Poker Update: Tournament of Champions

Tom Brady

I wore my Tom Brady jersey for the big poker tournament tonight. The kids asked about it. I said, “The New England Patriots are winners. Tom Brady is a winner. Tonight, I hope wearing a winners shirt will make me a winner.” They completely understood. And the shirt delivered!

I played well. I did indeed play well. But let’s be upfront about this. I was lucky. Very lucky. I had great cards all night. Playing well meant avoiding major mistakes and bullying people around and getting yet another good flop. That’s not very hard to do right. Oh, there were so many notable hands… luckily I was taking notes!

The tournament structure was different than our usual game. For starters our initial chip stacks were dependent on how many points we had accumulated in the regular season. I was solidly middle of the pack.

Starting Chips for the Tournament of Champions
Starting Chips for the Tournament of Champions

In addition:

  • Only eight players
  • No chumps
  • No rebuys
  • Winner take all
  • Slower blind escalation in the later stages
  • Bigger stacks

This added up to a structure with deeper relative stacks. Which in turn meant that there would be more skill over luck. I’m not sure if that happened. The people I knocked out probably thought I was just lucky and they may be right. I took notes this time, so there is more detail than usual. At first they were laughing at my note taking, but the laughs dwindled as the chip stack grew.

Let’s get to the hands! Blinds are at 25-50, shuffle up and deal!

  • I have A-J clubs. I call the pre-flop raise to 150. The flop is x-x-x. He bets 200. I call. The turn is my Jack. He bets 200, I call. The river is a blank. He bets 200, I call. He had king high. A promising start.
  • I have A-K. My pre-flop raise is called. The flop is A-K-5. I check, he bets big, and I call. The turn is another Ace. I have the nuts. I have the bloody absolute nuts! It’s been a long time since this has happened. How do I get the most money out of him? I check. He bets a lot, I call. The river is a blank. This time I bet 2,400. I am called. He has A-5, for a full house of Aces over fives. It isn’t good enough to beat my full house of Aces over kings. I get about 5,000 profit out of this hand and cripple the opponent.
  • I have A-8 clubs. The flop is x-x-7. He bets 300 into a 300 pot. I call. The turn is an Ace. He keeps betting, I keep calling. He has 6-7, and I get another 800 or so profit as the blinds go up.
  • Let’s take stock. In the first 20 minutes I have increased my chip stack from 6,800 to around 12,000. I have had one monster hand – and even better – when the other guy had a very strong second best hand. I have converted two marginal hands into big profits. I have done this without raising much. The rest of the table is scared of my checks, they don’t know if it means I’m slowplaying them.
  • I have K-K. The board eventually gets to J-8-7, x, 10. If the other guy has a 9 he has a straight. I call his big bet. He had K-A, I get another 2,500 or so.
  • I’m definitely playing loose right now. I am playing 50% of the hands. I don’t mind losing lots of blinds, but I am hoping that I will flop some big hands to take down a big pot. I am clearly inspired by Phil Helmuth’s play in last night’s WSOP broadcast and my own luck tonight. I’m playing loose. I am wondering ten minutes later if I’m playing too loose, I have given back 1,500 already. May be time to tighten up a little?
  • I have 2-2. The blinds are raised from 100 to 375. Two players in the pot, and I call. The flop is 10-10-2. Ha! Last week I caught hell for whining about not catching a set. Well lookie here! I flopped a set! In fact I flopped a full house! I got another 1,200 or so out of that. I should have gotten more, but the other guy didn’t have enough of a hand to call my last bet. As the blinds go up to 75-150 I have 15,000 in chips. That’s roughly 30% of the chips in play.
  • Q-10, I limp from the small blind. The flop is 10-x-x, I have top pair. I put in 400. He reraises to 800. I was not expecting that. Is he just trying to push back against me? I call. The turn is a blank. I bet 600. He re-raises to 1,800. I’m not sure why, but I don’t have him figured for K-10 or A-10. There are now 2 spades on the board. I’m not sure why, but I have him figured for a spade flush draw. He’s hoping to push me out of the pot, but he has outs if I stay. I do stay, calling his 1,800. The turn is the King of spades. I check and he puts in 3,000. Damnit. I’m not sure about my read, but there are too many hands that beat me now. I think about it for a long time but I fold. This hand is killing me, should I have called him or not? Should I have? I hate poker!
    (When the night was over he said he had 3-4 off suit. It was an over-the-top bluff for the sheer hell of it. “It was a really stupid play. I shouldn’t have gotten away with it.” So I was clearly wrong to fold and my read was way off.)
  • It’s blind vs blind. Small blind limps to me. I call with Q-10. The flop is K-J-10. He bets 300. I call with my middle pair and open-ended straight draw. The turn is an Ace giving me the straight. I eventually rake in another 1,000 profit. (Yes, I am counting profit throughout this blog post, not pot size. It was a 2,000 chip pot.)
  • I raise as dealer with K-8 to see if I can steal the blinds. I get two callers. The flop is 10-7-5. I call a bet of 400. The turn is another 5. He bets 400, I come over the top with 1,200. He thinks about it for a while and folds.
    I like this hand. I’m sure the other guy had the better hand. But I won it with skill. And position, and my big stack, and my table image to pull off a naked bluff. A nice 800 or so.
    I have around 17,000 in chips. The blinds are moving up to 150-300.
  • I just stole the blinds twice. But then folded after putting 800 in the pot. I guess that’s holding even. I am hovering now. The game has gotten much more aggressive. I am trying to pick my spots a little more carefully. Nothing interesting happens for the next two rounds.
  • At 300-600, there is a pre-flop raise to 2,500. I have A-Q suited. I think for a moment, but it’s an obvious call. I have the big stack and premium cards. The big blind surprises me by also calling. There is 7,500 in the pot. The flop is A-2-2. Great flop, I have highest two pair with a queen kicker. I think for a minute. What can beat me? A pair of aces, but that’s unlikely since two are accounted for. A pocket 2, but that’s unlikely with these huge pre-flop bets. A-K beats me and that’s very possible. Nevertheless, I have to push. I put 5,000 in the pot – pushing any callers all-in. I am the big stack. I don’t want to make the tough call, I want them to make the tough call. The big blind grudgingly folds. The original raiser thinks for a while. He eventually calls with A-J. My hand holds up. (Not only did he have a tough call, but he had just lost a large pot on a bad beat to a 4% river card. He was understandably frustrated at going from 2nd stack to busted in two straight hands.)
  • The next hand I have pocket Qs and quickly end up all-in against the small blind and his A-K. It’s a classic coin flip! The flop is A-x-x. I am groaning already, I don’t notice that they are all hearts. The turn gives me a flush that I don’t even notice. I sheepishly rake in all his money.
  • We are now at 3-handed. I have 50-60% of the chips. Within five minutes I knock out the short stack. As we go into heads-up play I have ~70% of the chips.
  • My luck continues in heads up. I push with K-8. I push with Q-10. I limp with 10-7 and 10-7-x comes on the flop. I get pocket 2s that hold up. With Q-Q I put his A-5 in and easily win to take the night. (He later told me that besides the Ace, he didn’t get a card over a nine during all of heads up.) Hey, I won! Holy schnikes, I did it!

Tell ’em the news Freddie!

My winnings are $390, my biggest win ever in poker. But not just money, the win itself was sweet, and it comes with a heaping load of neighborhood glory.

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