After bubbling a main event sat on Saturday, I was back at it along with 160 other players in HPT Event 3 yesterday at Ameristar in St. Louis.  I start out at table 41 seat 4 and didn’t recognize a single player at my table, which I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.  We start with 10k chips and blinds are at 50/100.  I see that the table is playing like I’d expect the first level to be like in a $150 tourney, a limpfest.  I get in behind with two suited connectors and a small pair and miss, but do take down a pot preflop, when I get 3 limpers, and raise to 600 (3bb+1bb for each limper) and they all fold.


As the blinds go up to 75/150, I get two limps in front of my button and I look down at KQ and raise to 675 (std table raise was to 375, so I used that plus 300 for the limpers).  I get one caller and see a flop of KQ4 with two clubs.  The opp checks to me and I make it 850, which he immediately calls.  The turn is the 3 of hearts, which should be a total brick and when checked to, I make it 1200, which he calls.  The turn is the 8 of spades, which once again should be a total brick.  If he missed the flush, he won’t call anything, so I’m trying to think of a bet that he might call with Kx or Qx and decide on 1650.  He tanks for about 30 seconds, pays me off and mucks.

The blinds now go up to 100/200 and I look down at QQ, open to 525 and get 3 callers, including 2 players that haven’t played a hand yet and the guy that paid off my KQ.  The flop is ace high rainbow.  Well, with 2 players that haven’t played a hand in over an hour, I’m assuming one of them has an ace, so I check, and it checks thru.  The turn is a king, so one of those two has to have an A or K, so I check again and the others do behind.  The river is a blank and when it checks thru too, I win the pot and get up to 23075 at break.  A 4-way pot with 2 players that hadn’t played a hand yet, how in the world does QQ hold?????

The second session is where you normally need to chip up in this tourney and I start off well at 150/300/25 as I open AJ from middle position, get 3 callers and see a J high flop with two spades.  I c-bet and get two callers.  The turn is another J, so needless to say, with trip jacks on a flush draw board, I’m firing again, and both call.  The river is gin for me, as it’s the As, giving me a full house and gets the flush draws there.  I fire again and size my bet a bit larger, as I figure that a flush is going to call.  The first opp folds (no clue what in the world this guy had), but the second opp goes into the tank and after about 2 min, decides to call me with the case jack for trips.  I was expecting to get called by a flush, not trips, since the flush hit and there were 3 broadway cards on the board.  This hand gets me up to 38k chips, which is by far the most at the table.  The table does get a bit harder though, as while I didn’t know the guy, but when he tells someone who he is, I know he’s the toughest opp I have at the table, as his brother has won 3 HPT Main Events.

I keep on stacking over the next two levels, as I get up to 44k when I win a hand with AQ on a c-bet on a board I totally bricked.  I then get up to 51500 as I pick up KK and fire a c-bet on an A high flop against a guy that built up a 30k stack early by getting lucky playing trash hands (running a vpip in the 60’s and pfr in the 50’s).  He’s playing so much trash, that while an A is in his range, it’s a small part of it. 

My next hand was a bit unlucky as there was a raise and a call and I look down at AK on the button and 3-bet.  The first guy gets out of the way, but the other older guy shoves his shorter stack in, which I call.  He turns over AJ, so I’m a 70/30 favorite.  Well, the board goes 8844Q, so we chop, which gets me up to 55k chips.   I end the second session at 47200 after I play a few hands and have to muck on bad boards.

As we get back, we see that there are 161 entered, 18 get paid with $5215 on top and there are 7 tables left and soon after, we switch from playing 10 handed to 9 handed tables.  For the first time in the tourney, I start to go card dead, but I’ve more than built up a stack that can withstand it for a while, even if the blinds are at 500/1k.  We get a table to break, so there are 54 players left, then when it gets down to 48 left, I get a tap on the shoulder by the TD and get handed a rack, as I’m off to table 40 seat 9 to rebalance tables.

With 43 left, I get into another big hand.  I open TT from MP and get calls from the button and both blinds.  The flop is 257 with two spades.  When it checks to me, I fire a c-bet and get 2 calls.  The turn is the 8s and I fire again, as I don’t want to let a single spade get a free draw at me.  Only the button calls and the river is the 3d.  If I bet here, I’m only getting called if he has the flush, but if I check, he just might bluff at it and try to take the pot away from me with a missed draw.  I check and he fires out about half of my stack.  I tank for a min or so, and follow thru with my plan to check/call.  He turns over AJ with the As and I show my TT and take down a huge pot that gets me up to 82k chips. 

