Bullington: Shuffle Up and Deal – Vol. II

By: Bruce Bullington, GreensboroSports.com staff writer

We got a lot of good responses to our first poker column. There are a lot more people in the area playing poker than either Bill Frist or the local ALE office would like.

One of the emails we received covered a scenario all of us have been in one time or another. We’ll let Rod H. of Burlington tell the story:

Last Sunday was my shot at greatness. However, it was not meant to be. The PokerStars Sunday Million (PSSM) was to be my first journey to the big time. With a $215 buy-in and a prize pool of over $1,000,000 – this tournament is not for the faint of heart. It is the online version of the big leagues. Win this one and you are on your way to playing professionally. This is how my PSSM experience went down. I would love your opinion of my play.

The first hour was a bit daunting. I made a few small hands. It became pretty apparent I had an individual at the table that was taking advantage of “scared money” during that first hour. This guy just kept raising and check raising each smaller raise and everyone continued to fold to him. I finally had a good hand and went up against him. Didn’t put a lot on the line but he sucked out on the river. A few hands later, a similar situation presents itself. I make a small raise in late position, he re-raises and I just call. I hit a set on the flop. He bets strong. I call. He bets strong again, I raise. He calls. He checks, I bet his remaining stack. He folds. This was the start of a good run for me.

Had a few bumps. Had to battle back at one point. But 3.5 hours in, I find myself at 60k in chips with only a few hundred left to the money. That might sound like a lot of people, but we started with some 6000 entrants and people were dwindling extremely fast.

It’s at this stage I usually tighten up and ensure my placement in the money. From there I go on the hunt and play my aggressive game. However, for this tournament, I didn’t just want to squeeze into the money. Perhaps I was over eager, perhaps it was just stupidity. But here’s where things went south.

I’m feeling great with 60k in chips. Average at this point was 48k. I was second in chips at my table. However, the chip leader at my table was also the overall chip leader. He was just over 200k in chips. The one thing I said to myself, “do NOT tango with this guy”. Just stay out of his way and prey on the other stacks. Did I listen to my advice? Obviously not.

So I’m on the button and I’m dealt AdQd. A fairly nice hand I’m thinking. One limper in front of me, I raise about 4x the BB. Chip leader is in the BB. I should have paid better attention. I raised unaware that he was in the BB and would probably play almost any hand at this point. He calls my raise and the limper folds.

Flop comes 9 8 3 with two diamonds. He comes out betting. Okay, my mindset went like this. He’s obviously playing his stack, as he should be. However, I really think he’s full of (expletive) at this point. Call it intuition, call it a gut feeling, whatever. Point is, I really believed I had a better hand at this spot. And in the case that I did not, with the nut flush possibility on my hands, I saw this spot as an opportunity. Like I said, I did not want to just squeeze into the money. I wanted this to be my swan song. I took a chance. I pushed back and went all in. He insta-calls with pocket 5s.

Turn and river bring no help and I’m out of the tournament. Just like that, in the blink of an eye – gone. My Sunday Dream had just become a Sunday Nightmare!

It took me a while to cool down. I don’t know about you but I tend to get pretty upset when I get bounced from a tournament. Obviously, I’m still bent out of shape over this (or I would not have written in). I’m sure a pro such as yourself would analyze this play and beat me up over it…but I felt good about my move. Had I walked away the winner in that hand, I would have been sitting with about $140k in chips and a commanding presence moving into the money. My goal was not to play too cautiously. I wanted to be aggressive in certain situations. I deemed these one of those situations and it didn’t work out.

In hindsight, would I have played it any differently? I became too attached to this hand, that much I realize. However, thinking back, I should have paid better attention to whom was in the BB. I got carried away with my great position with a good starting hand. Had I just smooth called here, I believe he would have raised and I probably would have come off the hand.

This is the classic dilemma that big, multi-table tournaments put us in time and again – sit back and crawl into the money or splash around trying to build a stack and giving yourself a shot at the big payday reserved for the final table.I really don’t think you can play this hand any differently. You can’t go folding hands like AQ given the lack of strength shown by anyone prior to your raise just because a monster stack is in the big blind. You’ll never have to worry about making the big money anyway if you play that passively.

