I entered this $340 buy-in event here in Portland yesterday. It was a big promotional event at this new cardroom, the Encore Club, and they had gotten Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Adam “Roothlus” Levy to attract people to it. Mizrachi is a respected player with good results; Levy’s a pro player sponsored by Ultimate Bet (UB), which is like the Evil Empire of the poker world. (Check out the link if you want to learn more about their nefarious history.)
There were two day ones; Friday and Saturday. I played Saturday. There were a field of about 85 entrants on each day and we were playing down to the last 18. The 18 players from Day 1 and the 18 from Day 2 meet up today to play the final four tables out. The prize pool is more than $45,000 (they took out a hefty $40 from the buy-in to pay the pros and promote the thing.) First place is $13,000. Second place is $8,000. It goes down rapidly from there.
I played 11 hours of the most focused, solid, and aggressive poker I’ve ever played and reached the final 18 players with a chip stack that was about 40% larger than average. I only got particularly lucky in one pot against a good player, when my A9 hit a 9 on a JJ9 board with two hearts. I bet the flop and the turn and hit my 9 on the river. She had KK.
The rest of the spots I found myself in I felt good about. If anything, I felt like I missed several spots to extract more value when I had a couple big hands. Several times I chose to go all-in with significant overbets instead of going for a standard value-bet, thinking there was a chance I could be called. Also, I figured there was some meta-game value to making those overbets pretty early in the game and having people not see the hand and wonder if I was making those moves as bluffs. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking when I did it; looking back I think I would have been better going for more normal, callable bets.
The one thing that really tripped me up at the end of yesterday’s game was this young girl at the table who was quite good and quite aggressive. I’d never seen her before, but she was easily one of the better players I’ve sat down with recently. She was completely stoic and unreadable; she took her time; she was aggressive; you could not put her on a hand; and she was the chip leader at our table. All of these things made her a force to be reckoned with. She was immediately to my right, which usually is a good thing–to have position on her. But in a tournament like this; where it’s often who raises first pre-flop who takes down the pot, I would have much rather been in front of her. She prevented me from building my stack, because she was often raising in front of me when I know that if I had been in front of her those pots would have been mine. It was especially frustrating because the table was ripe for the picking; everyone either had fairly small stacks or else they had bigger stacks but were very predictable and exploitable. I have no doubt that without her there I would have easily been up huge.
Mostly though, the caliber of player was far-above average from the few $100 tournaments I’ve played in Portland. Pretty much all the decent players who I knew in the Portland scene showed up at my table at one point or another.
After playing that long, I spent last night in a haze of poker dreams and nightmares. I feel like I barely got any sleep. Had a dream I was playing a tournament at an old folk’s home with a bunch of near-death old dudes and my stack was dwindling as the blinds got increasingly higher. Kind of a nightmarish feeling; like the water slowly inching over your head and you know you have to make a stand sooner or later. And the old dudes kept trying to start the tournament without me, so they could blind me down.
Today my M (a term used to denote how many rounds at the current blind structure your stack can withstand) will be about 18 to start with. It’s decent – around 20 M and you have some good playing room. If your M gets down around 10, you have to start taking more chances. If your M gets below 10, you have to start getting a little desperate, with that water coming up around your head. That’s a bad feeling in a tournament, and you want to avoid it if you can.
I know today will be a tough day. I try not to get my hopes up about these things. When the blinds get high, and the players are playing well, it primarily comes down to the cards. That being said, I feel pretty confident going in.
[Update – ended up getting 14th for $650.]