Show-Off Takes 2nd Place!
I've only played in six 20+2, 180 person, sit 'n' go tournaments on Poker Stars in my life and up until last night my performance in these has been unremarkable. The first two I ever played, I really did not take seriously; I played a few hands and was one of the first busted out, because I wasn't really prepared to focus and play my best for the 3 or 4 hours it takes to make it in one of these babies. Then, I saw some friends of mine doing pretty well in this format and I started to take things a little more seriously. Last night I cashed for the very first time in this type of tournmanet by taking down second place for a prize of 720$ netting me a total profit of 698$. Here are some of the highlights:

Generally, my style in a tournament is to play very tight early on and expand my game as the blinds increase and the field diminishes. I rarely try to build a massive stack in the early stages as my focus tends to be on more or less keeping up with the average stack. There are times when I draw a particularly weak table early on and I feel comfortable switching into high gear and collecting lots of chips. This was not one of those times. In fact, up until the final table my stats indicated that I had only seen 17% of all possible flops. This is low, even for me. The reason I was playing this tight is that directly to my left for almost the entire first half of the tournament was an extremely loose aggressive player who with some luck and a lot of brute force managed to collect a tonne of chips and become the chip leader. This guy called almost 95% of my raise and about 85% of the time, when I made my continuation bet, he would put me to a decision for my entire stack. Since I never managed to hit a single damn flop early on, I always had to fold. I was sitting there praying for the moment when I would get some cards and double through this guy, but alas that moment never came and he was eventually moved off my table.

Besides Mr. Bigstack to my left the majority of the players at my table in the early rounds were just terrible. I had to fight hard to restrain myself from going on tilt-by-proxy (this is where you witness such abismal plays that it angers you to the point of tilt, even though you were not involved in the hand). One hand that almost sent me over the edge happened just before I realized how truly awful my opponents were. It went like this:
Poker Stars
No Limit Holdem Tournament
Blinds: t75/t150
9 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: t2618
UTG+1: t3576
MP1: t2565
MP2: t5140
Bill Sparks: t3135
CO: t12669
Button: t1635
SB: t12065
BB: t2780

Pre-flop: (9 players) Bill Sparks is MP3 with Q♥ Q♠
UTG raises to t450, 2 folds, MP2 raises to t1200, Bill Sparks folds, 4 folds, UTG raises all-in t2618, MP2 calls t1418 (pot was t4043).

Flop: 4♣ 2♠ T♦ (t5461, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t5461)

Turn: 9♠ (t5461, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t5461)

River: 4♠ (t5461, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t5461)

Final pot: t5461
UTG showed A♣ 9♣
MP2 showed A♥ J♥
I'm used to playing 50+5 single table sit 'n' gos on Poker Stars and I can guarantee you that 9 times out of 10 in that game, this is the correct fold. Knowing what I know now about the players in this tourney, I would say that probably 80% of the time laying QQ down to this type of action is the wrong decision. I remember screaming "What the fuck?!" as the cards were turned over. But, I managed to percevere and somehow make it to the final table.

An interesting fact about this tourney is that I was never once moved away from my starting table. I sat at table 9 the whole time and the rest of the player's came to me. When we were down to about 20 players the new chip leader, "amber-wins" showed up a few spots to my right. She had over 100,000 in chips and was way, way ahead of everyone else. She played a super tight aggressive style and when she was in a hand she really put you to a decision. When she got to my table, I was low in chips, hovering around 16th or 17th chip position. My focus was on trying to make it into the money so that I could have a shot at winning this thing. I remember thinking that I was gonna have to win some races later on, in order to have a real shot at winning, and that's just what happened.

The first major turning point was not a traditional "race" hand but it was a spot where I got lucky and it sent the tone for my relationship with the player who was to my left for most of the final two tables. His name was KookieMonstr and he was the BB in the hand below. He played a fairly tight game and I was stealing his blind every chance I got. I knew he would eventually take a stand, but I also felt he could be pushed off a hand if he was convinced I had the goods (or so I thought), here's what happened:
Poker Stars
No Limit Holdem Tournament
Blinds: t300/t600
(Ante: t50)
6 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: t8219
UTG+1: t20825
CO: t7400
Button: t34740
Bill Sparks: t15942
BB: t26138

Pre-flop: (6 players) Bill Sparks is SB with Q♦ K♦
4 folds, Bill Sparks raises to t1500, BB raises to t6000, Bill Sparks raises all-in t15892, BB calls t9292 (pot was t21892).

