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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Swallows returning to Capistrano

I started playing a lot of online SnGs on PokerStars a few weeks back, and I was cleaning up. Virtually every tournament found me in the money, and my heads-up play significantly improved, to where I feel pretty good about how I approach heads-up play.

This week, I saw a stunning reversal. I went 7 or 8 tourneys without finding the money, and busting out 6, 7, 8. While I wasn't seeing many good hands, I also got the feeling that I was misplaying many of them, especially in later rounds, where I always seemed to be on the losing end. So I went from cocky know-it-all to sad sack in pretty short order.

I joined a $10 + 1 single-table last night and saw BadBlood44 sitting across the table. I may be new to the Poker Blogosphere, but I played in Charlie's Tournament and was introduced to many poker bloggers. I made a note to self, "Be careful around BadBlood44" and dove into the tourney. I busted out 5th, I think. I had started thinking, though, and I realized that my game needed to be a lot better now, and not just because I'm bound to run into random poker bloggers at the table.

PokerStars sent a record number of people to the WSOP; something like 1200 people. So, the whole time I was beating up on SnGs, a large swath of the good players were in Las Vegas. I could no longer count on 4 to 5 people busting themselves out early, and needed to start playing for chips a lot earlier.

I entered another SnG. I'm still seeing some awful starting hands, but I can't just wait for the cards to turn. I skimmed the No Limit section of Super System 2, and Doyle mentions that his strategy is to play a lot of hands, so opponents have a hard time putting him on a hand. He especially likes small suited connectors, because they can become big hands, without appearing to be big hands. So, people frequently accuse him of being lucky, when it's simply a matter of being in so many hands, and when one does hit, it hits big. Oh, and a big part of that is that a loose appearance allows him to pick up a lot of blinds, which add up. As a matter of fact, he can make enough picking up blinds that he can afford the occasional beat on a long shot.

I'm not likely to start playing a super-aggressive Doyle style of play, but what he writes made a lot of sense to me. Early in the tourney, still 9 people at the table, and I think I was in middle position. One or two callers to me, I raise with Q3s, BB calls and I think one early caller calls. Flop is all spades, king-high. I figure to have the best hand, and I'm willing to take the risk that the one card which can beat me is out there. Down to me and the BB, who continues to call my raises. No change on the turn or river, and so my KQ flush is the nuts, as long as he doesn't have the A, which I determined pretty early wasn't the case. He had me covered, but just barely, so I doubled up and left him with a few crumbs.

This was a pretty cheap gamble for me. A pre-flop raise of 60 early in the tourney is cheap, and I figured I had the nuts after the flop. With Q3s. All told, I was pretty happy about that play, and I went back to my normal tight-aggressive play. A comment cracked me up, though.

"raises with q3s," comments the know-it-all across the table.

Yeah, I'll do it again, too. Make sure you call me, buddy

In the end, I was heads-up against him for the tourney, at a significant disadvantage-- 10,500 to 3,000. I battled back pretty close to even, and then went all-in with AJo, he barely had me covered and called with KQo. He caught a queen on the river to knock me out.

I'm pretty happy with the way I played that tourney, even though I wish the ace had held up. I won't misunderestimate the players on Stars again.