Monday, October 8, 2012

Final Table - Should Big Slick Hit the Muck?

First things first - lets get some thoughts on this hand:

Tournament is down from 44 to 9.  Five spots paid.  Chip average is around $90,000.  Blinds are $1,000/$4,000/$8,000.  Hero is sitting on $70,000.  The hand folds around to Old Man, who has approximately $50,000 chips.  Old man opens for $20,000.  It folds around to hero, who is in position with A(s)K(s).  Hero has only played a few hands with Old Man since the tables merged and has no read (other than the fact that he's an Old Man).   What is your play?  Comments most welcome!
I rolled into AC early Saturday afternoon and played a few uneventful hours of cash at Harrah's.  My real goal for the weekend was to cash the Sunday noon tournament at The Nugget the following day.  The Sunday tournament has a $50 buy-in for $10,000 chips.  An extra $20 gets you the $5,000 add-on.  20 minute levels. $2,020 guaranteed.  I paid the $70 up front and took the 6th seat at table 20.  There were only 44 runners, and 5 spots paid.  I was determined to make it two final tables in a row.
I was tested with a strange hand the very first level:
Blinds are $25/$50.  UTG limps, Middle Position calls, and the action reaches P.P.P.  I look down at A(c) Q(c) and raise to $125.  UTG and MP both call. 
Flop comes down 7 QQ rainbow.  UTG (a 55- to 60-ish gentleman) donk bets $500.  MP folds.  I smooth call. 
Turn is a 4.  UTG bets $1,500.  I flat. 
River is a blank.  UTG SHOVES ALL IN!  What the holy fuck?!?  I'm totally confused by this bet.  I have no idea if this guy knows what he's doing or if he's a complete idiot.  I mean, we've been playing for less than 10 minutes.  What type of hand is strong enough to shove for your tournament life halfway through the first level.  And, if you had such a hand, why would not value bet it?  Also, if Villain flopped the boat, why donk bet?  I've read that leading out is often a sign of weakness.  Is Villain a genius who's trying to level me by donking two streets and overbetting the river with a monster?  
Ultimately, it's the first hand I've played in what I hoped to be a long tournament.  I've also been burned many times with trips (yes, it's "trips," not a goddamn "set" . . . if you want to sprinkle the table with poker lingo, at least get it right . . .).  I put myself in Villain's shoes:  I raised pre-flop and just smooth called two rather large bets.  Isn't AQ or KQ or QJ smack in the middle of my range?  Doesn't he HAVE TO strongly consider giving me credit for a Q in this spot?   What can he be shoving here that is NOT the nuts? 
If this is 5 or 6 levels later, I might make this call.  But, it's not.  I fold.  Face up.  Villain gives me that "Holy shit . . . You folded THAT" look . . . and I instantly feel sick.  He then announces "two pair" and tables pocket kings.  Well played, sir.  Well played.  From the limp-call UTG to the river shove for your tournament life with KK on a paired board.  Simply well played...  [Notably, more than one person at the table offered their unsolicited comment that there was "no way [they'd] have folded that hand."  Really?  Am I the idiot here?]
What's more, Villain proceeded to talk about his hand as if he had taken the line straight from Tom Dwan's playbook.  I wanted to punch him in his face.  I actually got up and went for a walk.  I had to, or else I was gonna be "that guy" who trashes another player's play at the table.  And, I hate "that guy."  I still had $12,000+ chips.  And, I'd fold that hand again if it were played again tomorrow.  And . . . and . . . AND . . . most importantly, I doubled up against said Villain the very next level:
This time, Villain again limps in.  I raise to $250 with AJ (blinds up to $50/$100).  Villain calls.  Flop comes out A, 8, 6 (two spades).  Villain leads for $500.  Sound familiar?  I raise to $1,750.  Villain calls.  Turn is a beautiful red Jack.  Villain, undeterred, donks $2,000.  I shove . . . Villain calls and tables A(s) T(s).  I fade the spade, double up, and cripple him.  He's gone 10 minutes later.  I only wish I got to finish him off myself . . .
As is necessary with every deep tournament run, I had a bit of luck during the middle stages.   One hand, I raised pre-flop with 99, got two calls, and saw a flop of 8(d) 9(h) 6(d).  A less than an ideal board for top set.  A player bet out, and a very capable local, who was a bit short stacked due to poor luck, raised.  I shoved in case local was raising his draw.  Local calls with A(d) 5(d).  Turn is the 4(d).  Fuck.  River is the 8(c) and my boat knocks him from the tournament.
I made one mistake in the mid-rounds which almost (should have) cost me a bunch of chips.  I limped with AT (first limp of the tournament) and three of us saw a T 7 2 flop.   The big blind led out.  MP called.  I raised.  Big Blind, who was short stacked, shoved.  MP folds.  A call costs about 1/3 my stack.  I make it, since I figure BB could be shoving here with nearly any piece of the board given his stack size.  Unfortunately, he had the 7 2 "big blind special."  His victory party was short lived, however, when a T hit the turn.  Clean living!
Fast forward to the final table and the hand described at the open -- my A(s) K (s) against Old Man's $20,000 open.  Here was my thought process:  (1) play had been very tight since all 9 of us were sitting on similar stacks and no one had room for error.  A $20,000 open is basically committing Old Man to the hand ($30,000 behind).  I'm putting Old Man on a big hand in this spot.  A BIG pair.  If he had a hand like AK or AQ, why not shove to try and take the hand down without a flop; (2) I have to assume that, if I call, he's getting his money in on the flop.  So, a call seems horrible.  If I miss the flop, I'm down to $50,000 and in real bad shape; (3) Given my read of a made hand, I'm likely racing, at best.  Do I want to race this close to the money where, If I don't win, I'm crippled and will likely not last through the bubble?
In the end, I fold.  During the break, I spoke with Old Man, who told me he had KK.  Good fold . . . in retrospect.  I am, however, curious if many people look beyond just cracking the bubble and call in this spot in hopes of winning the race and building a dominating stack to take to the end.  Is a fold in this spot sensible play, or just plain weak?           
Ultimately, we got down to 6, and took the $20 "bubble boy collection" to pay $120 to the last man out.  5th place was only $210, so there was not much difference between bubbling and cashing (pride aside . . .).   I ended up letting my stack dwindle to $45,000 (card dead at the wrong time).  I shoved light a few times and, based on my table rep, was able to take down the blinds and antes.  But, at $2,000 / $8,000 / $16,000, I really needed a double-up, which never came.  We hit the seventh break, and I was big blind when play resumed.  I was shoving dark no matter what.  Hand folded around to the small blind, and I thought I might actually get a walk.  But, small blind raised to put me all in.  Dick.  I shove dark.  He flips 4 2 off.  What a DICK! [no harm intended to Poker Grump or his disciples . . .).  I table . . .  A(c) J(c).  Fuck you, sir !!!  Of course, small blind turns the straight and rivers a 4 for good measure . . .  Out at 6th . . . second tournament in a row.  Far less satisfying this time with only 5 spots paid.  While I collect the bubble money, in my mind, I still fell one spot short.   