However, as we say, poker happens, and I don’t have some of those chips for long, as I open AA and get 2 callers that are both on about 20k stacks.  If they raise pre, they all go in.  If they call pre, I ship any flop.  The flop is K73 and when the opp shoves for less than a pot-sized bet, I snap-call.  He shows 33 (had the wrong price to setmine) and I double him up and drop to 60k chips. 

Another table now breaks and we’re down to 36 left.  With 32 left, I get my revenge on the 33 guy.  He opens, I 3-bet AK and he snap-calls with AQ... OOPS!  That pot gets me up to 145k chips and just before the next break, we redraw seats, as there is a mandatory redraw with 27 left and I’m headed back to table 41 but in seat 5 this time.  After 1 hand, we’re on break and I’m at 137600 chips and the blinds will be 1500/3000/400 after it.  At break, I realize how strong my starting table was, as 5 of the 10 that started there are in the final 27 (three end up cashing) and I see that I have basically double the chips of everyone else at the table, so as the bubble approaches, I’m not going to be shy about using them.

With 23 left (5 from the bubble), I open QQ from UTG+1 and the button, that is sitting 2nd in chips at the table, decides to 3-bet me, which pot-commits his stack.  I tank for a second and “I’M ALL IN!”  The opp now gets this sick look on him, as he says “well, I’m pot-committed”, tanks for a couple minutes and calls with K6o.  The board does bring an ace, but no king, so I’m now at 210k chips and the tourney chip leader.

When we get to 20 left, all 3 tables agree to a deal where we all throw in $20 each and that money is split between 19th and 20th, so they basically get their $$ back.  I’m glad we did that deal, as the H4H bubble then only lasts a whole whopping 1 hand as the shorties were then happy to get their chips in and take a shot.

With 15 left, I get into one, as the entire table, minus one guy that still tries to keep limping, is in shove/fold mode.  A 13bb stack shoves on my bb and he’s shown raggy aces on three shoves already and is somehow still in.  Knowing this, I look down at a small pair and we’re off to the races.  Unfortunately for me, there’s an ace on the flop, so I double him and drop to 125k chips, which is a 20bb resteal stack.   Well, I do know exactly what to do with this type of stack, so I’m more than happy to shove over a limp or a raise and by doing so a couple times, build my stack back up to 167k at the next break.

I come back and due to the blinds now getting huge, my 167k is only 16bb, so I’m still in ship/resteal mode.  I’m not playing a pot where my chips aren’t in preflop.  With 11 left, I look down at AA from UTG and shove again (my fifth shove at this table) and get called by the lady that did the bubble deal that has about a 130k stack.  She turns over AKd and is not too pleased when I show my aces.  My aces hold and I’m over 300k chips and back to being the tourney chip leader as we now move back to table 40 and I’m in seat 8 for the final table.

We play for about an hour and I’m pretty card dead, but we do lose 2 players to get down to 8 left.  Not only did I go card dead, I also lose the chip lead, to of all people, the player on my left, so I need to watch out for him.  I finally get something and open 66, planning to call off if either of the 2 shorties shove.  I get flatted by seat 3, an older guy that has been the tightest guy at my table on both tables I played with him, he hasn’t 3-bet all day, just is totally tight-passive.  I see a flop that makes for a VERY easy decision for me, as it’s A high without a 6.  He checks and I check behind (know he was going to check/raise me).  The turn is a king and he checks again (know he wants to check/raise here too), so I check behind.  The river isn’t a 6 and now when he bets big, to make up for lost value, I easily muck.

Two hands later, I look down and open AQo and this time, I get a shorty that shoves and I snap-call his 5bb shove.  He turns over 33, so the race is on and when I flop an ace, he’s out in 7th.

Now for something that I hope everyone can get a lesson from.  There are 3 larger stacks at the table (I’m one of them) and with it being about 8:30 at night, an older lady, that is getting aggravated that the tourney is lasting this long, proposes a 7-way even chop.  Well, with a skill edge over everyone at the table and there being 2 players at 5bb or under, she’s one of them, I immediately shoot down this deal.  Why should I give two players with a lot less chips than me the same prize, especially when I have a skill edge.  Well, she’s pissed that I won’t do a deal and either her or the older nit guy to my left or in seat 3 keep bringing it up every 10 minutes, since it’s obviously past their bedtime.  This goes on for the next 90 minutes until the next break and there’s no way in hell that I’m doing that deal, so I shoot it down immediately every single time.  The longer it goes, the more it’s tilting 2 of them, so if they wanna tilt, so be it. 

