Poker Boss at the AZ State Poker Championship Qualifier 08/09/14

This day started with a good nights sleep.  I woke up at 8 am to get ready for an 11:15 tournament start time.  I formulate my preparation plan and begin to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.  My thought process is something like this: 1.) I have a 45min drive to the casino 2.) I need to eat a light breakfast sometime before the tournament starts 3.) I need music to listen to listen to during the tournament so I will need to bring my iPhone and purchase some headphones 4.) Double-check that I have cash for the tournament 5.) Lastly, find a nice quiet place to go over some mental reps in my head (imagine how I want to play in the beginning and how I want the game to go). 

I’m on the road at 8:35 and arrive at the casino around 9:15.  Looking around the casino everything seems to be as I remembered it last time. I quickly find my bearings but realize I forgot my players card which I will need to enter the tournament.  Five minutes in line at the players club window and I walk out with a new card hot of the presses.  Heading toward the cashier window I take a look to see if there are any good cash games going on as I pass through the poker room.  There appears to be a lot of action going on, but I remind myself that I have a plan and I need to stick to it.  So I pay my $140 buy-in and receive my tournament ticket which contains my table and seat info.  Table 47 seat 1.  Seat one is not my favorite position at the table because much of the action on the far side of the table is blocked by the dealer who is sitting directly to my right.  Oh well… I will make the best of it.  So I take short walk around the empty tournament tables set up at the rear of the poker room to find table 47. 

After locating my table and seat I head back out off the casino and hop into my car in search of a nearby healthy breakfast option.  Ideally I want something light so I won’t be weighed down or lethargic as the tournament gets under way.   Lets see… Mc’y Dees, Taco Hell and Arby’s seem to be the only options nearby.  I tried venturing out a little further and stumbled upon a Walmart.  I think to myself… Hey, that would be a good place to buy my headphones.  So I stopped and on the way inside see a restaurant to my left… Subway, perfect!  Quickly I purchase headphones and take the opportunity to “Eat Fresh” on the way out.  “Six inch turkey with avocado on white with provolone please”.  Now back to the casino I go.  I arrive with 45min to tournament time.  So I park in the parking garage and it seems nice and quiet there.  I take a moment to enjoy my tasty sandwich and then kick back in the car for 30 minutes with my eyes closed just imagining my TAG Style controlling the table as the tournament gets under way. 

Now 11:00 comes… Time to go get seated.  I already know where to go so I quickly find my seat, give the dealer my tournament ticket and pay the optional $15 dealer appreciation fee for an additional bonus of 2000 more in tournament chips.  That means I will start with 10,000 in chips. Well now it’s tournament time.  I take a quick glance at the tournament scoreboard and it says the total number of players is 285 and the approximate tournament finishing time should be in 4hrs.  Wow, 285 it is a pretty good turn out!  The casino is paying out a $1000 seat to the main event for every ten players who enter the tournament.  That means 28 players are going to earn a $1000 prize and the 29th player will get $500 cash.  I hear a voice come on the loud speaker and say, “Dealers… cards in the air… blinds are 25 – 50… good luck players!”  I look down to realize that I’m in the small blind and put in my 25 chip.  I quickly get off to a great start five minutes into the tournament.

(Key Hand #1)  I’m in late position with Ace King off-suit and I raise the bet to 600 because I want it to appear that I have a small pair and I do not want a call.   I would be happy to just steal the blinds.  I get a raise from the player in the big blind position to 1800 which is close to a 1/4 of his stack. The action folds around to me and I call the 1200 more to match his 1800.  The flop comes out J – 4 – 3 and my immediate thought is dang… I missed.  So being in position I await the other player to make his move.  He fumbles around a little bit with his chips and mumbles “All-In” to the dealer.   He bet 8000 chips into a pot of approx 4000.  So I take a moment to think about the situation.  I barely know anything about this guy for starters.  I have been at the table for all of five minutes, which is not enough time to learn anything about his style, tendencies or patterns.  So I have to purely go off of past experience to determine the best course of action.  My first thought is… its early in the tournament, I don’t need to get caught up in a big hand like this right out of the gate and find myself out of the tournament 5 minutes in.  My second thought is what is the other guy thinking.  He is in the big blind, he re-raise me before the flop which screams that he is holding Aces.  But then his actions after the flop are not consistent with the play of someone who has Aces.  If he had a pair of Aces on the flop that came out, he would have just made a reasonable half pot size bet hoping to extract more value from me.  Same goes for if he holds Kings or Queens.  There is a chance he hit the flop with an A – J but if he hit top pair he would again try to extract value.  He completely over-bet the flop and my instincts are telling me that he missed the flop the same as I did and is bluffing “All-In” hoping that I would be too scared to call and get knocked out of the tournament early.  If he did miss the flop like I did then I have probably got him beat with my A – K and worst case we may have the same hand.  So I make the call and he sheepishly turns over an A – Q off-suit.  I knocked him out of the tournament and earned myself an early double-up.

