I decided to revisit an old friend last night, the 180-person, $12 no limit hold’em turbo on Poker Stars. When I first began building my online bankroll, I made a number of final tables at this format, but I began to divert from tactics that had been successful, started losing consistently and stopped playing them a few months ago. Why did I play last night? The little inner voice was saying that something good was going to happen. Little did I know that I was about to play “The Strangest Turbo Tournament Yet.”
It started out innocently enough. I chipped up a bit on a pre-flop raise followed by a top pair-top kicker flop. At the second level, I raised to 4x the big blind from the hijack seat (two off the button) with , and was called by the cutoff, only to have the small blind go all-in for 1405. In the turbos, you often have to play what looks like a coin flip, especially if you have the other player out-chipped, and so I called, and the cutoff got out of the way. The small blind showed pocket eights and we were off to the races. By the river I still had two over cards and a gut-shot straight draw, and fortunately hit an ace to pop up to 3,445, around 10th place at this point. Nothing unusual yet.
The first sign that this was not to be just another tourney came at the 50-100 level. I was dealt pocket kings under the gun, and decided to just limp in with them, something I almost never do. However, players were starting to take shots with short stacks, and I wanted to be able to pounce if someone did. Sure enough, the five seat pushed for 1,137, and the sixth seat followed him for 1,275. I called, and was quite happy to see an offsuit A-4 and pocket tens in my opponents’ hands. I was even happier when the flop brought me a third king, along with an 8 and a 5. But the turn and the river were a 3 and a 2, and the A-4 backed into the ugliest of inside straights. Weirdly enough, the same player was to make two more inside straights on the river against flopped sets in the next two levels! So, instead of 6,000 chips and a top five position, I was down to 2,396 and just the tiniest bit annoyed.
I went card dead for a couple of orbits, but fortunately, my blinds were not attacked and I stayed around 2,000 chips, until I found pocket queens in the hijack seat. I raised to 3X (600) and was called by the cutoff, who had slightly fewer chips than I. When the flop came Q-5-3, I decided to make a small bet of 300 into the 1,500 chip pot. My opponent called, and a 9 fell on the turn. I bet 450 to entice him once more, and he took the bait and went all-in for the rest of his 980 chips. He showed a harmless A-K, and I was back in the hunt with 4,276 and a slightly more viable stack with the antes ready to begin.
After losing a piece of my stack when my second pair was beaten out, I pushed a suited K-7 in the small blind against a very small stack in the big blind, who called with 3-2, and then (naturally) rivered the three. Suddenly, I was right back down to 2,300 and now in pretty desperate shape with an M of less than 4. Looking for a hand to double up with, and with the blinds about to hit, I pushed Q-J, only to be called by pocket nines in the next seat by a player with 150 less in chips than I had. The flop brought a 3-4-8, all hearts, and I had the jack of hearts! 15 outs twice! But the on the turn and on the river crushed my hopes, and left me all-in in the big blind on the next hand for my 151 remaining chips Which came: J-6 offsuit. A player named “YouHave2Outs” raised, and he was wrong. I actually had three outs to his pocket nines. So this time, I hit the jack, and was still alive with 603 chips, with less than one orbit to try and build on it.
After folding the small blind, I was dealt pocket sevens on the button and wound up heads-up against a suited 10-9. The sevens held, and my stack was now 1,784, with a tiny bit more breathing room, and a move to another table. At this point, the blinds went up again, and I still had just a bit more than one round of antes and blinds left. I pushed from the hijack with J-10, and miraculously, everyone else folded. Up to 2,684. Two hands later, pocket fives showed up, and I pushed with them in the second seat, and got two callers, one with pocket tens and the other with a suited K-Q. This time I really was down to two outs, but the miracle five came right away on the flop! When the set held up, I was suddenly at 7,798, into the top ten in the tourney, and with a more playable M of 7!
As wildly lucky and unlucky as I had been to this point, it was nothing compared to the carnage taking place at every table at which I sat. It seemed as if every hand was being decided on the river with miracle one-, two- and three-outers commonplace. On one hand, a player with pocket tens hit his set on the flop, only to have pocket queens make HIS set on the turn, only to have the case ten show on the river! Runner-runner flushes and boats became the norm. Two short stacks went up against each other with 7-6 and 4-2. The flop was 7-6-4, and then the turn was a 2 and the river was another 4! The stranger the outcome, the more likely it was to occur.
With this as prelude, I raised to 4X (2,400) with A-9 in third seat at an 8-player table. The small blind pushed all-in for an additional 4,017, which left me 2.5:1 odds for my call, and the knowledge that if I lost, I’d be back down to fewer than 2,000 chips. Feeling like I was already playing with house money, I called, only to find A-Q in my opponent’s hand. Needless to say, I turned a nine, and was sitting in second place with 15,265 with enough chips for an average stack once the money bubble burst.
A few hands later, I called a short stack’s all-in with . Another relative shortie raised an additional 1,100, which I also called. They showed pocket tens and Q-9. As I rooted for an ace, a third ten showed up on the turn, and a queen on the river. I grumbled a bit, only to look back at the screen and see both pots being pushed towards me and the other two players disappearing. Ah yes, the runner-runner nut flush. 22,935 and first place!
At this point, I started using the big stack to chip up gradually, while the insane bad beats continued unabated all around me. I even had one of my own when I called an all-in with pocket aces only to have the pocket sixes I was up against river, you guessed it, an inside straight! But I made it to the final table second in chips with a little less than 45,000, with the chip leader at 68,000 and no one else within 15,000 of me.
I took the lead with six players left, and stayed out of danger until there were three of us remaining. I called a 3X raise in the big blind with 5-7 offsuit, and turned a straight against an A-K who lead bet all his chips after I made the hand. After winning the hand, I entered heads-up play with a 2:1 chip lead.
There wasn’t much excitement to the heads-up. Since my opponent was either folding or going all-in, I waited patiently to trap him. It started going on so long that I even offered to chop the prizes, but he didn’t respond. Finally, with the stacks about where they had started, he went all-in one more time. And I had pocket aces to his eights. Blanks on the flop, but he picked up, yep, an inside straight draw on the turn. Would it happen yet one more time? No, it would not, and I took the pot and the tournament!
If there is one essential point I want to stress about playing this, or for that matter, any type of tournament, it is to try and get your money in against shorter stacks if it is at all possible. Bad beats, coming out on the wrong end of coin flips and the like are bound to happen over and over again. The key to survival is making sure that you are not the one with the short stack when the inevitable occurs.
See you at the tables!