Posts Tagged ‘Damn’
When the dust settled after the preliminary four tables, there were twenty-one contestants left on the show. Now it was up to Phil and Annie to draft nine players each for their team. Standing there for the draft in front of the cameras and bright lights was pretty intense. Plus, I was having flashbacks to last season when a number of contestants were called by name, jumped for joy, and then later found out that they were in the group being cut. Did it make good TV? Yes. Was it cruel? Maybe. Did it have me on edge? Definitely. So I stood there keen to spot any “Survivor” twists that might be coming.
Starting off the draft, one player was singled out as having played the best in the prelims. This player received all kinds of gushing comments, but neither Phil nor Annie said the player’s name for a while. I’m sure each of the contestants, myself included, was hoping deep inside that they would be that player. But because “being the best” wasn’t really my strategy for round one, I knew it wasn’t me. Finally, Annie Duke revealed the identity of this player with her first pick – Darryl.
Phil made his first pick next. I really wasn’t expecting Phil to pick me high in the draft for one reason. The day before the prelims started PokerH0 came to me with an odd proposition: basically he wanted me to be a sleeper agent for Team Hellmuth. He proposed that I play “mediocre” or even outright bad so that Annie wouldn’t draft me. Meanwhile, Phil could draft me lower and use his upper picks to take players from Annie’s top tier. Because he had played with me a lot before, H0 said that I would be a near lock to make Phil’s final three. Very sneaky. It also gives you an idea of just how bad these two coaching teams wanted to win. Annie and I had never played together live or online, but Shawn Rice and I had several hours together during a WPT event and knew each other a little from online. Because Rice knew me, I doubted whether the plan would work and I told H0 that I just couldn’t go out on national TV and intentionally make myself look like a donkey (looking like a donkey unintentionally was still a very viable option of course!). In any event, Phil chose “ShipItMuppet,” a long-time UB grinder as his top pick.
When Shaundle and Jason were the number two picks for Annie and Phil respectively, I can honestly say I was getting nervous. Unless I went to Phil’s team, I figured I needed a reasonably high draft pick to make the final table. For her third pick, Annie started off by saying she was going with a player who she thought was probably an “unrecognized talent” and that it was very close between this pick and Shaundle. To me, this sounded like the Darryl build up all over again. And I was mentally prepared not to hear my name. So, when she picked me third I was pretty friggin’ psyched. You can see my excitement on the show. It was such a relief to go in the top three because I now felt like the spot on the final table was mine to lose. But as the first semifinal match would show, I had no reason to feel so safe.
The structure for the semifinals was the same as the prelims – 10k in chips, one player from each team would be eliminated and the table winner had immunity. On top of that, we were playing for team points that would affect starting stacks at the final table. The final table starting stack was going to be 100k. But whichever team won the semis would get 10k off the losing teams stack (so the starting stacks would be 90k vs 110k). This was huge. And just to make it more cutthroat, each semifinal table winner would also get $ 1000 cash.
The first semi table was full of surprises. Annie’s team consisted of Darryl, Niago and Patrick. Darryl lost a race early to Muppet. Patrick played great poker but couldn’t outlast Niago, who won the table. So the first shocker of the show came when Annie was faced with the decision of whether to cut Darryl (who probably was the most experienced player at the table with the most lifetime winnings) or Patrick (who played a solid error-free table). I think in Annie’s mind, fairness ultimately won out and Darryl was cut. This was both good news and bad news for me. First, it effectively meant I moved up to the number two spot on Team Duke. Second, the Niago-Patrick one-two finish staked us to a healthy point lead. The bad part was that it showed me just how easy it would be to take a “bad beat” here and be off the show.
