Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Critical Hand at Walsall

Last week at Walsall Casino I was playing in the $100 NL Hold’em freezeout (using $’s now for my American readers). You get 3,000 chips for your money and the blinds are structured very nicely. On the 2nd level I picked up a very critical hand but made what I consider to be my best call of the week. The blinds were 50-100 and I had about 3,500 in chips. In early position I picked up JJ and raised to 300 total. A guy in middle position calls, and then the fishiest player on the big blind calls. Flop comes out 7-5-2 rainbow. The really bad player bets 500, and I need to find out where I am in the hand so I re-raise to 1,000 total. Now action was onto the guy in middle position, and he thought about it for a while and then moved all in. Of course if the bad player called I would fold because he could have absolutely anything. However, he folded so now I dropped into the think tank. The pot was about 3,100 plus the all in so I had to call my remaining ~2,200 chips. Firstly, I remembered a hand earlier where this player had Kings and it was raised preflop, he had re-raised it that time. Thus, I banked on the fact that Kings / Aces he would have re-raised preflop so I couldn’t put him on those hands. If he had AK then it had missed and he was trying to push out all the other hands then it’d be correct to call. If he had any sort of straight draw then it was correct for me to call as I would be way ahead, and because none of the board card’s connected I couldn’t put him on a tricky suited connector that two paired. If he had Ace-x and made top pair he wouldn’t have pushed because with it going raise, re-raise he was a smart player and would know that he was beat. Now, what about a set? If he had flopped a set which was very plausible, surely he would have wanted the call and especially with that really bad player in, if he had called the 1,000 then the other player would have 99% called. This would mean that he would make a lot more money. Also, with no major draws like flush draws, there would be no really need to protect his set so I was very sure that the if he had a set he wouldn’t have moved all in. So what did this player have? He was a good player so AK, and a pocket pair lower than Kings that didn’t make a set was very possible. These are the hands that I put him on and if I was him I probably would have done the same in his spot, trying to protect his hand and pick up the pot there and then. Therefore, the only thing I was worried about was Queens. It’s a hand that he probably wouldn’t have re-raised preflop and the only possible hand I put him on that beat me. But poker is about putting as much of the puzzle together and seeing what it makes, even if you don’t have all the pieces. Thus, I decided to call and he flipped over pocket 10s. The early double up was great and I was really proud of my call. I went on the place 7th and in the money. My stack never dipped below 6,000 and I played very well. David Lu, a friend of mine was also in the tournament and we sat on four different tables together that night. He was always two to my left, so sorry about constantly stealing your blinds! Having a friend with me all the way defiantly helps motivate you to do better and not get reckless as they are always watching. It’s a week late but congratulations on winning that, you defiantly deserved it.

On a side note, the search for a poker nickname continues. Sorry if I missed out your suggestions, but feel free to msn me at or on AIM at nextgenneo. Here’s what I have so far:

Kader "The Cut" Belbina
Kader "The Arrow" Belbina
Kader "Steven on the Bubble" Belbina
Kader "On the Rocks" Belbina
Kader "Super Brat II" Belbina
Kader "Arieh Junior" Belbina

Lots of poker pictures coming soon will keep you updated.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Oxford Cup IV

This weekend was the Oxford Cup. A 250 man 20 pound rebuy student / poker celebrity event. Here is my tournament report:

I expect great things to happen to me. It is the only way to look at life, and poker. This weekend at the Oxford Cup (my first real large live tourney) I expected great things. On the list of things to achieve were buy some sandals from the Gap, get a Starbucks (Frappacino), eat at McDonalds and win the Oxford Cup. Saturday was a pretty awesome day as I knocked of three things on that list (such corporate American things to do) and so rolled around Sunday with one more goal.

Sunday kicked off and I brought an IPOD with me to listen to some music (to avoid playing too many hands). Without my lucky hat I decided that my sandals were lucky. And finally, I had plenty of chewing gum as I find that it really helps shaking / giving off tells. My strategy for the tournament was to not get involved with rebuy antics and just play my A game. If I took the constant rebuy and push approach I may have spent 100 pounds and got a large stack but with the way the blinds were structured (a bit too fast for my liking) the advantage would have been short lived and to turn a profit would have to make at least final table. So I bought in for 20 pounds and sat down on table 4. To my left was someone from Birmingham University that was on a recent student poker documentary, his approach was to try and build a stack whatever the cost. Two pretty standard student players were to his left, and they were followed by two older gentlemen with a lot of money. When one of them sat on the table he said, “They were playing a cash game upstairs, 25-50 and I sat down thinking it was 25 pounds-50 pounds, no point playing for anything less”. Pretty obvious that the player was not top quality and was out to look like a big time player and intimidate the table. I decided that I would be the person to knock him out (I did knock him out, forgot the hand though). To the left of that player sat Mr. Christmas (his name was Tom Christmas) and honestly, his run of cards on the first hour were absolutely insane but more on that later [On a side note this player finished 3rd]. Another two standard players to his left, and then on my right was Joe Bernard who was the organizer of the tournament.

