Monday, February 19, 2007

Lucky Pig and the Blogger Big Game

By Pauly

Sunday marked the Chinese lunar New Year of 4705. The Year of the Dog was quickly ushered out and the Year of the Pig made a rumbling entrance. Chinese Astrologists believe that babies born during the Pig Year are subjected to a blessed life filled with honesty, plenty of luck, and good fortune. So if you are having children this year... your kid is going to be born under a lucky sign. Hemingway, Woody Allen, Thomas Jefferson, and Johnny Knoxville were all born in the year of the pig. However, for the rest of us, the Pig Year under the fire cycle represents one of the worst stretches of time in the 12-year lunar cycle. The Feng Shui masters have been touting a year full of natural disasters and poor health. So make sure you eat your vitamins and have a flashlight.

Photo courtesy of Flipchip

One of the activities you're supposed to do on Chinese New Year is to gamble. That's why Macau, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas had a heavy influx of visitors over the weekend. In some Asian cultures, people save up money for years before they embark on one momentous gambling trip. The outcome of their gambling binge is determined by the gods. If they are blessed to lead a prosperous life, luck will surround them and they'll come out ahead as a big winner at the tables. Otherwise, if they're not the lucky ones, they lose their roll and have to accept the fact that they are supposed to live an ordinary life of struggle and mediocrity.

The last two weeks were tough. I was on uber-tilt for a fortnight. I caught a nasty cold that still lingers today. I was caught in a rut at the tables, couldn't get paid by a bunch of clients, and it took me two days to get out of JFK airport and out to California due to the JetBlue's major league fuckup during the Valentine's Day blizzard. Heck, at least I got out. Some folks were stuck on planes for several hours, while others could not find their luggage or had flights canceled through today... five days later.

I played in Miami Don's Blogger Big Game at Full Tilt on Sunday. I'm not a tournament player these days and I'm on a strict cash game regimen. I occasionally play in random blogger events but I shy away from pissing away my bankroll at higher buy-in events. One of the biggest leaks to my bankroll the last few years has been MTTs and the best way to plug that gapping hole is to avoid tournaments outright. Besides, after covering poker tournaments for the last two years, I've grown an aversion to playing in them.

There's one thing I have noticed about being on the tournament circuit all over the world is that over the long haul, the better players will be more successful that the rest of us. However, on any given night, anyone can win which is why so many people are attracted to tournaments. More often than not, the luckiest player wins the tournament that day. I've seen it time after time on the EPT, WPT, WSOP, and at the Aussie Millions.

When I sit down to play a tournament, I used to psyche myself up in order to play the best poker. These days, I don't even bother wasting that energy because if luck falls my way, I'll win the tournament or go deep. If I'm not destined to win that day, I won't.

Of course the definition of luck comes into play. Is luck sucking out when you are behind? Is luck catching cards? Is luck not having your big hands cracked? Is luck winning coin flips? Is luck having your opponent push all in with a pocket pair smaller than yours? Is luck getting a good table draw?

I believe that luck during poker tournaments are a combination of all of those things along with making the best possible decisions along the way to put yourself in the best possible position to get lucky.

I originally bought in directly when I signed up on Saturday morning. Then I got into the Big Game for an $8.80 investment. On Saturday, I played an 18 person peep with Garth. We both made the final table and I won a $24 token. On Sunday morning, I used my $24 token and parlayed that into a $69 token. That was an indication that I was going to do well, along with the fact that I had a nice run at the cash game tables. I was feeling good poker-wise because I felt an energy field of luck flowing through me.

When it was time to play the Big Game, I found myself sickly. Since I was staying at Change100's Beverly Hills apartment, I had to play in seclusion in her bedroom since her roommate Showcase was dog sitting for the weekend. That dog in particular was a homosexual Dachshund named Rudy that had a propensity to hump other male dogs and roll on his back and gnaw incessantly at his testicles. The dog that is, not Showcase. I've spent more than my share of time playing online in Change100's living room while sitting on the same couch as the ball-suckling dog. Last night, I wanted no part of that. Concentrating with a nasal drip, a fever, and a head cold was hard enough, let alone being distracted by nut-nibbling canines.