  1. Before reading the rest of the post, I'm going to put out my opinion on the AKs hand. He's an old man and they play nittier than most. He has ~6BBs with an M of much less. He's going to call you no matter what you do. There's 20 + 10*1 + 4 + 8 in the pot; 42 total. You're paying 20 to win 42 outright. Effectively, you're paying 50 to win 72 (because this is a shove or fold situation). You're getting pretty decent odds on your money assuming he's raising more than just AA,KK. I am going to go with that assumption - he's got a wider raising range than AA,KK and push out my stack, hoping he's either folding / calling 22+, AT+, perhaps even KQ(?) I think this is a profitable spot, even though you're 4 away from the money and sitting on an average stack. You also have the chance to knock out another player and get a LOT healthier stack if you win this potential coin flip. If you lose, you're staring at ~2BBs with an M of around 1.4(?). I think it's worth the gamble.

  2. I concur with The Poker Meister. Blinds being what they are, isn't it worth the risk? I have probably made the mistake too many times of waiting for that "right moment" to shove. Then you get nothing but crap hands and/or get called by someone with crap who hits a lucky card.

    Don't forget that with blinds and antes you will lose 21,000 each orbit. Not much room to bargain here.

  3. Hello,
    I am definitely shoving while in position. If i'm in the small or big blind -- i am going to use the underused stop n go --- call and shove any flop.
    but either way i'm getting all my chips in there w/ AKs

  4. 3-0 so far. Interesting. Does the fact that he's not open-shoving with only $50,000 behind effect you're read here? If he had $200,000, I'm far more inclined to shove because I think his opening range may be broader (AQ, AJ, TT and smaller pocket pairs). But betting $20 and leaving $30 behind seems to indicate he wants a call. It made me think his range was far narrower QQ-AA)

  5. Of course, he might be using the raise to get action, or possibly using it to represent a big hand to get people to fold to get back in the game. Hard to tell. However, with A-K (ooohhh ... sooted!) you are only behind two hands and at worst flipping with everything else. I would TBC monkeyshove and take my chances, hoping he had A-Q, A-J or the like.

