Sunday, April 10, 2005

Coach's Corner -- 4/9/05

Editor's Note: Coach made the final table of a MTT on Poker Stars yesterday afternoon. He wrote up his amazing run for his latest edition of Coach's Corner. Enjoy!

There was one letter that didn't make it into Dr. Pauly's mailbag this last go round. Since it was well worth it to hear about how little Timmy won't be needing Viagara any time soon, that may be just as well.

But the letter that wasn't sent sat patiently on a word processor, just in case its author ever felt the time was ripe. It read something like this:

Dear Dr. Pauly:

What do you do when it feels like you can't win no matter what? When everyone around you seems to know how and why you're betting, and always make the right moves against you? Is that a sign that it's time to give it all up and pick up a different game like Pinnochle or Canasta? Have I lost it?

Your pal and faithful reader,


It would take a lot to write a letter like that. But a lot had happened in the past couple of months. Having been down to $0.78 in my online account as of early January, I had taken a $8.22 loan from Gil just so I could keep playing without a rebuy. The fates were well aligned, and the poker gods (and goddesses) were smiling. In the span of 6 weeks, that $9.00 had turned into $418, although winning and placing in sit-and-gos and one multi-table tourney. But then it all came crashing down in a hurry. First there was doing miserably in a pair of live tournaments hosted by Toni hosted at the Townehouse. Then losing to Derek and a pair of nice ladies (no, not his QQ) in the first live NYC WPBT event at the Blue Parrot. Reading something that Derek wrote about that day -- how Pauly and Derek had pegged me as a "rock" who could be counted on to play great hands well, but not to bluff, stuck in my craw. They were right.

I set out to try to reinvent myself, and the results were disastrous. Becoming a loose aggressive maniac simply wasn't an option. But I found myself playing very un-rocklike. And it was not helping my bank account. The $418 dwindled, and then plummetted like the last drop on a good Great Adventure Roller Coaster. Sure, I fought back from numbers like $48 and $61, winning a sit-and-go and winding back up in double digits. But it was inevitable. The cards weren't falling right, and my bluffs were all getting called. Live results weren't much better. By the skin of my teeth, I managed to be up just a little in the latest game at the Blue Parrot. But F-Train again spoke true words in his write up of the game when he noted that "I always know where I stand when Coach is in a pot with me." I couldn't even bluff Ferrari out when I was betting like I had the nuts. So much for being a rock.

But the last straw came late Friday night. I lost two straight sit-and-gos in ninth place -- each time getting rivered with a huge lead going in. I frittered away my last $5.45 at a low-limit NLH table and decided to call it quits. There was exactly $.01 in my account, and a rebuy would have been throwing good money after bad. Thankfully, I have Mrs. Coach, and a mascot (Spot the cat) to cheer me up. But I was still very rumpled -- if not on tilt. If capable players like Derek, F-Train, and Pauly were pegging me correctly, and I couldn't even clean out a table full of half-drunk, overtired lawyers in an NLH tournament, why was I even bothering to play?

I almost clicked send on the letter to Dr. Pauly.

I was too tired to boot up the computer again, though, and got a healthy dose of a good poker player's best friend. Sleep.

I wish I could tell you that I was visited in my dreams by a poker-Muse. Heck, even the Hilton Sisters telling me to feel safe playing QQ in a rock-like fashion would have been helpful. But it didn't happen. But I did find myself with a renewed sense of purpose. I was not going to let a losing streak and the fact that good poker players had "figured me out," slow me down.

I rebought into my account -- for a flat $100 -- in the hopes that it would last me a while. And, with that money available, I logged on and went back to what I thought was "basics." A $1.00 Stud H/L 8 or better tournament. The best way I can describe the results would be "pitiful" or even embarrassing. Imagine Mariano Rivera, having blown two straight saves, getting sent to AAA and getting lit up by the Yankees' farm system opponents. Ouch. I did not even last 30 minutes. The only memorable hand out of the 15 or so I played was losing in a hand that had A, 2, 4, 3, 6, in that order, to two different players who caught the wheel by the turn.

So much for a good night's sleep making the difference.

As I debated my next move, something caught my eye on the upcoming tournament list. A chance to play a $20+2 NLH against something like 600 other players. I was game -- most of my big-time success had been in multi-table tourneys online including a finish at the final table, and even taking second, in lower buy-in affairs. This would put a huge dent in my newly acquired bank roll. But why not take a shot doing what I do best -- playing like a rock in an MTT.

Level 1:

Things started out in typical fashion. I folded through the entire first orbit. In the second orbit, I found myself already down $150 in chips, I braced for what might be another long day.

