"I accept this result." Those were the last words I uttered in last night's Omaha Hi/Lo tournament. I'm really not looking forward to writing the end of this post.
However, February as a whole was a really good month for me. I had SIX first place finishes (out of 13 total events), including four in a row at one point. I've only had one month of online play which had better results on the bottom line (last November was about 1.5x better, and that was 3 first places out of 13 tournaments; though I also had two 2nds and two 3rds, and the tournaments were a bit more lucrative that month). I was flying high while winning four tournaments in a row, but the reality is that nobody wins tournaments without getting somewhat lucky. An apt analogy I've seen elsewhere is that tournament poker is like a lottery in which the skilled players get a few extra tickets. I'd like to think that as a skilled player I get deeper in tournaments than most, but then the blind levels get high and the ratio of importance for luck/skill leans more towards the luck side, and anyone could win in the end. This idea would result in me "going deep" more often, but then it being a crap shoot as to who finishes on the top. But the reality is out of 140 online tournaments, 43% of my opponents have a better finish position than I do. There really is meaningful amounts of skill that determines who wins a tournament, it just happens that Finishing is a different skill than Staying Alive. Of those 140 tournaments, I've won outright 32 times. We average 14.1 participants per event in that span, which'd imply, if we all had the same skill level, the average participant would've won about 10 times.
I played in five different tournament types, dominated, of course by Hold'em (4 times) and Omaha H/L (4 times). I also played in 2 HORSE tournaments, 2 Omaha Hi only tournaments, and 1 Fusion tournament (described last month). My wins were two each in Hold'em and Omaha Hi/Lo and one HORSE and the one Fusion event. At one point early in the month, I lost my position of #1 in most money won between our two groups (to a guy who has played in 80 fewer tournaments than me, so a true crusher in our games!) but my winning streak near the end of the month brought me back into first position. I make it up in volume!
What I least wanted to talk about in this post, however, is the asbolute PUNT I performed in last night's O8 tournament. I entered the tournament nearly 75 minutes after it had started (I very rarely enter a tournament late, but I wasn't "feeling it" at the start time and only decided I was up for some poker close to the end of the late entry period). I didled around for a bit but then had a fortunate double up scoop holding
board against a
(my flush vs. his QQ44K for Hi; my 7432A vs. his 76542 for Lo). At that point I had 1.5x my starting stack and was in 3rd place overall (out of 21 participants). From there I was able to play pretty solid for a few hours and at one point ran my stack up to a high-water mark of 78k chips (we started with 10k chips, so I had 1/3rd the chips in play) while whittling the field down the the final 6 players (top 5 get paid). To prewarn sensitive members of the audience, I end up going out in 6th place (the bubble) due to some pretty heinous decision making by yours truly.
The last hand before the midnight break, I'm sitting on 59k chips in first place (my opponents have 46k, 46k, 13k, 15k, and 30k) with the blinds at 1k/2k (no antes). First to act, I'm dealt
. Generally I evaluate O8 hands first by the quality of the low draw it provides, and four unique ranks 8 or less inlcuding any two 5-or-less is an easy opener for me. Having a club draw (even with one tainted club, as I've got an "extra" in my hand that I can't use) is a sweetner, and an 8_6_43 opens me up for some straight opportunities. Just before the board comes out, I'm saying to myself "7,5,2,A are key cards". At this stage of an O8 tournament, with no obvious tiny-stack "mines" in the landscape, opening means just limping (which, as the big stack who thinks he can outplay opponents after the flop, I have been doing with 100% of my hands against opponents with reasonable chipstacks—were the 13k stack down around 8k, then other considerations would've been in play). Action behind me goes Fold (15k), Call (30k), Fold (46k on the button), and Call (46k), and check (13k in the big blind). The flop comes
and the pot has 8k in it.
This feels like an above-average flop for me, as the A2 on the board, with me holding the 34 means I've got a good low draw (any turn card that's a 5, 6, 7, or 8 gives me the nut low, and a 5 gives me the nut high on this rainbow board), and a bad backdoor club draw. In a full-table game of O8, flops should be evaluated for how close your opportunities are to making the nuts. In my case I've got 4 nut outs (the 5's, which are basically two-way nut outs unless the river pairs the board or brings a K, Q or T) and an additional 12 half-nut outs (I'd have the nuts to the low side, though a river 3 or 4 would be a killer). I'm pretty comfortable with my hand if I can be the one playing it aggressively, but with three opponents seeing the flop, there's reason for caution. With both players in the blinds checking to me (and only one player behind me), I lead-out with a bet of 5.33k (2/3rds pot). The button folds behind me, the SB calls and the short-stacked BB folds. After the flop action the pot contains 18.67k chips.
The SB is one of the tightest players left in the game, and plays a very reasoned, logical game. He's a bit less aggressive than is generally warranted, so when he steps out, it is imperative to take a moment to think about what he's trying to do. I of course mention this because after the turn comes (and in my head I'm chanting "five, five, five") a
I'm definitely unhappy, but made even more unhappy when my opponent leads out for 9.33k (half the pot). Of course this hand does improve my chance of making a club flush, but it also may indicate that my opponent is holding a QT and doesn't want me drawing at the low side. He could also have a club flush draw (any of which has to be better than my three cheesy low club cards), though this would be uncharacteristically aggressive for this player. Still I have hopes of any of an 8, 7, 6, or 5 coming to guarantee me the low side of the pot, and there are still hopes that I scoop the whole pot with something like the 7 or 5 of clubs (beating his "obvious" broadway straight). Against this player, I also consider that if the board pairs, I can represent a hand better than his straight, and steal a pot. That leaves me 2 scoop outs, 10 halfsies low outs, 6 flush-for-high outs, and 10 remaining (non-flush) steal outs. I've seen 8 cards out of 52, so 44 left in the deck, and I need an expectation of winning 2/5ths of the pot to call his half-pot bet (edit: actually this would be 1/3rd of the time, at least in a cash game—in a tournament right on the money bubble, the actual calling frequency should be bumped higher than the 1/3rd number, so my original math error may actually be a bit closer to the truth than my correction indicates). I'm not doing this explicit math in the heat of the moment, but have an inherent feeling for where I stand and what I need to proceed, so I figuratively hold my nose and call. Come on low card or club! After the turn action, the pot has 37.33k and I have 42k and he has 29k.
