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Day 8: In the money!

We’re in the money!

From 219 entrants, 22 will return for Day 2.  The top 27 get paid, so I have $1470 (minus a tip, to be decided) in the bank.  With the $920 from Thursday, that means all my backers are already getting virtually all of their money back, with a possible profit on the horizon.

The next money checkpoint is when 18 are left – we’re playing 9-handed – and then 10th to 18th place receive $2525.  Top prize is $57,000, but that’s a long way off.

Don’t get too excited, though.  I only have 9500 in chips left (the second shortest stack), the next level is 1000/2000 blinds with a 500 ante.  Oh, and I’m also on the big blind next hand.

I had to survive two 50/50s to get this far (pocket 9s and 6s both holding up against overcards, all in pre-flop) and I’m going to need to gamble again almost straight away tomorrow.  I never really managed to accumulate chips, after seeing almost no cards at all for the first nine hours!  I’d seen ace-king twice (one time folding it pre-flop when facing a raise and re-raise) and pocket tens once.  No pair higher than that the whole time.  It was a tough table to steal from, so generally I stayed out of trouble.

My key hand - and in fact probably the most difficult hand I ever played – was when I was finally dealt QQ.  Blinds were 400/800 with a 100 ante, and I raised to 2500.  The player to my immediate left, who had come to the table with a large stack and played very aggressively since arriving, just called.  The small blind also called.

Flop: jack-eight-something.

I can’t remember exactly, it took me quite a while to settle down again after the hand!

The small blind checks, and I bet 5,000 – I have 11,000 left.  The aggressive player moves all in and the small blind folds.  I change my mind about what to do 300 times, amazed that nobody calls the clock on me as I must have taken at least five minutes to finally call.  He flipped over ace-jack for top pair, top kicker and I didn’t get unlucky.  For the first time in the tournament, I was above average in chips!

I’d love to be able to explain what exactly convinced me to make the call, but it’s just a bit of a blur. :)

We’re back in action at noon (8pm UK time) tomorrow (today, in fact, just about everywhere now).

EDIT: I’ve pulled the live update graph for Day 2.  It didn’t serve much purpose.  I saw 98s on my big blind and moved all in after one player raised.  I was just hoping that I wasn’t dominated, getting more than 2-1 on my money with the high antes.  No such luck – he flipped up A8 and I didn’t get there.  One hand played, and 22nd place.

Live updates: Orleans Open $1050 No-Limit Hold’em

 Click on the graph to enlarge.

 Tournament begins at 12 noon (8pm UK time)

Day 7: Limit folly

I don’t want this to sound like a bad beat story, because I played it bad and put just as much money in the pot when I was behind as when I was ahead, and should have lost less.  But this is what went wrong in the limit tournament, and why it just felt like I played a slot machine for six hours.

For the first three hours, you spin the reels and win or lose a small amount of chips.  If you run hotter than the Human Torch then you might be able to double up by the end of level 3.  Likewise, if you’re incredibly unlucky or repeatedly try to force moves that are doomed to fail in a limit game, or call down with crappy middle pairs, you might be broke sometime before the start of the fourth hour.

I never thought I’d criticise a tournament structure for being too slow, or starting with too many chips, but this one was.  You wait around five hours, your good hand doesn’t hold up, you’re dead.  Could have done without all that waiting around and passing 2% of my stack back and forth, really.

For most players, the game actually starts round about level 5, where you can start to dent another player’s stack and improve your own significantly enough to make a difference.  At this point, you’re betting your tournament life on a couple of spins of the reels.

My first moment of significance – and my moment of doom – came in level 6.  Blinds were 200/400, and I raised to 800.  The player to my left called, and the next player in turn raised to 1200.  It’s four bets from me.  Piggy in the middle called, and the other raiser did his best to cap it (it’s a five bet cap) but only had 150 more.  We saw a three-way flop with 3750 (about 16 small bets) in the pot.

With one player all in, I checked in the dark expecting to see no further action for the rest of the hand.

Flop: 9 T Q

The cold-calling suckout monkey bet.  I realise now that I should just call down here, but instead I decided to unleash a mighty check-raise.  What purpose does that serve?  None, really.  He is folding nothing for 19-1 pot odds, and the last thing I need to do is cripple my stack.  Yet that’s what I did.

After he called, I then spitefully bet out on the small turn card.  Why didn’t I pay attention to the fact he was betting a dry side pot in the first place, and consider that just perhaps I was already beaten?  Why not take into account that being able to play another hand if I’m not going to win this one is more important than pushing a tiny edge that I might not even have?

