Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Grand Prix Qualifying - more exciting than F1

No posts this month thus far as I've been playing mostly NL cash games, which have been quite uneventful. This is probably a good thing, as the 'interesting' games I played last month contributed to a total loss in July of nearly £1,100. This included all poker: cash, tournaments and live, and also included £150 of free bonus money which gives an indication of how crap it was. I knew I'd lost a bit in NL cash (nearly £500) but, until I added it all up, I wasn't aware that my MTT losses were £500 as well. Eleven goes in the Crypto £15K at £33 a shot and not even one finish in the top 100, let alone in the cash. The poor results in MTTs continued until Sunday...

It started well when I won a Cruise Qualifier on Ladbrokes. OK, so there were only 12 entrants, but it was my first MTT win for ages and it puts me into a Cruise final tomorrow night. In the evening I decided to give the William Hill Grand Prix Final a chance - £66 for a go at appearing in a televised tourney. I nearly didn't bother paying the money as I was cooking my dinner but my decision to register was to prove wise.

There were 106 entrants fighting for one ticket to the Grand Prix in October - 2000 chips and a 20 minute clock meant there was no immediate rush. I could afford a nice quiet start, which was spoilt by getting AA on the third hand. There were 4 limpers on the 6-seater table and I raised to 160 on my BB. The UTG player (Badger23) called and the flop was JJK. I checked and called a bet of 280. The turn is another King, and I decide I'm done with the hand - he's almost certainly got a Jack or a King, so I check and fold to his bet. Four hands later I make my losses plus a bit more back when my JT hits two pair on a JTA flop and I win chips from someone who I assume has a lone Ace.

1400 chips come my way when someone goes all-in on the flop with bottom pair and a flush draw and I call with my overpair (QQ) which holds up. I make a mistake by calling a river bet from someone on a 9AAA3 board with nothing but King-high (he had TT). I've noticed this isn't the first time I've done this recently, so I must stop calling a bet when I can only beat a bluff.

With the blinds at 25/50 I get in a raised pot with 3 others with 54 offsuit (I limped, then called a 2BB raise). Flop is 963 rainbow, giving me an open straight draw. The pre-flop raiser bets 150 into a pot of 550. There's a fold and then a raise to 750. I thought the reraiser may well be trying to take the pot away from what looked like a continuation bet. Therefore, he probably didn't have much of a hand, so I went all-in, knowing I had outs if I got called. the pre-flop raiser folded and re-raiser had a big think. He said '999', putting me on a set, before folding what he claimed was A9. I didn't believe him for a moment, but it was a nice pot to win with what was essentially 5-high.

At the first break I had 4860 chips and was 13th of 60. At 75/150 I raise to 600 with A3 on the button and get an SB caller. We both check a flop of KQJ and the turn is a 2. He bets 150 into a pot of 1275, which struck me as weak. I raised to 1050 and he called, making the pot 3375. The river is a 5 and my opponent checks. I'm now in a pickle, as I've invested 1/3 of my chips and I've nothing but Ace-high to show for it. A check means I lose the pot, so I decide to follow through with my show of earlier strength and go all-in for 3700. Obviously a very risky play, but it works as he folds. This isn't something I normally do - lately I've been giving up on bluffs if they don't work the first time (admittedly this has been in cash games) but I think I'm more likely to do it in tournaments. There's the obvious risk of going broke but in a big tournament (where people are less likely to think 'sod it' and call) but when the pot is big enough it surely has +EV over checking (which loses the whole pot).

The hand which changes the whole tournament for me happens at 100/200. I'm on the button with 86 hearts and limp behind one other. The BB min raises and three of us call. Flop is K25 (two hearts). SB bets half the pot, and the original raiser calls. I decide to raise it up to 2800, hoping to take the pot down now, but hopefully also buying a free card on the turn if the flush doesn't come. Both players call, resulting in a massive pot. The turn is the 5 of hearts, making my flush, it's checked to me and I go all-in for 4900 into the big pot of 10,000. I get one caller (the pre-flop raiser) who shows KJ. He has no heart and so only another 5 can save him. He's out of luck and I have a huge 19,800 and am leading the tournament with 22 left in.

