Friday, January 27, 2006


I've had a weird, off-schedule week because of car problems, and ended up doing work and chores on days and at hours I usually don't... the sum total being that yesterday I found myself at loose ends in the early afternoon. No car to take me anywhere, not in a mood to watch a movie or Tivo'd show that early in the day. I wasn't even really in the mood for poker, but went up to PokerStars to check out when Wil Wheaton's next "semi-invitationals" were playing. Note to Wil: although I know no one could satisfy even half the people all the time, or all the people even half the time, holding Thursday tourneys at 11:30 pm ET is too late for the working Fred, and 7:00 too early for the family Fred. We couldn't have the occasional tournament between 8-9 Eastern?

But I digress. Anyway, there was a freeroll at 2, which was about 10 minutes away at that time, and a micro-buy in ($1) tournament at 2:30. I've stayed away from freerolls since the days - nearly two years ago now - that I first started playing on-line poker at UltimateBet. Freerolls tend to attract the bored and the crazy, and lots of trolls. The first two groups include people who don't really care how or why they're betting a hand since it's not costing them anything. The last include people who will bet any hand in the hopes of a suckout and the joy of making everyone else at the table steam. They're main goal in life is apparently to get as much nasty table chatter aimed at them as possible. Freerolls also attract the hoi polloi; there were already over 3,500 of the great unwashed signed up when I found the tournament. With that many players, it doesn't matter if you're Doyle Brunson, the averages and Lady Luck are likely to get you no matter how well you play.

But it cost nothing, and I still wasn't sure how much I really felt like playing. A lot of times I don't know until I'm into the game. Sometimes I settle in and all is well no matter how the game plays out. Sometimes, five, ten minutes into the game I feel like the Olympic skier who after a horrific crash was asked when he knew he was out of control. "Before I left the gate," he answered.

I registered for the freeroll to get a feel for what my game was like, and with the intent that if I was knocked out, or decided to drop out but felt that I was playing well, I'd jump into the $1 tournament at 2:30. If not, I'd go do something else. Funny thing was that I felt guilty, figuring that the freeroll, which had now hit $4,000+ registrants, was just a donking away of my time, if not of chips, and that if I was actually even semi-serious about playing, I should hit the $1, with less players and at least the opportunity of real money.

PokerStars doesn't provide stats or hand histories for freerolls, which is probably just as well for my readers, but here's the run-down as I remember it...

Hour 1: 2-3 pm

The first hand I play in the tournament is probably 5-10 minutes in. I don't remember what I had, but a semi-powerful hand at the flop, enough that I want to make a significant raise to try to force out the other two players and take the pot then-and-there.

The little raise slider bar and text entry field ain't there. All I can do is raise $20, and I finally realize that I've entered a Limit tournament, thinking it was No-Limit. That's how involved I was. I win the hand anyway.

At 2:30 I have around $1800 in chips, am getting good hands, and my head is good, as Hemingway would say. I've tried it a couple of times, but I don't do well playing two or more tables simultaneously.
I decide to pass on the $1 tournament.

Hour 1 ends. I'm now down to $1670 in chips. I remember this solely because it's the first time in my memory of two years of SnG and tournament play on PokerStars where I've never dropped below my starting stake of $1500 chips during the entire game. The lowest I've dropped in the 1st hour was down to $1570.

Hour 2: 3-4 pm

Hour 2 is usually the midnight hour for lil Rico. I tend to bust out early in Hour 2s, most often because I'm short-stacked, the blinds are rising, and I need to start gambling to survive. Not this time. The chips just seem to flow into my hands. I get nut flushes. I get high card straights. I smooth call raises with high pair at the river and win. I get people who seem to be hypnotized into donking all their chips away to me, even when I give them early indicators that I'm sure I'm going to win. I get AA in mid-position, raise, and the whole table calls me. The flop shows another ace and two black 8s, giving me Hickock's dead man's full house, and I bet the checks to me... and two players call. I keep on betting, certain that one or the other has the other ace or is holding the two other eights, waiting for the raise on the river, which never comes. I bust them both out -- seeing neither hand, what the hell were they betting with? -- and get moved to a new table as reward.

