The last 1500 event on the WSOP schedule happened Monday the 2nd. I started in the Amazon room at a table with a ton of terrible players.
Sometime during the first level Matt Affleck sat down across from me. I played the first hand of note in the tournament against him. Matt opened in EP at 25/25 to 3x, I called otb, and a weak player called in the blinds. The flop was 226 with two clubs and Matt c-bet 5x into 10x, I called, the fish folded. The turn was another 6, Matt checked, I bet 10x into 20x, and Matt called. The river was an offsuit T. Matt checked, I bet 66x into 40x. Matt said "what?" folded and said he would have called 24x. He asked if I had 22 a few hands later and I said "naw I woulda shoved with 22." I guess my monotone delivery can often be mistaken for seriousness, but I was in fact, being sarcastic. Matt didn't take it as a joke I guess, I don't really know.
Some inconsequential pots later I open limped 33 utg, there was a limp behind also in EP, the sb completed, and "Rugged Texan," a player who had confirmed himself tight to the rest of the table, raised to 4x. The two of us in EP came along and the SB folded. The flop was KTTr and the initial raiser checked. I stabbed 5.25x, the other EP woman folded, and the Texan called. The turn was a 9 bringing two spades, Texan checked again. I have a really easy bet here. Basically he is always going to check-call once with his entire checking range. Then, he is going to check-fold a fair amount. So I bet 12.25x and he reluctantly folded.
The very next hand I was in bvb versus the Rugged Texan. At 50/100 he completed in the sb after the fold around and I saw AJcc in the BB. Despite how awful it would be to be limp-three-bet in this spot I raised to 2.75x and he called. The flop came A95hhd, he checked, I bet 325, he check-raised to 750, and I called. His check-raise made very little sense to me in terms of better hands, but at the same time I cannot three-bet the flop for value. So I will be giving his flush draws a look at the turn, but the advantages I can ply out of my positional advantage more than makes up for that. The turn is the 7d, putting a 2nd flush draw. Villain checked, and I decided to check back. It seems pretty unlikely that he has that many flush draws at this point. I would think he would fire a small turn bet with a lot of his flush draws, whether they picked up a gutter or otherwise. So I think my play here is to bet small like 800. One reason I did not bet was that I did not have a read on what I should do if check-raised again. I had seroius reservations about him ever having a better hand, but I still think I have to fold if check-raised, because I see him as a one-street bluff artist, with a fair amount of confidence. The problem with this being a reason for checking back is that a) I should know what to do if check-raised (fold) b) not getting check-raised because I didn't bet doesn't change his holding. There are advantages to checking back though. His pure bluffs like KT or 67 can either fire the river with air, or can make a pair to potentially call a bet of mine. His flush draws can similarly make a pair. He may believe, being a poor hand reader, that I would always bet an ace on the turn, and therefore pay me off with any piece of the board on the river. If he complete-called with a weak Ax preflop to check-raise small on the flop (to see where he is at), he has 3 outs, and I don't have much concern in terms of being drawn out on. When we look at his aggregate range we can see that with a hand as strong as AJ on this ace high board, despite the prescence of two flush draws and lots of straight possibilities, I have very little reason to place a premium on protection. So I checked back, the river was the 9d, he checked, I bet 900 into 2050, and he called with worse. If there is a better river bet size it is 1100.
The next orbit I was involved in another blind battle, now at 75/150. I had a spewy station in the BB who was French, in that he spoke French, wore a French poker website patch, and had a Veitnamese accent. I raised Qd8h to 2.5x and he called. Before he did though he said "raising my BB eh? OK I see flop." The last time he said that he called a lady's SB 3 bet on the button and shoved over her c-bet on some K high flop. The flop came out KQ3 with two diamonds and I checked. Villain bets 425, and I call. Turn is a 2d, giving me the 2nd nut flush draw. So here I am basically obliged to check-call, which I did, this time for 950. I had seen him stab twice at a couple pots, but he had given up on the river. He had also paid off some river bets he had no business paying. The river came the Js, I checked a last time, and villain fired 2900. Here I felt/knew he would never make this bet with a one or two pair type hand. Maybe KJ. But in general, he had really polarized his range here. Unfortunately I think AT/T9 are real possibilities for this villain as are an assortment of flushes, such as 94dd. The hand had taken a time and I had taken a time, so an older, experienced recreational player called the clock on me. He was shorter stacked and said that the hand had taken 5 minutes, which was probably true.
