Friday, December 13th: As soon as I saw this tournament pop-up on the schedule, I knew I wanted to play in it. Who doesn’t want a chance at a PokerStars Platinum Pass, worth roughly $30,000 which includes an entry into the $25,000 PokerStarts Poker Championship?
This $360 buy-in Main Event played simultaneously at the Hard Rock Hollywood and the Seminole Coconut Creek properties, While Chris Moneymaker himself played at “Coco” (Day 1A Recap from Poker News), I chose to play at the Hard Rock where, since the grand opening of the guitar-shaped hotel (and, brand new Poker room), I haven’t ran very well. In fact, this tournament is my first one since my very first blog post on this site, where I busted AA < KK toward the end of Level 14 in the November Big Stack Special tournament.
Levels 1-4: The tournament start time, 10AM, is unusual. On the other hand, the faces in the Poker room crowd were filled with the usual players like me, trying to keep the dream alive and take down a tournament.
I get involved in a couple of interesting hands right away in Level 1, where blinds are 100/100 with no Big Blind Ante as of yet. I am in late position and open to 300 with AJo, picking up two callers – both of whom I have never played with before. The flop comes K88 and, as it gets checked to me, I continue for 600. One of the two callers decides to look me up, and we see a 3d on the turn. The caller checks it to me and I basically shut it down with an Ace in hand and check it back. The river brings the Ac, greatly improving my hand to AA88 with a K kicker. Action checks to me for a third straight time and I bet 1,100 for value. I get called by the player who immediately starts mumbling angrily when I announce that I have an Ace, and take the pot down (he most likely had a weak King).
Subsequently, still in the first level of play, I am in MP and raise to 300 with KcQc, and three callers join the pot. The flop comes J63cc, and when the action checks to me, I again lead for 600, just like I did in the previous hand history. The player whom I rivered in that previous hand history raises to 2,500. Earlier in the level, this player check-raised and then fired again with middle pair on a dry flop against another opponent, making me realize he is capable of another unorthodox play. The action folds to me and I decide to make the call. The turn is fantastic: Ac, giving me the nuts. I’m out of position and I check this card, hoping to induce a bet from the villain, but he checks back. The river is a Ts, and I make a nice-sized bet of 6,000. My opponent tanks for a full three minutes and starts asking me every standard tank question that a player would ask another player when faced with a big decision (Ex: “Will you show me if I fold?“). He finally mucks JTo face up for a rivered two pair. He almost pulled the trigger on a call, which would have been nice, but, on the other hand, we’re in Level 1 and, with so much Poker left to play, this tank was unnecessary, in my opinion.
Nothing really happens in Level 2, except for my losing the absolute minimum after raising to 400 with KK from UTG+1, getting multiple callers, and check/folding an Ace-high flop. In Level 3, I flop a straight holding T7o from the BB on a 986r board, but could not get any action at all.
Then, in Level 4, I raised in MP with KJo to either 700 or 800 (I don’t have the bet sizes in my notes for this hand, but the blinds in Level 4 are 200/300/300). A player named Ken, whom I’ve played with before and with whom I’ve exchanged pleasantries with before, calls and we see a KK6 flop. Once again, my written notes betray me here, but I lead out, my opponent calls, the turn is a heart (completing the front-door flush), and I bet again. Ken goes all-in right away and, with less than 10,000 in my stack by the time I get shoved on, I decide to call. Sure enough, he flips over a Jack-high straight and I need some help. The river is of no use to me, and I am headed over to the cashier to fire bullet #2. I get seated on a table with Ory Hen (A legendary Hard Rock Hollywood player, and the player that busted me from the May Deep Stack Series where I finished in 22nd place), and Jackie Scott, who, in 2015, won a WSOP Gold Bracelet in the Event #53 $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold ‘Em event.
Levels 5-8: During Level 5, I raised but missed with AJo and 33, but got really lucky with QdTd after raising pre and turning a Q. At the end of Level 5, I count my chips and find 15,500 of them in my possession. This level felt much like the previous level, where I hovered around a starting stack.
In Level 6, I am once again very short and look down at ATo from the SB after a MP raise and a late-position call. I decide to shove, making both players tank/fold to “crawl” back up to 13,500.
Not much else happens until the very end of Level 7, where blinds are 300/600/600 and are about to be bumped up to 400/800/800. I raised to 2,000 in LP with AsJs and shoved all-in against three callers to make it look like I am bluffing and tilted after smashing a JJ6 flop. However, everyone folded, but I am at 21,000 now, which is slightly above starting stack.