So that was the layout of the table, and for the 20 pound entry you get 1,000 chips. Play started with Christmas picking up pot after pot and the two older gentlemen throwing cash away. One particularly annoying hand, I was on the blind and it went UTG call, raise, re-raise, all in, and then I looked down on Kh9h. I had to fold because it was obvious that I was dominated, and then Birmingham Uni guy called with 107o. Flop came down three hearts and I would’ve picked up a huge pot. But poker is not about winning pots, its about making winning decisions and the cards in play were AK, AA, KQ so I was dominated. About half way into the rebuy period I picked up KJ on the cut off, folded round to me and I had about 800 chips so I pushed (in retrospect not really worthwhile as the blinds weren’t worth the steal and I would probably only get called by at best 50:50 poket pairs or Ace-x in which case I was a 40:60). However, I got called by a 10J and doubled through. I played another two hands in the next fifteen minutes and actually don’t remember them but I got my chips up to 5,000. Final hand of the rebuys I pick up AcKc in middle position, I notice that Mr. Christmas looked at his hand and immediately put it down and looked at his chips (I tell from Mike Caro that I use quite often). I decided to just limp, hoping for some more calls from people before Christmas. I was correct and there were two limps, Christmas raised it another 1.5K and I pushed all in. He only had 4K total and the other two people who called were pretty short. Folded round to Mr. Christmas and he called. He flipped over AQo and flop came Q-Q-x, and just to rub it in he filled up on the river. Reason’s that this play was bad was on the big you should only raise truly premium hands, so I don’t know what he was doing raising with AQo. Of course I berated his play and commented on his run of cards that he had been getting. I was down to 1025 chips and got a top up. I was in 40 pounds and 2025 chips total, so in an hour of play I had made 25 chips… could’ve been better. At this point I offered Dave Ralph and Tom “Flash” Grundy a deal of splitting the winnings but they declined (worked out that it wasn’t the end of the world but could’ve been very costly for them).

Once the freezeout period started everyone became as tight as a virgin. I made a stab at one pot, I had Q9 on the big and it folded round to the small. He called and I checked. Flop came 2-2-4 and when he checked I bet around 200 chips. He reluctantly called. Next card was blank and I raised 400, once again he reluctantly called. River came 10 and he checked and I knew he wasn’t going anywhere now so I checked. He flipped over A10o and he got payed for chasing aces.

Then came a pretty large hand for me, on the big again I picked up J7o and with three calls I checked. Flop came down AKQ rainbow and I minimum bet because everyone has to be scared of that flop and I get to see if I can bluff at it. Three calls, next card is a K and it checks around. Final card is a 10 meaning I’ve hit the straight. I check and Birmingham guy bets, random guy raises minimum and I push. I can’t really put anyone on AA, KK, QQ, AK, KQ as it hadn’t been raised and all game these players had been raising hands like that. I was slightly worried about 10s or K10 but I had to push as the pot wasn’t a bad size and you can’t play scared. Birmingham guy folded and random guy called. I was sure it’d be a split but he showed K4 and I took down a rather large pot. With that board, trip kings is an extremely weak hand so that call was just stubborn and bad. If anyone had bet on the turn I would have folded but that’s where the guy with K4 made a mistake and it payed me off nicely.I was up to about 4,500 after that and stayed near 5,000 until the next break.

When we came back some new players had joined our table, including something the rock who placed three times at late night poker, last year’s winner and another pro. I won a pot with a big bluff into Mr. Christmas as he only calls with the nuts or near nuts on the river and got up to about 8,000. Then came a pretty nice hand for me. I picked up 99 on the button, it folded around to me and I raised 3x big. I was re-raised by the big and I called knowing that I was pushing on the flop no matter what. Q-9h-8h flopped and the blind raise 1,000 and I min raised it to 2,000 getting greedy. He called and the turn was a blank. He checked and I pushed, he folded and I picked up a nice pot. By this time I was up to 15,000 with the blinds getting pretty large (300-600ish).