The river comes a
, pairing the board, which now reads
. My opponent checks to me. And do I follow through with my plan of putting in a bet with the board pairing? No. No I do not. I know I have absolutely nothing in either direction, but I think back to the table talk about how aggressive I've been playing and I know this thinking, logical player is somewhat fed up with me. "Would he *really* fold to the board pairing deuces?" I'm thinking. What full-house would he be putting me on? I suppose specifically the A2 would be possible. Oh wait, holy shit, maybe *he* has the A2!?! He'd certainly check-call the flop if that's what he had, and if he happened to have the
and some other club in his hand (including the
), then he may actually decide he's got enough cookin' to lead out on the Turn. Me betting out here is just pure spew, isn't it? I check behind with no hope of winning either side of the pot.
Of course my opponent has *none* of that. He rolls over a
, for one-pair Jacks to scoop this whole pot. He had the same nut low draw I did, but made an uncharacteristic lead-out on the turn which ended up paralyzing me and preventing me from stealing a pot that'd typically have gone my way most of the time. All I can do is complement him on the nice play while he's giddy by the fact that he somehow won that pot.
We then go on break for five minutes and then I come back and lose one final hand for the night. At the time, I'm thinking "That one was a missed opportunity, but I'm a good player and I can come back from a mis-step or two, right?"
Blinds have now gone up to 1.25k/2.5k and I'm in the big blind with 42k (39k in my stack after putting out the blind). Action to me goes Fold, Fold, Fold, and my opponent from the last hand, sitting on 67k and the button, puts for the standard Call. A Call from this player is a lot like a Call from me. He could have any playable hand, and has not capped his range (i.e., he could still have AA23 double-suited). The SB calls, and I look down and see
. An A3 is a nice low combination, the Q-high club flush draw isn't worthless, but the AQ9 high cards do not lend themselves to a very good straight possibility. All in all, an okay-but-not-great hand. I check and we're three handed for a pot of 7.5k, and I'm between my two opponents.
The flop comes
. I've got a pair of aces and the second nut club flush draw. My low draw is pretty counterfeited (unless two additional low cards come, like a 4 and 2). All in all, I'm good with leading out, but should be cautious because an opponent could already have a great low and be completely unwilling to abandon their hand. The SB checks to me and I lead for 3.75k (half-pot). The button, the tight, rarely-over-aggressive, logical, thinking player that he is, raises to 7.5k (a min-raise). The SB folds, and with my aces (Queen kicker) and 2nd nut flush draw, on a board he may only be playing the low with a min-raise, I call along. Pot: 22.5k
Realistically, I should've folded here. I have a one-outer to the nut-high (for half the pot), I'm playing for a one-way hand on a board where there's obviously going to be a two-way-pot, and a tight opponent has raised me. As I was saying during break, better opportunities will come, so as tough as it is to do so, I should just fold and take my 30k to the next hand. But nooooooo...
The turn comes a
. I wasn't sure what exactly I was hoping for with my call the previous street (I guess the king of clubs or exactly the 2/4 turn and river, or maybe running A/A each street), so the Jc feels like a blank that didn't change anything. He's still got the low, I still have Aces and a club flush draw and that's that. I should check/call and see a river. But instead I think "He's a tight player, and he just watched me call his raise. Unless he has 23 exactly he's not going to love his made low if I keep pressuring him. LEEEROY JENKINS!" I bet 7.5k (1/3rd pot). He raises to 22.5k (leaving me 6BB behind if I call). If I missed the off-ramp on the flop, then this is the OBVIOUS place to make my exit for the hand. But as you already know, I don't. Do I raise him and really commit to the bluff I've got cooking? No, I just call along and hope to hit exactly the king of clubs?
The river comes the
making the final board
. I'm holding the A3, so that means I've got a 6543A low and would be playing AAQJ6 for my high. I've got six big blinds and the pot is 67.5k. Ah, I'm probably good for half the pot, right? I bet my last little bit of remaining chips.
He makes the trivial call with
for a 65432 straight for high and a 5432A wheel low for Lo. He flopped the nut low with the 32, then on the river hit one of the three 2's, three 3's (from his point of view) or two 4's in the deck which would've made him the 6-high straight. So I was actually right with my Turn decision that I would win half the pot with my pair of Aces, but he had an 8/44 (from his perspective; 7/40 as the hands were dealt) chance of winning both ways. And he was signaling all along that he was holding a great hand and I somehow willfully ignored it. Game over, "Nice hand. Well played. I accept this result." Sixth place finish for a net of -$20 and a sour taste in my mouth to end the month of February.
The two low stacked players went out in 5th and 4th, and the three big-stacked players all decided to chop the prize money for the top three spots. I decided to lay in bed and toss-and-turn for the next two hours.
I'll get 'em back next month.
[edit: I had a very simple poker 101 math error regarding calling frequency for a 1/2 pot bet which I corrected inline]