Safdar Poker Tournament Boot Camp, Day One

(Some of the terms in this post refer to the concept of "M" from Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie’s seminal 3 volume set on poker tournament strategy.  When sitting in a tournament, "M" is the cost to sit at the table for one orbit, and includes both blinds and the antes.  Depending on your M, you need to shift your play radically.)

9:30am: $65 NL Hold’em freezeout at the Paris, placed 3rd out of 15 players for $188 prize
I played well in the first tournament of the trip.  Spent a lot of time between 5 and 11 M and appropriately I tended to push my stack in instead of trying to limp into a flop and crippling my stack when it missed me.  I dodged a big bullet early on when I raised, got 4 callers, and then watched the flop pair up and bring two flush cards.  Both those hands were out there, and both of them beat me.  I calmly let the hand go, and man was I smart about that.  It was the second level and if I’d gotten married to it I would have been out.

When down to 3 people I was the most aggressive.  I finally got put out when I pushed another player all in and we showed her J9 vs my QJ.  The flop brought a Jack, but the river brought a 9 and I was out in 3rd place.  Cashing on my first tournament was sweet.

Noon: $33 NL Hold’em Freezeout at Luxor, placed 25th out of 30 for $0
This tournament is basically a live turbo.  I didn’t adjust well and got caught when the blinds went up before I noticed and was immediately down to 2 M (2 orbits).  I had nothing to maneuver with, and I was out when the two random cards I pushed in failed to hit anything.

1:30pm: $65 NL Hold’em Freezeout at Paris, placed 1st out of 30 for $709 prize
This tournament clinched my status as a poker jerk.  I was by far the most aggressive player at the table, and spent two long spans as chipleader.  When it was down to four (top five got paid) the other chipleader and I ended up putting the small stacks all in and then checking down the hand.  Finally when it was just the two of us he begged me to chop the prizes.  I refused over and over again.  (If you know me, you know I want to play it out, I never want to make a deal.  It’s not the money, I want first place.)

Thing is, we both had to pee really badly, and they weren’t doing breaks any more.  At the start of each hand I’d take a bottle of water the waitress brought me and shake it loudly, so he could hear the sound of water.  It was in jest, but I was also outplaying him.  I pushed almost every hand, and he folded to half of them, which meant I was constantly accumulating chips, which let me come back twice when he caught a hand on the board.

Finally I agreed to let him take a break and we both agreed to come out of the bathroom at the same time, with the obligatory, "no, you first…oh no, I couldn’t, you first."  We were gone long enough that they dealt out one of our hands for us (I lost).  Finally I pushed him in with two random cards and hit the higher one, and I was the winner.  I bought him a shot of my favorite (cold patron silver tequila) where he told me that all poker tournaments are a crapshoot.

No, not exactly.  Your mileage may vary.

6:00pm: $80 NL Hold’em Freezeout at the Mandalay Bay, placed 5th out of 20 for no prize
This was a hard tournament.  You get 1,000 chips at 25/50 blinds to start, which means that you begin the tournament in the Orange zone, and immediately lose the ability to limp with small or medium pairs.  I ended up doing well though, pushing while my stack was big enough to scare people, and slowplaying quads to double up at one point.  (I actually induced a bluff with quads.  I so rock.)

By the final table I was stuck acting behind the big stack and it really warped my game.  He was raising a lot to the point where my all in moves really functioned just as calls, and would only encourage others into the pot, as opposed to winning it right there.  I played aggressively through the bubble and ended up going out 5th when I had an M of 2 and no good options.  They paid 4 places and so I got a reason to beat myself up for the rest of the night since I made it pretty deep but didn’t win any money.

All in all a good day.  I’m going to try to hit tournaments at 8am (Stratosphere), 11am (Sahara), 2pm (Planet Hollywood), and 7pm tomorrow.