Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Final Table and the Politics of the Chop (Part 2)

[Sunday Tournament - Continued]

We hit the final two tables with the blinds at $1000 / $6,000 / $12,000.  I was sitting on approximately $85,000.  With 13 paid, we still had 7 players until the bubble burst.  Moreover, with spots 13 through 10 paying $180, the prospect of a min-cash was none to appealing.

With just 7 big blinds, there was little room for error.  My focus was on position -- I was looking for a spot to open the action with a raise or, more likely, a push, depending on the quality of the hand.  About halfway through the 20 minute level, I picked up pocket Tens on the hijack.  I contemplated shoving.  But, after further thought, I decided a raise to $35,000 was best.  First, it might look stronger than a shove.  Second, a call would let me reevaluate on the flop.  If overcards hit the board, I could get away from the hand with $50,000 or so behind and still have a bit of fold equity to shove a later hand.   I open, and it folds around to the small blind, who shoves his remaining $200,000 chips.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  Nevertheless, it's a clear call in my mind given the scenario.  I call, he tables AQ, I dodge his face cards, and double up to $170,000. 

A few hands later, I look down at AK spades, and open to $35,000.  A short stack on the button shoves for $90,000.  I snap call.  She tables QQ.  I lose the race, and just like that, I'm back down under $100,000 and in trouble once again.  Easy come, easy go.  Meanwhile, three folks from the other table have busted, and we're down to 17.

The blinds go up to $2,000 / $8,000 / $16,000.  I'm sitting on about 5 big blinds.  Each hand is costing me $2,000.  Each orbit costs $42,000.  It folds around to my big blind and Christmas comes early - I get a walk.  $26,000 chips added to my stack. 

I give back $8,000 the very next hand when I toss my small blind.  Still, I can survive another orbit.  Barely.

The button circles around again.  I'm in the big blind with $42,000 in chips.  Under the Gun, who is also sitting on a below average stack, limps in.  Yes, the man to my left is a pure poker guru . . .  It folds around to me.  I check my option with Q 3.  The flop comes down 5 8 Q (two diamonds).  I donkey shove my last $26,000.  UTG tanks and folds.  I'm back to $74,000.

The very next hand, it folds around to me in the small blind.  I look down at A 7 off.  I start cutting out some chips, just thinking about making a play, and notice the former-limper / poker savant to my left (now in the big blind) with his cards in his hand just itching to fold.  Ok.  That makes it easier.  I shove, he mucks, and I show the bare Ace.  $106,000 in chips. 

Blinds go up to $2,000 / $10,000 / $20,000.  Tables are rebalanced 7 and 7 as we're down to the bubble.  The button is now flying around the table and there's no time to get complacent.  I open shove KJ clubs from the cut-off and steal blinds and antes.  $140,000 chips.

A few hands later, I'm in the big blind and it folds around to the small blind.  He seems reluctant to throw out the additional $10,000 in chips.  He eventually does.  I look down at 75 diamonds.  Time to be a dick.  I min-raise to $50,000.  He folds.  I give him The Speech: "Nice fold, sir... I had a hand ..." 

I give back the ill-gotten $10,000 chips the very next hand when I muck my small blind after a middle position raise.

The bubble bursts.  Down to 13 and in the money.  Then the flood gates open and we lose three more players in a matter of minutes.  Down to 10.  Final table.

The remaining ten of us are re-assigned.  I take the two seat and stack my $130,000 in chips (give or take a few . . . thousand . . .).  10th place still pays only $219.  After 7 hours of poker, it's hard to get excited over $119 in profit.

Within 10 minutes, three short stacks are busto.  We're down to 7.  Blinds go up to $4,000 / $15,000 / $30,000.  It's inhumane!  Chip leader (with about $300,000) proposes a chop.  He wants second place money, and the rest of us would take $880.  Frankly, $880 sounds good to me.  But there are several objectors.  The table is willing to chop even, but they won't give the chip leader extra money.  The rationale, as explained by the gentlemen in the 7 seat: "there are $1,300,000 chips in play.  A $50,000, or even a $100,000, chip lead is nothing when blinds are $15,000 / $30,000.  Your chip lead might be gone in two hands ..."