The second semi table was a disaster for Team Duke. My teammates were the first three busted. Now it was Team Duke that faced the huge point deficit going into the third and last semifinal table. Specifically, we needed to bust two of Phil’s players in 6th and 5th or else Team Hellmuth was guaranteed the chip lead on the final table. Even if we busted two of Phil’s players first, Team Hellmuth would still get the chip lead if his remaining player won the table. The table lineup was like this:
Seat 1 – Me (Team Duke)
Seat 2 – David (Team Hellmuth) – a very talented and successful on-line cash player. Perhaps his most impressive claim to fame is being a lifetime winner in heads up cash games against Tom “drrrrr” Dwan.
Seat 3 – SassyTexan (Team Duke) – Tight, aggressive and solid. Sassy was at my prelim table and when Annie gave me my choice for a table mate, Sassy was my first pick. I knew her solid play would keep the two of us from getting mixed up in any needless confrontations.
Seat 4 – Brad (Team Hellmuth) – my first impression was that he could be pretty wild.
Seat 5 – Jon (Team Duke) – probably the most inexperienced player in the field. Like Brad, I expected him to be unpredictable.
Seat 6 – Jason (Team Hellmuth) – another talented young on-line phenom. Jason is routinely ranked in the top 100 for on-line multi-table tournaments. He would be aggressive and the most dangerous. Fortunately, I would have position on him.
The first hand of the table really affected my strategy for the whole tournament. Brad raised from the button, Jon min raised from the blind and Brad put in a fourth bet that was just barely above a min raise. Jon called. The flop came down three baby cards with two diamonds. Jon check folded to a half-pot cbet from Brad. From the outside, it looked like Jon had a weak ace, maybe AJ to A8, that missed and Brad probably had a reasonable overpair or a big ace. As it turns out, Jon had the AQ of diamonds and Brad had tens. I probably wouldn’t have thought about the hand again, but I got called into the coach’s booth before the button orbited the table again.
The hand before I got summoned to the booth, I flopped bottom two pair in a multi-way pot between Jason, myself and Brad. Jason had top pair (queen) with a weak kicker and we went to war on the turn. Jason made three queens on the river and checked to me. Being counterfeited on the river, I knew the only way to win was to bet. Jason made the easy call and I tabled my “busted monster” and read the hand out loud as “queens and eights.” I congratulated Jason on his nice suckout and he got defensive, insisting that his queen on the flop was ahead of my eights. He missed the fact that I had flopped two pair. This started a lot of sarcasm and ball busting from me. I had just asked Jason if a pair of queens beats two pair in his home game when I was summoned to the coach’s booth.
In the coach’s booth Annie asked me to go back to the table and talk about a hand from the prelims where Jason got all in with two over cards and a flush draw versus a pair. She wasn’t allowed to tell me what cards other players had during the semi table. But as we had only played a few hands, only one of which had significant action. I was able to deduce that Jon had a hand like AK or AQ of diamonds on the first hand. This revelation was edited out of the show as aired. But knowing this fact changed my approach to the game. Jon had clearly made a huge error. Barring a brain fart by Sassy or myself, Jon would probably be Annie’s choice for elimination. Combine this with the elimination of Darryl in the first match and the performance of Team Duke’s players on the second table and I figured that my spot on the final table was nearly assured. This pushed my strategy back toward the style I employed during the preliminaries, but Annie also told me to take some more risks because Phil’s players were “playing scared.”
Throughout the semifinal table I never held a pair – not even deuces. Nevertheless, I cultivated a tight image, won a lot of pots with well timed bluffs and reraises and only had to show down two more hands during the whole match.
The first elimination of the match came when Jason raised from early position. I held KQ in the cutoff. Normally I would consider playing here, but David was on my left (on the button) and had checked his hole cards already. When he checked them, his posture changed ever so slightly. He leaned forward a bit, which I interpreted as he had a hand. I didn’t want to get caught between two of Phil’s players in a situation where I might be dominated so I bowed out. As it turns out, David’s suited Ace-Ten caught top pair, but got busted by Jason’s top two pair.
