Yes this is primarily a FLO8 blog, but we do dabble in NLH from time to time, especially when events like SCOOP come along. Even for the low $109 ME, you should have a hefty bankroll to be able to buy in direct, so I decided to try the satellites and at the 2nd attempt (after cruelly bubbling on the 1st) I managed to qualify in a $1 rebuy. These rebuy satellites are great value in my view. Too many players just go wild from the word go and around 1/3 to ½ of the field is usually gone, despite the fact they can rebuy, before the add-on break. I buy in as late as possible and try to make the add-on with a playable stack. After that 2 double ups is often enough to ensure qualification without playing any more hands.
So to the main event. 220k first prize, full of PokerStars Pros and Online Grinders, but also lots of qualifiers and chancers. My approach is generally LAG (Loose and Aggressive) but in an MTT, you should definitely be constantly modifying your play to match the requirements of the table you are on and the stack you are playing. I was playing only one table and this really makes a big difference in the quality of my reads and situational play. Here are some key hands.
Hand one: Pocket Rockets in the Big Blind
This was the first hand I played and woke up with the rockets in the BB. The open was from UTG, but I think I have to raise despite it looking very strong and hope the Villain has a big hand. Still we are 300BB deep, I don’t want to go mad here with an overpair. The KQx flop is decent in that it is likely to have hit his range, but already there are a couple of hands I am behind such as QQ which is plausible (300bb deep flatting a strong looking 3bet with QQ is a reasonable play) or KQs. Still the majority of his range either missed or caught a piece (Aq, AK, draws etc..) and will call behind. So a value bet is in order. Bet, call. The turn J clubs is nasty making a flush, several two pair and some gutters that floated the flop. Time to check, pot control, catch some bluffs or incorrect value bets (Kx etc.). Check, Check. The river brings a four card straight improving my hand but reducing his calling range mainly to chopped pots with a broadway straight. Still I could bet this, but early on in the tourney, I decided there was very little value in betting and some bluff-catching potential. Check, check and he shows K8s for a very loose UTG open and I win a small pot.
Hand 2: 4-bet bluff
The very same villain just a few hands later finds himself on the button and I am on the cutoff with 46s. Not a monster, but I am definitely opening this in late position. Plenty of potential to win a big pot with a disguised hand. However the villain makes a small 3bet on the button. I’m not liking 46s so much any more. I don’t fancy calling this hand and playing a pot out of position without the initiative, so options are fold or 4bet. But I just saw the same guy open K8s UTG. I opt for the 4bet and make it a sizeable reraise from 250 to 1000, as I want a fold or to apply pressure quickly on the flop given my positional disadvantage and the deep stacks. The flop is good. A43 making me a pair, but also back door flush and straight possibilities, along with outs to two pair or trips in the event I am behind. Of course I can represent the ace too making him fold many hands with equity against my weak middle pair. Time for a good sized bet to apply the pressure. 1200 into 2075. Villain calls. His range now includes a lot of aces, but I think probably some middle pairs up to JJ or even QQ would call 1 bet at least and fold the turn. The turn is a deuce improving my hand further. I now have outs to two pair, trips and a straight against a pair of aces. I’m probably behind but implied odds are big with this concealed holding. I make another big bet, a bit more than half pot, expecting to fold out all hands not containing an ace more or less and intending to shove any river that improves my hand, as his range is more or less capped at top pair. The river is a beauty. The 5 putting a wheel on the board, but making me a bigger straight. I quickly ship allin for a pot-sized bet representing a bluff trying to get him off the chop. The villain buys it and snap-calls with AK and gets the bad news. AK is a very hard hand to play 300bb deep with heavy action pre flop. Still I am sure he was regretting not putting in the 5th bet pre flop which would have moved me off my marginal holding. And off to a flying start with a double up in the very first level.
Hand 3: Set over Set
Not much to say here except I was running well – you need to catch these cooler hands to help progression in a huge MTT such as this. Also playing 22 out of position without the initiative deep in a 3bet pot isn’t much fun. My opponent hit his set and was crushed. I wonder if it’s better just to give them up pre-flop. Deep stacked very few good things can happen. You miss the flop 7/8 times and check fold. 1/8 times you hit a set, but when you do how much value do you get deep. You are seldom going to get your opponents, unless weak, to stack off with the worst hand and when the money does go in you are often drawing thinly or close to dead. So it proved here, when my top set of tens held to fade the case deuce and another payer eliminated.
