As one of the 139 lucky players to participate in the inaugural Big Bang tournament, as well as one of the weakest NLHE players to stumble his way in through blind luck, you just know that I have to talk about the experience in this week's blog entry.

First, the preparation.  When the news broke on Monday, I read everything I could about this wonderful new tournament, and lamented the fact that my NLHE skills were far too weak for me to have any delusions about making the top 400 in three consecutive PSO Open League tourneys in a given month.  Still, I had some hope: The Professor was giving tickets to select commenters from his "Play My Hand" blogs, and there would be tickets awarded for "Outstanding Contributions".

My first ever blog entry, featured!I commented on the Q&A thread congratulating another player on having achieved  three consecutive sub-400 finishes so early in February, and wondering if my first blog entry (which was featured on the Community page) was considered an "outstanding contribution".  It then occurred to me that I should check my email, and lo and behold, there was my ticket!

I told my wife about it, and she was thrilled on my behalf.  At the time, there were only 20-odd players registered, and the prize for first place was $2000.  I allowed myself a brief flight of fancy, thinking about how cool it would be if I managed to take down first place, and in doing so, finished off my 2013 goal with more than 10 months left in the year!  At the same time, I kept myself grounded in reality, knowing that most of the players in the tournament would have genuine talent, having earned their way into the tournament by skill at the table.

When Saturday morning arrived, I woke up 3.5 hours before the start of the tournament and set about preparing myself.  I reviewed the bulk of the STT and MTT lessons and copied a lot of key information into OneNote, rearranging it to be more useful to me as reference material in the course of play.  I reviewed a few of the hands I had posted on the NLHE Tournament Hand Analysis forum.  I also prepared myself away from the computer; I ate some decent food, did a bunch of stretches, cleaned litterboxes, brushed my teeth, and even set a pair of jeans beside the computer in case I got cold.  (I usually wear soccer shorts while playing.)  I had my water and Coke Zero ready to keep me hydrated and caffeinated, and a package each of Twizzlers and Nibs in case I needed a sugar boost.

When the tournament finally started, I was as ready as I could possibly be.  I started taking notes on anything I thought would be useful to me, and very quickly had something on every player at my table.

Here are a few of the most important hands I was involved in:

in the big blind, UTG+1 and SB limp so I raise to 5x; UTG+1 calls (playing 48/5, so I'm not surprised) and SB folds.  The flop is, giving me second pair and the second-nut flush draw.  Villain's stack is only half the pot, so I figure all his chips are going in if I check.  If he has an ace, then I still have 11 outs to beat him with two cards to come, so I bet out and give him a chance to get out now.  He doesn't take it, showing , and I catch the  on the turn to bust him out.

in the big blind, and the CO opens with a 3x raise.  I figure there's a reasonable chance he's stealing, and I have him covered (but just barely) so I decide to defend my blind with a flat call and aggression on the flop, especially if it looks decent.  Flop comes , giving me an open-ended straight draw.  I check, villain bets the pot, and I raise the pot.  Then, he pushes all-in (roughly a 150% pot raise).  Pot odds would make this a +EV call on the basis of my straight draw (assuming it would win), but he could have a flush draw, voiding two of my outs, and if I call and lose, I would still be in, but with a stack 2 chips shy of a big blind--and the small blind about to hit me and take half of them away.  What can I do?  I fold, and wish I had just folded in the first place.

in the CO, folded to me, so I raise to 3x, hoping to take down the blinds but willing to see a flop.  Unfortunately, the button wants to play and the blinds fold, leaving us heads-up with me out of position.  Flop comes , and I take a stab at it with a pot-sized bet.  Coincidentally, the villain has slightly less than the pot left in his stack, and he calls all-in with .  He has me beat, and the cards decide to rub it in by giving him the  on the river for good measure.

in the SB, and my stack is down to 9.75 big blinds.  UTG min-raises, it folds around to me, and I push.  BB folds and villain calls with .  My heart stops for a moment when I see the  on the flop, but then I notice that there's also the .  My set holds, and I'm temporarily revitalized with 20.5 big blinds in my stack.

in the BB, and I'm sitting with 12.25 big blinds after posting my blind.  (Antes haven't kicked in yet.)  Folded around to the SB, who min-raises.  He's playing 27/18, and this looks to me like a weak attempt at stealing the blinds.  His stack is four times the size of mine, though, and in a moment of weakness, I flat call instead of pushing (which I'm pretty sure would have been the right move here).  Flop comes , and villain bets half the pot.  I (apparently terrified by the single overcard) flat-call again.  The turn is the , and the villain makes a weird bet of 489 with the pot at 800 and my stack at 924.  (I guess he dropped something on the numpad?)  Anyway, with three diamonds and an overcard on the board, I am temporarily seized with an inexplicable sense of invulnerability, so I push all-in.  Of course, he has , and I am flushed out of the Big Bang.  (The toilet analogy also applicable in describing how I felt at that moment.)

Out of 139 entrants, I finished in 108th spot.  I lasted forty-five minutes.  I can't really say that I played especially well, but I think I did ok considering my relative inexperience.  That last hand really highlights my biggest weakness, though: sometimes I play a hand without really having my brain fully engaged.  In cash games that's a definite leak, but if I play well the vast majority of the time, it doesn't affect me much.  In tournaments, though, one hand like that can end it.  Even reviewing my final hand now, a day later, I look at the stack sizes and the board texture and wonder, what was I thinking?

I certainly don't mind having hands where I think I know what I'm doing and things go badly--those are learning opportunities, and if you count how many hands I have posted for review in the NLHE tournament hand analysis forum, you'll see that I am very interested in learning.  All the learning in the world does me no good if I just shut down every now and then, though.

So there it is.  I don't know if I'll get another shot next month, but I sure hope so--I'm more than happy to take my bruises and come back for more!

-- CanuckMonkey

P.S. For those who have never witnessed raw, unbridled madness, here's my final hand from the Big Bang in all its glory.