(Key Hand #2) Two breaks later and one of the chip leaders in the tournament, I suddenly go card dead.  After the 1000-2000 blinds continue their beating on my stack as I find myself in desperate need of a winning pot to recoup some of my blinds.  I look down in the big blind to find myself with a pair of 8’s in the hole.  Because the blinds are so high, players have tightened up and the action folds all the way around to the small blind who has been pretty aggressive during this tight period.  I have seen him turn over all kinds of small pairs and suited connectors during the course of the game.  He goes all in and I know that he could be doing so with anything.  So I think that I am probably ahead with my pair vs. his suited or unsuited Ace rag.  I call with approximately 12k and I have his approx 8k all-in covered.  I turn over my 8’s and he slowly turns over a pair of 3’s.  I have him absolutely dominated.  He can only hope for one of two 3’s left in the deck to win.  The flop comes out A – 5 – 5 and the turn is an Ace and the river is another 5.  The dealer slides me the pot and another players speaks up as the player I knocked out is walking away… “Wait… Split Pot!”  As I grab up the chips and tell the person next to me Whew! I needed that pot.  The dealer looks at the community cards again and says “Yes you are right” to the player that yelled out.  “Come back”, the dealer said.  Come back… huh.  I take a close look at the community cards to see a full house on the board.  I did not even know what the river card was because after I didn’t see a 3 I just knew I was a winner.  It turns out I was right.  I was a winner of half of the pot.  The dealer takes back the stack of chips that I won and returns them to the proper owner.  The hand was a wash.

(Key Hand #3)  Back to desperation and still card dead I find my way to a pair of 10’s in late position.  I raise All-in with the 13k I have remaining hoping that I don’t get any callers and just steal the blinds.  The players fold around to the big blind and he calls.  I have him cover 13k to 7k.  I show my 10’s and he turns over an A – 9 off-suit.  I have him right where I want him with the lead going into the flop.  The flop comes and right out of the gate is an Ace.  Man… I can’t believe this.  In my opinion the guy had no business calling me with an A-9 in that spot, I could have had him crushed with a bigger ace or pair, but I guess he was short stacked and decided he would make his stand right then and there.  Such buzzard luck for me on this one.  He goes on to win the hand and chops off one of my legs by taking half of my short stack.

(Final Key Hand #4)  Desperation mode in full affect now.  I am down to 4k after losing 3k to the blinds that just went around.  I would have gone all-in in on the big blind with any hand, regardless of the two cards I was dealt, but I was given one of the worst hands in poker 6 – 2 off-suit vs. an early position raiser.  I knew I was toast so I just ate the big blind loss hoping to have better luck on the small blind deal.  Small blind I find myself with the absolute worst hand in poker 7 – 2 off-suit.  Oh well… if I ate the big blind then I guess I can eat the small blind too right.  So I hope to get dealt two Aces some time before the blinds get back to me and low and behold I get dealt a suited King – 4 in late position with no raisers in front of me.  Might as well have been Aces in the hole to a struggling player like me.  So like a wheel of cheese to a lactose intolerant mouse I say what the heck and go all-in.  Action folds around to the big blind again, the same guy who beat me out of the last key pot.  He has an easy call because the blinds already have him committed to the hand.  I show my suited K-4 and he turns over a Jack – 9 off-suit.  Once again I have the better hand going into the flop, but wouldn’t you know it, the flop ends up being 9-2-6 and the turn a 6, and the river end up being another 9.  Good luck I say to the players next to me as I get up from the table.

I look up at the tournament score board to see what place I finished and it says there was 47 players remaining.  Forty-seven out of 285 is not bad but I am not happy to be so close to the money and coming up short.  Eighteen spots away from winning some cash or a $1000 seat.  That sucks!  As you can see from my experience, you can play well and still lose.  Many times I had my money all-in with the best hand going into the flop and none of my hands held up.  If any of them had, who knows, the outcome may have been much different.  But that is the way of the cards in this game of poker sometimes.  All that I can do is build on this poker experience and make small improvements to my game so that I can continue to improve and hopefully get that big win that has alluded me to this point in my poker career.  Please keep following “The Boss” as I continue on my quest for poker greatness!  My poker struggle is real…

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