After seven levels, I find myself with 1,000 more than what we started with in Level 1. This is not how I envisioned this tournament going for me, but I’ve been very patient so far, including shaking off an early bullet bust-out. Patience is a key virtue in tournament Poker and, for me, my patience is about to pay off in a big way.
In the first hand that I played in Level 8, there is a raise from the HJ to 1,500 and I flat out of the SB with 99. I think that I should be raising here and not flatting, but the CO and the button both called and I don’t have a lot of chips, so I call to set-mine. The flop comes 332, and I get the sense that none of my opponents have anything. I lead out and take the pot down quickly, giving me a good boost up to 27,000 – by far, the largest my stack has been on the day.
As I’m still stacking the chips, the action folds around to me on the D and I look down at pocket Aces! I have pocket Aces, on the button, after just winning a pot and after not getting much going in this tournament so far in terms of chips. I raise to 2,400. The SB flat calls. The BB and I share eye contact and he leans over to see what I have behind. He then surprises me and shoves for around 70,000. I take just a moment to see if I can get my neighbor to come along before I make the obvious call. The SB folds after a minute of tanking, saying he had AK. I immediately flip over my hand and hear a sigh of exasperation from the player in the BB, who flips over AdKd. The board gets a little scary on the turn with a diamond flush draw available, but the river is safe and I’m now in a great spot with 55,000.
About 10 minutes later, I’m in the BB and call a 2,000 open with A5o for 1,200 more. There are two other players in the hand, and the flop comes out A52, giving me top two pair. I check, the player on the button bets 3,500 and I call. The third player in the hand then shoves for around 22,000. I ask for a count and then call – he flips over ATo. My hand again holds up, and, as I wrote in my notes “…idk what my stack is but I’m running hot!”. Then, at the last hand of Level 8, I open with TT from MP and get shoved on for around 17,000. I again ask for a count before calling, and my opponent reveals 99. For the third time in the level, I have a clean run out and bust another player, and more chips are shoved in my direction.
After just hovering around the starting stack for most of the day, I finally get a count of my chips during the break between Levels 8 and 9 and find myself with the picture that you can see below, good for 108,000 (108 BB) going into the 500/1,000/1,000 level!
Levels 9-11: With registration closed, I get moved and then moved again to another table and learn that there are 135 entries at the Hard Rock for this flight, which means 14 of us will make the money and earn a trip back on Sunday at 11AM. I pull up Poker News on my phone and see that Coco had 42 entries, of which 5 players would make it to Day 2. While I didn’t plan it this way, I am in a great spot to grind this stack out and try to survive to make the money and keep the PSPC 2020 dream alive!
In Level 10 with blinds at 600/1,200/1,200, I win a decent pot with AA, but gave some of it back when I 3B with JJ, but got 4B to 24,000 which forced me to lay my hand down. While I now have 93,000 in front of me, I finish Level 11 where blinds are 800/1,600/1,600 with 125,000, where my pocket Kings held up pre-flop against a short stack player’s pocket 8’s.
Outside of those two hands, not much else happens for me during these Levels, and we take our last break of the day…or so we thought.
Levels 12+: After going through the blinds and calling another bet, I am down to 70,000 and get moved to another table, taking a seat directly to the right of a player that will wind up owning me for the rest of my day 1, as he is clearly a superior Poker player and extremely accomplished. I am taking about Scott Baumstein, whom finished in 4th place during last year’s inaugural PSPC for $1.65 million, and whom has close to $4MM in career tournament earnings. After being on the short end of his stick several times during the next few hours, it’s obvious why he’s been so successful – he has great timing and a great feel for how strong or weak his opponents are during the course of a hand.
During Level 13 with blinds at 1,500/2,500/2,500, I raised QcTc pre-flop and get called by the player on the BTN. We see a T99dd flop, where I continued and my opponent called. When the 7d fell on the turn, I decided to turn my hand into a bluff and move all-in. My opponent quickly called, and I said “Well I’m in trouble”. As it turns out, my opponent was behind with AdQh, needing a diamond or an Ace on the river. Neither an Ace nor a diamond came, and the player busted on my behalf, re-fueling my stack up to 121,500. I look up at the tournament clock and notice that we have 26 players remaining in the field. My thoughts and strategy switch upon seeing that I need to survive 12 more players to make the money, and, while I didn’t plan this, I channel my inner Phil Hellmuth and go into super tight / stack preservation mode. I realize this is not a long-term +EV strategy, but I haven’t cashed in a tournament since May and I’m willing to fold my way into Day 2 if necessary, in order to be one of the final 14 players to advance from this flight.
