Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tournament Stories - Final Hand

Before I delve into answering yesterday's cliff hanger about online non-money play, I at least owe you the hand that busted me out of the tournament. My original table was finally broken up and I took my few chips and moved to "Table 1" where I was, unquestionably, the short stack.

I was able to pick up a few chips by pushing back at folks with all-in bets (I was short, but still painful to call) and eventually ended up heads-up with a guy from my original table. I knew he played tight, so I raised pre-flop with the KQ offsuit I had. The flop came down with an Ace and I started hoping he missed it, I raised strong and he went all in. I knew he had the Ace, and I would need a miracle runner-runner to survive. I looked down at my chips, around 1100, and called.

Silly? Perhaps, but if not that hand then the next. I picked the right player, almost the right move, and definitely the wrong time. Looking back on it, I should have pushed all-in preflop and gone for the blinds instead of being greedy. He may have folded, who knows. What I do know is that the move I made to see what he had told me everything, but I had committed so much that even had I kept it I was "doomed" on the next few hands to keep pushing all-in and praying to double up just to get back where I was when I started the hand.

Lesson Learned.

Did playing online help or hinder? Yes.

First, my normal disclaimer; Due to MA law I cannot play in most cash games (don't ask, I'll post my findings on that later on) and definitely can't play online until someone is willing to go through the court system and prove Poker is a game of skill to the MA lawmakers. That being said...

I've learned a lot playing online, from how to slow play, to managing my table image, to how to bet against given opponents, etc. It's been very rewarding, and my play has increased with it. It has taught me a lot about myself, the types of players out there, and how to manage myself.

What it didn't teach me, was how to survive against a strong blind schedule. The Pokerstars blinds, even with a large tournament, are pretty subtle. You don't feel them till well into the tournament, usually into the final table. Usually, by this time, there are only a few of you and while the blinds and antes are large, they're not a large percentage of the stacks that are around.

Compare this to the Foxwoods blinds where into the second hour, you are already feeling it. You need to steal the blinds, and you can. Unlike Pokerstars where most free-money players will pay to see a flop, most players at this tournament were playing tight. I didn't have this skill as I sat down, and it took me a few blind levels to realize that it was happening.

I had a very exciting time, even if I didn't catch as many good hands as I would have liked, I still learned, improved, and will be better primed to go back next time. If your looking to improve, and are in similar "silly state laws" as I, I still recommend playing online - any experience is better than no experience. Just keep it in mind as you sit down at a real tournament.

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