Online, I've been having up-and-down profits. It started with the introduction of the new Sports Stars puzzle challenge. Trying to complete the JJ challenge, I lost $20 playing 0.02 NL Zoom, just because I played over 1000 hands, didn't get a single pair of jacks, and went on tilt. But the next day, I made $17 of that back playing 0.05 NL Zoom, which makes up for it (along with several big Spin N Go wins).

So because I felt pretty confident, I went to my local casino last night to play a nightly tournament. I noticed that even with the $60 buy-in, we only started with 6000 in chips (an additional 1000 chip dealer add-on is available for $5, and there's a full 2000 chip add-on after re-entry ends for $10). That only amounts to 120bb (140 with the add-on), which is a bit low for this tournament. But whatever, I thought, we'll get lots of people.

But we didn't. Even though demand for the tournament was high and the three tables they set up were filled quickly, there was actually a wait-list for future sign-ups because the poker room workers tonight wouldn't add a fourth table until when the rebuy period was almost over. I really didn't get it - when demand's that high, adding another table should be a priority.

Anyways, one of the first people to join my table was this asian guy in his mid-20s with a semi-mohawk, and I can tell right away that he's gonna be Loose-aggressive. He plays alot of hands, raises a lot, and is either taking down a lot of pots uncontested or is actually getting hands sometimes. Either way, he quickly starts to build up a stack, and just keeps climbing.

I don't get a lot of hands. In fact, I don't get a single "premium" hand until the final two tables. But I do win pots - the first came when I got KJs on the button, and I chose to raise in front of several limpers with it. I got a couple of callers, including the Big Blind, and we saw a flop of QJ9, all diamonds. Although I have position, middle pair with a gutshot draw is not enough to bet with in a multi-way pot on an all-suited board, so I check in position. The turn is a Q, and now the big blind bets out about 500 chips, which is a little less than 1/2 pot. The other limper folds, and after some consideration, I call because the Q makes it less likely he has a Q himself, and he might just be trying to take down the pot. The river is a blank, and he makes a 500 chip bet again. At this point, I start to think - could he have spiked the Q for trips on the turn? His betting seemed to be in line with a decent hand that was still wary of the raised board. Or maybe he did check a small flush on the flop. So I decide to try something new - get a physical tell, which usually hasn't done much for me.

I don't get anything from his face - he has sunglasses, and his face is unmoving. But then I look at his hands, and I notice that they're trembling; that HAS to be a tell of some sort. Eventually I decided that 500 chips was still less than 10% of my stack, and learning what he has in order to figure out what his trembling hands tell meant led to me making the call. He turns over J8 after I call, and my better J takes it down. I still don't know if he was going for a (very) thin value bet there, or was turning his decent hand into a bluff. But in either case, I made a good call, and I'm now over 7000 chips. After that, I'm back to being card dead, making one speculative limp in the small blind with suited connectors that whiffed.

The next major hand I get is KQo in the cutoff at the 75/150 blind level. Once again, there are several limpers, so I raise to 750 to isolate. My isolation fails as the button, both blinds, and both limpers come along with me. However, the flop is QT4 and it's checked around to me. With my top pair, I make a 2/3 pot bet of 3000, which gets one caller from the UTG limper. The turn is another T, and because UTG only has about 3300 left behind, I put him all in. He snap-calls and turns over KTo, giving him trips. "Typical," I muttered as I prepared to be reduced to maybe 13bb.

The river is a Q. I spike a two-outer. And the moment I see it, I yell, "YES!" as I point at the guy I busted. He gives me an angry look in response as I collect his chips and he rolls away in his wheelchair.

I should explain something really quickly - normally when I play, and especially when I play live, I don't have huge reactions to suck-outs or losses or wins. Sometimes I'll shrug and finish off my pop before leaving, or sometimes I'll let out a slight moan with a smile on my face ("that's poker"), but there's one exception to this that before now had only been confined to online games - if I suck out against an awful fish, my first instinct is to rub it in their face.

Fortunately, my outburst amounted to no more than that loud "yes" and the finger point, but the damage was still done. None of the table liked the outburst, and I quickly realized what my actions implied. I quickly apologized to the table, saying that what I did was inappropriate, and I learn a little bit more - most of them weren't pissed that I had an outburst, they were pissed that I had an outburst during a $60 tournament in the early stages. As one guy put it, "If it's a deep cash game I would understand it, but here? I don't get it." But they seem to forget it eventually. In either case, that means I go to the break with 15,000 chips (17,000 after the add-on) with the blinds going to 100/200 with a 25 ante.

