Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Winning the Monkey

I do indeed still play online poker, and play it regularly, if confined to two sites - UltimateBet and PokerStars. While I still have an account at FullTilt, it has only pennies in it, and it's likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. My UB account has been relatively healthy since the beginning of the year, as is now my PokerStars bankroll, thanks to my win last night in the MonkeyTourney.

The MT is the successor to the Wheaties, Wil Wheaton's tournament that he ended this year when he and PokerStars decided to part ways. Without Wil's name recognition, the MT pulls in a much smaller field - anywhere to the high teens -17 players last night - to the mid 30s. In some ways I miss the Wheaties, in other ways I don't. Wil's aforementioned name recognition tended to pull in both garrulous fanboys as well as obnoxious trolls. I regularly switched off chat every time I ended up at a table with Wil because of the incessant chatter noise level. I can't imagine what it must be to be the focus of that constant attention, and it was a wonder that Wil played as well as he usually did, as well as maintaining a good humor throughout.

In any case, the MT has been around for a little over three months now; and out of the 14 weeks its been running, I've probably played in 9 or 10 of the games without seeing any money. Or rather seeing the money flow out of my account rather than in. But, over the last several games I've been edging closer, first regularly making it to the final table, then last bubbling in 4th place.

One of the largest holes in my game - a hole I've yet to fix, let alone fix consistently - is that my play tends to leave me with a short stack at the final table. My conservative style regularly gets me to the final table, yes, but it's not unusual for the other players to have two to five times the stack I have, giving me problems from the git-go. There's a body of opinion that you need to play tournaments super-aggressive early in order to build a winning chip stack, and a lot of players from the old Wheaties and now the new Monkey seem to subscribe to that theory. So you tend to see a lot of crash-`n-burns in the game and, conversely, when the bet works for the player, enormous stacks.

Happily, the poker gods were smiling on me last night, apparently deciding that they had done enough torture over the past few months. A few bad hands with a short stake and high blinds can make your stay at the final table a short one. But, I had a run of good cards that just kept improving at the flop and forced myself from dead last to chip leader within 20 minutes. From there, I'd drop down - but never significantly down - and then move back up. 'Til there were just the two of us. A new player to me and the MT - RINationals - put up a tough fight. Tough enough, that, tiring, I began to bet with anything. Not even really following the cards, and only folding if I had nothing and RINationals raised.

I figured it was a sign when the Hammer appeared, so when he raised that time around, I went all-in and he called. Probably amused at my hubris, the poker gods smiled and a deuce appeared at the River, pairing my 2 and giving me just enough of a hand to win the game.

The Monkey is at 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesdays at PokerStars. If you miss the Wheaties, or just want a good regular game, come on by.

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