Flop: Q♠ T♣ 6♠ (t32084, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t32084)

Turn: 8♥ (t32084, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t32084)

River: 7♥ (t32084, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t32084)

Final pot: t32084
BB showed A♠ 3♦
Bill Sparks showed Q♦ K♦
After this hand, Kookie and I got into a verbal sparring match which lasted on and off until he busted out in 4th place. I was thrilled to see him go. I hate arrogant know-it-alls at my table. The next major "races" came when I doubled up almost back-to-back with pocket fives and then pockets fours against the chip leader, who both times had a big Ace. Once I had vaulted into the lead I played my stack aggressively and took maybe one or two more chances than I should have as I quickly found myself 3rd in chips when we were down to 3 players. The original big stack, "amber-wins" got into some pretty big hands with the other player and I sat back and watched the action for the most part as I was pretty card dead. Here is one of the only hands I played after I became the low stack when we were 3-handed, amber was the BB here:
Poker Stars
No Limit Holdem Tournament
Blinds: t800/t1600
(Ante: t75)
4 players

Stack sizes:
Bill Sparks: t38265
Button: t11365
SB: t57529
BB: t162841

Pre-flop: (4 players) Bill Sparks is UTG with 9♦ 8♦
Bill Sparks raises to t4800, 2 folds, BB calls t3200 (pot was t7200).

Flop: T♦ J♥ 7♠ (t10700, 2 players)
BB checks, Bill Sparks checks.

Turn: 6♣ (t10700, 2 players)
BB checks, Bill Sparks checks.

River: 8♠ (t10700, 2 players)
BB bets t1600, Bill Sparks raises to t3200, BB calls t1600 (pot was t15500).

Final pot: t17100
Bill Sparks showed 9♦ 8♦
BB mucks 7♦ 7♥

You gotta love those suited connectors! Sadly, I really don't like the way I played this hand. I tried to milk it and slow play way too much. I was worried about pushing her off the pot when I was the low stack. Of course, after I saw that she had flopped a set I was angry at myself for not pressing this hand and getting all if not most of her chips here. I think she showed good discipline on the River, but I am surprised that she did not lead into me on the Turn. I guess neither one of use wanted to push the other one off their hand.

An orbit or two after this hand took place, Amber got knocked out by the other player at the table and we were heads up. My opponent really beat me up in the first few heads up hands and I got short-stacked really quick. I though it would be a short match for me, but I managed to battle back, taking the lead, losing it and battling back several times. The first time I took the lead head's up was on a pretty gutsy semi-bluff. By this point a lot of my buddies from pokerpoker had come by to watch me play and I showed my hand at the end, to show off to my friends. In retrospect doing so, was probably a factor in my eventual demise. Here is the hand:
Poker Stars
No Limit Holdem Tournament
Blinds: t1500/t3000
(Ante: t150)
2 players

Stack sizes:
SB: t182030
Bill Sparks: t87970

Pre-flop: (2 players) Bill Sparks is BB with 2♣ A♦
SB calls t1500 (pot was t4500), Bill Sparks checks.

Flop: 3♠ T♣ A♠ (t6300, 2 players)
Bill Sparks checks, SB bets t6000, Bill Sparks raises to t15000, SB raises to t51000, Bill Sparks raises all-in t84820, SB folds.
Uncalled bets: t33820 returned to Bill Sparks.

Final pot: t108300
When he re-raised me on the flop, I moved all in so fast it would make your head spin. This guy had been pushing me around and playing pretty aggressive all through our head's up battle. In some spots I let him run me over in the hopes that I would ventually capitalize on a big hand. Sadly, the big hand never came and I was card dead for the entire time we were head's up. It was clear I was gonna have to make some strong moves to win. Finally, it all came down to another semi-bluff, where my opponent made a ballsy call. I can't help but feel that, had I not shown off earlier, my opponent would have laid it down. Here's how it all ended:
Poker Stars
No Limit Holdem Tournament
Blinds: t3000/t6000
(Ante: t300)
2 players

Stack sizes:
SB: t153360
Bill Sparks: t116640

Pre-flop: (2 players) Bill Sparks is BB with J♣ 6♣
SB calls t3000 (pot was t9000), Bill Sparks checks.

Flop: 2♦ 4♦ A♣ (t12600, 2 players)
Bill Sparks checks, SB bets t12000, Bill Sparks raises to t24000, SB calls t12000 (pot was t48600).

Turn: 9♣ (t60600, 2 players)
Bill Sparks is all-in t86340, SB calls t86340 (pot was t146940).

River: A♥ (t233280, 1 player + 1 all-in - Main pot: t233280)

Final pot: t233280
SB shows 2♣ 5♥
Bill Sparks showed J♣ 6♣
What a call on his part. I'm still not sure how much my earlier show off had to do with it. But, I did play enough poker against this guy to know that he is not a donkey. He was either tired here, or had an excellent read. Either way, my hats off to him ("ex_General" was his name) for a great match.

After that hand came the familiar Poker Stars email:
PokerStars Tournament #24636457

Dear LearsFool,

You finished the tournament in 2nd place.
A $720.00 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

Thank you for participating.
Hopefully the next one will congratulate me on my 1st place victory, but this will do for now. Thanks to everyone who supported me at the final table.
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill...congrats on your finish. I put in a 42lb roast at 375 degrees when I loaded up your blog page. Well I'm half way through your blog but my roast is now well done and overcooked! Will gnaw away at it for a while and then get back to the blog...hope I finish before the Sens game tonight!

Way to go bud,


11:50 AM  

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