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Wiggie - Tournament Superstar
Posted at 11/13/2005 04:12:06 PM in Personal Poker Experiences by Wiggie.
I recently mentioned that I've been playing several tournaments lately, and I've felt like I've been playing really well. Up until last week I'd hardly played any tournaments, especially MTTs since before I quit my job, so playing them again felt like a totally new experience compared to the cash games I've been playing. The MTT play I've seen is absolutely atrocious. I've seen many players making min. raises as their standard preflop raise. I've seen early on in tournaments where it's common for five or six players to limp in. I've seen min. bets into huge pots on the flop, turn, and river. Basically, it seems that the majority of these players really haven't got a clue as far as tournament strategy, which is certainly okay by me. I wasn't really surprised that people were making some of these plays so much as I was surprised at how many people were making such stupid mistakes. It seems as though these players are the standard rather than the exception.

Even with an abundance of idiots, it isn't easy for even the best of players to make a deep run in a big tournament. A lot of things have to go right. You have to get good cards, at least occasionally. You have to make key laydowns at times. You have to be patient and mentally strong. You have to know what play is the best at a given time in the tournament, and be willing to make it. And yes, you have to get lucky, or at least not unlucky. All of this has to happen with the blinds continually nipping at your heels, eating away at your stack, threatening to cripple you. It can be, and usually is, very stressful.

Thursday, playing in one of Pacific's $15,000 Guaranteed tournaments, things went my way and I was fortunate enough to knock off 629 other players and take down the whole dang thang for a $3,400 payoff. Needless to say, it was awesome. A lot of the tournament is a blur, but thanks to Poker Tracker, I've got all my hands recorded, so I'll try to recount some of the key hands. I didn't exactly dominate the whole way. I had right around the average stack when we made it to the money at 60 players left, but it seems like I won a pot every time I really needed to, and when it got down to five players left I had a decent chip lead and didn't have too much of a problem from that point on.

The first hand I'll mention came with the blinds at 75 and 150, where I was under the gun with AcTc and had 6,695 in chips. I raised it to 450 and it folded to the button who called, and both blinds folded. The flop was 2cJcQc. I had the nuts. I bet out 300, thinking this was a flop that may have hit him, and that he would call that amount with any sort of draw or maybe just an overcard. He did call and the turn was the Td, and I bet 600, about a third of the pot. He raised the minimum to 1,200, and I reraised putting him all in. He called, and the river was the harmless 4c, and I gained just over 4,300 chips in the hand and now had just over 11,000 total.

For about an hour, not much happened. I won a few small pots and lost some of my stack because of the blinds. The blinds were now 250 and 500. I was the small blind with about 9,400 in chips. It folded around to the button who pushed all in for just under 6,500. I'd only been at this table for a few minutes, but I'd seen that this player had been pushing every time it was folded to him, which had already happened a few times. This was obviously a good spot for him to steal with anything, so I called him with my KQo. No help came for either one of us, and my King-high was good, so my stack was now at about 16,600.

Over the next couple of hours, not much happened for me. My stack was not growing in relation to the blinds and I was struggling to keep what I had left. Eventually I was forced to move all in before the flop with any hand I wanted to play, as my stack was just too small to do otherwise. I was barely staying alive, when this hand came up. We were down to two tables. There were five players at my table and six at the other. As soon as the next player was eliminated we would be down to the final table. I had a tiny stack of 14,105 with the blinds at 2,500 and 5,000. My goal was to make it to the final table, but I was clearly in bad shape as my stack was less than two times the blinds. It was folded to me in the small blind where I had to push with K8o. A pretty good hand for the situation, really. The big blind, with over 190,000 in chips called with 75s, as he should with any two cards in that spot. He actually picked up an open-ended straight draw on the flop, but nothing else came, and I won again with King-high and more than doubled up to over 33,000.

Just two hands later, still five-handed, I had a larger stack than two of the players at my table. The under the gun player, who had about 92,000 called the big blind. I was next to act with AKo. I moved all in with my 33,000 chips, and it was folded around to the original caller, who called with what I found out was A5s. Two beautiful Kings hit the flop, and he was drawing dead. I now had a respectable stack of almost 74,000, and was second in chips at my table.

A few hands after that, a player was eliminated and we were down to the final ten. The chip leader had about 246,000 chips, and I was fifth with just over 61,000 when this hand occurred. I was the small blind with A8o and the action folded to the button who had the smallest remaining stack with less than 12,000 chips. He moved all in, and I reraised all in to shut out the big blind who had about 33,000. I knew he could be pushing with any two cards here, either hoping to steal the blinds or hoping to get lucky if one of us called. I figured Ace-high was probably the best hand, and if it wasn't I probably wasn't too much of a dog. The final board contained four hearts, and I had the 8h and won the pot. I now had almost 81,000 ch?ps and was feeling like I had a good chance at making it to the top three.

The blinds were now at 3,000/6,000 and I was down to about 72,000, fourth in chips. It was folded to the player in second position, who had 135,000, trailing only the chip leader who had nearly 210,000. He just called the big blind, which was strange, as typically what was happening was that someone would raise and either it would fold around, or perhaps there would be one caller, but it was rare for someone to just limp in, especially in early position. He seemed like a pretty good player, so for him to do this made me suspicious. I thought he could have had a huge hand like pocket Aces or Kings, but I thought that he more likely had a small pair and wanted to see a cheap flop. I don't know if either one of these reads were correct, but that's what I was thinking. The next two players folded to me, where I had KdQd. I didn't want to get involved in a big pot with one of the chip leaders, so I was hesitant to raise, thinking it would be best to wait to see what the flop brought. In hindsight, it probably would have been best to raise, but I just limped. The player after me also limped, the small blind folded and the big blind checked. The flop was 4cJcQs. The first two players checked and I bet 18,000, two-thirds the size of the pot, with top pair. Everyone folded, and I gained 21,000 chips.