After break, I go card-dead for quite a few hands. I try set-mining with 33 and seeing another flop with KJs, but I'm whiffing all the time. We get the final announcement - 38 players signed up, and top 4 get paid, with a mincash being $168 and the winner getting $685. I think I can win, but I need hands in order to do it.

Still, I remain card dead for quite a while, only occasionally managing a steal. I do note some new players (including an older gentleman around seat 6 who’s played before, and the Asian kid in seat 4 directly to my left who limps almost everything), but I get nothing until the 200/400 (50) level, when I get A7o in the cutoff against a limper or two with a stack of about 13,500. The big blind calls as does one limper. The flop comes A53, and the big blind donks out over 4000 (more than the pot)! The limper folds, and I look at the big blind’s stack – he doesn’t have much left behind, and such a donk-bet like this makes me feel like his hand was weak. So I put him all-in for most of my stack, leaving me just about 3000 behind if I lose. He makes a face like he didn’t want this to happen, but he calls after less than 10 seconds of thinking.

I was right – he WAS holding a semi-weak holding he was scared about. But I was also wrong – his weak hand was still better than mine. He had A9, and was due to double-up through me. This time, I knew it was entirely my fault – A7 is one of the weakest aces possible on this board, and the only ace I would be completely dominating is A6. But I get lucky again when I spike a 7 on the turn. This time I don’t act out – I learned my lesson from last time, and I was the one who made the wrong play this time. We simply shake hands as I collect his stack and I climb to over 25,000 chips.

I get my next hand during the same level, this time with QTo in the cutoff. Surprisingly, no one has limped to me, and I open to 1000 right here. Button (surprisingly) folds, and both blinds (including this young guy who is always talking either about poker strategy during breaks or alcohol during hands, as well as the older gentleman I’ve seen before) call. The flop is T7x, and now the gentleman shoves for his last 4300 chips or so. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was definitely a stop-n-go play. With top pair, I can’t fold to a stop-n-go, but there’s still the issue of the younger guy, who’s got a stack on-par or bigger than mine, who could easily overcall. So I isolation-raise to 12,000, to which the young guy folds. I was right – the older gentleman has A7o, and I fade the turn and river to bust another player and get up to 32,000.

I go right back to being card-dead for a while, the only hand I play for a decent time being a blind steal from the small blind with K2, to which the young Asian guy instantly 3-bet shoves his 23bb stack against me. I fold of course, but not too quickly. But at the 300/600 (100) level, I get another opportunity. The short-stacked guy shoves his last 5000 or so utg, and I look down at some sort of medium pair (sorry guys – I already forgot what it was). I isolate the limper, and everyone else folds. I end up flipping against AT, and I fade every card to get up to over 36,000.

The rest of my pots during the level are occasional steals, as I’m back to being card dead, and we go to the 3rd break with 34,900 chips left when the blinds will be up to 600/1.2k (200), with 14 players left. Other than the Mohawk guy (who’s got quite a big stack) and a bearded guy in a cap, sunglasses and headphones, we still have the Asian kid to my left, an older Asian gentleman in seat 10, and some other guys who were non-descript. Out of all of us, my 34,900 is easily only 4th at the table, with the shortest stack being the Asian kid with about 16,000. But the other table has lots of short stacks of under 15,000 left, so it’s likely I’ll make the final table anyways. But I need to work hard to get into a money spot.

When we get back from break, I get some okay hands and manage to steal a little bit, but it’s mostly back to being card-dead. The older Asian man in seat 10 eventually busts, as does another guy on the other table (who I know for knocking me out twice in previous tournaments). Then alcohol-guy’s friend on the other table busts his short stack, putting us on the money bubble. And then it happens – I get TT on the button, and there’s some action close to me. I forget what exactly happened, but I raised and got 3-bet shoved on by the Asian kid to my left. Everyone else folded, so I snap-call with my TT and run into A8 from him. I fade his 3 outs and bust a fourth player, giving me over 45,000 chips as we reach the final table, which consisted of:

1 – Bearded headphones and sunglasses (bigstack)

2 – Alcohol guy (medium-big stack)

3 – Mohawk Asian (bigstack)

