Sunday, December 17, 2006

Remember the Main

It's 10 a.m. on a gloomy, overcast but unseasonably warm Sunday morning in December. We're about to drive out to the country to kill a tree and set in motion Christmas revelry at Casa de Poker Jones.

I should be asleep. Arrived home around 3 this morning from The Group's POY Main Event, passed out around 4 and found myself awake at 8:30. Pine trees must die.

We're lucky here on the North Coast to have an extremely active stable of donkeys who have found each other through the screwy medium of poker. When I found the Cleveland Poker Meetup Group more than a year ago, there were two weekly tournaments that typically had 18-20 participants. Both had turbo-like structures and seemed to serve primarily as an appetizer for The Group's main course -- the $1/2 NL cash game.

I didn't venture into those shark-infested $1/2 waters much. It did not take long to realize that I was but a sardine in their poker chum ball. The mainstays are tough, inscrutable players who typically clean up during forays to Salamanca, Detroit, Vegas and other gambling venues. If you can win consistently in the Group's $1/2 game, casino tourists represent easy marks.

Given that my interest (and strengths) were primarily in tournament play, I began some behind-the-scene discussions, especially with the rock-solid Turbo, about creating events with deeper structures and not long after tournament poker took on greater significance within The Group. (I'm sure others were thinking the same thing, but I like to think I helped get it kick-started.)

By late spring of this year, Commander Data and Brian Wilson created a twice-weekly POY series and tournament poker exploded. In the last few months, the average player count was north of 30, with a high of 41 -- on a Wednesday night.

I had few opportunities to play early on because of baseball commitments and ended up playing 20 of 54 events. I did okay. I won the 41-person tournament, chopped first-place money once, finished second once and had a few other ITM finishes. (These were $20 tournaments and five places paid.)

Data came up with a formula where each dollar won would be worth one point and the points would then be reformulated to determine your starting chip stack for the Main Event. "It's all about the points" became the battle cry. The extra POY dollar we threw in for each tournament would be used to fatten the main event prize pool.

I finished eighth in the points race while figuring out how to play live poker (i.e. -- play the player) and would start the ME with 47,800T. Data, the manically efficient TD and organizer of these tournaments, won the points race and would have 110,000T. The smallest stack would have around 11K.

Anticipation ran high for the main event with plenty of chatter on on The Group message board. Predictions were made and odds set. Yesterday -- the big day -- came and I didn't want to play. A cold had turned into a nasty sinus infection that seem to trigger migraines or something that surely felt like one. Mrs. Jones suggested again that I might want to see a doctor and I finally took her advice. A doctor loaded me up with prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestants and Vicodin. I still felt like crap by late afternoon but headed out, knowing sometimes you have to play hurt.

Thirty one of the 45-plus eligible players, including all but one of the decent-sized stacks, were in attendance. I had one of the bigger stacks at my starting table, which gave me license to raise a bunch of pots preflop and float a bit afterward. A rivered straight with 3-5 soooted won a nice-sized pot.

I built it up to nearly 70K and then donked off a bit calling raises in position with small pairs hoping to hit the lottery on the flop. I lost one-third of my stack just before the first break when I called a 20K all-in with A-K and failed to suck out against queens.

The break ended and my head began to pound. I reluctantly popped the emergency Vicodin I brought with me and determined to muddle through. The head torture subsided but the deck decided to punish me instead.

The blinds began tearing larger and larger chunks out of my stack. Short-handed while waiting for tables to combine, I stole blinds to survive, pushing with any two decent cards. Details are a little blurry, but I made it to the final table of 10 players with an anemic 47K. There were two other similarly sized stacks while the other seven players shared around 1 million.

With a couple exceptions, it felt like every hand at the final table contained a 2. (Stole the blinds twice with aces, doubled up one with jacks and crippled Pete while shortstacked with A-K vs. his pocket 4s). I could never gain any traction yet managed to finish fourth. It was nice to finish ITM, but I'm hardly celebrating.

I wimped out on the bubble when I folded pocket 9s to an all-in for slightly more than half my stack. Had I called and lost, I would have had less than two rounds of blinds left and decided not to race. Something told me that Johnny Underpants had a big hand, but that might be a rationalization read. (Johnny U., one of the talented young players in the group, went on to win the tournament.) I think I had to call there to have any chance to win, bubble be damned.


Anonymous Chris said...

It was everything I thought it was going to be. Only wish I went a little deeper. You put on a clinic early on how to use a big stack.

11:57 PM  

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