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They’re Just Jacks

A field of 727 took to the felt in the the $1,500 Mixed Holdem event and yours tuly was in amongst them drawing Orange table #10 seat 2. Not a bad seat as I didn’t recognize any players until about 20 minutes into the event when Barry Greenstein sat down in the empty seat 5. Uh oh. This of course attracted the fans on the rail who were right behind me, which forced me to get down low and squeeze my cards to keep the railbirds from laughing at my donkish plays.

Barry spashed around like a maniac looking to double up or bust, and I tried to stay out of his way, only playing one hand against him. It was a NL round with the blinds at 25/25. I raised with AsKs to 100 and he called in the big blind. The flop was A-T-5 rainbow. He checked, I bet 150 and he check raised me to about 350. I have no idea how wide his range is there. He only had about 800 or so behind, so if he’s making a move then he’s not putting in another chip, and with 800 behind I don’t think he’s folding any ace, so with one eye on a signed copy of his book, I pushed all in. He folded so quick I didn’t even see his cards hit the muck as the pot was slid in my direction. He busted out a few hands later with AT vs AQ as the Asian kid in seat 8 scored the book.

This same Asian kid sucked out on me in an early limit round. I’d raised with AK and he called in the big blind. The flop was K-5-2 rainbow. He check-raised me on the flop, and I should’ve 3-bet there I guess, but I didn’t want to go nuts and lose my stack. So I just called his raise, called his bet with a ten on the turn and again on the river when a jack fell. He shows KJ. Nice river buddy.

So I am down to 1,400 after about an hour or so, and am thinking that I can split a cab with Tom at 7pm when I bust out of this thing. I run it back up to 2,500 before the first break, which I am content with.

We get back after the break and I put my new Bose headphones on and crank the music up. I get motoring during the limit round when I find two black queens in the cutoff. The hijack raised and I 3-bet. It folded around and he capped it. I called. We took a flop of J-J-2, he bets, I raise and he 3-bets. I’m concerned that he now has aces or kings (I don’t think he caps preflop with a jack) but he only has a few more bets behind so I’m happy to get it in. I cap it, and he cringed and calls. A red queen falls on the turn and he tosses his last chips into the middle. I say “If you got aces or kings you’re in trouble” as I call. He flips over A-K and is drawing dead. I’m up to about 4,400 and back in business.

A little later we’re back to no-limit with 50/100 blinds and the weakest player at the table limps, before the same Asian kid raised to 300 from the cutoff. I’m in the big blind with 5d6d and decide to speculate. The other guy calls and we see a flop of Jd9d4d. Bingo Bango Bongo! I’ve flopped the flush! I check (maybe I should donk-bet out there), weak guy checks and Asian kid fires 800. I want to protect my hand from another diamond and since the Asian kid is so aggressive I play it fast and raise to 2,000. The weak guy folds and the Asian kid moves all in. I insta-call and he cringed as he flips AdAh. I dodge another diamond and double up to about 9,000.

A few hands later with the blinds still at 50/100 I raise to 300 with AsQc from the cutoff and get flat called by a good solid player on the button. The flop comes Q-J-8 and I fired out a continuation bet of 475. He raises to about 1,200 and I push all in. He has about 4,000 behind and calls. I’m in trouble as he shows pocket kings but an ace peels off on the turn and I bust another guy. I later found out he was Ben Fineman but I had no idea at the time. I’m now up to over 13,000 and amongst the chip leaders.

I then limp in limit with pocket deuces and spike a set against the same Asian kid. I call his bet on the flop and he check-raises me on the turn, I 3-bet and he calls. He folds to my bet on the river, clearly on a flush draw.

Back on NL and the guy to my right raised to 700. He’d done this a hand earlier and I folded A-J, but this time I had pocket tens and re-raised to 2,000 to isolate and put him all in. He called with QcJc. A queen-high flop wasn’t ideal but the turn was a good one for me again as a third ten peeled off and I bust another. Next hand I get two red aces, raise and take it down with a continuation bet. Suddenly I’m at 19,000 and have more chips in front of me than I’ve ever had with about eight stacks of green $25 chips.

Then my tournament defining moment arrived. A German pro by the name of Jan von Halle had been at the table for a little while and spashing around like crazy. He’d just finished 4th at an earlier event and was full of confidence as he also looked to gamble it up or bust. I saw him wins pots at showdown with 23o, 2h4h and 63o. He was playing most pots and had built his stack up to about 10,000. In this hand he limped in from middle position and it folded to me in the big blind. I checked with Th4h. The flop came TcTd9c. I checked, he bet 325, I raised to 775 and he instantly re-raised again to 2,000. I was sick. I’d just built my stack up to this fantastic position and I didn’t want to lose it all with a hand I didn’t even want to play. I didn’t put him on a straight or flush draw, even though they were on board, as I don’t really think he would play it like that on a paired board after a tight player check-raises him. Maybe I’m wrong though. He could’ve had JJ-AA but the limp preflop makes those hands a little decpetive. I really felt like he could easily have T7, T8, T9, JT, QT, AT or 99, which all crush me with JJ-AA making up a small percentage of his range. I just hated this spot. In hindsight my check-raise didn’t achieve anything, as I get worse hands to fold and inflate the pot out-of-position against a tricky pro. If I check-raise I have to go with my hand, or perhaps a check-call and/or raise turn is a better line. I just didn’t think it though when I raised. I sat there in disbelief for what felt like ten minutes and in the end I decided I didn’t need to throw my chips away at this time and could wait for a better spot.