4 – Older man who was sort of familiar but sort of not (short stack)

5 – Non-descript guy (short stack)

6 – Hoodie guy (medium stack)

7 – Glasses guy (medium-shortish stack)

8 – Me (medium stack)

9 – Hat chubby guy (medium-shortish stack)

10 – Nondescript guy 2 (short stack)

As the finale table starts, I notice three big things: 1) seat 10 is the worst player at the table; 2) Seat 1 is even more LAG than seat 3, raising most hands; 3) I’m card-dead again. It takes a long while for anything to happen – I’m mostly chatting up with seat 9, having some fun with him. Eventually seat 10 busts to seat 3 when he gets too short, but blinds are going up quickly, and they’re eating away at my stack.

There are three important hands that happen, all during the 800/1.6k (200) level. The first is when I look down at 99 against seat 5’s minraise. With how tight I’m getting, I 3-bet him to isolate, which works. He flips over ATo, and we’re going to a race. There’s a T on the flop, but guess what – there’s also a 9! And when a fourth 9 comes on the river, he’s out in 9th place. At which point some people are asking the dealer if there’s a High-Hand jackpot. I knew there wasn’t – there was only a bad beat jackpot that was never active anyways. But it was some fun discussion.

The next hand I played was an orbit later, when I got 33 in the cutoff. I hadn’t played many hands so far at this final table, so I decide to raise to 3500 as a steal. I get just one caller – Mohawk kid, who has either the biggest or the 2nd biggest stack on the table, and is DEFINITELY not one I want to play against. The flop is a K-high rainbow, quite a dry flop. He checks, so I make a c-bet of about 4000. Mohawk kid tanks for a LONG time before he folds to my c-bet, and the rest of the table was thinking I had some sort of weak-ish king. How wrong they were – especially since I saw one of the cards alcohol kid folded was one of my 3s. I’m back up to over 40,000.

Literally the next hand, hoodie guy limps utg, and I look down at TT again! I raise to 5100, and everyone folds back to the hoodie guy. He takes about 20 seconds before limp-shoving on me! Worse, he covers me! I tank for a good while – despite TT being a good hand and tied for the best hand I’ve seen all day, limp-raises are never a good sign, especially from UTG. After much consideration, I say out loud that “At best, I’m flipping,” and I fold my tens. I thought his range was committed to JJ+, AK, and MAYBE AQ. I later asked him at break what he had, and he confirmed that he had AQo. Despite that being the bottom of his range, it was still a good ICM fold due to the shorter stacks and how only 4 players get paid.

Other than seat 9 eventually busting, there are two other important hands I saw. One was when Mohawk guy raised utg, and got a few callers, including Alcohol guy in seat 2. The flop was 642 rainbow, and Mohawk guy c-bet. Everyone folds to Alcohol guy, who tanks… then open-folds 99 face-up! No one at the table believes he folded that. Sure, better hands are in Mohawk’s range, but you can’t fold 99 to one c-bet on a board of undercards. Better yet, Mohawk showed J9o for a complete bluff.

The other hand was when an all-in situation happened, of Alcohol guy vs I believe the glasses guy, who was getting really short. To sum it up, Alcohol guy got crippled to less than 12bb. We go to break with 7 players left, but the blinds will be 1.5k/3k(500) next level, and I’ve only got about 30,000 chips left. Worse, I’m in 5th or 6th place – I’m in desperation mode. At least one double-up is needed to get into the money.

It doesn’t get any better – I’m getting no hands whatsoever, not even shovable hands. I actually told the table it would take three hands to count the number of times I had 48o this table alone! On the rare occasion I get something shovable (like a small pair), someone else shoves in front of me and I’m forced to fold. However, Alcohol guy is in even worse straits, getting blinded down to less than 5bb eventually. He keeps saying that “Any Jx or better, I’m shoving at this point), and he STILL isn’t getting anything to fill that very loose criteria. He does make one double-up at one point, but he still busts his A6o to a middle pair. We’re down to 6, the blinds are up to 2k/4k (500), and I’m down to 24,000. Worse, glasses guy, myself, and the older man in seat 4 are constantly trading for the shortest stack.

