♠ Friday, January 28, 2005
Does a Cash in a Poorly-Structured Tourney Still Count?
The Michigan readers among the throng already know, and I've mentioned before, but the Little River Casino in Manistee, Mich., deals 50-man limit holdem tournaments every Monday and Tuesday. I've sat this tournament in the past, and probably I wrote it up, but I don't feel like looking for the old article; suffice it to say I wasn't impressed.
It's a rebuy tourney, which in itself is fine, except that the structure is such that the player has two choices: (1) Get lucky. (2) Rebuy. Players start with only T$300 in chips, which is fine (barely) when the stakes are T$10/$20 but woefully inadequate forty minutes later when the stakes are T$25/T$50. The addon at the one-hour mark, $15 for T$1000, is virtually mandatory, since the stakes are T$50/T$100 when you come back from the break. In other words, I don't care much for the structure of this tournament. A player starts with too few chips and the blinds increase too rapidly for a limit tournament.
Nonetheless, I've sat this tournament around four times. The first time, I can be forgiven, because the tournament was new and I was attempting to form my opinions of it. Other times, I've mostly been up at the casino to play the cash games after the tournament, particularly after the casino's license was modified to allow them to deal no-limit games. One of those times, though, only served to convince me that I didn't know as much as I thought about no-limit.
But Gil had a gig not far from the casino on Monday, so we drove up to play in the tournament and the post-tournament cash games. After we registered and had lunch, the luck of the draw sat Gil on my immediate right (tho' the dealer's box intervened). This only became important once.
I was dealt A5o, either on one of the blinds or maybe on the button (as I reconstruct the hand now). The flop was Axx, so I checked, hoping to check-raise a late-position bettor and force most of the field to call two bets cold. A middle-position player bet out, and Gil raised. Now, Gil and I have been discussing the new small-stakes 2+2 book a lot, so I know that Gil might raise here in late position with as little as bottom pair. So I reraise, partly for value and partly to define the hands of both of my opponents. I continue betting, and tho' we lose the mid-position player Gil continues calling until he turns over ... A5o. We laughed, but since we both figured we'd lose the hand to a higher kicker, we were both perfectly satisfied with a split.
During the tournament I got above-average cards, which mostly held up, and so after the first hour I found myself with about T$1700. This is huge when one starts with only T$300, and is typically one's stack size at the break after the add-on. I considered not adding on the T$1000, given my stack, but decided that letting everyone else catch up at once probably was a bad move. I'm still not convinced I was right.
Although I did get a set of Aces cracked shortly after the first break, the remainder of the tournament was still mostly about getting above-average cards and having them hold up. Finally, I found myself at the final table, which is the money in this tournament. But even though my chip stack was only about the mean at this point, fully half the table was on the ropes, so it made little sense to play in any way other than to lay back and let people bust out. Once we were down to four or five, I could open my game up and take some pots.
This is all a great plan, and in fact the first part worked. Half the table busted out while my chip stack went from T$9K to, say, T$11K. Meanwhile, the blinds have increased to T$2K/T$4K, and although we're at no-limit betting, there's only about T$90K in play in the whole game. So any play at the blinds pretty much has to be all-in. I do this out of the small blind, and it works, but when I do it from the button, with K7o, the small blind calls with pocket sixes, and I don't catch, and I'm out.
I think I played the tournament well, but I stand by my original thought about the tournament: It's a crapshoot. I got decent cards. I've expressed my reservations about the tournament to a number of the regular players of the tournament, and it's like I'm shouting into the wind. One player said, "How slow should the blinds increase? The tournament already takes four hours." Another said, "Well, I'd agree with you, except for the rebuys, which means you start with however many chips you want." That last is a gross mischaracterization of the rebuys; it's not like you can say "I'd like eight rebuys, please!"
When the tournament broke, there were two cash games going, a $4/$8 game and a $100max NL game. I had a wait for either, because they won't add your name to the cash-game lists until you are out of the tournament. But, it was the NL game that first had room for me. Gil was already into this game for two buyins before he left for his gig, and the seat I filled was previously the demesne of one of the room's regulars, another good player, who had just busted out of the game.
Nonetheless, this proved to be a decent game. I didn't figure any of the players had me seriously outclassed, including the two people who each took more than $800 out of the game. I think my cards actually ran a little below average in the game, but my stack still fluctuated between +$250 and −$250 during the evening, to finish around +$100 at the time Gil busted out for the fifth time and was ready to go track down a hotel room.
I think the biggest difference between my play in the cash game this time, and my play in the same game several months ago, was not the quality of the players, but my own willingness to see the chips in front of me as chips instead of as actual cash, which (except in one case) prevented me from being run over. My mom would say that it's a bad thing to see the chips that way, but, well, she wasn't there. A $125 all-in semibluff, in this game, didn't seem like a big deal to me, where it would have in the earlier game. Maybe the tournament I played right before this got me in the appropriate mood, or maybe the $250 I made for placing fourth helped, or maybe I just learned to play right. Whatever it was, I like this game now.
I Am the Ghost of Tourney Yet to Come
I had known for several weeks that Little River was going to have a bigger-buyin, "invitational" tournament for their frequent tournament players. I wasn't invited, but I'm not a frequent tournament player, and so I was OK with that. One of the floormen in the room, mentioning something about the blind structure of the tournament, asked a question that required me to be in this invitational tournament to answer. When I mentioned that I wasn't invited, she asked if I wanted to be; apparently there were still about ten seats left unfilled.
Unlike their usual tournaments, this tourney is no-limit; unlike their usual tournaments, players start with adequate chip stacks; unlike their usual tournaments, the blind structure is flatter; unlike their usual tournaments, there should be about a hundred entrants. Everything is a positive about this tournament except that it essentially requires that I spend the weekend in Manistee. This isn't actually a huge hardship—this is the off-season "up north" and rooms can be had cheaply—but that much cash-game play leaves wide the possibility that I may bust myself out of action with a day or more left in Manistee, simply due to natural variance. So, fear does operate here.
Home, Home on the Strange
Cactus Dave was here yesterday, and while he was monkeying with his computer we pulled out a deck of cards and played a little fake-money holdem. Fake-money is usually no fun, but since we played as if it was a normal low-stakes game, it actually became rather enjoyable, especially when Gil sat down with us. After a while, we switched to 7-card stud, mostly for variety but partly because this was the best venue of all to experiment with different ways of adjusting our minimal repertoires of stud strategy. I think the main reason that the game stayed fun is that we never really got silly with our betting, like in most fake-money games, and when we did get silly we ended the game. (Unfortunately for Gil, he happened to have rolled-up sixes at the time.)
We played a single hand of deuce-to-seven lowball, while Dave was in the bathroom or something, and I tried an interesting play that may have been brilliant and may have been stupid; I don't know about lowball to be sure. I was dealt a hand that included three high cards but wasn't paired, and when Gil took three cards I stood pat. I figured Gil would likely pair when he drew three, and my no-pair hand would win the pot. He didn't pair, and the Jack low he drew beat my Ace low for the pot. Assuming I wasn't going to fold, should I have drawn?
I invited Cactus Dave back next Wednesday for a game similar to what we were playing but for real money; the 5¢/5¢ blinds shouldn't break even Dave. My hope is that this may form the nucleus of a regular game to which we can invite other people, although I'd prefer the blinds settle at around $1/$2. Of course, I'm looking too far into the future. I tend to do that; I remember once when I was editing a political newsletter that I had delusions that it would eventually surpass the Grand Rapids Press. It didn't.