Only after he raised did I realise that pocket kings were no good.  But with 12-1 pot odds to draw to the gutshot, and possibly two more outs to catch a set I had to call.

There’s no getting away after that.  Just in case he overplayed top pair, I check/call the river.  His set of nines is good enough to beat me, but not the set of tens from the all-in player.

So I lost 1.5BB more than I should have on the hand.  It doesn’t sound that significant, but it was.  With only a thousand and change left, I was committed to whatever hand I decided to play next.  The best sniff of anything I got the next two orbits was A7o, and I barely lasted long enough to pick up the dinner buffet coupon (although I do have a 100% record of surviving long enough to collect this extra food comp) before busting out.

I finished about 60th out of 90 players.  A big disappointment considering this was the extra tournament I wanted to play that made me decide to look for backers to cover the additional cost.

However, I can now say with some certainty that I’m not going to go out of my way to play a limit tournament again!

Day 5: Profiteroles

Congratulations to my backers – you’re sort of in profit!

I made 18th place in tonights (by which of course I actually mean last night’s – Thursday 26th – because of the time difference) $540 tournament in the Orleans Open, scooping a whopping $945 prize.  After a $25 tip (a little tight, but with 4% already withheld from the prize pool for dealers, I wasn’t going to go overboard) that’s $9.20 coming back to you for each 1% share.

Plus, as I’ve only paid $870 in buy-ins so far, that’s an overall profit from the two events I’ve played so far.  $50 in total, so fifty cents for each share!  Ship it!

It could have been so much sweeter had just one of three potentially huge hands won for me.  After a massive pot just before the dinner break I was up to over $27k in chips, with the average at about $12k.  I then lost 3 big pots; with a nut flush and gutshot straight draw that didn’t get there against two players all-in, and with AK losing twice against shorter stacks all in pre-flop – AQ and T3 if you must know.  Any one of those pots would have put me in much better shape than the $6k I ended up when we were 3 off the money.

I don’t really know how, but I pulled off a survival miracle with blinds at $600/$1200 with a $200 ante, after deciding that it was probably better to try to creep into money (as 10th to 18th place all paid the same) than gamble it up and go broke on or near the bubble.  After nobody was eliminated for what seemed like a week, I would have been all in on the big blind the very next hand when two players went broke at the same time – including one from my table.  I thank them very much for paying no attention whatsoever to my stack size.

So it’s not a spectacular result, but it’s a start.  Bring on the limit tournament!

Live updates: Orleans Open $540 No-Limit Hold’em

 Click on the graph to enlarge.

 Tournament begins at 12 noon (8pm UK time)

Day 3: Lucky 13

So I have no chance now.  Thirteenth player to enter.  Not sure whether to expect an early exit, or a long hard slog followed by a cruel elimination on the bubble.  Out of my hands really.

 Live updates will appear here:

EDIT: The bust out was in 45th place, 27 were getting paid.

Meet “Team Donut”

A very quick update, written the night before but post-dated to look like I scribbed it just before we leave for the airport, to introduce the world to my sponsors for the Orleans Open.  My first tournament begins Tuesday!

In alphabetical order: AMG, Colm, David, Darren, Geoff, Jill, Matt & Paul.

Eight wise men, if we pretend that Jill is a man.

So that’s eight sponsors sharing 21% of my action across four tournaments.  Umm, yeah, I accidentally oversold myself ever so slightly, after I relisted the eBay auction while I had my wires crossed with one of the winning bidders.

No harm done.  Except that I know next time to take all the bloody fees into account.  Even with the $2.00/£1 exchange rate I’m nearly $20 light from the auction sales…

T minus zero.  Off we go.

A World Champion Speaks

In just three weeks time I’ll be playing the first of four tournaments I plan to enter in the Orleans Open.  Three no-limit Hold’em poker tournaments, and one fixed limit folly.  My backers may be wondering what I’ve been doing in order to prepare for the fixed limit event.

Fixed limit tournaments are quite rare – The Orleans has two $40 limit tournaments in their normal weekly schedule, but they’re the only ones in town that I know of.  I’ve never played one live before.  I’ve played a few online, but mostly by accident on Party Poker, where they still insist on labelling fixed limit as simply "Hold’em" and you’re meant to remember that the default format for a poker tournament is fixed limit.  The infinitely more popular no-limit tournaments are labelled "NL Hold’em" and pot limit is marked "PL Hold’em", so I guess the distinction is there.  But given that even the times I’ve intended to enter a limit tournament, I’ve ended up at a table with at least half the players not wanting to be there, they might consider making a simple change for the benefit of many of their players.  Oh, never mind, I just remembered who we’re talking about…

From what I remember, the first few hands always go like this:

Raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.