Hand 4: addicted to Ace Baby suited
I had been playing my big stack opening a lot and had lost around 5.5k when a resteal stack shipped light on my JJ with Q9s and sucked out. But I was still sitting on a very decent stack and my image at the table was very laggy. A lot of decent players are in the Scoop main and I was getting a fair amount of action against my opens. Still when I see AXs especially Ax when x<6, and it is deepstacked, I will be opening as these hands have fantastic implied odds for hidden two pairs straight and most importantly flush over flush. Unfortunately an aggro villain 3bets my open in position. Again there are only two choices: raise or fold. Calling is far too weak with such a marginal hand. I was folding some of my range to these 3bets, 4betting the top of my range for value, calling some strong hands which I felt could play a flop against their range e.g. AQ or KQs, JJ. A3s definitely went into my 4-bet bluff range. I will often take it down pre, but have the initiative and some implied odds post.
I 4bet a reasonable size but this time it doesn’t need to be nearly as big because stacks are shallower with the villain having around 65BB. He flat-calls in position, I think still with a reasonably wide range, given the smaller 4bet and his perceived implied odds. Of course he may have some slow plays too. This wasn’t the first time I had 4bet on that table. The flop is again great, A24 with top pair with gutshot and backdoor flush draw. Time to build a pot. I’m not worried about getting raised. I’m blocking an ace, but if he does have top pair he’ll probably just call, giving me the chance to outdraw and potentially stack him later. I bet a bit less than half pot, leaving just over a pot sized bet on the turn. He calls. What does this mean? As with the earlier hand he has some aces, but now much fewer because of card elimination (there are only two left in the deck) and big pairs. I think he is raising one of the two very unlikely sets (44,22 which he may well have just folded pre to the 4-bet). The turn is great too, 8d. I now have top pair, a gutshot and a flush draw. If he has me beat at this stage with a better Ace I have:
- 3 two pair outs
- 3 gutshot straight outs
- 9 flush outs
The pot is now very big and I have 30% equity against the top of his range which is enough to apply maximum pressure. My options:
- Check – I think check-calling is far too weak, and I will be in a very awkward spot out of position on the river if my hand doesn’t improve, equally if he checks back I have to improve on the river to win more assuming he calls the river bet in that scenario
- Betting small – allows him to come over the top occasionally losing any fold equity or to call again making the river play very hard on cards which don’t improve me
- Allin – it’s a pot-sized bet, I’m representing AK / AA, he may fold hands such as AT, AJ (or so I thought) or he might make a bad call, either way I will realise the full equity of my hand and see the river – I’m big stacked – if I lose the pot I still have a playable 35/40bb stack, so it’s time to apply maximum pressure
Of course I’m also representing a bluff pretty well as the turn brings more draws. I could have various combo draws and gut shots. This fact was not lost on my opponent who read this big bet as such and tank-called with QQ without a diamond giving himself just one non-diamond queen to hit on the river and a whopping 2% equity. Gratefully my hand held and stack grew.
Hand 5: Who is table boss?
We are now level 6 and unfortunately some eliminations had brought a fellow big stack to my direct left and he wasn’t about to let me continue stealing everyone’s blinds and antes. Here he took an early opportunity to apply pressure to my smaller big stack by 3-betting my cut-off open on the button. My holding? Q5s. Not a monster, but definitely an open in late position for me with this stack size.
I decided I needed to set the ground rules early to avoid him running over me with his larger bludgeon of a stack and put in another 4bet pre. He won’t want to play for stacks against me without a very strong holding, so the chances are he’ll fold or we’ll see a flop when I can take it down. Obviously it’s an easy fold to a 5bet and I’m still alive and kicking with a very healthy stack. In that scenario I would have tightened up a lot and played waiting for a hand given my positional disadvantage over the larger stack.
The villain flat-calls. Again he could do this with a very wide range. Probably the vast majority of his 3betting range including suited connectors, pairs and some bigger hands.
The flop is KJ3 rainbow with one heart giving me a runner straight draw and back-door flush draw. More importantly than that, it hits my ‘perceived range’ much much harder than his. I have all the sets, KK, JJ, AK, AA in my range. I bet praying for a fold, but he raises a bit more than min, which frankly should have been all he needed to do to take the pot down as we are starting to get quite shallow in this inflated pot. My first instinct was to give it up and tighten up, but then on thinking about it, he really is not representing a lot here. He either needs to have slow played a big hand such as KK pre or pot controlled JJ pre flop to justify the raise. He could have KJ for example. BUT and this is a very big BUT, with stacks so shallow and such a strong holding, plus position, he would very likely just call these hands to my bet trapping and hoping to keep my weaker hands in the pot. Yes, occasionally I’m stuffed, but I think this a blatant bluff the vast majority of the time, let’s say around 90%. Much of that is air, some gut shots and maybe QT for an open ender. But even QT (which I have one blocker to) he would more likely call, not wanting to get it allin for 100+BB very bad against the top of my range with just a straight draw. Stacks are becoming very shallow though and I don’t want to risk my stack in case he does have the value. If he’s bluffing he should give it up to any raise. So I click it back and he folded after a short pause.
That was a big hand, where I added 30% to my stack without a showdown and two random cards, whilst at the same time pacifying my main opposition on the table. Things were running well.