Later in the level, my lunch was delivered and I had to sit out a couple of hands to collect the food. As I raced back to the table, I saw myself with T-9s in late position. I lunged for the keyboard to put myself back in play, and just barely managed to call in time. I was rewarded with a T-6-4 flop, and a 9 on the turn. Without a flush possibility in sight, I bet $120, and was rewarded both with a call, and an A (creating a flush possibility) on the river. My caller just checked, and I did too. The two pair held up, I had my first win, and was basically back to even -- $1490.

Level 2:

After annoyingly folding 44 to a pair of big raises only to see a 4 fall on the flop, I found myself with ATs in late position. I branched out from rock-likeness and called two small bets in front of me. The flop gave me top pair when a T came, and the J on the river also gave me a flush draw. I still had two callers, neither of which folded to my $300 bet on the turn. I caught the flush on the river, however, and it really didn't matter to me that the two callers finally folded. With $2540, I was now chip leader at my table, and being a happy rock.

When, on the very next hand, I found AKs in middle position, I was an even happier rock. I raised to $150 and had two callers. The A-Q-9 rainbow flop led to a big bet from me, a raise from my now one caller, and I pushed him all in. Another 9 on the turn gave me a little to worry about, but when a deuce fell on the river, I felt better. My Aces and Nine was better than his Queens and Nines. Apparently, someone thought this rock was bluffing.

Level 3:

It did not take long for this level to be a kingmaker. The very first hand, 32nd overall, I held AQs (diamonds) in late position. By the time the flop hit, two people were all in, and I was worried -- A-7-7, with one of the 7's in diamonds. The turn was the King of diamonds, and the only other player in chips pushed $1275 all in. Was this going to be another case where my AQ fell on the same hand as someone else's AK? Haven't we all lost enough in that situation to know never to let it happen again? Not this rock. I called. As it turned out, it would not have mattered -- the river was a beautiful six of diamonds. And the last person to go all in had only AJ anyway. I collected $7235 (including two separate side pots) and, for the first time in a long time, found myself as chip leader in an MTT. (Note to self, have Pauly teach me how to take a screen shot).

Level 4:

I was dealt 77 in the small blind. A tough choice for how to play, particularly when there's a big raise in front of you. I ducked, and did not play them. I then got JJ and AKo on consecutive hands, but could do no better than stealing the blinds. This would continue throughout the level; even though I was no longer chip leader, and wasn't even the top stack at my table, no one called any of my bets. There are worse fates.

Level 5:

Still playing like a rock, and folding most hands, I was moved to a new table. This meant two things. First, I was facing a player whose handle is "Mumm Ra" and second, there were about 15 guys sweating the table talking about different ongoing baseball games. I got a pretty good play-by-play of the Phillies rout of the Cardinals from two of them. We traded notes about how lousy Jeff Suppan is.

As for Mumm Ra -- I will admit to having watched more than my share of Thundercats growing up. It was fun taunting him with "Thundercats -- HO!!!!!" everytime he got beaten. But he was a good player and would last a while.

In between comparisons of the Phillies' and Cardinals' leadoff batters, I managed to KO another short stack when my KJo caught two pair on the flop.

Level 6:

Other than stealing the blinds with TT and JJ and getting no action, things were quiet until I got the crazy idea of calling the button's all-in raise ($2734) with my 88. Bad rock. Bad, bad rock. Sure enough the button flipped JJ, and I was dead in the water. Humbled, and down to $5500, I presed on.

Level 7:

I stayed under the radar here, and watched a foolish fish build up quite a stack. On two hands within one orbit, he went all in with KJo and A9s. Neither was favored against 33 and KK. But he won both times. It was only a few hands later that I realized why his handle was P. Niz. Creative, aren't we.

I caught QJs in late position a few hands later and called a pair of small raises. Imagine my surprise to see T-9-8 rainbow on the flop. I checked, and was rewarded with two all ins in front of me. I joined them, and happily scooped the pot, knocking out two players, with my Q high straight. I was now at $11,321 and although not chip leader, certainly up in the stratosphere.

Mr. Niz continued his fishy play, while I continued to be tight. That is, until he pushed all in in front of me, and I was holding AA. Again, he had A9, and was not going anywhere but out. I got a round of applause from the rest of table for gutting the fish.

I gave some of my winnings back to a short stack when my 66 ran into K9o and a 9-9-5 flop. Still $13,972 at the end of L7, not so bad, eh?

Level 8:

Managed to fold through the entire level, except for one hand with a very-unrocklike JTs under the gun, when I stole the blinds.