After winning a couple more sizable pots I was second in chips with almost 160,000, only 15,000 behind the leader with just seven players left. The blinds were 4,000/8,000 and everyone folded to the small blind who raised the minimum against my big blind. I had AKo, and decided not to try to be tricky with it and raised him all in. He called. I hit a K on the turn and I was the new chip leader with 242,000 with only six players remaining.

Another major hand happened just a few minutes later. The first player to act min. raised to 16,000. Everyone folded to me in the small blind where I had KK. I again decided to be aggressive with my big hand and put him all in for his last 80,000. He called, but got no help from the board and my Kings held up. I now had a commanding lead with 350,000, with no one else having more than 150,000.

Another player had been eliminated, so we were down to four. Two small stacks had 68,000 apiece, one player had 272,000 and I had 335,000. I was the big blind with AQo. The first two players folded, and one of the players with 68,000 moved all in. I made the easy call but his KhJh ended up making a flush on the turn, so I'm now virtually even with the other chip leader with 270,000 and now the other player is back in business with 145,000.

I regained the chip lead with a 60,000 chip pot and was up to 330,0000 when this hand came up. The player who beat me in the previous hand was the small blind and I was the big. The first two players folded and he completed the bet. I checked with Kc2d. The flop was 3KQ with two hearts. He bet the size of the pot, 16,000, and I just called. The turn was the 3h, putting three hearts out and also pairing the board. He bet the minimum, 8,000, and I raised it to 32,000. He then min. raised it 24,000 more to 56,000. This had me very concerned and I believed I was probably beaten at this point, but he only had 41,000 left and there was already 136,000 in the pot so I called. Amazingly the river was the Kd, giving me a full house. He min. bet 8,000 and I reraised to an amount that I thought had put him all in, but I accidently bet about 1000 less than what he had left. Regardless, he called and was all but out with just 1,000 left. This was the only hand that I felt I really got lucky on, but hey, if the poker gods want to give me a gift every once in awhile, I'll take it.

The player I just beat in the previous hand was eliminated in the very next hand, so we were now down to three players. I had slightly over 400,000 and the other players had about 230,000 and 110,000, respectively. At this point it seemed the other two players were just playing?for second place. If I was the big blind they would usually just fold to me, not wanting to get involved. I was able to steal the blinds quite often, and in the few occasions we saw a flop I was able to bully them around because of my chip position. I took a couple of hits to my stack, but never lost the chip lead, and never felt seriously threatened. Then the following hand occurred. I was down to 312,000 chips in the big blind. The button, who had 158,000 raised to 45,000. I had 22, and reraised him virtually all in. I believed I could get him to lay down anything but the best of hands, because I knew his primary concern was to stay alive and outlast the other player for second place. He took a stand, however, and raised the rest of his chips, about 23,000 more, which I called. Luckily the board came 47863, no big cards, and my little pair held up.

It was now heads-up with 494,000 chips for me and 262,000 for the other player. After having one hand folded to me, the second hand of heads-up play would be the last. I was the small blind with AQo and raised to 45,000, and was called. The flop was T2K. Not particularly good for my hand, but I did have a straight draw. He checked, and I bet 45,000, which he called. I had a feeling that he was either trapping me with top pair or better, or that he had a weak pair that he wasn't sure was good. QJ was a possibility, but hadn't really crossed my mind yet. The turn was a 6, and we both checked. I wanted to take the free card to try and hit my straight, if he was indeed trapping. I didn't think I would gain by betting, because unless he were to fold he would likely either raise me all in and I would have to fold, or he would call and I'd be faced with another dilemma on the river if I didn't make my straight. The river was an Ace, and he went all in. With a pair of Aces with a Queen kicker, I knew I couldn't fold, so I was going to pay off QJ or two pair, if that's what he had. Turns out he was bluffing with J9 and I became an instant multi-thousandaire just like I'd hoped.

That's only the second MTT I've ever won. The first being a 30-some odd person rebuy tournament where I won like $450. That was nice, but coming out on top out of 630 people is way more satisfying. Like Greg Raymer says in his commercial about winning the WSOP main event, I highly recommend it. I can't imagine beating thousands of the best players in the world, but I did get a little taste of what it must feel like, and I now understand what the pros mean about not caring about the money. When we were down to three and I realized that I was the best player at the table, with the most chips, and that I had a VERY good chance of winning, the money was an afterthought. I just wanted to win, and anything less would have been devastating.

Winning this makes it really seem like all the hours I've put into poker over the last year-and-a-half or so have paid off. I mean, I quit my job to play, so I've had success, but when you do something like this where you win a big chunk of money in one shot, it's different. It's incredibly satisfying and I feel like it's validated all the time I've spent studying and reading about the game. I know I'm not any better of a player than I was in the days before this tournament; I'm still learning, and I still make plenty of mistakes, but this has given me a huge shot of confidence and shown me that I'm doing a lot of things right, and hopefully I will continue to have success.

Wiggie wiggie@pokergreed.com




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