I then get into a BvB battle with the player on my right that limps. I look down at T5o and check.  The flop is QT4, so when the opp leads out (which he leads basically every pot he’s in), I call the flop bet.  The turn pairs the Q and he fires out again, but dramatically raises his bet sizing from prior hands, so he’s totally polarized that he’s got the Q or he’s scared to death of it.  I tank for a min and muck my ten and he flips over AA.  Well, anyone that knows me, knows I have a history of shoving into aces, so by avoiding doing so, that’s a huge confidence plus for me.

I then get into a hand where the button, that blinded down to 2bb shoves on my bb.  When the sb folds, needless to say, I call blind and turn over Q2o.  They have ace/rag and when the board bricks, I double him.

Well, an orbit later, he’s down to basically 3bb and does the same thing, shoves my button.  When the sb folds again, I once again call, as I’m priced in with 2 wet bar napkins.  I turn over 36h thinking that I’ve got a live suited 2-gap.  OOPS!  He turns over 93o and when the board bricks again, I double him again.  His luck doesn’t hold, as he shoves the next hand and gets snap re-shoved on by the player on my left that has KK, so he’s out in 6th.

As we hit what is our last break of the night, I’m at 285k chips with the blinds at 15k/30k.  While I’m taking a walk and getting a Coke at break, the 2 that want the even chop are trying to talk to everyone else, to do one.  We get back and she’s at it again about an even chop, which I absolutely will not do, which pisses her off even more.  One of her friends keeps coming over to the table (obviously they came to the casino together) wants to go to bed and they just get madder and madder because I won’t do an even chop and the chip leader hasn’t said anything in agreement with a chop either, which makes me think he doesn’t want it either, but isn’t saying anything since I have the whole time.

A few hands later, I look down at the infamous JJ and on 10bb, ‘I’M ALL IN!”  It folds to her and she snap calls, says something to the old guy next to her that wants the chop too, about getting my chips since I won’t chop, and flips over AK.  Well, saying that to the old guy comes back to bite her, as the board runs out 8 high and karma boots her out in 6th.  There are 2 great lessons from this.  First, if you’re going to play a tournament, whether it’s live or online, be prepared to be in it until the end.  If you’re not ready to do this, then don’t play it.  It was only about 10:30 pm and when I came in 4th in this tourney in East Chicago, I went out at about 1:30am, so it actually went faster than normal.  Also, if players are wanting a chop, if you’re not comfortable with the terms of it, then don’t do the deal.  It was great to get a reassurance of this from Dave, as he texted it to me when I told him I refused a 7-way chop.

There are now 5 left and there are 2 larger stacks, me and seat 5, and the other 3 are basically even stacks that are about half of ours.   Now the old guy that has wanted to chop all along proposes a deal that I’m willing to at least listen too.  “Well, these 2 have more chips, so instead of an even chop, they deserve to get more out of it.”  We negotiate back and forth for a bit and we do decide to make a deal.  Seat 5 and I end up with $3000 and the other three split what’s left, so they get under $2k each and we all decide to throw in a bit to cover most of the winner’s extra taxes, as they’ll have to pay taxes on $5k but only get $3k.  The acting TD now comes over and tells all of us that if we make a deal, Missouri has a special tax law ONLY on tournament winners, and it’s one that I’ve never heard of anywhere else.  Whomever signs as the tourney winner, not only has to pay taxes on the $5k listed first prize (which is normal)… but it’s a mandatory up-front takeout tonight, not that you file for it at the end of the year.  Well, seat 5 and me have to sign for first and second since we got more than the others and between the takeout right then (the extra that the 4 of us threw in covers most of it) and the fact that it’ll jump me a federal tax bracket this year if I sign for it instead of second, seat 5 can have his picture taken as the official winner of the tourney.  When all’s said and done after the tax guys get their cut, he gets his picture taken, I end up with more $$... so IMO, I made out the best of everyone in the tourney, so while I was officially listed as second, I won it, as I made the most money.

Up next is event 5, basically a copy of this tourney on Wed, then a main event satellite on Thurs.