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Archive for May, 2009

No Trophy, But A Six-Figure Payday

May 30th, 2009 Poker, Travel 165 Comments »

Many thanks to everyone for your support over the last few days as a dream all but came true for me at the ANZPT in Melbourne.  I haven’t updated the blog for a few weeks as I’ve been busy preparing to head to Melbourne for the Melbourne Championships followed by a trip to Vegas for the WSOP.  However it feels somewhat appropriate that my last post was about how excited I was to qualify for the ANZPT.  Fast forward a month and I’m writing about how I almost won one of the biggest events on the Australian poker calendar.

I was excited, calm and quietly confident when I said down at my opening table.  The only player of note was Celina Lin and I’d seen her play many times, so I was happy with my draw.  Looking over my sholder at the tabe of death next to me that featured 6 or 7 insanely good players, I was very relieved.  Interestingly that table also featured eventual winner Chris Levick as we started the tournament back to back, and would end up finishing it face to face.

Early on I lost my first pot with AQ vs Q6, but then got headed in the right direction with one of my only “moves” of the whole tournament.  I was becoming frustrated with the raising of one young player and decided to put up a flat him in position with Js6s.  I don’t remember the flop but I had no pair, no draw and had decided I was going to flat the flop and try and take it away on the turn.  I picked up a flush draw on the turn, then made my flush on the river and got paid off by the kid as his eyes bulged from his head when he saw my cards.

After that I had a big decision with AK on a king-high flop.  I’d been check-raised and made a pretty bad shove in hindsight, but he also had AK and we chopped.  I then got my tournament moving into 5th gear when I picked up 77 under the gun.  I raised and the guy to my left flat called me.  We saw a flop of 364 which I liked and fired a c-bet.  He min-raised me so I called to see what developed on the turn.  I spiked a 5 for my straight and check-raised him.  He lost the plot and shoved and I called.  He had 88 and didn’t even see the straight until the pot was pushed in my direction.  I was up to over 50,000 and in strong shape.

Our table broke and I got moved to a slightly tougher table and just held my own for a little while.  Just before dinner, I went on a nice little heater which continued all night until the chips were bagged.  I had KK in back to back hands and got paid off by AK, I flatted a raise with Qh5h and flopped a flush, I had KK vs QQ hold up, I made a full house in the only hand I played against tough pro Tino Lechich and I twice hit sets against two pair and got the chips in with my opponent drawing dead.  To summarize, I hardly remember losing a pot and ran like God to end the day with a monsterous 214,000 chips.  Somehow another dude came from the clouds to pip me as Day 1 chip leader, but I was content in 2nd palce, way ahead of the field.

Although I entered Day 2 in dominant shape I was quickly back to the pack when I lost KK vs AK all in preflop within the first orbit of play.  It was a huge pot, that would’ve put me over 300,000 chips (the average chips needed to make the money was 240,000).  So I was pretty unhappy to be back with the pack, however I stayed tough and shook it off.  I was pretty card dead but maintained my stack until I picked up QQ and busted a short stack with 99 to get myself headed back in the right direction.

Our table then broke and I got moved to a terribly soft table.  Considering we were approaching the money it was absolutely perfect.  I was sitting on the direct left of the worst player in the field and I had none of the dangerous pros on my table.  I chipped up a little and then picked up AA and KK in consecutive hands.  Both times I got paid off and again I was with the chip leaders.

Fortunately the bubble burst with two eliminations in the one hand to avoid any drawn out pain and I was thrilled to be $5k richer.  Anything from this point was a bonus.  We redrew for the final two tables and I got moved to the feature table for the first time all tournament.  It was here I lost two consecutive pots for the first time all tournament.  I raised UTG with TT and gave it up after my c-bet was raised on a A54 but said worst player in the field.  She hadn’t raised in five hours and I insta-mucked.  I got myself back on track with a little bit of luck a few moments later.  I raised on a steal with JT and c-bet a 992 flop.  The big blind called and I was left with only 100k behind.  Fortunately I spiked a jack on the turn to pair up.  I bet again and the BB laid down what he said was AK (wp).

I then got moved to the other table, much to my disappointment as it was distinctly tougher with Chris Levick, Greg Shillig, Brent Thomas, Kristian Lunardi and Sam Khouiss to contend with.  I struggled against these guys but stole enough blinds and antes with some small ball play to avoid being blinded down too rapidly.  I then picked up KK and Brent paid me off with JJ and I was again confortable.

The play slowed considerably as we eeked towards a final table.  It was here that Chris started to accumulate chips and surge to the chip lead when he busted Brent.  They lost another two on the feature table and we’d snuck onto the final table in 7th place.

Eventhough I was one of the short stacks I still had plenty of breathing room and never felt threatened by the blinds.  I was guaranteed 10k and if I could squeak out another place or two I’d be thrilled.

The next day I was a little toey as I arrived early and had to wait for ages for pre-game interviews and bits and pieces.  I wasn’t nervous all tournament, but I’m not a big fan of waiting, so this was about the most nervous time of the whole tournament.  Once we sat down and the cards were in the air I was settled.  We lost the second Tasmanian on the second hand of the day and I was pumped to jump up $6k in prize money.

