As anyone can attest to, tournament poker can be a soul-crushingly frustrating game.
When I made the switch to cash games a few months back I swore off tournaments altogether.
Well, I guess not altogether, but I was sick of relinquishing control of my destiny to the deck.
Tournaments basically degrade to shovefests past a certain point, and when you're all-in, all that's left is to beg for the right cards.
In cash games you're in the driver's seat. You play by your own terms and you don't have to rely on the deck nearly as much.
When I made the switch, I withdrew my entire Stars roll and signed up for an account at Full Tilt.
All that remained in PokerStars was a balance of $0.00 and a paltry 7,000 in FPPs. I wasn't about to spend 7,000 FPPs on stress balls (again), so in my account it sat.
That is until I remembered that on the last Sunday of the month, Stars runs the Turbo Takedown, a 5,000 FPP buy-in tournament that regularly sees 8,500 plus runners and features a million-dollar prize pool.
Long story short: I entered, and final-tabled the bad boy before eventually bowing out fifth, turning that 0¢ and 5,000 FPPs into $25,000 in under 8.5 hours.
As in any tournament you have to both play great poker and run like the wind. There is no room for losing coin flips if you're going to final-table an 8,500-plus player tournament.
I found myself on the ropes early into the money before getting all-in with 99 versus 2006 WSOP Main Event seventh-place finisher Technologic and his 55 to double up.
From there I went on a sick run and found myself in the top 20 with 500 left. I mostly avoided large-scale confrontations and made solid late-position steals and the occasional resteal.
As we got late I just identified the players that were happy to move up and I crushed their blinds.
If they were in the blinds I'd shove on them. If they tried to steal, I restole. I mostly made the tightwads hate me, all the while stacking their chips.
Some hands of note
On to some of the more noteworthy hands.
This hand was with around 40 people left. We were playing seven-handed; I raise it up from early position with 3♦ 3♠.
A player in the big blind calls and the flop comes 8♥ 9♣ 7♣. He insta-ships.
So I get into the tank. This is a pretty standard play that you see a lot at the multi-table sit-and-gos (my old stomping grounds). And they can do it with a wide range.
When a player has been aggressive (me), players love to call any two in the big blind and ship the flop no matter what comes as a way of restealing the pot.
I feel that his range is far wider than it really seems, so due to that and the fact that I am getting 2.6-1, I make the call, only to find that he has a behemoth draw with the K♣ J♣.
Since tournaments basically boil down to run-good challenges, I fade his one trillion outs and find myself hovering near the $1 million chip mark.
Next hand there are 30 people left.
This hand was the last before a break. I raise from early position with 9♣ 9♦ and get called by a tighter TAG on the button. The small blind folds and then the big blind ships all-in.
This is a game-time decision. I know that the big blind is very capable of restealing light, especially in a squeeze situation. His range would look something like most pocket pairs and most good aces.
I am getting 1.5-1 on the call and if I lose I still have a million chips. If I call and win I'm the chip leader and in a great position to final-table.
I'm also very sure that the button will fold if I call. Thus I make the call and find myself racing. I win the run-good challenge and find myself atop the chip-count board for the first time in the tournament.
The next hand is at the final table and is the one I am most proud of.
In this hand I raise Q♣ Q♥ under the gun and everyone folds to the big blind, who comes along for the ride. The big blind in this hand is a very solid player and I feel like I have a fairly decent read on him.
The flop comes K-J high and he checks. I elect to check behind.
At this point I feel like I have the best hand but I'm not going to be able to get three streets of value no matter what he has.
I'm about 90% sure he doesn't have a king. A-K three-bets me 100% of the time and K-J and K-T are too weak for a good player to call out of the blinds with. The only other king is K-Q and is severely discounted because I have two of the queens.
The turn comes a blank and he fires. At this point I am almost certainly best and elect to smooth-call to see what happens on the river.
The river bricks and now he checks. When he checks I know 100% I have the best hand. If he had an unlikely set he would bet the river for value. So his hand looks very much like A-J, TT or a smaller, weaker pair hand.
I know he won't call a big bet with any of those hands so I choose to bet just under half pot for value.
I figure that's the most he'll call with - a jack or TT - and I may even get ace-high to call. I believe so strongly in my read that were he to ship all-in I would be forced to call.
Luckily I don't have to make the huge call; he just flats and tables A-J, and I am shipped the $2 million chip pot, giving me the chip lead for the first time at the final table.
Unfortunately the rest of the tournament didn't go so well and I lost a few decent-sized pots to the eventual winner.
My big bust-out came when I shipped 20BB with A-7o and the small blind woke up to A-Q.
I felt like that hand was standard as well. Players were three-betting an extremely wide range but calling a tight one, so I figured just shipping was a much better plan than choosing a smaller steal amount and being forced into a tough spot.
Though $25k is by far my biggest score, I just felt disappointed when I busted.
I really, really wanted to win the tournament. And it wasn't about the money - I mean obviously $100k is better than $25k, but ultimately tournaments are competitions. And I am very competitive.
When I busted I didn't think oh I won $25k - I thought s**t I'm out of the tournament. I lost.
That quickly subsided though when I remembered that I turned 5,000 FPPs into $25,000. So overall I was very happy with the tournament; I ran like god, and I played the best poker I've ever played in my life.
Three months ago I was deep in the same tournament. I was second in chips with 45 left and I lost a huge pot to bust versus the chip leader. I was extremely sour and felt that I would never get a chance again in such a deep-field tournament.
I got my chance, and I did everything I could to make sure I didn't blow this one. Ultimately I was very pleased with my play, and in poker that is all you can really ask for.
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