Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Strangest Tournament Evah

Let's start with a sidebar on the last poker diary for a while... I think I've finally figured out the secret to successful tournament play, having finally taken down a crown last night. Step one is to raise on the button with a middling pair (in this case, 9s.) Step two is to call the big blind all-in raise, knowing that if you miss, you still have 10 big blinds and a prayer. Step three is to see a big pair (in this case, kings) and be utterly and completely convinced of your stupidity, as well as your inevitable defeat. Step four is to see nothing on the flop and turn. And step five is to be visited by the two-out Luck God on the river.

There's a special feeling of almost tilt that happens when you put a ridiculous beat on someone; that it might be your night for no good reason, that you are due some return payback later that will make this seem kind, and that you should go find the guy you sucked out on and apologize. All of which is noise, of course, but I almost always find that any tournament where I go deep has at least one Better Lucky Than Good moment that gets me deep. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Anyway, fast forward to the final table, which is where the strangeness really began. With six players left in the final event for the 2011 points championship in my home game, I needed to not just win this thing, but also knock out the points leader before anyone else went out. So I had to win enough hands to stay alive, but only against bigger stacks, since any small stack knows my situation and can just raise all-in to watch me fold, since the yearly prize is 4X the size of tonight's tournament.

And this situation actually holds for the better part of an hour, as the small stack to my left cheerfully raises his way back to relevance, between me needing to fold to him and the two points leaders playing super tight. And it almost works, as the points leader goes card-dead and has to play super-conservative himself, since he knows that a knockout takes the cash out of his hands... but eventually his short-stacked A-8 holds over a called A-3, and then K-K gets paid and takes him out of the danger zone. Ah well, it was a nice dream. And it all goes away when the second-place points leader loses a race on the river, taking the last two contenders out in one hand.

I can't say I'm all that disappointed, really: my tournament play has been been so weak this year, and the luck was not good, either. And on some level, I'm glad we don't play for these kinds of stacks more than once a year; it would not, I think, do good things for the camaraderie of the group. And the amazing thing about this kind of tournament is that even though there's big cash on the table, it just seems like it came out of the ether, rather than be something that was built for you over a span of many years. It's a kind of magic, really. And while I didn't take down the biggest pot of the night, luck stayed with me in the cash game, adding up to a Saving Christmas kind of experience. I Love Poker After All! That, or winning money. Probably the latter.

We'll start all of this again on January 20, with new tournament chips (the old ones are going to cash game only status), new blinds structures, deep stack, turbo, mixed games and even Omaha, and eventually some facilities upgrades as well. It's all coming together. Just so long as I keep hitting two-outers on the river...

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