Tassie Devil

I believe my next significant hand was AQ in the big blind.  Ben Savage limped and Kristian Lunardi raised from the SB.  It didn’t feel particularly strong and I thought he was punishing the limper and trying control of the pot.  Kristian seemed like a very smart, thinking player capable of moves, so I felt my AQ was in front and re-raised from the BB.  They both insta-folded and I took down a nice little pot.  Kristian later said he had AK which kind of shocked me, but I guess my image allowed me to get away with a few things.

Soon after I picked up KK and made a standard raise.  Ben Savage then three-bet me to 80,000 or so from the big blind and I decided to four-bet another 95,000 or so rather than see an ugly flop.  My approach all tournaments was to play fast with the goods and try and avoid getting myself into tricky spots or decisions post-flop.  He ended up shoving with TT and I snap-called.  The board bricked and I doubled to get myself back into contention.

I got away with a couple of other little moves.  After seeing Kristian’s reluctance to play pots with me, I had decided to raise his big blind (from under the gun) next orbit with any two cards.  I looked down at 62o and raised it up.  Jie Gao, who was already frustrated and spewing chips, was the lone caller.  The flop was AA5 and I checked to represent a big ace.  He checked behind and I took it down with a delayed c-bet on the turn.  A few hands later I raised AK and called Jie down with ace-high when he tried to bluff the river.

They started to drop away and at dinner I was maybe 3rd in chips with 6 left and guaranteed $27k.  I couldn’t believe it!  I then got a nice surprise at the dinner break as my fiance had flown over to Melbourne to rail me home to victory!

After the dinner break, the speed of play picked up as Jie had a brain explosion.  I continued to chip up against some of the other players while staying out of the way of chip leader Chris Levick.  He was picking up a heap of cards and doing all the hard work to bust the table as I crept up the prize money table.  We got to three handed and I picked up a set and it was the only hand I moved all in with, when I check-raised Chris, but he folded.  Chris busted Greg in 3rd which gave me a 40k payjump to a massive 100k.

We took a break and my head was spinning.  Is this really happening??  I couldn’t think straight and it didn’t feel real.  I chatted to Kirsty and told her I was going to go for broke – take a gamble or two to give myself a chance to overcome the 3.5 to 1 chip deficit I was facing.  I didn’t want to get blinded out of this without a fight.

I got back to the table and focussed more than I can describe in words.  The crowd on the rail were non-existant in my mind.  I couldn’t see anything else other than Chris and the trophy.  It was a weird zone to be in, but a thoroughly enjoyable one of intense, unbreakable focus.

I wanted to continue by small ball approach but it didn’t work early.  I couldn’t find any cards, or hit any boards, and Chris was relentless.  I suspect he hit more boards than I didn’t and he worked me down to about 10 BB’s.  Time to change it up as it just wasn’t working.  I re-raised all in twice, once with queen-high and once with jack-high, with Chris folding and flashing an ace both times – again my image was working for me.  I then finally found an ace with a four kicker and shoved but Chris woke up with ace-jack.  I spiked a four on the flop and doubled up to survive.

Again I was going to continue the pressure and play bigger pots.  I decided if Chris raised I was shoving a lot of hands.  9c7c seemed perfect but incredibly Chris found another monster wth AQ.  I spiked a 7 on the flop and rivered a flush and suddenly I was back in it with about 1.5 million to Chris’ 2.8 million. 

Chris was visibly upset and gave me a bit of a spray, telling that was “kindergarden stuff”.  I told him to settle down before I would play the next hand.  He gave me a nod and I continued the pressure.  Now that we were deep, and I wasn’t risking so much of my chips each hand, it allowed me more room to be creative.  I no longer needed to hit cards or the board (both of which were still eluding me in the HU battle).  If he limped the button, I raised any two cards.  He donked out at a queen-high flop and I re-popped him with 27 for air.  He continued to respect my moves, but I decided to flash the bluff to him – not something I’d normally do, but I wanted him to know it was game on and really rattle him.  Within about five minutes of this bluff he was asking the tournament director for a break.  I said no, we’d wait the 20 mins until the scheduled break.

We were nearly back to even in chips as I had all the momentum.  I think picked up the biggest hand I’d had in HU play – ace-nine.  Chris raised and I 3-bet him.  He shoved and I deliberated.  It was an easy fold really, but if there was a chance we were flipping I wanted to take it.  I folded and he later said he had pocket queens.

A hand or two later the roles were reversed.  He raised again and I 3-bet him with pocket queens.  He shoved with AhJh and I snap-called.  He had me covered but not by much – this was the tournament on the line and I was a 70% favourite.  I stood and leant on the chair in shock that I was so close to the trophy.  Maybe my “I can’t watch” mentality didn’t help as the ace spiked on the flop and it was all over.

So close to a spot in poker history, two trophies and a life-changing payday.  As it was, I’m thrilled to have done so well and finished so deep.  It would’ve been great to win, but I have no regrets – I gave myself every opportunity to win.  Well done to Chris – he thoroughly deserved to win and dominated the final table.

Hopefully this opens up a few opportunities to play some more tournaments on the tour and enjoy further success with a new found confidence.  Thanks to everyone for your support and many thanks to Tim, Oatsy, Mat, Paul, James, Kav and Justin for covering for me behind the desk for three days.

May this be the start of much more to come…!

ANZPT Winners Photo