So, we played on.  And, in fact, the chip leader was back to the middle of the pack in less than an orbit.

In the meantime, action folds to the cut-off in the 10 seat who shoves $180,000.  The action comes around to me in the small blind.  BIG. F-ING. SLICK.  Again!  Here we go!  I shove, cut-off tables A 5 hearts.  I fade the 5 and the hearts and double up to $290,000.  I'm second in chips.  Breathing room.  For a few hands, at least.

I decide to keep the pressure on, and make several positional raises with playable hands (KQ, A9).  They both work.  I'm maintaining my stack. 

A short while later, the 10 seat is gone.  Down to 6.  Another chop is proposed.  An even chop, this time.  We have one hold out - the guy in the 3 seat, who is sitting on  about $65,000 in chips.  He explains - "this is the last tournament of the day, and I just want to play some poker..."  Clearly, his wife is a raging bitch and he's simply avoiding going home.  Because, with all due respect to my friend on my left, we were no longer playing poker.  Hell, I was second in chips and had 10 big blinds.  We were playing bingo.

At this point, my strategy changed.  6th place paid $539.  The chop value at 5 players would be well over $1,000.  And, it was clear that if we could ditch the 3 seat, who was short-stacked and would have to shove within an orbit, the rest of us would chop without problem.  And, with just under $300,000, I could stand to wait it out a bit.  In short, I was not busting out 6th.  So, I fold.  And I fold.  And I fold.  I get KQ suited in the cut-off, and I fold.  It folds around to my small blind, and I fold.  Finally, karma comes around and felts the three seat.  He was barely out of his chair when the remaining five of us agreed to an even chop of $1,377.  The extra ten minutes or so of poker cost the 3 seat $800.  I hope it was worth it to him.

                         [Floor Supervisor Doing Paperwork on the Chop]


After the two min-cashes earlier in the month, I had been questioning my late-stage play.  And, while it felt great to chop, frankly I'm not sure I played this final table any differently.  My focus in all three tournaments was primarily position.  I looked to open the action, preferrably from late position, with a raise carrying fold equity.  This, of course, required making a move before my stack dwindled too low.  On every hand I played, I was really hoping just to take the blinds and antes.   In none of the 3 tournaments did I have a monster at the final table --  a made hand (e.g., KK or AA) where I was hoping for a call and a double up.  At best, I had a couple of big face cards or a "premium pocket pair" which was vulnerable to a caller with a random ace.  I think the difference between Sunday and the two earlier final tables at the Golden Nugget was that I just happened to pick up some hands at the right times.   Sunday, I was able to double-up late with the TT hand.  I got AK in a spot where I had my opponent covered and could get my money in without putting my tournament on the line.  I got AK a second time against a late position shove who could have a fairly wide range -- a no brainer call -- and ended up having him dominated.  I got lucky in the blinds multiple times - hitting top pair with the Q3 hand, stealing twice with raises from the big blind and then from the small blind, and getting a timely walk.  Had any of these hands gone differently, I may not have even made the min-cash.   

This experience was also interesting as it was my first chop (I've really only started playing tournaments this year).  I've heard that negotiating a good deal is just as important as playing solid poker.  I've also heard people say that a proportional chop is the only fair deal.  Perhaps that's true at times, depending on the format of the event.  If the stacks are deep enough relative to the blinds, I can certainly see the merits of demanding to be paid according to your stack size.  But, this certainly was not the case Sunday.  By the final table, chips were just flying around.  Big stacks became small stacks, and vice-a-versa, in a matter of minutes.  Under such scenario, I think its hard to justify requesting extra money based on your stack size at any given point in time.  When a mere handful of big blinds separates the weak from the strong, it seems to me to make sense to play it down until the chop value reaches a number you can live with and then just be done with it.



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