At the time I felt like it was the right fold. Until a few hands later where the same thing happened. Von Halle limped and it was folded to me in the big blind. I held AhQh and raised another 500. He instantly called (as if he ever folds!). The flop was king high and I fired out, he raised and I folded. This time he flashed a king. I say “So you flash a king this time…so does this mean you didn’t have a ten last time?” He replies in broken English “I know you didn’t have a ten, you don’t fold a ten, so unless you had aces I had you beat”. I assumed this implies he had kings. I could’ve busted the most dangerous player on the table, and had close to 30,000 chips before the dinner break. An awesome spot to be in. I let a tournament defining moment pass. As it was I went to dinner in good shape but rather frustrated.

First hand after dinner we’re at 300/600 limit I pick up pocket aces again, this time under-the-gun. I raise it up but get no customers. I play tight but lose two big pots in limit to a guy who claimed to “live with limit pros, so I’m great at limit”. First he raises from the cutoff and I 3-bet in position on the button with pocket nines. The flop comes K-Q-X and I try to take it off him with a raise but he 3-bets and I give up. Next hand he raises from the button and I 3-bet again from the small blind with AcJs. He calls and the flop comes KsQs4c. I bet out and he calls. The turn is the 9s, and I should’ve fired again (although wouldn’t have made any difference), but I check-call with straight and flush possiblities. The river is the 7d and I’ve missed everything. He checks behind and says “seven”. I’m like SEVEN!?!? WTF?!? He shows As7c. He floated the flop, picked up the flush draw and rivered a pair. Nice one limit genius.

The limit portion of the tournament played much bigger than the no limit portion, so these two losses stung and I was down to about 10,000. Not much happened in the next NL round, except for one hand which could’ve been interesting. I was in the small blind when this obese lady makes her way to the empty seat to my left. She stumbles on a rack on the floor and drops half of her chips on the floor under my seat. I stand up and help her pick them up and she takes her seat. She smells real bad. Urgh live poker. I then sit down and the action is on me with a raise and a call in front of me. I look down and find pocket kings. I raise it up, one guy folds and the other tanks for ages. It looks like he’s about to call but he also folds. I wonder what might have happened if she hadn’t have disrupted the table like that. Maybe my play might’ve looked more like a move, rather than just playing my cards.

My next big hand was in limit again against the limit god. He raised from the cutoff and I 3-bet from the button with AQo. He calls and I flop the nuts with K-J-T. He bets, I raise and he calls. The turn brings a 9 and again I bet and he calls. The river is a 7 and again I get called. I show the nuts, he shows pocket nines, like I should feel sorry for him that he floated the flop with three overcards, caught a two-outer and then didn’t pair up on the river. Bad luck buddy. So I’m back to 15,000 again.

I played tight for a while until I found pocket tens in the big blind after seven limpers in the pot. I raise it up big to 1,700 to go and everyone folds except for Von Halle who tosses his chips out defiantly. I can tell he’s just loving out-playing me with our deep stacks. The flop comes K-Q-6 with two clubs. I fired strong for 2,600 and he jumps out of his chair declaring “all in”! I can’t see how I can ever call here eventhough I felt he was drawing. I folded and he flashed the table the 4 of clubs saying “Is this good?” Schmuck.

A few hands later the same situation emerged with 6 limpers and I held pocket jacks on the button. I raised to 1,400 and the player in the small blind hesitated before moving all in and having me covered. Then a player in middle position also moved all in for about 4,000. I realy felt like I was probably beat. I thought the middle position guy could easily have AA or KK, or maybe AK, while I wasn’t so worry about the guy in the small blind as I felt there was a strong chance he had a mid pair like 77 or 88. In the end I made a bad call. The middle position player had AK and the small blind showed QQ. As Phil Hellmuth would say “They’re just jacks”. The board bricked out with an ace on the turn giving the main pot to the middle position player. The small blind had me covered and I was gone. Roughly 170th place.

I have happy to hang in early when things didn’t go my way, and it was a nice feeling to see my name near the top of the leaderboard on the big screens during the dinner break. I had opportunities to make it to Day 2 but made a few bad decisions. Ultimately it’s all about minimizing mistakes and taking your opportunities. Overall disappointing and Jan Von Halle will give me nightmares, but it was a great experience, and one I hope to be able to do again some day.

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