Let’s start with the fact that I didn’t plan on playing. But when a couple guys who had originally planned on playing bailed at the last minute, there were seats open. Since I’d had a really good run in AC on Thursday (I think 7BB/hr is pretty good, amounting to better than +$300 at 3/6) and since it was for charity, I talked to Al and he added me in as a late entry.
Since we didn’t draw for seats and I was one of the first to the table, I picked the seat two to Gavin’s left. I’m fat, I ain’t stupid. Loren, our internet qualifier, took the seat between me and Gavin, Joe Speaker sat on my right elbow and CJ sat to his left, with Brandon Schaeffer between. Great. I have position on the guy I fear most at the table, but I’ve given it up to #2 and #3 in that ranking (and those two are in no particular order, but I don’t want either of them on my left). Steve (Little Mike’s dad) and Lewey (OI OI OI) were on the other side of the dealer, and Bobby Bracelet, showing all the confidence of the 860th greatest poker player in the world, sat immediately to Gavin’s right.
Now coming into this I knew nothing really about Brandon’s game. I assumed he was pretty frickin’ good, since he plays this silly game for a living and has a couple of big tournament wins under his belt. Loren was wearing his Team Pokerstars 2006 jacket, so I knew he had big field experience as well, but frankly at an 8-person table that didn’t bother me. So I figured I’d just watch these guys and try to figure out how to play against them.
I had played the night before with Lewey and Steve, and knew that Steve’s aggression would either lead him to the final two or the first out, because the guy plays hard and fast and doesn’t have a whole lot of middle gears. That stood him in good stead in our tourney the night before, as he finished victorious after getting heads-up with Gavin after Gavin bought (yes, literally, at about $200 a pop) about half the stacks from the final table. Lewey’s just a friggin’ nutjob, which worried me a little, but I promised myself to only play pots with Lewey if he actually looked at his cards before he bet, which is not a given.
I’ve played a bit with both Bobby and Speaker, and figured their game would be not much different than mine, only probably with a little stricter starting hand requirements, since I like to play a ton of junk. CJ is the player I had the most experience against, and figured I’d avoid getting all my money in against CJ as much as possible, because not only is he The Luckbox, when the Ms are still reasonable, he’s not going to put money into a pot without a good reason.
Gavin? Yeah, I played I think three pots with him all tourney, and I don’t think there was a ton of play in any of them. He took one or two, I took one or two, and it usually meant that the best hand preflop won. I never got all my money in against Gavin, and that was part of my plan – stay out of the way of the World Class Player.
Wasn’t hard to stay out of everyone’s way early, since I played tighter than a frog’s asshole for the most of the first hour. I didn’t get a chance to play many pots all day, probably a good thing. Having position on Gavin means folding a LOT. CJ also should have changed his name from Luckbox to Tightbox for the first three hours of play, since he played one hand per level, whether he needed to or not. I played one big hand early, against the Bracelet, which crippled him. I had KQd on the button, blinds were 50/100. I had paid blinds for the first two levels and that was it, so I still had most of my starting T5000 chip stack. Bobby raised to 300 preflop, and since that was the raise I was planning for, I just called.
Flop comes 10-7-3 rainbow with one diamond. Bobby fires 250 into the T750 pot. With my two overs, a pretty solid stack and the backdoor flush draw, I flat call. Turn is 8d. Bobby looks over and says something about a straight, then checks. I check behind because there’s no point in doing anything silly. River is my gin card, the Ad. Bobby fires 1,000 into the pot and I think my read of AJ-AK is really solid, so I take a little while trying to figure out how to get all of his chips. I raise to 2500 and Bobby pushes. I call and show my runner-runner flush. That puts me over T9000 and into the chiplead at the first break.
Photo courtesy of Carter.