I flipped the TV back and forth between the Simpsons and having the NBA All-Star game on mute while I listened to a James Brown bootleg, Taj Mahal, Delta Nove, and Otis Grove, which is now my new favorite band because that's what was playing on my iTunes when I made the final table.

17 runners bought into the Big Game and although it was one of the toughest 17 player fields I've ever played against. Some solid to exceptional players were in the mix and I definitely was at the back end of the field as far as tournament ability goes. My first table featured Lucko, Raveen, Sir Waffle, KrazyBangs, jjok, Maudie and our host Miami Don.

I jumped out to an early chiplead when I took a pot off of Lucko and took half his stack. I raised preflop (my standard pot-sized pre-flop bet). Lucko called from the small blind and Rav called from the big blind. On a flop of 9d-7s-4d, Lucko bet about 75% of the pot and Rav folded. I called. The turn was 8d and Lucko bet about 80% of the pot and I moved all in. He asked me if I had the hammer and eventually mucked. I took about half of his stack and did not show my cards. That hand put me into the chiplead and also neutralized the best player in the tournament early on. Lucko had to play shortstacked for several more levels as he slowly built back up into contention.

It took almost 45 minutes before the first player busted. Sir Waffle won the Gigli when he took the Hilton Sisters up against Raveen's A-Js. Although Waffle flopped a set, Raveen filled in his flush as Waffles headed to the rail. Two hands later, Miami Don felt something bad was coming before the flop when he was all in with K-K against Raveen's Q-Q. The flop had a Queen as Miami Don was eliminated in 15th place. Derek was moved to my table after Waffles busted out.

I folded for the next hour or so and picked up plenty of small and uncontested pots to keep my stack about the same. I was in the top 3 for most of the tournament with Rav as the chipleader. He was crippled after he lost consecutive hands to jjok and Maudie.

I added to my stack against jjok when I had A-5s in the big blind. We both limped and I flopped an ace with a flush draw. I check-raised him and he mucked. That had put me up to 7.5K in chips and I was in second behind jjok's 9.3K.

Lucko made one helluva comeback until he lost a big hand against Maudie. She had a straight and he had two pair on a flush board. At that point, our table was six-handed. Maudie, jjok, and myself had big stack while Derek, Rav, and Lucko were shortstacked.

I had Q-9s on the button and I raised the pot. From the small blind, jjok called. The flop was 9h-4s-2d and he checked. I bet the pot and he moved all in. I put him on nothing and almost called with top pair and a mediocre kicker. I reluctantly mucked as I lost about 1/3 of my stack.

A couple of hands later, I raised the pot with Q-Q. With a monster stack, jjok pushed all in with 9-9. I called and my Hiltons held up. That hand put me back into the Top 2 in chips. I had the most chips at my table with over 8K as jjok slipped to 7.2K.
Here's the final table at the Blogger Big Game including chipcounts:
Seat 1: lucko21 (3,120)
Seat 2: hoyazo (2,574)
Seat 3: smizmiatch (10,366)
Seat 4: Fuel55 (5,918)
Seat 5: DrPauly (8,705)
Seat 6: jjok (7,295)
Seat 7: Maudie (5,135)
Seat 8: Zeem (5,242)
Seat 9: Derek (2,645)
Surly Poker Gnome (aka smizmiatch) was in the lead and I was second. I made another final table with my brother. Derek has been on fire recently and less than 20 hours earlier, he won a $50 MTT Horse event on FT. Derek caught a lucky card against Lucko when his A-10 outflopped Lucko's A-J. Lucko busted out two hands later.

Hoy was eliminated in 8th place when he moved all in with 10-10. Fuel called with 6-6 and flopped a 6 to send Hoy to the rail. That poor guy take more bad beats than almost anyone I know. I slipped to third in chips behind Gnome and Fuel.

Gnome and his monster stack tried to steal my big blind. I pushed with 3-3 and he mucked from the button. Two minutes before the break, I picked up a decisive pot. Gnome's stack was over 11K and I had 7.5K. Blinds were 200/400 with 50 antes. I found Kh-Qh on the button. Gnome raised the pot and I called. The flop was Qc-10c-4d. Gnome checked and I bet the pot at 3750. Gnome check-raised me all in. I only had about 2K left. I took a deep breath and called. He flipped over 10d-9h. The turn and river were blanks as I scooped a 16K pot and jumped into the chiplead. Gnome had about 3K remaining.

