September 2006
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Hard work

Back from London and I played the Thursday night freezeout at Gutshot again. It’s looking like I’m going to be down there Thursday and Friday for the foreseeable future, which in terms of having a poker tournament to play in the evening should be just about perfect.

However I’m already starting to get frustrated with it, and I’ve only played it three times, cashing once and coming close the other two. Last week there were three tables left when I busted from just of 90 runners. This week I finished 17th from 98, with 9 getting paid. One coinflip can make the difference between money (and having to decide just how much you should tip the dealers in a self-dealt tournament) and just finishing early enough to get the last tube back (Barbican station closes at 00:30, and I was running through the barrier at 00:15).

For a £50 tournament, the structure is surprisingly oppressive. With a starting stack of 2500 and 20 minute blinds, you get an hour of poker followed by three hours of racing off random cards and trying to get lucky. When the blinds were 600/1200, the average stack was little more than 6000. It never really gets any better than this. Players drop fast, with an all-in on almost every hand. There’s almost never a smaller raise than the whole lot, even for the chip leaders who will only end up playing against a crippled stack that actually represents a fair chunk of their hard earned chips and leaves themselves crippled when a miracle four hits, or something.

I went home after facing a situation that I don’t think could have played out any other way. I hope someone will correct me if I was a complete donkey here. I am on the big blind with 6600 left, which is now falling behind the pack, but I haven’t had any kind of stealing opportunity for two rounds and playing 8 handed the blinds are eating me faster than ever. My blind is 2000, leaving me with 4600. A player makes a minimum raise to 4000 and everyone else folds. I look down at J9s. If I fold, I have a small blind of 1000 to post next hand and 3600 more which won’t do any damage, which would be a sorry option to take if my hand was completely hopeless, but in this situation J9s is much too good to let go. The only choice is whether to push all-in right away or call and move in on the flop regardless. I plumped for the latter, although I can’t really see the extra 2400 into a pot of 9000 ever getting any hand to fold. Maybe if the board comes AKQ I could force a small pair to pass. Unlikely though.

After fighting for nearly 3 hours to stay alive against the madness that was happening, my fate was sealed by a queen-high flop to give my opponent’s KQ an almost certain winner.

Obviously three of these is not enough to judge whether I have any kind of long term edge. Although there are some very good players there they make up only a fraction of the field of nearly 100 players. The dilemma I have is that I actually feel quite confident about playing this again, it’s just such hard work in the later stages – AND the middle stages! – that I just don’t know if it’s how I want to spend my evening when I’m working away from home.