The best part of an hour goes by with me treading water, picking up the odd pot here and there but not really increasing my stack much. At 150/300 I get KK on the BB. There's an UTG raise to 1200 from a very loose player. I pop it to 3000 and he re-raises to 5700. He has more chips than me, so if he has AA he could knock me out, and his smallish raises look designed to keep me in. However, with the game I'd played thus far I wasn't in the mood to fold KK pre-flop, so I went all-in. He almost immediately called with A8!! Thankfully the other 3 Aces stayed in the deck and I was up to 46,000 chips, with the 2nd of the other 9 players at 32,000.

Five hands later and I'm dealt AK on the BB. There's a single raiser before me, so I re-raise and he goes all-in for 22,000. I call and he shows T7 of hearts!!! This was the most spectacularly bad play I think I've ever seen at this stage of a tournament. Doing a min-raise UTG with this hand is madness, unless he was trying to induce a raise that he could then re-bluff out of the hand. He was under no chip pressure to make a stand - just crazy. His play got what it deserved and I have 68,500 chips.

Nearly an hour later and we're at the final table, with 5 players left. I've worked my chips up to 76,000 by picking up a lot of small, uncontested pots. Pocket rockets come my way and I get all excited. Guy to my right (Badger23, from the first hand where I folded AA) limps and I raise him, which he calls. The flop is T87. He bets, I raise, he reraises me and I call. The turn is another ten and Badger23 goes all-in for 28,000 chips into the pot of 22,500. The little voice in my head (which I'd made a resolution to listen to more, as it's more often than not right) was screaming 'FOLD'. If I had any hand other than AA, I think I would have, but I was probably loath to fold the second pair of Aces I'd got in the tournament. I called and, of course, he had another ten. This knocked me back to 38,000 chips, third of five.

I limp into a hand from the SB with T5 and BB completes. The flop is 925 and I bet (throughout the tournament I've been betting every flop I've caught a piece of - as well as some I haven't). BB calls. Turn is a ten and I bet just under the pot, which is called. River is a beautiful 5 and, again, I bet just under the pot with my full house, which is also called. This recovers most of the chips I lost with the Aces.

The next hand of importance was one where I avoided doing real damage to my stack. Myself and Badger23 saw a flop of AKJ. He checked and I followed with my K7. Turn was an 8 and he bet. I raised him but he called. River was a harmless two and he checked to me, no doubt expecting me to bet his two pair of J8 for him. I checked behind and he took the pot. I could so easily have stuck more chips in on the end - it was the mood I'd been in all night.

With 4 of us left I saw a free flop of 964 with 75. I check-called with my straight draw, which was completed on the turn with a 3. I check-raised, which was called. I bet out on the river, which was also called, and I was up to 93,000 chips. I was chip leader, with Badger23 on 74,000 and the other two on 25,000 and 20,000.

I took out the player on 25,000 chips when he re-raised my cowboys with AQ and we're down to three. We dance for a while, and I increase my stack slightly. Then the shortstack re-raises me all-in with A7. Unfortunately for him I have JJ, which holds up and I'm heads-up with Badger23.

I have 153,000 chips to his 58,000 and he's been playing very passive, so my plan is to hammer him until he raises/re-reraises me, then step out of the way unless I've got a hand. As it happens, our heads-up battle lasts only 4 hands.

I'm dealt J2 diamonds on the SB and raise. Badger calls with AT (Ace of diamonds). The flop comes down T95 all diamonds and he check-raises me all-in with his top pair/nut flush draw. No more diamonds fall and I win the ticket to the TV stage!.

Come October I'll be in a heat up against seven other players - almost certainly all pros. However, I can take comfort from the Ladbrokes Poker Million which was on Sky recently - the final two were some guy who qualified via a freeroll and Helen Chamberlain, who only started playing holdem in March. When it comes to TV events, the pros are not necessarily all that.