I found A-A on the next hand and was heads up with Maudie. The flop was 6-6-6 and Maudie mucked. I was up to 18K. On the next hand, Derek was all in with 8-8 up against Gnome's 2-2. And Gnome flopped quads. Ouch. Derek was crippled and busted out in 7th place on the next hand.

With six players remaining, I went on a rush and busted the next five players en route to the victory. First victim was Gnome and it was payback for busting my brother. I sucked out on him with A-8s. He had 10-10 and I flopped top pair on an 8 high board. All the money went in the pot on the flop. I turned the Ace as Gnome headed to the rail in 6th place. Luck is sucking out at the final table, which I had done.

At the second break with five players left, I was the chipleader with 44% of the chips in play. Physically, I felt like shit but I was catching cards. I raised every pot I played and tried to steal a pot with the Hammer. Alas, Maudie moved all in on me and I had to muck.

I knocked out Zeem in 5th place when I won a race with 6-6 against Q-10. I had 55% of the chips in play and went into hyper-aggressive mode where I raised almost every pot. We settled on a $75 save for fourth place so technically Zeem was the bubble boy. Luck is winning coin flips at the final table, which I had done.

I had 61% of the chips in play when I busted Fuel55. My 4-4 held up against his A-K and he headed to the rail in 4th place. I raised UTG and Fuel popped me back with a 3x raise. I knew I had the best hand and called. I should have moved all in preflop but I didn't. The flop was all overcards with Qc-10d-9s and when Fuel moved in for his last 4K, I was committed and had to call. The turn and river didn't help him and he busted out as I scooped a 22K pot. After that hand, Fuel called me a "prick" in the chat. Whatever.

With 84% of the chips in play, I was in control with jjok and Maudie about even in chips. I took a hit to my stack on consecutive hands. The first was a bad beat from jjok (my A-8 lost to 10-7) then I lost a coin flip against Maudie (my 4-4 lost to Maudie's A-8). My stack slipped to 30K but I still had 58% of the chips in play.

Maudie played an amazing tournament and hung on to make the money with a small stack. She eventually busted out in 3rd place when my A-7 held up against her Q-9. I had been bullying her blinds the entire tournament and when I raised from the button, she called. The flop was Ah-Qd-8s. Maudie pushed all in with second pair. I called with a pair of aces and my hand held up. Someday I'll get to play Maudie heads-up in a blogger event.

With 72% of the chips in play, I had a 37K to 14K margin. Heads-up play against jjok lasted six hands. On the fifth hand, I found Kh-10h in the big blind. When jjok limped, I raised the pot and he called. The flop was Jc-9c-7h. I fired out a pot-sized bet with a double gut-shot and he moved all in. It was about 4K more to call and I did. He flipped over 10d-9s and was ahead with a pair. The turn was 5h and the river was 8s. That river card gave both of us a Jack high straight and we chopped the pot.

On the last hand of the tournament, I raised with 9c-4h from the small blind and jjok called. The flop was 9s-9d-8h. After jjok checked, I bet the pot. He moved all in and had check-raised me with Qd-8d. He picked up a flush draw on the turn when a 3d fell. My trip 9s held up and I won the Blogger Big Game when the Ace of spades fell on the river. And yes, luck is also having your big hands hold up against a draw.

Congrats on jjok for second place and to Maudie and Fuel for making the money. Thanks again to Miami Don for hosting. It was a tough field in the Blogger Big Game, which makes the victory somewhat special for me. I don't play too many tournament and it felt good to win $560 on a $8.80 investment. Luck was on my side last night and that's why I won.

I began the Year of the Pig sick as a dog. However, as the first day of the new year progressed, I had a profitable day at the tables, was fortunate enough to work on my book proposal, and was contacted by a prestigious entity about doing some freelance work with them.

In the immortal words of Thom Yorke, "I'm on a roll, I'm on a roll this time. I feel my luck could change."

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved.

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