Level 9:

So much for self-discipline. Mumm Ra did a small raise from the small blind. With Q9o in the big blind, I re-raised. (Anyone know what I was thinking)? It's not like I had Lion-O, Panthro, and Cheetara backing me up. Heck, even Snarf wasn't around. Mumm Ra pushed all in (4000 more), and, ulp, I called. Shocker, he turned over AA. I had a chance when 9-8-7 including two clubs (same suit as my Q) flopped. The turn was a 3 of clubs. A flush draw, or a Q or 9 and I would have pulled off the unthinkable upset. Nope. A rag fell, and I plummetted back below the $10,000 mark. Bad rock.

Two hands later, I called the big blind from middle position with AJo. The flop was K-Q-9 rainbow. The two other players checked, and, amazingly, a T fell. One player pushed all-in ahead of me (J3o) and I happily called to scoop a huge pot. Back above $10,000, but still kicking myself for re-raising with Q9o, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Later in the round, again with me in the BB (and 32s) and Mumm Ra in the SB, he just called me. I jibed -- what, no AA this time. He wrote back "(growls)." I shut up and folded when the unhelpful flop (was there such a thing as a helpful flop) came.

Level 10:

We'd been going for quite a while now, nearly 2.5 hours. People were steeling themselves to try to make the money (top 63 places paid out of 638 paid). All of the sudden, there was a phone call. Mrs. Coach. She wanted me to come open the front door. I was so tied up in the tournament, and the blaring music, that I didn't even hear her knocking. Now mentally changing my screenname from coachJRF to "Futon Boy," I let her in and sheepishly told her how things were going. Then I settled in for the final push to the money, with both her and Spot watching.

Mumm Ra got bounced when he caught two pair KQ on the flop, but someone with ATo beat him on the river when a J fell. That player vaulted way ahead with $32,000 in chips. And, worse, he was to my left.

We were down to 64 players playing for 63 spots. I was comfortably in the middle of the pack, when I saw 63o. No reason to play it, and I didn't, but when three players wound up battling it out with 4-5-6-3-3 on the board, I was not a happy camper. Finally, after about 3 hands of playing hand-for-hand with every other table, yet watching people stall like crazy (why?), we were down to 63 and all in the money. Spot was happy that no matter what, he'd get a little more cat food out of this deal.

The blinds were now huge, and with AA in late position, I KO'ed the BB who was all in before the flop.

Level 11:

A player named "You Pick One" joins the table to my immediate right. He quickly became the new chip leader at the table, although we did not go head-to-head at all. I stole the blinds once, but with now 600/1200 blinds and a $75 ante, I was quickly dwindling down to $10,000 again. That's when I got JJ in late position. Two players went all in, and I called, realizing that if I didn't win, it was pretty much over for me. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. I felt secure against their AQo and T9s when a J fell on the flop, and felt even better when I caught quads on the river. I was now over $20,000, and, although nowhere near You Pick One's stack, at least out of trouble for now.

Level 12:

The action was fast and furious. As more players got knocked out, we had more hand-for-hand play when the prize structure changed and improved. I got moved to another table, away from You Pick One, and sat out a few hands trying to get a read on the new people around me. I folded 44 when the UTG player bet 8,000. Worse, when I made a small $6,000 raise with 66, I got re-raised to $18,000 by a stack triple my size. I ran away. Shell-shocked, I folded my old friend QJs from the BB when I saw a $24,000 all-in raise ahead of me. Things were not looking good.

Finally, down to $12,000, and with AQo in late position, there was a small raise in front of me. I pushed all in, and was called. Surprise, he tried to steal the pot with 97s. Although he developed a scary gut-shot draw when the flop and turn came 3-Q-J-8, I held on and survived. Now back over $20k, I bought myself some time.

As we rapidly approached the 3-digit prizes, I got even tighter. I folded AJo from the BB when there was a small raise. Then, I momentarily kicked myself when, to two raises ahead of me, I folded 33 and the flop came 8-9-3 rainbow. I felt a lot better when I saw that one of the players was holding 88.

I finished the level stealing the blinds with K9s, and with $27,000, I was around 20th out of 37 remaining.

Level 13:

Blinds were now 1500/3000, with a 150 ante. It did not take many folds, and one attempted limp, to knock me back down to $10,000. It was then and there that I had my best luck of the day. And I will openly admit, that is all it was. With K8s on the button, I pushed all in. I was called by KJo from a player with well over $100,000. The flop was 5-7-9, giving me a gut shot. But when an 8 fell on the river, I no longer needed or wanted the six. My 8s held up, and saved my bacon. I was willing to put up with the "nice catch Coach" that everybody chatted at me. Every rock deserves one lucky hand, no?

The same player re-raised my small raise of AJo from middle position. I fled again. But on the next hand, my JJ stole the blinds.

