Today, I had my first tournament experience. I participated in a “super satellite”: think of it as the quarterfinals of a playoff bracket. It cost me 300 pesos to enter. The rewards are potentially huge. If I place in the top 5, I move to the semifinals. If I place in the top 3 of the semifinals, I move into the finals. The finals consist of two tournaments: a 1-million peso prize and an 8-million peso prize. All the books I’ve been reading have been specifically written with an eye towards tournament play, so it was a time for me to apply their teachings.
There were 18 people in the super-satellite. Even more amazingly, the top 5 got a seat to the Sunday tournament. I didn’t know this until the end, though, so my playing strategy didn’t deviate from what I’ve always done: play aggressively and take advantage of weakness.
I finished 8th, 3 spots out of qualifying. Not bad for my first try. Here’s what happened:
For the first hour, when the blinds were 25/25, 25/50, and 50/100, I didn’t lose a single hand. It was a combination of good cards and tight play. When I was in position, I’d raise to steal the blinds and aggressively semi-bluff; when I wasn’t in position, I’d limp in and hope to hit on the flop. Here’s an example: I was the cutoff man with 58, and I limped in. I hit a straight on the flop, 467. The next few hands was checking-calling someone in better position who I put on a top pair. The only mistake I made was not check-raising on the river, because I was slightly scared of the small possibility he had a better straight with 79, though, in retrospect, he definitely didn't have that. I made 2000 on the hand. My other big hand was another straight on the river in middle position, which I saw only because nobody bet on the turn (and only 3x BB on the flop). This is where I was faced with another tough choice: I knew nobody had anything, and I didn't know whether I wanted to represent a bluff, throw in a pot sweetener, or hope for a check-raise. I went with the pot sweetener of 3x BB, and 2 people ended up calling. Thinking back, I don’t think anyone would have called my bluff; the check-raise might have worked, but I would have looked like a fool if it was checked all the way around. Tough call.
Anyway – I had a few more hands where I hit on the flop and value betted until the other person folded; by 50-100 blinds I was at 9,000, by far the biggest stack at the table. It allowed me to do many cool things, like raise 6x BB with 34o. Of course, I end up hitting trip threes on the flop and a quad on the river, which I extracted max value from before a fold.
When the 75-150 round came, I was moved to the other table for balance. And immediately, I turned from the biggest stack to the smallest stack. Not a fun experience. For the 20 minute round, all I did was steal blinds with good hands. By the time 2 more people were eliminated, to make the final table of 10, the blinds were 200-400 and I had 12,000. M of 30, which means I was able to play my regular game. There were 3 short-stacks at the table and I knew that I had a great shot at finishing top 5.
Unfortunately, two hands did me in completely.
Let’s set the scene: there’s 111,000 total. The average chip stack is 13,000. I have 14,000. The blinds are 300-600. I thought about waiting for the next hour for the short stacks to bleed out, but I’m early position and hit KK.
So I raise 4x BB to 2,500. Everyone folds except for a super-tight player with a huge chip stack (~50k). I’m worried. Why did it have to be her? The flop texture is even worse: A74 rainbow. I’m putting her on AJ or AT, which means she flopped the exact card she needed. I have 2 outs at this point. It’s not looking good. But I’m selfish. I don’t want to give up my KK for this bull, so I give myself the 10% chance that she’s bluffing. Which is why, after I check, and she bets another 2500, I think long and hard, and decide to get a little more information from her. I raise to 5000. She goes all in. Yup. She has the A. I fold my KK, and she shows me AK. I got the information I wanted – but at a steep price: 7500, half of my chips. Not smart.
Second hand: I’m working with KQs, which I don’t usually play hard because of the threat of an A. But at this point I’m short-stacked (this is 5 minutes after the KK hand) and I have 4500. I go all-in to steal the blinds (smart play, right?) and the guy to my left calls. Everyone else folds. He flips over A7. I knew it was going to happen. I’m 35-65 underdog, and of course, both of us don’t make a pair and he wins with A high. I’m out today.
Overall, though, I’m happy with how I played, especially during the beginning of the tournament. I made the right plays, I stayed aggressive, and I forced the other players to make hard decisions. I’ll be back.
Brag: Chip leader at tournament table after 3 levels
Beat: Paying too much for information I had an intuition about.
Variance: Figuring out to make small amounts in roulette.