May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't to forget make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
Yesterday we loaded up Me, Special K, Jim and T into the Toaster and cruised on down to G-Vegas for my 3rd annual trip to the house of Blood for his New Year's Day game. G-Vegas has a warm spot in my heart not just because some of my best friends live down there, or because Blood always throws a good tournament with a great structure, but because it's one of the few places on earth that I'm actually profitable as a poker player in the long term. Between taking down the BadBlood New Year's Day tourney in '06, and cleaning up in the cash games at Bradoween and a July 4th game at The Mark's place, it more than makes up for the debacle of going broke for New Year's day in 2007.
So with that, and with my recent modicum of tourney success in Vegas, I felt pretty good going into the game yesterday. I felt even better when I drew my table slot with Jim and the Wolverine both on my right, and The Mark, G-Rob, BadBlood and Otis all at different tables. My starting table was made up of me, Mrs. Blood, someone I don't remember(CRAP! That was the Big Pirate, who I promptly forgot was at my table because I don't play pots with Wes. Period. And I'm pretty sure I played not a single pot against him. But I think he got busted on a suckout, too.), Stan, TeamScottSmith, Jim and the Wolverine. I've played with the Wolverine before, and I was glad to not only be on his left, but also to see that he was brutally card dead. I didn't realize until later that the only three past winners of the event were all at the same starting table (Logan, Me and TeamScott). I managed to make it through the first three levels with a little more than my starting stack without any really interesting hands, but business definitely picked up after the first break.
Jim had earlier busted Mrs. Blood when he raised preflop, she min-reraised and he called with A9 soooted. Flop brought two nines, I don't remember who led out, but all the money went in on the turn when the third spade came down to give Mrs. Blood the redraw to the nut flush with her pocket Aces. Unfortunately for the hostess, the river was the case nines, giving Jim quads and a bunch of chips.
Frankly, I didn't mind Jim picking up a ton of chips early, since he was to my right and he tends to play way too loose when he has chips. So when I picked up Aces a little later, I happily re-raised Jim, and when he went all in over the top to push me off the hand, I of course insta-called. This time the Quad Gods were with me, as I flopped quad Aces to double through him and his little pocket eights. That gave me a cushion and saved me from having to play many hands, but I hit a sick rush for the next couple of levels, picking up ever single big and medium pocket pair for the next hour. Really. Between the first and second break I held every single pair tens or better at least once. So when we got to the final table I had chips, which was nice.
There were 23 total entrants, and the final table was 10-handed, so after playing short-handed all afternoon, we slowed way down when the final table started. I was loving it, since I had chips, so I just waited for my spots and generally stayed out of TheMark's way. He drew the seat just to my left, so for the most part I was avoiding him unless I had cards or a whim to play hard at him. Worked well for the most part. I'm pretty sure I busted TripJax with Queens against his AK or something like that. I remember that Blood raised preflop, TripJax re-raised all in, and I went over the top of Trip for not a ton more, but enough to bust Blood had he made the call. He laid it down, my hand held up, and Jax was busto.
That was the theme of my late-tourney play - BadBlood not getting busted by me. That was the first time he could have been the gracious host and gifted me with his chips. The next was the hand that actually gave him enough ammo to compete. He open-shoved with Q-3, I woke up with 88 in the big blind and called. He caught a 3 on the flop, and another on the turn to double up. I was feeling a little short after that hand, but still had enough chips to be patient, and my exit came on another hand that Blood managed to avoid busting on. He limped in with trash, I checked my option with my trash. Flop came down A-3-7, he bet, I shoved because my trash included a 7, and he called because his trash included the 4-6 of hearts, and the board not only gave him a gutshot but the flush draw as well. The 5c on the turn left me drawing dead and I was all in on the next blind. So I finished 3rd, blowing my chance at becoming the only repeat New Year's Day Champ by not managing to have my hands hold up at critical moments late in the tourney.
I feel really good about my play, as I don't remember dishing out any brutal suckouts when the pots were big (I did call a preflop raise with A-4 soooted and flop the wheel, but Jim managed to get away from my turn raise). I caught good cards, but I also think that a philosophy change hit me midway through the blogger event at the Venetian. I now think of having chips as giving me the freedom to play fewer hands late in a tournament, rather than a license to play more hands. When my M gets down around 6-8, I start to feel desperate and like I need to make things happen. If I can keep my stack relatively healthy, I can sit back and wait until other people make more desperate moves, and get my money in with the best of it more often. Not a new philosophy, I know, but new to me. I have historically tended to accumulate a big stack and spew them all back out as I play more hands than I need to. I feel like I have turned a corner in understanding more effectively how to use a big stack as a weapon late in a tournament.
And it was nice not to have to tell the people that rode with me to G-Vegas this year "well, I'm out of the game until I get my writing money for last month." I booked a nice little profit for the day, and had a great time with some of my favorite folks. Sounds like a winner all around.