The big hand that made the show for me was when Jon opened in early position with KK five-handed and I had AK in the blind. I had a stack size of about 15 big blinds. This is a good size stack to reraise with. With that in mind, had this been a regular online SNG, I would have moved all in 100% of the time. And after sitting there for over an hour without a pair, AK looked like the nuts to me. But two things made me go with a different line. The first was my read on Jon. As soon as he checked his hole cards his demeanor changed. On the show that aired you can see his head rolling around on his shoulders like a Stevie Wonder bobble head doll. He was suddenly very relaxed and excited, but trying to hide it. Everything pointed to him having a HUGE hand. Based on my read, he had QQ at a minimum. The second thing that made a reraise my less favored move was that, this being team play, I didn’t want to bust Jon at this point, or worse, get busted by him. I couldn’t be sure that he would fold 99 in this spot.
Taking all that into account, I almost folded preflop. And based solely on my read, had Phil and Annie NOT been watching my hole cards, I probably would have folded. Ultimately I decided that the problem with folding was that if my read was wrong, I would have played AK like a total rube and Annie might cut me based solely on this play. Also, I felt like there was little chance of Jon bluffing me on the flop if he had a hand like AJ or AQ and if an ace hit, I could just open-shove – thereby letting him know that I’ve got a real hand. As it turned out, I blanked the flop and checked folded to Jon’s all-in bet.
But this hand also highlights two of my strategies for any poker game, particularly hold ‘em. The first is when to look at your hole cards. There are a lot of theories out there. Some very good players like Chris Ferguson suggest waiting until it is your turn to act. I used to do this, but think it is probably not the best plan. By waiting until the action is on you to look at your cards, you not only slow down the game, but you also ensure that almost everyone is looking at you when you do check your cards. That’s bad. Most players give up tells (1) when they first look at their cards (2) when they make a bet and (3) when they face action from an opponent. You can’t avoid all eyes being on you when you bet. And if you are heads up, your opponent, if she’s good, will certainly be watching you in the third scenario. So why draw attention to yourself in the one scenario you control: when you look at your hole cards for the first time?
Therefore, one of the things I like to do is look at my hole cards when no one is looking at me. Even when I’m under the gun I usually look at my first card before my second even arrives because players are usually watching the dealer pitch cards to them instead. Just knowing the rank of my first card under the gun vastly narrows my probable plays. Preferably, I look at my cards while the action is at the opposite end of the table. If timed right, I only miss one player checking his cards while I check mine. All things being equal, I’ll try to time my peek with the tightest player at the table. If he raises, I don’t need any tells. I know he has a hand. Besides hiding inadvertent tells from opponents, this has the added benefit of allowing me to prepare myself for how I want to act when the action is on me.
I will often recheck my hole cards when the action comes to me. But I will never show genuine surprise or excitement when I look down at AA or KK. The reason is I checked my cards earlier and I’ve been preparing myself for several seconds for how I want to look when I check the second time. So now I can try to give a false tell if I want to.
Case in point, on the show when I had the AK, the action was on me but I was staring at Jason for some time while I thought about what line to take. Once I knew I was going to call, I pretended to ask the dealer if the action was on me. Then I acted sheepish, like I just realized the table had been waiting on me, checked my hole cards (for a second time) and nonchalantly called Jon’s raise. If you watch the show closely, you can pick up on it.
The second strategy this hand highlights is that you have to constantly reevaluate your options. When I first saw I had AK, no one had acted yet. Like I said, given my drought of hands and my stack size, I was hoping someone would raise just so I could autoshove. When Jon raised, I had to reevaluate based on my read. And even after that, I had to reevaluate the whole scenario based on the team aspect of the game. After each evaluation, my plan changed. I went from shove, to fold, to call.
Ultimately, Brad went out 5th. Jason would later lose a heads up battle with Jon when Jon’s AQ sucked out on Jason’s AK all in preflop. The end result was a final table where each player would start with 100k in chips. Without giving too much away, the final table was crazy. There was some great poker. Some amusing hi jinks. And some bold bluffs that really blew up. So be sure to tune in!