Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. I think I’m on solid ground with the first and the last.
It’s the other where I continually find myself stuck in mud.
In the FTOPS Event the other day, I entered the fourth hour of the tournament with a stack roughly a grand below par and with an M that would keep me in a comfortable zone for a couple levels. Hour Three had been a struggle, but one that revealed the tendencies and patterns of the other players at my table. It helped it was the only table I’d been on in the whole tourney to that point.
It was an aggressive group, a reasonable assumption considering the structure and level of buy-in. Once the antes kicked in, players attacked those chips, ramping up the action from the tight-ish manner in which we conducted the first two hours. Shifting gears.
So, my goal was to combat that change. Normally, I’d want to be the aggressor at this point. I’m comfortable in that role, but less so against this high level of aggression. I discussed the lay of the land with some in IRC and we concluded that my read was right and that I would have to lay back a little and pick good spots, i.e. a big hand or sneaking into cheap flops.
Unfortunately, neither of those conditions ever arose. I was actually pretty card dead the entire day. A few Big Slicks helped me out (and one huge flopped set), but I never had a pocket pair over JJ. And in the last 6 levels I played, I had one AKs to show for it.
So, even though I vowed to be patient, things quickly went awry in Hour Four. I laid down AQs pre-flop, with two pushes behind my open-raise. Correctly, I’ll add, but there went a chunk. I whiffed a flop with KQ and check-folded to the button who just flat-called my raise. These were the best I had to go with and ran into better hands or bigger stacks or bigger cajones.
I tried one bald-faced steal, from MP (tricky!). Almost worked, as it got folded to the BB–a highly aggressive player–who raised my bet…oh…4x. I couldn’t really play with K8o there.
And that sealed my fate, or at least limited my options. Three pre-flop raises, nothing to show, a couple trips through the blinds and my stack is halved into push monkey mode.
I’d like to say this is a rare occurance, a perfect storm of table conditions and card dearth, but I find myself in this situation all too frequently, unable to make a move when it’s most necessary, when the dead money has been skinned from the stalk and it’s time to move forward into a position to win tournaments. I know, for a fact, I sometimes lack aggression at these vital points, specifically when I’m sitting at a tighter table with people bent on protecting their stacks as much as they are building them. The other trait I can identify is that I get skittish. That was certainly the case on Sunday. Part of it was the magnitude of the tourney. I know I got in for $31, but a lot more than that was at stake. It’s easy to say you should play like the money doesn’t matter, but more difficult to practice that ethic when tourneys like these are not everyday experiences. The overhwelming bulk of tourneys I play are ones where I feel I belong, where my skill level fits with my opponents. Another aspect was the way the third hour played out, where, despite chipping up slightly, I found myself in several pots where I had little to no idea where I stood and had to fold out of simple bafflement. I felt, at times, out-classed.
But still, I can’t help but think there was more I could have done in those fateful six levels. I’d been gifted what was, at one time, a big stack. And I couldn’t parlay it further. I couldn’t use it to my advantage. Part of me believes I do something counter-intuitive. A lot of players who find themselves stacked early, go into drunken sailor mode, making sketchy calls or getting over-aggressive. I don’t do that. Even when drunken. I go the opposite way and tend to value those chips more. I’m lucky to have them and don’t want to give them back!
Maybe it wasn’t the last 6 levels that doomed me, but the three before that, where I sat miserly on my stack and didn’t try to win some small pots when the action was more rigid. Add on, so when the stakes do get raised, I can handle more than three hits to my stack. Like storing food for the winter.
Maybe then the mud won’t be so deep.