I get to Harrah’s Joliet to play in the $115 buy-in mini deepstack and find out that when registration closes that there are 31 players in the tourney and that the top 5 get paid.  I start off at table 8, seat 10 and hope to cement my behind to my seat, as I know that they use table 8 for the final table.  Normally when I play tourneys here, I know at least half the field, but when I sit down, I only know one player at my table.  I saw one other player before but was never at his table, so have no read.  I do know 2 of the players at table 7 and one at table 6, but nobody else.  I thought that was weird, as granted I haven’t played a tourney there in a few months, it’s where I’ve played the majority of my tourneys, especially the old league games.

Without knowing the opps, the first level, all my concentration is going into getting reads.  I see that two of the looser opps are on my right and that seat 2 is the tightest player at the table and when he does play one, he always ends up showing a big hand.  Seats 4 and 6 are the two opps that are aggressive (but that doesn’t mean that they have it as seat 4 is a decent LAG and the one guy I do have extensive history with).  It’s easy to spend my time getting reads because I’m getting total junk (wondering if they even make a card over 6 lol).  We start with 10k chips, but the levels will go up quickly.

The blinds go up to 50/100 and I still haven’t won a hand yet, so when it folds to me on the button, I open my total junk (36o) and steal a set of blinds.  I’m still getting junk, but see at the end of this level that the table dynamics are changing some as seat 8 is now transitioning from being loose/passive the entire hand, to loose/passive preflop and loose/aggro postflop, is starting to shove over other bets/raises and the way he’s doing it isn’t adding up, so I’m starting to think his shoves are mostly, if not almost all bluffs.  I do see one trainwreck hand at this level as there is a 4-way limped flop (I got in behind with 33) and we get an AQT flop.  The bets start flying, so I’m out, but the other 3 all stay.  The turn is a K.  Bet, call, raise, call, call.  The river is another A and I see bet, shove, muck (JT for a straight) and call.  Aces full of kings against aces full of queens.

The blinds go up again to 75/150 and we get a limpfest hand on my BB and I look down at AQs, needless to say, I’m not checking.  I make a standard raise to 775 and get 2 callers.  The flop is Q73 with two clubs.  I lead out for 1100 and only seat 5 calls.  The turn is a total brick and I fire out 1700 and take down a decent pot.  We hit the first break and I’m up a few chips, sitting at 10450 as I miss on three small pairs while setmining.

As we come back from break, there are 28 players left, with the antes kicking in, this is going to be an hour that we’ll start losing players and is where I want to start chipping up.  Unfortunately for me, I’m back to the trash I had on the first level, so I’m not able to get much done.  I am able to get one steal in with 78s when I open from the button.

The blinds go up to 200/400/50 and I’m now looking for a resteal spot but I’m still not getting playable hands, especially with others starting to shove too.  I did see A8s, but with a shove and reshove in front of me, needless to say, it’s in the muck.  We do get down to 20 left but the new players at my table are unknowns and two of them are short.

They’re going up again to 300/600/75 and I’m now looking for a spot to get them in and toward the end of the level, I find my spot.  It folds to me in the cutoff and I shove A9s.  The next thing I see makes me cringe, as the nit calls.  He didn’t re-raise, so I’m not putting him on a pair, which means one thing, that he’s got a bigger ace.  With the call, the BB now calls too.  The flop is 8 high, so it’s a brick for me but when it checks thru, I’m sure they missed too.  The turn is a 9 and it checks thru again, so I’m confident that I’m now ahead.  The river is another 3 and it checks again.  I turn over my A9, seat 2 has AK (I put him on AK or AQ) and seat 3 turns over KQ.  I was hoping for a double-up but got a triple-up and now have 20k chips and the second largest stack at the table.  I also notice one other thing this level.  Seat 8, the table chip leader, has shoved 3 more times and he’s shown the bluffs on all 3 (what I thought he was doing earlier).   If he misses, he’s shoving, but if he hits, he’s value betting small, just under 1/2 pot.  HUGE mistake on his part to give this info out to me, as we’ll see later.

As we come back from break, there are 15 players left and I’m second in chips at my table and sitting 4th overall.  With the blinds at 500/1k/100 now, the majority of the field is in shove mode.  At this level, I make the key play of the tourney for me and capitalize on my read.  I’m in the BB and seat 8, the loose passive preflop guy limps… go figure.  He’s calling shoves from anyone, trying to KO them and is hitting everything in the world.  I’m on an awkward stack size and if I thought I had any fold equity, I’d shove, but with basically no fold equity (even though I’m second in chips at the table) I just make a standard raise, which is snap-called.  When I see the flop, I’m glad I didn’t shove, and since I have a totally reliable read on the opp with his bet sizes, I check to him.  He bets just under half pot, so I know he has an A or K (most likely the king as I’d expect to see him raise an ace preflop).  He’s definitely got one of them since he didn’t shove, so into the muck my queens go.  He mucks a king face up and the read saves me my tourney life.