Level 14:

My A6s in the BB got called, no one improved from the J-9-2 rainbow flop, and I stole the pot again. Maybe there was something to this bluffing stuff. Or maybe it was just that binds were now 2000/4000 with a 200 ante. I didn't think this was the time to try to take the table with 72o, though. I don't wield the Hammer like Pauly.

A new player, Poker Poncho got placed at my table. His av was a picture of a rather angry-looking Mr. T. He raised by BB (QTo), leading me to type into the chat box:

coachJRF said, "I pity da fool who has to make this choice"
coachJRF said, "oh wait, that's me"
coachJRF: folds
pokerponcho said, "haha"

The chip leader, "Haloth" with $178,000 joined my table. I held KK and after a moderate sized raise, he pushed me all in. He rolled AJo. The flop was 9-K-3, enough to let me exhale, but then the flop was a T. Although I had nasty visions of a Q on the river, I was spared, and doubled up to $55,000 when a J fell instead.

Level 15:

It wouldn't be long until the final table was formed. Everyone in the top 18 was sure to make at least $140 on the tournament. I had already earned by buy-in and some profit. But making the final table was not going to be easy. I was very much in the second half of remaining players.

With 77 on the button, the I saw a big raise ahead of me from another player well ahead of me. I folded, again.

I fought back and stole the pot with A3s when a useless flop came to all three players in. I stole the blinds with JJ -- looks like everyone was being tight, but I didn't mind.

When Pokerponcho/Mr. T chased my AKo, and a K came on the turn, I no longer considered myself in the second tier. With $89,000, and only 11 players left in the tournament, the final table looked like a sure thing. It was.

In late position, I raised Pokerponcho in the big blind, with 66. He pushed all in and I called him. He rolled KQo, or, as F-Train would call it, Anna Kournikova. A hand that looks really nice, but never wins anything. It didn't here either. Neither of us got any help. And we were down to 9 -- the final table.

I was in third place with $133k.

I frantically typed an e-mail after a quick fold to Pauly: "Dude, if you're on line, come find me on P-stars. Final table in a $20+2 NLH!"

Level 16:

Amazingly, blinds were now 4000/8000 with a $400 blind. And people were still playing tight.

I took a shot with Kournikova myself -- and no one called my big raise from late position. KQo had held up. I was now at $160,000

On the 319th hand of the tournament (!!!), I played a little too loose, and had to fold when by T9o was not helped by the flop, and my one caller pushed all in. It hurt, I was knocked down to $133,000, and just barely ahead of 4th and 5th place.

On the 330th hand of the tournament, we finally lost a player at the final table. Down to 8, and still playing as tightly as ever, I had slipped to fourth.

Level 17:

Fittingly, on a hand where 2-3-7 came on the flop, I was greeted by Pauly, who managed to find me after my e-mail. I felt good to have a top flight blogger in my corner. I thought like I was going to need a witness to what happened the rest of the way.

Pauly saw me steal the blinds with 22.

You Pick One, still at my right, became chip leader when his Aces full of Eights almost cleaned out another player. Ironically, that other player had committed the horrible sin of saying gg to a player who he thought had been wiped out, but misread the cards. As I wrote back, "Innocent mistake, but horrible karma."

On the 347th hand of the tournament, and now down to 6 players, Al Can't Hang joined Pauly in sweating my action. Unfortunately, Al wouldn't get to see too much.

That hand, with T9s (clubs), You Pick One raised to $36,000 and I called from the BB ($12,000). The flop was A-Q-6, with the A and 6 both clubs. I probably should have either pushed all in, or folded then and there. But, instead, I called a $12,000 bet from You Pick One. The turn was a K, and I was now faced with a $24,000 bet. I typed, "It all comes down to this" and called. A useless 5h. When You Pick One bet $48,000, which would have wiped me out, I typed, "I can't, 10-9s" and folded. That was pretty much all she wrote.

Now down to $39,000, and very much the short stack on the table, I had little choice but to push all in with QJo. Fittingly, You Pick One called with 87s, and caught a nine-high straight on the river to send me home in 6th place and a $550 prize.

Not a bad piece of work for 348 hands spanning just over 3.5 hours. Or, as Spot the Cat would put it, that's a lot of cat food.

Not only had I recouped all of the losses from the past few weeks, I knew I had answered the piece of mail I almost sent to Pauly the day before.

Dear Coach,

Just be yourself. Good things will happen -- the cards will have to even out after a while.

Best of luck, and see you at the tables.

Dr. Pauly
Congrats on that great run, Coach. Good job. Since I consider you the Dan Harrington of the Blue Parrot, I have to loan you his book on tournament poker.

I hope everyone enjoyed Coach's Corner. Maybe Coach should start his own poker blog, eh? Until that happens, check back here for another exciting edition of Coach's Corner.

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