We keep fighting for a while, but I thank God for how bad glasses guy was playing. Twice he limped my small blind with only around 30,000 each time. The first I looked down at AK (finally a hand!), shoved, and got the blinds. The second I looked at Q2, checked, and got a flop of 28T, all hearts. I had no heart, so I checked until the river, which was a Q. Because I got no aggression, I made a small bet of 5000, which was quickly called by A-high, so now I have a stack of over 40,000. At one point I even make a full house when it was limped to my big blind with 42o, but I don’t get paid, even though I waited until the river.

But it still seems to be going poorly as people keep staying alive with blind steals and shoves (although even I manage to get a couple of steals in). Hoodie in particular keeps shoving his 15-20bb stack on his button to get rid of me and glasses, which I know is a pretty good strategy this close to the bubble. But finally, seat 4 gets his last 32,000 in with QQ, which gets called by Sunglasses’ A6o. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for me), there’s a 6 on the flop and an A on the river, and he’s busted.

It’s then that we do a tradition at my casino – on the exact money bubble, everyone left chips in $20 to give to the bubble boy, essentially creating another payspot to make up for how insane the flat 10% pay structure for these tournaments is. It’s a deal, and now there’s $100 for 5th (and everyone here had paid between $80-$160, depending on if they re-entered and how many add-ons they got).

Then, I finally get an opportunity. The blinds are at 3k/6k(1k), and I’m at 48,000 thanks to some blind steals. I finally get it – AA on the button! Because these guys don’t often check how big stacks are until it’s too late, I minraise my AA, to which Mohawk kid 3-bet shoves on me. I snap-call, and my aces manage to outrun his KT, doubling me to over 95,000! I’m now 2nd in chips from that (although Mohawk still has over 100,000). Soon after, seat 7 glasses guy runs out of luck, and he’s our $100 bubble-boy.

Surprisingly enough, although play did loosen up after the money bubble popped, it DIDN’T get more aggressive. Players were still limping even with 4 of us left. I get some steals and lose some hands on really wet boards that I can’t c-bet worth a damn, so I eventually drop to 84,000 or so. But eventually, as the blinds raise to 4k/8k(1k), Hoodie runs his smaller pair into my AJ, which manages to take him out, and Bearded headphones (who had been steamrolling the table with aggression at the start), had cooled off over the last hour and lost the rest of his money to Mohawk, giving them $168 and $300, respectively.

It’s now that we’re heads up, and we start to discuss the possibility of a deal – Mohawk has about 188,000, and I have 128,000, so he has about a 3:2 advantage on me. He discusses just chopping even, but I don’t think much about that – see, 2nd and 1st get $515 and $685 respectively, and that $170 jump is much smaller than the $215 jump between 3rd and 2nd. There really isn’t much variance already, so why eliminate it all together?

Then the tournament director show up and lets us know that there’s a $330 tournament ticket available for just the winner. This is actually more interesting – I start to consider a deal again, with the winner playing for the ticket. Finally, we arrive at a deal – 1st gives up $35 to 2nd, so the prizes are $550 and $650+$330 ticket. We agree, and start to play.

Very first hand, I get A7o on the button, which I minraise. He quickly calls, and the flop is AK3. He donks out for about 19,000, and wondering why he was doing that, I call. This process repeats the X turn and the K river for 35,000 and 40,000, and I call each time. He says “nice call – I had J-high”. I take down the pot, and our situations have reversed.

Our next few hands are semi-uneventful. He takes down one pot preflop, I get another pot from a c-bet, and he’s now short-stacked at about 90,000. Once he 3-bet shoves me, and I have to fold my weak King, but I do the same against him with QJ.

Finally, I minraise ATo on the button, and he 3-bet shoves with A7, which I quickly call. I try to assure him – “Don’t worry. I’ve been getting sucked out when I dominate hands like this all week”. But the 7 doesn’t come, and I’ve won! My first live win!

We shake hands, and after some confusion and discussion, I collect my $650, PLUS I get to sell my $330 ticket that I was probably never going to use for $300 to another player. So my $95 turned into $950! A whole tenfold increase!

I stayed pretty calm until I reached my care at about 12:45 in the morning, at which point I screamed to myself about how good it felt to finally win. It really was amazing, especially since the final table (despite the limping) was better than most of the players I had been playing against before. But I’ve finally realized what I need to win a tournament like this: 1) Luck to suck-out and not get sucked-out on, 2) not be too weak against aggression from more aggressive players, 3) good hands at exactly the right spots, and 4) physical tells.

I’m still so happy to win almost a grand. I hope my streak continues.

That’s all for now. Christxof out.