When I arrived at my new table I was one of the smaller stacks and I didn't recognize any of the other players. At a new table I usually play cautiously for a while until I get a feel for the table and who is capable of what. This is a good strategy since you don't have any information about the opposition and its something that doesn't take too long to acquire.
I quickly realized that the table was not extremely tough and, although I did not have a big stack coming in, I soon found myself with a stack of about $16,000 and the blinds at $400-$800 with a $100 ante. Again, I had mostly been picking up small pots by playing aggressively in situations where I thought I had the best of it. However, the time soon arrived for yet another big confrontation.
Very close to the money (140 players got paid), it was folded around to me on the button and I looked down at a 7♦ 7♥ and made it $2,500 to go. The small blind folded and the big blind, who was also the chip leader at the time, quickly declared that he was re-raising all-in. It was almost eerie how similar this situation was to the scenario played out in Part II of this story. Again, I got that vibe that strong meant weak but there were other factors to consider as well.
The player in the big blind was the chip leader and thus more likely to make a move against a small stack. He had also lost a couple of big pots after making what I thought were bad plays, and I sensed that he might be on tilt. I studied him for a moment and then said, 'I call.' Before he turned his cards over he made a face like he had been hit in the stomach and I felt a surge of energy as I saw that expression. Maybe he had smaller pair, or only one overcard? No. He flipped over A♠ Q♠ and again I was about even money to win the pot, even more so because his cards were suited which they weren't at my last coin flip all-in.
The flop came with all small cards, but the turn brought him a flush draw and he now had 15 cards (3 aces, 3 queens, and 9 spades) to beat my hand with 44 unseen cards left, thus making me a 29-to-15 favorite. A blank hit on the river and I was now the new chip leader with about $35,000 in chips. What happened?
Well, after I won this hand nothing seemed to go my way again. I took advantage of the small stacks trying to survive but couldn't keep build my stack up. It seemed that every time I raised to put pressure on the smaller stacks in the blinds, one of the bigger stacks picked up aces or kings and moved all-in. I laid down both AQ and JJ before the flop in these cases, but my opponents made it very easy for me to fold as they re-raised me all-in instead of trying to trap me or just by re-raising a small amount. I never won another all-in situation against one of the smaller stacks but lost 3 before I was down to a small stack again.
In the final hand I was down to about $12,000 in chips and the blinds were $800-$1,600. I was in the small blind holding the Q♦ J♦, it was folded around to the button who made it $4,000 to go. I felt strongly that this was a steal attempt as I had watched this player carefully throughout the night. I re-raised all-in but unfortunately the big blind, who had about $15,000 in chips, held the A♠ K♣ and decided to call my all-in raise. The button folded and it was up to the poker gods once again. This time I was a 60%-to-40% underdog and I got no help from the board. I was out in 102nd place and very disappointed at the turn of events.
Conclusion: I played as well as I possibly could but in the end it comes down to getting lucky in the right moments and, perhaps more importantly, not getting unlucky. I never ran into a "set over set" situation or anything like that, which quite simply is just bad luck. I also never actually made any really big hands even though I played pretty loose from time to time. I managed to get to 102nd place out of 1,403 players simply by avoiding bad luck, winning a coin flip (a pocket pair vs two overcards), and picking up pots by making good plays. In order for me to win one of these events, I will keep playing my best game and hope for more luck. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to write about my personal tournament experiences during this year's World Series of Poker. I shall make sure to keep you posted.