I’m now down to a shove stack again, but at least I’ve got a chair, so I’m hoping to use it to beat on someone.  As the blinds go up to 600/1200/200, I get my chance on my next BB.  Go figure, seat 8 limps again and with Q2o, I check and see a jackpot flop of 8QQ.  I lead out 2500, hoping that he’ll shove and he does as planned and needless to say, I snap-call.  Once again, just like clockwork, he’s on total air with K5o and I get an easy double-up.

We now get to stop, as we’re down to 10 left and the others at the other table come to mine and we redraw for seats.  I move to seat 6, which might be a decent seat as the two huge stacks are in seats 9 and 4 (the looser is seat 4, so glad he’s on my right).

The first level of the FT, I’m back to looking at trash and with a number of shoves, I’m not calling a shove with my junk cards.  Since I didn't know anyone that moved from the other table, I'm back trying to get reads on the new players that I don't have history with.  We get to the third break and I’m sitting on about 40k chips with 8 players left.

As we come back from break, I’m sitting third with two very short stacks at the table and blinds of 1k/2k, so it shouldn’t be long until get to the bubble.  Seat 9 is now the huge stack at the table as he takes two more opps out as this guy can hit any flush at anytime.  He’s also had AK five times (won 4 and doubled a shorty the other) but has hit three nut flushes.  If he keeps this up, he's going to be impossible to beat as he's getting smacked by the deck and hitting everything on top of it.

With these two exits, we’re now on the bubble and the shorty shoves on my SB.  I look down at KK and reshove to isolate.  The opp turns over snowmen and it turns into a blizzard when he flops an 8, so I double him in a 30k chip pot.  If I win there, the bubble pops and I basically guarantee myself a top 3, but now I’m back down to the same stack as 3 others, so it turns into a big game of chicken as to who shoves and loses first.  Seat 1 shoves first and doubles.  Seat 8 shoves next and doubles.  I’m next, as I find 77, shove and while I don’t double, do get a set of blinds/antes.  I find AK and get another set of blinds/antes.

The blinds go up again, but I get one good thing that happens, as seat 9 hits yet another flush and takes out seat 1, so we’re now all ITM.  Seats 9 and 4 are the big stacks and the others are basically even with me.  I find two more steal spots and get some blinds/antes, then I catch a break as I pick up TT, shove and seat 9 calls with K9s.  Go figure, he flops a flush draw, but for the first time that I’ve seen, he misses, so I finally get a full double.

Seat 4 takes out one of the shorter stacks and seat 9 gets another, so we’re now down to 3 and I’m guaranteed $326.  Seat 9 has a huge chip lead and I’m about even with seat 4 now as he’s leaked off about 20k chips to seat 9 by limping on the button and then folding every flop.  He wants to play cheap family pots and I know I'm not limping along OOP.  Well, if he wants to leak off chips, I know that I have more patience than he does and with the next pay jump being from $326 to $620, I’m going to get that pay jump as it’s between him and me as seat 9 has about 75% of the chips.

Seat 4 limps the next two of my BB’s and with him limping, I’m pounding on him and at 3k/6k/500, I’m picking up chips on him.  Unfortunately, he doubles thru seat 9, so I’m back to third stack.  The next BB, he limps behind and this time, I’ve got total junk so check and see a flop.  He leads into me and with two pair, I jam on him.  He mucks and I get a bunch of chips. 
We go four orbits in a row with steals and no calls except for the button limps by seat 4 leaking off more chips, but that changes when the other two get into it preflop.  With a shove and call on my BB, when I see 27, I duck and seat 9’s AJ holds against KT and we’re now heads-up.

I shove 3 times and double once with JJ and take down blinds with the other two, but even after this, he’s still got a huge chip lead.  I muck two junk hands, then look down at AKs and the opp calls and flips over 66.  When the board bricks, I’m out in second for $620.  I didn’t have much for cards but grinded, survived and made the best of the situations that I was in and used my reads, which is all that I can do.  Yes, it would have been great to win, but without the patience that I had and the reads I was able to get, I would have busted much earlier than I did and not cashed.  All we can do when playing poker is to make the best decisions that we can and even though I didn't win, I'm more than happy with the way that I played.