Before my folding festival starts, I find myself in the BB and with Scott Baumstein in the SB. The action folds around to Scott during a hand in Level 14 with blinds 1,500/3,000/3,000. He already has over 200,000 in chips at this point, and, while I’m not looking to get involved in any hands with him, I also don’t want to be pushed around (although later on that’s exactly what winds up happening). Scott min-raises to 6,000 and I look down at Ks9s. I thought about folding as I didn’t have AA or KK (that’s a bit sarcastic), but decide to call after a bit of thinking. The flop comes KT2 rainbow, and Scott again bets 6,000. Once I hit my top pair and before Scott threw out his bet, I was going to snap call him in my futile attempt at trying to throw him off. Thus, once his 6,000 bet hits the felt, I instantly get 6,000 of my own chips and call very quickly. The turn is the As and this time he tank-bets 7,500. At this point, I am quite certain he doesn’t have an Ace and is using this card to bully me off a random Kx, which is exactly what I am holding, and most likely, what he thought I was holding. I tank for an equal amount of time and make the call. The river is an awesome 9c, giving me two pair. He bets small, 4,000, to which I snap call and turn over my two pair hand. My hand is good, but surprisingly, Scott had K2 for a flopped two pair and got coolered at the very end. I scoop the pot, shaking my head at my good fortune.
Then, two hands later, I am on the button and there is a raise to 7,000 in the same Level (14) by a good player in the HJ, to Scott Baumstein’s immediate right. I look down at QQ and, because I am in “Fold My Way to Day 2” mode, I flat, and the blinds come along as well. The flop is JT7hh, and when the action checks to me, I realize that I have the best hand and bet out 17,000. I get two callers, including the initial PFR. The turn is a 2x, and the action again checks to me. That 2x can’t possibly have changed anything, so I again bet out 23,000, which is relatively small as there is roughly 80,000 in the pot. The BB folds, but the PFR calls. The river is another 2x, and we both quickly check. I announce “Pocket Queens”, which is good and I scoop a large pot. With six minutes left in Level 14, I now have 210,000 in chips with 21 players remaining. We learn that the Coco Flight A has ended with Chris Moneymaker leading, but our flight at the Hard Rock must be whittled down to 14 players before play can end and before our money bubble can burst.
Scott and I play a few more interesting but small-pot hands before our table breaks when play is down to 18 players during Level 15. Little did I know that, after being up to 210,000 toward the end of Level 14, that I would be blinded way down and call/fold a few times during the next three levels (Yes, we played an extra three levels as approaching the money bubble and the actual bubble itself was painstakingly slow). Now down to 15 players, I have about 130,000 with blinds at a very high 3,000/6,000/6,000 for our Day 1 and “on-the-bubble” situation, and, obviously, no one wants to bust out now. I consider folding blind (without looking at my hand) just to cash, and saw a player open-fold AsKs after Jackie Scott, who is sitting to my left now, shoved all-in. I, myself, folded JJ after a player to my right shoved for his remaining 70,000, because I didn’t want to flip or be way behind for essentially my tournament life as I only had him covered by a slight amount.
Finally, after roughly 2 extra hours of play, a player on the other table shoves all-in and gets called by an A9o, which winds up holding after a turned 9 and busting the 15th player in the field to burst the money bubble, causing the tournament staff to stop the tournament and hand out plastic bags and re-draw slips for Day 2 – which I’m happy and relieved to be a part of. From my high point of 210,000, I wind up bagging 104,000, good for 16th of 19th place. We also learn that, because the Flight A at Coco ended in the middle of Level 14, that we will roll back the clock on Day 2 to, at most, the 1,500/3,000/3,000 level.
Going into Day 2, I have about 35 Big Blinds (and, looking ahead to Level 15 at the 2,000/4,000/4,000 level, about 26 BBs). With 3,540,000 chips in play and 19 players advancing, I am below the 186,316 chip average. But, with 35 BBs and already guaranteed at least a min-cash, I feel really good for Sunday’s Day 2. Hopefully I can win a few pots early on and, who knows, maybe even double-up to be over 200,000 soon after play resumes. I will definitely make an update, either with an update to this blog post or a full post of its own (I haven’t decided yet which).