  6. I guess we all need to be a bit more like TBC !

  7. Don't forget that although your ~50/50 with QQ, you're 30/70 with KK. AA is your *TRUE* fear, but everything else gives you good equity. Since you hold an A & K in your hand, there are fewer possibilities for him to hold AA/KK. Although I read the hand summary at the end, I still get it in there with AKs given the information you know at the time.

  8. I like your fold since you read the hand and did what your read told you. You were right. If you are right like that most of the time then the fold is the right move. You thinking seemed solid and you were right. You can jam in on a wide range of hands when your first to open and make the blinds and make your stack healthier in a lot of better spots.

  9. Waffles, thanks for the perspective!

  10. I agree with Waffles, his range can only be KK or AA there and he is looking to double. Anything less and he shoves preflop. So you're a 2-1 dog to KK and getting the right odds to call or push and you're a major dog to AA. I suppose there is a small possibility of him having QQ or less but with his chipstack that seems highly unlikely. Sucks to get a hand like AK suited and dump it, sucks more to dump 20 or 50k into a hand you "know" you're behind in.

  11. I read a blog by Olivier Busquet a few years ago about the final table of the WPT Borgata Open. With 8 players remaining the blinds were 50k - 100k and he had 2,300,000chips. He had AKo and was facing a raise to 250k followed by a 3 bet to 700,000. He shoved and the 3 bettor called with AA. OB hit broadway on the river and went on to win the tournament. Whilst he was clearly lucky he added this comment when describing the hand. "All you nits out there who want me to fold AK in this spot, don't ask me why you always min-cash"

    Don't get me wrong i'm not saying you are a nit (i definately am BTW) but IMO your decision was far easier than his.

  12. Shuffler, I'd never heard Busquet's comment before. But, frankly, that's the reason I posed the question in the first place. I've been min-cashing a bunch lately, and wondering if it's because I'm playing too tight in the latter stages. In my mind, the AK hand was a perfect example of the issues I've been facing that have me questioning my play. Definately interesting to hear these different thoughts!

  13. From what you've written, you're right to be questioning whether you play too tight. Given that live is a completely different game than online, the hand you described with trip Qs is not an easy lay down at all. There are many combos that villain can have with a Q, and only one combo that beats you; 77. He's not betting like this with 44, and it's unlikely Q7s / Q4s made the call (given he's an older gentleman). Even if he dd call Q7s / Q4s, you got a rainbow flop which reduces the likelihood that he called a QXs hand. He has QT+ in his range, alongside overpairs (which for some reason they love to slow play) and the flopped boat. I think there are WAY more hands that you CRUSH than crush you. It's not a no-brainer call, but it is a call (and I like your logic of getting in early in the tourney, FWIW - I completely agree with you that it doesn't make a heckuva lotta sense... however, not everyone thinks like you or I do - keep that in mind).

  14. Believe me, the Q was NOT an easy lay down. I tanked a good 3 or 4 minutes running the hand through my head. Your thought process was similar to mine. I knew there were obviously only three (or maybe even just two) hands that I was realistically behind. But, the old guy's play just totally had me confused and I figued I'd rather fold in that spot (10 minutes into the tounament) than call and see him flip a random Q4 on me.

    It was a clear situation of me over-thinking the hand based on the opponent's skill level. I gave him credit for level 2 thinking at the very least (i.e., "he must be giving me credit for a big Q here, so what is he stacking off with this early in the game . . .?"), when, in reality, the guy was just thinking: "YES !!! KK is a GREAT hand, especially on a Q-high board - let me get my money all in!!!").

    In the end, I'm not sure I agree with you that the Trip Q's hand was an example of me playing too tight. Not in that spot, at least . . . I think I'd make that fold again tomorrow . . .

    P.S. I love your comments. I think I've been playing a lot by "gut" recently. I need to start adding a bit more "math" into my game. Your comments are a great example of what I need to do to improve! Thanks, as always!

  15. I have had and still have at times the same issues with my MTT game. I found i was making the money in about 20% of tournaments i was entering, but still not turning a profit. Busquets comments resonated with me as i was undergoing a similar self analysis to you. I looked at some of the most successful MTT players (online) and found that they only cashed 12-14% of the time but the key difference was that they made the odd major score.

    I feel that i have improved somewhat but still find it hard not to revert to type sometimes, and hold out for the money or the next increment, rather than focus on what i need to do to win.