The sound of half a dozen players trying to bust out so they can start again in a different tournament that they actually want to play.  But even after all that action, the losers still have 80% of their starting stack left.  And so the pattern begins again.

You never know, it might be just the same as this in a $540 festival tournament, but I doubt it.

I’ve not really found anything lately, but I’m still on the lookout for some limit tournaments I could try online.  I want to find a tournament with a decent sized field (I remember playing in a field of just seven on Empire a while back) and one where the players do actually want to be there, so I can get a feel for how the dynamics of the game change as the limits increase.

In case I don’t find anything suitable in time though, I can always keep in mind the strategy employed by the youngest ever World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Steve Billirakis.  He won Event #1, $5000 World Championship Mixed Hold’em event – which alternated between no-limit and fixed limit every 30 minutes – aged 21 years and 10 days.

In this interview with Phil Gordon from the Expert Insight WSOP Podcast, Billirakis revealed (obviously I’m paraphrasing) that he is an arrogant rich kid who was desparate to get onto TV playing poker as soon as possible after his 21st birthday, without having – or thinking he might need to have – any idea how to actually play a game that made up 50% of this tournament.  Sadly, he got very lucky.

LOL dickaments.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

"I don’t have much experience playing limit Hold’em, so I pretty much avoided playing limit Hold’em"

Oh, if you still want a piece of my action, I only have 5% left for sale, and it’s going on eBay very shortly if I don’t shift it!

Who wants a piece?

After realising that the money I’d been putting aside to play in the Orleans Open this year was going to fall a little short, I’ve decided to look for backers to bump up my bankroll for this event.  It’s not actually as daft as it sounds.  Who’d want to stake me, you say?  Hah… I’ll show you how wrong you are.

I realised many months ago that the second half of this series of tournaments would coincide with our Summer O’ Vegas, and decided that I wanted to try to find a way to play three No Limit Hold’em events and also, for some reason that I really can’t explain, the Limit Hold’em Championship.

The total entry fee for this little lot is a cool $2460.  With this falling on the first week of our trip, playing these tournaments could make or break my bankroll, and so could also make or break the holiday.  If it’s a total disaster, I don’t fancy the idea of spending the next three weeks chasing two and a half grand.  Conversely, if I manage to win enough coinflips to go deep in one event, the payday could be much more than I’d ever consider letting myself take to Vegas.  Treating week one’s poker separately to the rest of the trip seems like a very wise thing to do.

So I’ve been putting money away for this the past few months, separate to my bankroll for "normal" poker and other Vegas vices.  After next payday, I’ll just about have reached $2000.  No small achievement given my track record for saving (it’s been the best motivation to save I ever had) but it still leaves me $500 short.

I could always skip the $540 Limit tournament, but why would I do something as sensible as that?

I’m selling off 20% of myself across all four tournaments to raise the extra $500, and (although I’m bound to say this) I’m doing a great deal!  So good in fact that, already, I only have 10% left to sell.  Paul Sandells knows value when he sees it.  He’s in for $250, so hurry up if you want a piece of the action!

Of the $2500 I want to take to Vegas, $2460 is buyins.  I’ll spend the other $40 on essential expenses, like tips for the coffee ladies, or cookies from the vending machine.  All poker rooms should have vending machines with cookies, but the Orleans is the only one I’ve ever come across.  As the Orleans Open actually takes place in a room upstairs, there may be some critical route planning to be done for the breaks.  But still, this is only a very small deduction from the investment – and you deny me coffee at your peril.

So I don’t have a spectacular tournament history, and I don’t play that frequently.  But I think I can hold my own and I do have some documented solid performances if you’d care to dig through the blog archives.  Or if you can’t be bothered, I put a few links in this forum thread.  The fact I’m still putting up 80% of the money myself should show that I’m comfortable playing at that level, and not just taking a shot at a big prize with someone else’s money.

It’s a modest start, but you never know, with a good performance this could open the door to more staking deals in future, and the opportunity for me to play bigger tournaments.

Obviously I’ll gratefully take the money however it comes, but I’m kinda hoping for ten more backers at 1% each.  At least then I know I’ll have 11 regular blog readers for a whole week…!

Even a 1% stake, costing $25, could net a four figure return.  If I get exceptionally lucky.  Don’t be shy now.