I don’t think I played a hand for the second hour, which saw us start to lose people. Steve went out first, then Lewey fell when he made a sick push with his signature hand, 4-6 off suit. Gavin made an even sicker call with 2h-5h and flopped a deuce to bust Lewey. He went down to a rousing chorus of OI!s. Once the blinds got high things started to get interesting. Bobby rebuilt by picking off small pots here and there and pushing a couple of times and picking up uncontested blinds, but he finally went down. I don’t remember the hand, because I was playing turtle at that point and avoiding confrontations. Eventually I got fairly short and made a pretty loose preflop call which worked out well and sent Loren packing.
I’m in late position with pocket 7s and Gavin raises. Duh, Gavin’s been raising a shitload and is now the chipleader. Loren shoves in directly in front of me, with a few more chips than I have. I think for a long time, finally decide that I’m about 80% sure that it’s a race, and call. Gavin folds, and Loren turns up As6s. It wasn’t exactly a race, I was actually further ahead preflop than I expected to be, so his push was really just a re-steal. Ace in the door made me a little less happy. A couple of threes on the flop, rag on the turn and my two-outer seven on the river put me back into contention, at least in my mind.
Brandon was next to fall with something I really don’t remember, because I wasn’t in that hand either, and then we were down to four. Disclaimer – this bustout order could be completely fucked. I really remember that Steve busted first, and I remember the last four. The rest of this is guesses based on how I remember the action. Please correct me in the comments.
We were pretty even when we got to the bubble, with CJ being the short stack, but I wasn’t very far ahead of him and Gavin wasn’t very far ahead of me. Speaker was the big stack at that point. The blinds were really high and the Ms were really low, so the preflop push was pretty much the move. There were a few times that we saw a flop, but not many. One of those hands Gavin took a lot of chips off Speaker post-flop when his A7 hit the A45 flop and Joe had to lay his hand down. CJ took a little off me when I raised preflop with JTc and he pushed in a re-steal. Then Joe got short and pushed, and CJ woke up with his first (but not last) premium hand of the day, AA. They held up and Speaker was the bubble boy.
I don’t remember how Gavin went out, I just remember that I had nothing to do with it, and suddenly he was gone and I was heads-up with the Luckbox and a 3-1 chip dog. Like I said, I played very few pots with Gavin all day, but he was a hugely entertaining tablemate, with a monstrous heart. His winnings were immediately donated back to the charity. Fitting, since he donated the prize pool anyway.
I looked at CJ and remembered that this was how I started my year, across the table from CJ in a poker tourney. So I offered the same deal. “Chop?” We decided that of the $4K in the prize pool, half would stay in there for the charities, and we’d chop the other evenly. I pulled out all the stops, even breaking out my BBSOP engraved moneyclip for my psychological edge, trying to take CJ back to the last time we played heads-up, but it had the opposite effect, spurring him on to even better play. Yeah, I know it had no effect on how he played, but it was absolutely the pride that we were playing for, which is always more important than money. Well, almost always.
A couple hands into heads-up play I looked down at A3h and push. CJ instacalls and I figure I’m down when he flips up AJo. The board is all babies, with 3 pieces of the wheel by the turn. I don’t remember if the river was the 2 for the wheel or a 3 for my pair, but it was a pretty monumental suckout, continuing my streak. Unfortunately, three times was all the charm I was going to have.
A few hands later I look at K7c and with the 3-1 chiplead on my side of the table this time, I push. Again with the instacall, and my heart sinks when I look at what is only the most powerful hand in poker. Yep, CJ had THE HAMMER. Things were not looking good for our hero – I had not only gotten all of CJ’s money in the middle when he was behind, dominated even, but he had the power of The Hammer to boot. Needless to say, when the dealer dropped a deuce on me, it was on the river, the only time all day he hadn’t fished me out with that last card.
A few hands later I got it all in the middle with 9To against some silly pocket pair, oh yeah, those were aces. I didn’t make my straight on the river and to add insult to injury, he beat me with the 4-flush when the last diamond gave us both the flush, only his was had that silly ace involved.
It was a great tourney, it was great to play with my friends for charity and it felt great to outlast a couple of top pros like Gavin and Brandon, both of whom played a great game. Then the partying started in earnest, and there is much more to be written about that later.