I sometimes see players bitch about having the clock called on them, whether by people in the hand or not. This is absurd. Having the clock called on you is part of the game and something you have to expect and be prepared for. Moreover if you react to having the clock called on you its going to potentially destroy your image; if you appear unflappable then your table might actually assume you are. So I took about half of my minute and folded. It was about the exact amount of time I would have taken to fold had the clock not been called. I began talking to the player on the river to get an assessment of his comfort level, which is what consumed most of my river time. I'm confident I made a clearly good fold here. I don't have that many better hands in my c/c, c/c, check river range. I have QXdd for sure though, and while that isn't a lot of combos, its at least clear that I didn't x/f the top of my range.
Breaking, Moving, Shaking
A hand shortly before my first table broke was pretty interesting. I raised to 400 otb w K2o, with weak players in the blinds. The BB called, a middle-aged European who had not been at the table long. Villain looked well put together. Sometimes for a Euro this would mean he was coiffed and scarved, but in this case I mean that he had his favourite poker hat on, his poker issue sunglasses, and his favourite card protector. The flop comes QT5r and I c-bet 550 into 900 when checked to, villain calls. The turn is an 8, which goes check check. River is a 7. Villain checks again and I fire 600 into 2000. Villain hesitates, thinks about it, and folds. Easy game really. What I will say is that someone dressed this way likes to play "good poker" and wouldn't figure me for ever bluffing to this conspicuously small size. If I can get his A highs to fold that is a victory but I really think I can get 66 and 5x and even 99 to fold some amount of the time.
I get moved to a new table with about 10k going to 100/200/25 and get dealt AQo the first hand in MP. I opened to 400, the HJ next to act, gets a rough count of my stack, and makes it 4.5x. The BTN, a slick looking, well dressed, young European makes it 8x otb really quick. Too smoothly one would say, without hesitation. He has a pile of chips. The HJ had about 7.4k infront of him. It folds back to me. The HJ was an Italian guy, mid 20s, certainly had the look of a guy who three-bet light in this spot. The Euro on the button I was pretty confident was full of shit. So, not hesitating too long I announce I am all-in. Here 5-betting may not look like a great play versus a three-bet and a cold four, with a hand as weak as AQo (better to have A5s in fairness). And if you thought that, you would be right! Because the HJ puts his stack in the middle pretty quickly exclaiming "Im all in too!" The button quickly folded. One of the advantages of ripping it with the 5-bet here is that I can sometimes get one of them to fold the best (or a better) hand than I have like JJ or AK. That's only sometimes though. The HJ ended up having AA and I doubled up to 18k or so.
I didn't play too many hands for the next little while. I got moved again for a nice cleanse of my image, to the direct right of Rugged Texan I might add. We played a nice pot at 150/300/25 where, first hand back from dinner break I opened AQhh UTG and he called in +1. The flop came 964hhx and I checked to him. The pot is 1900 and villain has about 6500 to 7000 behind. His cold calling range in this spot is really strong, but I've flopped too much equity to fold. Thing is, I don't want to bet/call or bet and be called. If I check, Rugged Texan should bet his entire range, whether AJ-AK or a pair, in which case I can get a bet out of his bet/folds and I have good to great equity versus his bet/calls. As expected he bet 1k, I shoved, and he folded. I presume he didn't fold a 55 type hand just given the short amount of time he took, ~20s, to fold.
