100% to call. It is drawing dead and there is less than a pot sized bet on the river left which I could always put in if my opponent fails to oblige. Even AA is drawing thin here to a full house at 20% making the call the best play overall, but still I am pretty certain I would have called off on almost any river including a paired one. The river was a blank and he shoved very quickly leaving me to inform him of the bad news with a swift click of the call button. If only poker was always that easy. Makes the nuts and just keep clicking call until you have all the chips.
Hand 4: A million chips!
After more chipping up thanks to a good run of hands including getting my button raise shoved on by J8o for 14bb when holding aces, the following hand came up.
Under the gun +1 (UTG+1) opens for min and a very short player goes allin for his last big blind and a player calls in late-position (LP). I’m in the big blind and see AQ. I really wanted to squeeze here. The problem was that I hadn’t seen the utg+1 player open that much, although relying on your hud in these tourneys can be counter-productive given small sample sizes . Nonetheless it does help and you can quickly identify those who are looking to be aggressive and 3betting a lot. I doubted the late-position player was slow playing/trapping with a monster, but at the same time the pot is not that big (the bigger the greater incentive to win it without a flop) given the allin player has only one bb and I would be very scared of a 4bet. So I called playing my hand for its value, slightly disguised as it is almost at the top of a very wide calling range here. The flop was not good T87 rainbow. I thought if anyone bets I’m out. Yes there are quite a few semi-bluffs that could bet here, but plenty of strong hands too and the semi-bluffs such as JQ have plenty of equity even if I do manage to get to showdown against them (I would have to fold to a 2nd barrel on virtually any card I miss which is most). So I check and slightly surprisingly the UTG+1 checks, so straight away I am putting him on a hand like mine or a low pair, of course he can have me dominated with AK if we get to showdown, but that’s only one part of his range. I don’t think he has a big pair any more. It’s very unlikely he would slow play such a hand on this board. Late-position checks too which makes me think he has a hand like mine too or a smaller pair. Anything in between hits this board in some way. Even 66 would be a legitimate stab when checked to here. I think I would have bet it in LP’s shoes. So we see a turn, which is the Ace. Nice! Still I’m not going to get carried away with this hand, as AK is definitely in the UTG+1’s range, so I bet around 1/3 pot hoping for UTG+1 to fold. LP is unlikely to have me dominated so I’m fine with him calling. And so it transpires. UTG+1 folds his hand and LP calls. UTG+1 must have had a small pair. Looks like LP has a hand like mine or maybe some drawing hand with equity that he decided not to semi-bluff the flop with. The river pairs the ten and I have a decision.
- Check-call a reasonable sized bet
- Bet-fold to a big raise
The problem or me was that although I didn’t think a ten was very likely at all or any full-house with a slow-played set on the flop, I couldn’t find a lot of hands that I beat which would also call a bet. He might decide to turn one of his drawing hands into a bluff and frankly because my hand looks like it could easily have a ten in it and I would know he would know that (and he might know that I would know he knows …) it would put me in a horrible position. Still this might be paranoia and the pot is already a decent size, but I don’t want to miss a value bet if there is one and an opportunity to grab some more chips. His hand actually looks a hell of a lot like AJ. It’s the only value hand that calls the pre flop raise, checks the flop behind and calls a bet on the ace. He might also have AQ although less likely as in MP you may want to put in a 3bet pre flop to get the pot heads-up in position (folding to a 4bet there is fine as you are almost always beat). Slow-played AK – again maybe, but by far the most consistent holding with the action thus far is AJ or maybe a smaller suited ace. It would probably call one smallish bet, but may fold to a large one as my hand range is very strong being in the BB and betting the Ace into two players who could easily have that in their range. In the end I guess I bottled it, knowing that check-check would be enough to put me beyond the million mark and seeing very few hands that could call me whilst hating the prospect of facing a raise. Check- check and LP mucks AJo. As is often the case everyone played their hand exactly as you would expect, but maybe I missed a small value bet. I’m not sure what I think about flat-calling with AJo in late-position v an an early position raise. It’s questionable but if your stack is not too deep, you may not want to risk losing too many chips pre with a 3bet. Generally however I would prefer 3bet or fold.
And so past the million mark and for sure in the top 50 or so of chips in or around the money bubble. Part 3 is the push for a big prize as the average stack starts to get much shorter and the action a lot more tense.