Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Aces...In Places

The last Sunday in May began poorly. I was at Sacramento's Capital Casino weekly Texas hold'em poker tournament and we were about 30 minutes in when I made my first mistake of the day.

I had a marginal hand, a pocket ace and an off-suit nine and made it to the flop without anyone else tossing in a significant raise. Otherwise I would have folded. The flop came and showed another ace giving me top pair with a questionable kicker. The player before me quickly tossed a fair amount of chips in the pot and I read his actions lightly, like he was playing loose aggressive. I figured he also had an ace and was wondering who might have the better kicker so I called with a quarter of my stack.

Early on in these tournaments it's a little easier to call in this position because you also have a "pink" chip in your stack that allows you one re-buy at the same price as the initial entry. This lets you get another stack of chips if you bust out on a bad beat or bad read.

The turn and river came and with that, my opponent quickly tossed in what basically amounted to the remainder of  my chip stack. I tanked for a while thinking it over and eventually called. He turned over a king and ten for two pair and I was reaching for that pink chip to re-buy. It was just a crappy read on my part and once gain shows my tendency to overplay top pair. It wasn't too bad a move to call his first big bet but I definitely screwed up calling his last one. Of course, keep in mind if he would have turned up another ace with a weaker kicker I would have been patting myself on the back for picking him off - another mistake when actually I would have been just plain lucky but "there lies the rub" as the dude from Hamlet says right?!

Note: Here I was also violating another solid hold'em rule of thumb which is to generally avoid big pots early in a tournament,  I though of that too when I was tanking and ignored it. Wrong again.

So there I was, very early in the tournament and down an entire stack of chips - not a good prospect. Toward the end of the first series of four 20 minute intervals and not long before the first break, I caught pocket Aces. I played them gently and they doubled me up on an all-in bet. This made up for my earlier mistake and took me close to my original position.

The chances of being dealt pocket Aces back-to-back are 1 in 48,841 and that is exactly what happened next. I didn't get as much action that time but added a few chips bringing me up to about even with the buy-in amount.

Things slowed until well into the next series. Between the blinds, antes and drawing dead hands, I found myself down to less than an initial stack again. For the second time in the tournament, it wasn't looking good.

Then things again took a turn. I am not sure anyone has calculated the odds of getting pocket aces five times in a single 5 hour tournament but that is what ended up happening to me on that fateful last Sunday. I caught solid action along the way and ended up hitting the final table with a healthy stack. I also caught a full house along the way and the last five of 62 of us ended up chopping (splitting) the pot five ways.

In another odds defying development, my aces were not cracked (beaten) a single time that day and, according to the pundits, a little under 20% of the time that is exactly what happens.

Equal parts of Luck, Patience, Luck and Skill - that is what it takes to win in these tournaments (yeah, yeah that equals 50% luck). Some days luck takes up more like 75%+ and as for last Sunday...well, you know.


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