I got moved to the 7 seat at a new table with Jordan Morgan in the 1 seat and a bunch of bad players in the others. The first hand I played I opened AKo utg and got 3-bet by Mr Morgan to 4.3x. I just called and gave up post-flop. Playing AK weak-tight in that spot was definitely the best decision. Its a spot where actually calling > raising and folding > raising. If I 4-bet and call it off there I am probably a 62/38 dog at best when the money goes in.
The very next hand a young Italian opened to 600 in LP, I 3-bet to 1650 from the BB w QQ. He 4-bet after some contemplation to 4350 or something around there. I shoved for 11,000 effective, covering him, and he sigh called in the tank with AJo. The board ran out clean and after that pot I had about 28/29k at 150/300/25, though we went up to 200/400 about 5 minutes later.
The Twilight Zone
I've listened to some pretty out there conversations at the poker table in my time, but the one that went down Monday was a whole nother thing. It all started when a competent German youth got moved to our table while a dealer named Adam was down. The German kid asked him where Eve was, I think. This led somehow to him conversating with the Americans on his direct left and right about teleology and the young earth hypothesis. The German kid was an aggressive reshove stack while effectively feigning genuine curiosity regarding his table mates' beliefs. The man to his right was clearly uncomfortable explaining how he thought the world was 6000 years old and the incongruities between faith and 'science.' The German was being honest and open, if slightly prying, but nothing untoward. It turns out the dealer Adam's mother told him there was no god when he was a child and now he is into sports (in his own words). So after about 15 minutes of this unusually deep table talk (for which I was silent the entire time) the guy to my direct right, a late 20 something dressed in Pi Kappa Beta hipster, speaks up and tells the German guy about this book he should read (I didn't catch the name). The German seems surprised because the guy hasn't said anything for the whole 15 minutes, and asks him, why that particular book?
"Because it has the answers to all the questions you are asking."
Twilight Zone! If only I had heard about this book early in life, I thought to myself!
Twilight Zone was not leveling, and though I drifted in and out of their exchanges which continued on during play, there was a particular drift in that I caught where TZ was, for the sake of clarity, surmising indeed, "that the aliens created the earth not that long ago."
I played a few hands with Twilight Zone, using my position to win each of them it seemed. The first I 3-bet his MP open in the HJ w Q8o and he folded. The 2nd I flatted his HJ open in the CO with 56dd after he opened to 1350 at 300/600/75. The flop came Q96r, he c-bet 2900 at 4350, I called, and the turn came an offsuit T. He checks to me. In this spot I think he can check-call a lot of bets so I can represent the widest value range by checking back the turn and turning my hand into a bluff on the river. By checking back I also give myself a chance to river a value hand on a 5 or 6, or river a further bluff out. If he fires strong on a certain river I will often conclude he is going bet-check-bet for value and have saved myself chips by not making a useless turn stab. Anyways after it checked through the river was an offsuit 7. He checked, I bet 4750, he told me he was folding a monster, and the pot came my way. Later he asked me what I had "set of 6s?" was his first guess. "Set of 8s?" was his second guess and not that good of one given the absence of an 8 on the board (and a god in this universe). I finished my 3 hand confrontation with him by 3-betting his HJ-1 open again but this time with JcJs. Unfortunately he let it go.
There were two other players to my left who I was trying to take some chips from. One was late 50s the other late 70s. I won two pots in pretty unusual fashion from the former. The first he limped UTG and it folded to me otb w 58ss. I decided to overlimp. The SB 50 something called and the BB checked. The flop came ATT and it checked to me and I took it down. The other hand he also limped UTG. This time I raised to 2x otb w ATo. The blinds folded, he called, and check-folded on K85fd to 2.75x. Talk about risk/reward! He did get me on two hands though after that. The first I made a light open in EP with Q9hh, which he and only he called, and we saw a K96r flop that went check-check. On a Td turn I checked, he bet 2x, and I reluctantly called. On a blank river I check-folded to a 5.5x bet. I feel like I played that hand fine, the dude was a nit and called my EP open in MP and made two bets postflop. If anything I could have check/folded the turn. The other hand he limped UTG, Twilight Zone overlimped in the CO, I raised to 3.5x with 45o, it folded to him and he gloriously limp-shoved and I folded. That wasn't even the first time at that table I got limp-shoved on by UTG! Unfortunately the other time I had to let go of the AQs.
