May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 1, tournament 2

May 23, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 23, 2018

On Sunday at 7 p.m., I sat down for a deep-stack tournament that probably wound up having around 300 entrants. This was the second event I played at the pokerpalooza; unlike the first one, which got under way as I was still en route to the casino, I took my seat shortly before the first hand was dealt.

Relatively early on, while sitting in the big blind, I looked at my hole cards and found two aces. Some four or five players had already called. Rather than scare off anyone with a big bet, I decided that I could make a bunch of dough by slow-playing this strong hand. I did a minimum raise, to 800 chips. Everyone who was already in the hand called my bet, naturally.

Unfortunately for me, the flop was a total nightmare: three low and middle cards, all spades. I believe I placed a modest bet, for perhaps 1,800 chips, and the player two seats to my left raised to 3,600 or so.

Everyone folded to me, and now I had a difficult decision to make. My opponent was representing a spade flush, and he had a perfect board with which to do so.

I peeked again at my cards. Frankly, my decision would have been easy but for one thing: I held the ace of spades, meaning that if the dealer put one more spade down, I’d have top flush. I called, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

The turn — the fourth of five community cards — was not a spade. I think I checked to the other player; I can’t remember if he checked or bet, but if it was the latter, I called him.

Fifth street, also known as the river, did not provide the spade that would have made my flush. I checked again, and my foe bet 5,000.

I thought things over for a few seconds. I didn’t like the position I was in, but I was not willing to lay down my aces. I called, only to be shown the eight and seven of spades. My opponent wasn’t bluffing me; instead, he collected a fat pot with his baby flush.

I definitely could — and in retrospect should — have handled preflop betting differently. A significant raise might have knocked out my opponent.

But this isn’t guaranteed. And I think the flop gave my rival hope for an unbeatable straight flush. If that was the case, and I think it was, I almost certainly could not have bet enough after the flop to persuade this fellow to fold. Especially if he was open-ended. (I don’t recall the exact card ranks in the flop — this may or may not have been the case.)

And some people hate to let go of suited connectors, so I may have needed a truly enormous preflop bet to get the hand’s ultimate winner to get out of town.

I remember only one other hand from this tournament.

To set the stage: My encounter with the eight-high flush left me with a decidedly unimposing chip stack. I went into turtle mode, folding nearly everything that came my way.

The hand I’m about to describe came after one or maybe two moves. Again, in typical tournaments, as participants bust out, the remaining competitors are moved around to keep the tables “balanced” — that is, to ensure that tables all have the same or similar numbers of players.

I was a relative newcomer to the table, and it seemed just about everyone had at least five or six times the number of chips I did. I suspected that my tournament involvement would soon come to an end.

Whilst sitting in the big blind, a burly 30-ish man perhaps two or three seats to my left raised to perhaps 4,000. The blinds, I think, were 400-800 at the time. Everyone folded to me.

When I looked at my hand, I was pleased to discover pocket rockets — a pair of aces. This was a premium hand, and I desperately needed it to pay off for me.

I spent a few seconds thinking seriously about what to do. I could call or raise. However, I only had about 12,000 chips, so my options for raising were limited. Another factor was that my opponent had a massive stack. Nothing I did was likely to scare him.

After fiddling with my chips and contemplating the situation, I told the dealer I was going all in and started moving my chips across the commitment line. It was all out of my hands now.

To my surprise, it took a few moments for my opponent to call me, and he did so rather reluctantly. As it turned out, he’d essentially bluffed, as everyone learned when he turned over king-jack off-suit.

The dealer dealt the cards, and much to my relief, my rival did not catch a straight or three of a kind or two pairs. The win gave me a somewhat respectable war chest.

However, I never caught another hand, and after another hour or so, I got knocked out with perhaps half the field still remaining.

It was another disappointing outing, but there was still plenty of poker ahead.

To be continued


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