Hour 3: 4-5 pm

I almost lose it in Hour 3. I'm tired. I've been sitting at the table now for 2+ hours. I start playing problematic hands and chasing straights and flushes that never come. My stack is going into reversal, starting to drop back to where I was in Hour 2. I make a decision, click the "Sit out" button, and go to the other computer to check whether I have any client responses to drafts I've sent out. I do, and it takes about 20 minutes to clear the work away. I come back to the kitchen table, see I've blinded away several hundred chips, and get to work. One nut flush, one trip Kings, and one full house against a nut flush later where my stack had dropped down to $77 at the river bets, I had tripled up.

Hour 4: 5-6 pm

I'm facing a problem: Peggy gets home from work around 6, and she'll be bringing me down to the shop to pick up the Rodeo. Is the tournament going to be finished in time? Do I really care? All I'm playing for - except to measure and improve my game - is one of 27 slots for a Sunday tournament with a grand in prize money up for grabs. It's not that big a deal. I figure I'll keep on playing my game, hit the "Sit Out" button again when Peg comes, and see where I stand when I get back. I have somewhere between $75-100k of chips at any given time. It's possible I'll get knocked out or my stack crippled enough to be blinded out during a sit-out. There's a couple of hundred people left.

I keep on building my stack, eating up those at the table with $50k of chips or less, who are being forced to gamble to stay alive. I have enough chips that raises from a short stack don't trouble me when I think I have a shot to win, and usually the raise is a bluff. I finally hit a super pot where three short stacks are forced all-in, and my big slick pairs up. At around 6 and the end of the hour I have over $585k in chips, and am sitting in the top 10. Peggy still hasn't shown up.

Hour 5: 6-7 pm

I've now been playing Limit poker, more or less continually, for over four hours. I'm also at the point where I have so many chips - and there are less than 100 players left - where I've essentially stopped betting. I'm still monitoring the table, but I throw away small pairs, low cards suited with aces, KJ off-suit, just riding it out. I think I can make it through the bubble with what I have left in my stack. A lot of the higher stacks are thinking the same; a lot of "Sitting Out" notices start flaring. It's part of the reason I'm monitoring. Every now and then I can just raise or call and collect a pot without danger. I get a pair of Jacks around 6:15, raise, get a re-raise from a short stack, force him all-in, and take his chips away. It's the only serious hand I'll play this hour, and gives me a nice cushion.

Peg - who has forgotten about the Rodeo - shows up at around 6:20. I hit the "Sit-Out" button, tell Kittenish, who is sitting on the table, not to bet in any circumstances, and hustle out to the Mini.

We get back at around 6:45. In 20 minutes the blinds have sucked close to $100k from my stack, but there's only around 40 people left, I still have over $350k, and I'm sure I can ride it out. I tell Peggy to hit me upside the head if I try to bet even a pair of Aces. A little after 7 pm, five hours into the tournament, the 28th remaining player from the starting field of over 4,000 is knocked out, and I'm in the pseudo-money.

Peggy encourages me to see how far I can go, but I'm so tired that I start playing loose, and the poker gods, who have been smiling on me all night for my good, solid play, recognize the heresy, and send me down with a suited A-3 against the table leader's off-suit A-Q as we both raise and re-raise with an A on the flop. There's no chance for me to pull a flush, no 3 shows up, but I just keep on senselessly raising through the turn and the river until I'm all-in, and his Queen kicker beats my pitiful 3.

I still make it to 9th place. The game will go on for close to another hour. I wish I did have the stats on my play. I'm fairly certain that I lost less than 10 hands that I was involved in during the entire five hours I played. Luck? Oh yeah. Lotsa luck. Good cards coming early and regular. Opponents who shouldn't have been betting.

I still played damn well.

1 comment:

Maudie said...

I'd say so that you played damn well - to outlast 4,815 other people is impressive, freeroll or no. Congrats!