Even though I have always been a strictly cash game player, in recent times I seem to be broadening my horizon more and more. Despite the fact that I had been playing tournaments only occasionally and recreationally, and never with a buy-in any higher than $530, this time I decided to pony up no less than €5000 for the no-limit hold’em Main Event at the Master Classics of Poker, staged in my hometown Amsterdam. I judged it time for me to finally start playing tournaments at the highest level. And the combination of a televised event, the many entrants, and the not particularly strong field meant that finally, I would go and get my feet wet in a major tournament. Please note though that I didn’t enter to just compete. My goal was clear: I would be trying to win it.
With a total number of 347 entrants, just three places short of the maximum 350, this was a massive event by all accounts. After all, this tournament was played over four days, and the winner would take home a whopping €690,000.
As readers of this column may know, in the past I have been successful in the relatively few tournaments I have played. However, almost all the results came from tournaments were the money was relatively shallow. This was one of the first tournaments I ever played that had a structure that is by many perceived as “good”, meaning that at almost all stages in the event, there was more than enough room for play.
While in the previous tournaments, all of my successes came from a somewhat overaggressive, bully-type of strategy, I knew that with the current 90-minute levels, the 10,000 in chips and the blinds starting at just 25-50, any overaggression too early in the event could lead to me standing on the rail soon. So, I played extremely tight throughout this first day. Knowing that on the second day there would be no redraw for seats, I decided to use this first day to try and build a very solid, yes even somewhat weak-tight image, in the hopes I could profit from that image later in the event – once the blind pressure would have become much higher.
This didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to build my stack though, and it also didn’t mean I would walk away from risky situations. For instance, after about four hours of play I made an extremely risky play that could easily have gone wrong. Having flatcalled a minimum 300 total raise from a weak under the gun player, I got one caller behind me, and then button Martin Wendt made it 1600 to go. When both blinds and the initial raiser all folded, it was up to me. Holding pocket queens I was in a tough spot, knowing that almost certainly Martin would have a decent or even good hand here. However, knowing his fairly liberal (re)raising standards when in position, I knew that this didn’t need to mean specifically aces or kings. So, I decided to try and bet him off his hand, representing a second-hand low play with aces. I reraised to 5000 flat – exactly the bet that someone would make when holding bullets. After the other player folded, Martin went into the tank, and had to think for at least three or four minutes. Finally, he folded what he claimed were queens – the hand that I actually held. I had made a very risky play, but by doing so I had picked up no less than 2425 in chips, without even needing to see a flop for that. And also important: My image of an extremely solid, somewhat weak-tight player was still intact, as almost all players at my table simply gave me credit for having aces here.
On this day one, I also won one 12,000 pot early, having my AK hold up on a K54 flop against a loose-aggressive player who had been pushing an open-ended straight draw. I also won a pot where I called an all-in raise with AJ from the short-stacked Gunnar Ostebrod, flopping a jack to beat his small pocket pair. And in addition to this, I was able to steal three or four pots with absolutely nothing, making good use of both my image, my reading abilities and my position. At the end of the day, half the field had been eliminated – meaning that with 23,825, I had a slightly above-average stack.
But on day two, it didn’t take me long to screw up. Having reraised a late-position raise from J.J. Hazan holding an AQ offsuit (a move that the day before I had pulled off successfully two times, both times with absolute garbage), J.J. now quickly reraised all-in – and I was forced to fold, having invested 4300 or so. Suddenly, I was down to 16K, but I recovered by making two uncontested reraises against fairly loose opening raisers (Mark Teltscher & Matthias Stieger). And after I had eliminated Simon Galloway with TT versus his 98, having correctly analyzed his 6K all-in raise for a weak hand, I was above the 30K level for the first time in the event. I didn’t have much time to enjoy this feat though, as right after Simon’s elimination our table got broken.
My new table didn’t have many familiar faces, other than strong Norwegian Jan Sjavik. But it did have a lot of Action Men! Before I had even put my chips at the table, the 800 big blind, who would turn out to be the person seated to my immediate left, had succeeded in getting his entire 45K stack in the middle while holding just a K J ! With a few limpers in the pot, he made it 7,000 to go in order to win the pot there and then. But when the first limper then reraised to 23,000, signalling at least a decent hand, my neighbour didn’t fold his problem hand – no, he reraised all-in! After beating his opponent’s JJ by flopping a king, I analyzed the table as follows: I was surrounded by some good or aggressive big stacks, a few unknowns, and last but not least an absolute Wild Man to my left with almost 100K. To put it mildly – not the best of positions to be in.
On my fifth hand, with the blinds 400-800 and an ante 100, I raised to 3100 from early position as the first one in, holding pocket queens. It got folded all the way to a young Asian in the small blind, who hesitated for three seconds and then confidently moved all-in for 48K total. The big blind folded, and it was up to me. I stared down this to me unknown player for about a minute or so, knowing that in general I am pretty good at reading Asian players. I didn’t like what I felt though, as my opponent seemed to be acting a little weak now, and often this is a sign of considerable strength. However, on the previous hand this player had made the exact same move (this time from the big blind position, reraising an early-position raiser to win the pot uncontested). So, in just five hands of play, this was already the second time he moved in! I decided to go with the percentages and called 30K more all-in, also because some players would possibly have made a smaller reraise if they really had aces or kings. So much for my read: My opponent tabled KK for a bigger pair, making me about a 4-to-1 dog.
The first card off the deck was a king! I was dead as one can be. But in a miracle turnaround of events, a jack and a ten came on the flop to actually have me drawing live again with my open-ended straight draw. I shouted loudly: “Dealer, you can do it! An ace or a nine – you can do it!” A blank on the turn, but then after some more shouts on my part the lovely Loeki listened – and rivered the Almighty Ace for me. I was alive!, having gotten lucky when it mattered most.
After I then stupidly gave away 4100 on an obvious steal, when I had to fold against a reraise from the big blind, I ended the day with 65K. With 54 out of the initial 347 players left, this meant I had an average stack. But perhaps more importantly: I had made it to the third day, and was still alive. And after this incredible luck that I had gotten in the crucial QQ vs. KK pot, I knew I had a shot now at reaching my ultimate goal: Winning my first-ever major tournament. Whether or not I was able to pull this off – well, you can read all about it in my next two columns.
Dieser Artikel erschien auf PokerOlymp am 09.07.2007.