Next eventful pot was with my least favorite hand in poker, JJ. Got down to a guy with 7,000 chips and myself. I had made a large raise preflop which was called. Flop came Qs-6s-2. Of course with Jacks I was really pissed off but this player had been protecting hands all evening, pushing on top pair / flush draws on the flop. I checked figuring he would push with anything decent or check. He came out with a bet of 1000. I was so sure that after the hefty 1800 preflop raise he would have just pushed with AQ or a flush draw so I minimum raised to get some more information (another 1000 to him). If he was slow playing QQ he would most likely push and with that board I wasn’t concerned about a two pair, lower trips, or Qx. When he just called I knew he didn’t have a hand that beat me and put him on AK or 10s. Turn came 8s making 3 flush cards. One of my jack’s was a spade so if I made a mistake in putting him on a hand I still had some outs. I pushed and he called. When he flipped over A6 no spades I was just shocked by how and why he had played this hand. River came no help and I picked up 7,000 on someone overplaying ace-x. My only explanation for this play is a) he is a complete idiot who doesn’t know how to play cards b) my constant trash talk got him on tilt and he was looking for anything to take some of my chips with. I was now on approx 22,000.

Soon after came a great pot for me, which once again I got paid off for a) people overplaying Ax and b) people coming after me because I have them on tilt thanks to my table banter. I pick up 10s and middle position loose amateur player raises to 2800. I make a large raise to 7,000 (the blinds are somewhere near 700-1400 at this point). The guy has more chips than me (about 35,000) and if he re-raises all in I will fold not wanting to risk my tourney on at best a coin flip. He eventually calls after saying something along the lines of, “I really want to play a pot against you but this call is probably stupid”. I was either going to nominate him for an Oscar for his performance or believe him, and he was so genuine and honest with the way he said it / body movement that I believed him. Flop came 9-6-2 rainbow and he bet 3,000. The flop couldn’t get much better for me and of course I was worried about an over pocket pair (as I had the lowest over pair) but I pushed. He called and I thought, oh shit, but when he flipped over A10 I was confused but pleased. No help for him on 4th / 5th street and my stack was over 50,000.

Very next hand in the big, Birmingham guy raises to 3,000 UTG and I have KQ suited. Folds around to me and I call. Flop comes Q-x-x rainbow and I push which in retrospect is stupid because I am only getting called by hands that beat me as there are no major draws. Birmingham guy quickly calls and flips over Aces and I am down to 40,000 with about 80 players left.

Then I got cold carded. I didn’t get one truly good hand from this point until when I busted out. If you consider KQ suited a truly good hand then I disagree, but it was the best hand I got in this period as I had it twice.

The rest of the tourney was a bit of a crapshoot to be honest; the blinds were accelerating every twenty minutes at a ridiculous rate. I picked up no hands and never saw a flop without either being all in pre-flop or someone else being all in. Every time I was on the cutoff or on the button and it was folded round to me I made a pretty standard 2.5-3 big blind raise and got away with it most of the time.

I can’t recollect picking up a pot contested until I picked up A7 suited on the cutoff and made it 7,000 to go with the blinds at 1500-3000. The big blind only had 10,000 chips and pushed when the small folded. I had to call as it was only 3,000 more and when he flipped over J10 suited I was pleasantly surprised. The lucky bastard picked up a J on the river though and doubled through. He had been winning 60-40’s and less all night, at one point this player was down to a grand but now he was back up to 10,000. I got justice about thirty minutes later when it was down to two tables.

I picked up KQ suited (I had folded this last hand when it went raise, all-in). I made it 10,000 to go on the cutoff with the blinds somewhere near 2500-5000. The big blind (same player as ealier) immediately pushed for I think another 7,000 so I had to call. He flipped over AK and I was pretty dominated until the flop came Q-8-8 to make me a big favorite. No help for him on the turn and river and he was eliminated out of the money. Fight fire with fire.

I stole two more blinds at this point, one with 107o and the other with 75o. Then I picked up J3 on the button when it was folded around to me. The blinds were 3500-7000 so I made it 15,000 and the small came over the top for 5,000 more. I had to call and when he flipped over JA it couldn’t get much worst for me. No help and I was down to about 30,000. Hindsight is 20/20 but at this stage I should probably have waited for at least an above average hand to steal, and not steal on the button as the players were all quite good and must have caught on.

My final hand of the tourney came when I was UTG. The blinds had just raised to 5000-10,000 and I had only 25,000 in chips. It was either this hand or next hand that I was all in so I was going to push as long as I was above average. Luckily for me I picked up 55 and went all in immediately. It folded around to the big and I thought I was safe until he called with 86 suited. At least if I was to go out, it was on a coin flip. With an 8 on the turn I was the 14th place finisher and everyone was very lucky to see me go out. I could defiantly see the relief on everyone’s face as I lost my stack (lol).

I was disappointed because the tournament was weighted so top heavy. Top 3 would all make over 1,000 pounds and there was a lot of money for making the final table. I played well all day and got cold carded toward the end, but that is poker. I made a lot of enemies over the weekend, both in the tournament and the cash games. It seems that Oxford kids don’t appreciate trash talk. I also made a bit of money though so it was worthwhile. I’ll be back at Oxford next year, and hopefully will get another shot at winning.

Thanks for reading, hope my first tournament report wasn’t too boring,

Kader “need a nickname” Belbina