Not having too many more value spots I was resorting to stealing pots. The player on my direct left had gotten himself down to 8 BB when I opened A5o in the CO, he shoved the BTN, and I called getting 2:1, to lose to AQo. The next orbit I opened 83dd otb and he called in the SB, the BB folded. The flop came Q76hhs. He checked, I fired 3x, and he called. The turn was the Jc and he checked again. Now, if I bet here again I don't have any equity versus his calling range, so I need to be making an immediately profitable bet. I thought for a variety of reasons I could and fired 4.5x into 12x and he folded. That was a nice one to keep me floating.
Unfortunately as the blinds went up and I was treading water my 25k stack became a 25bb stack. I had an unfortunate hand come up where I opened 88dh in MP and the BB defended. He was a loud older man who seemed pretty wise to the world actually, perhaps he had known about the aliens too. The flop came 227ddx, he checked, and I bet 3.8x. I bet larger in this spot because a player like this is either going to check-call AJ or he isn't and I don't think sizing between 1.8 and 3.8x makes much difference. He is also always going to continue with pairs and flush draws. The turn was an offsuit 4 and he led for 5.1x into 13.1x with about 16x effective on the turn. So I can call here leaving myself 11x in a 23x pot on the river, to fold to a river shove, I can fold here and now, or I can shove here and now for value/protection. I think I like calling to fold to a river shove the best. Sure it really sucks to put a ton of money into the pot to fold, but villain is never bluff shoving for his tournament life on the river, so I can get away from that other 11x. I think the 2nd best option, to be honest, is folding right then and there. I, obviously, after playing the best day of poker of my life, decided to shove. It was a mistake and as this entry is getting long enough I won't go into all the details of why. He had Q2hh and I ended up with 2.1 big blinds when the dust settled.
I folded the next 3 hands to bring my stack to 1.8x and my position to UTG. I got dealt 73o, 26o, and 32o in those 3 hands so it did not take outrageous discipline to fold but I folded all the same. UTG I got dealt the monster Q5o and put the chips in. The septagenarian called in MP but was pushed out of the pot by the SB's KK. I got there on the river and was up to 6bb or so. The next CO I open shoved Q9o and ran into A6s in the SB, but I got there again. After a walk the next orbit and another open shove with 56cc in the SB I had 13.5x with about 30 minutes left in the 11 level day. We were about 25 spots from the money or so at that point. The comeback story doesn't have a great ending however, as the next BTN I had gone through the blinds I open shoved my 11x or so with 22 and was snap isolated by the SB's KK. I flopped QT9 with 2 hearts, giving me backdoor hearts, a backdoor chop draw, and the possibility to hit my set on either the turn or the river. Somehow I bricked out and managed to bubble.
I left out some of the smaller hands of consequence but I felt like outside of the 88 hand I played my absolute best poker. I have definitely never played better than that over a similar peroid of time. There was an earlier hand I didn't mention where I open limped the BTN (and it was the right play imo), and in general I think my management of chips preflop was excellent. Having the ability to limp in some spots in tournaments is a really valuable tool. From overbetting to underbet bluffing to turning hands into bluffs to 5-betting light I felt like I brought my full toolbag to the table. Not every 5-bet light works out of course, but I didn't dwell on that one and pressed on. Bubbling is bubbling. If you've done it before and are a professional its not a big deal. Playing well is the goal and I felt like I achieved that in this event.