Once this flop hits, you’re absolutely stuck. This is a monster flop for you. The only way you’re not a small favorite on the flop is if he has AA, KK or a set. You have to play this fast. He made a maniacal call with his small pair and actually got lucky to win the hand. The nut-flush draw with two live overcards is a hand to be played fast and if someone with a small pair wants to put all their chips in on the flop, you should certainly do it.

Now, your post-tournament neurosis over this hand is understandable. It’s a concept Alan Schoonmaker covered in his must-read book, Psychology of Poker.

Since you lost the hand, your mind tells you do did something wrong and will cause you to avoid doing things that causes you that kind of trauma again. While this is normally a good function of the human brain (this keeps you from putting your hand on a hot stove after having been burned), this is something for an aspiring poker player to overcome.

If you played the hand correctly, got your money in good and simply got unlucky, then you have to ignore the result and make the same decision again and again.

This same principle applies to all areas of the game. If we run a bluff and get picked off, your brain might tell you not to do that again. However, if you never bluff, you become too predictable.

All players out there need to condition themselves to the idea that, over time, they are going to put their money in and get drawn out on and they’re going to get picked off when they run a bodacious bluff. This game we love is an emotional roller-coaster. The elite players are able to make the proper play, given the incomplete information available, and don’t let the results keep you from doing it again the next time.

Keep those stories coming. Send them to bruce@greensborohockey.com


11 thoughts on “Bullington: Shuffle Up and Deal – Vol. II

  1. This hand sounds like another example of how poker tests you on so many levels. This is why the game is so popular. Poker tests your patience, your emotions, your drive, your decision making, your instincts, not to mention your math! There really isn’t a single part of your mind that isn’t tested if you play the game how it should be played. To be that close to that kind of money and not get anything because this player is willing to risk that many chips on pockets 5’s when he is in great position in the tourney. there was no reason for him to do this on 5’s! I feel your pain because I’ve been there before, not in tourneys that big, but fairly big. It makes you want to just choke someone! I think you played the hand well and I have to say I probably would have done about the same thing if not the exact same thing, it is just a shame it didn’t work out. but you know what they say, just keep coming back for more torture and sooner or later the odds will work out for you.

  2. I agree with Marshall. I really feel for Rod H. but one thing is for sure – we’ve all been there.
    These big online tournaments can have some big paydays. The Sunday Million, for example, has a top prize of nearly $200,000 each and every week. On the flip side, making the money can put $300 in your pocket. If you directly buy-in, that is a net gain of about $80-$90 while if you win a satellite qualifier your net gain is a little more. Still, the cash you get for making the money is no where near the 5 or 6 digit haul you’ll get for making the Final Table. I give a lot of respect to Rod for going for it. If you are playing well and think you are playing your “A” game, you will need a big stack in the latter stages to give yourself a realistic shot at making some real money. In this case, the “villian” was hell bent on playing his pocket 5s no matter what. If Rod makes his flush, we might be here talking about an area guy winning the Sunday Million and how some idiot with pocket 5s put him on his way with a loose insta-call.
    This is the nature of the game we all love. Marshall is spot on when he talks about the ways poker tests you. There is no other game like it. As Bruce says, if you get your money in good, that is all you can ask for. The cards will fall where they may after that. And remember….next time you wonder why people draw out on you more than you draw out on them, consider this – if you get your money in good more often than not, your chances to draw out are few and far behind because you are not in that situation. Rod – hang in there, enjoy the ride and continue to learn.

  3. Hey guys. Has there been any movement on getting a tournament going for the readers on this blog. I am sure law enforcement would have no problem with a game as long as it was for charity. Maybe we could play it at an on campus location and let one of the school’s adminastrate it. That way, their PTA or Booster Club could take their money right off the top. I think we could get a big turn out. Bruce, what do you think? Can you organize a game? Maybe Andy and Big Jim could put the word out over the radio. Who is IN???

  4. I was curious about the percentages for the above cited hand between Rod and the “villian”. After the flop, Rod has the nut flush draw as well as two over cards with his AdQd to the villian’s pocket 5s. Rod is a 56-44 percent favorite to win the hand after the flop is dealt. The Hold’em Odds Calculator can be found at http://www.cardplayer.com (look under the Tools drop menu). This is a good tool for looking at percentages for certain situations.

  5. I think this also brings up a common problem players have playing multi table tourneys. It is SO hard to stay patient in a tourney like this, at least it is for me. It seems like the whole tourney you are sitting there trying to stay patient, picking up hands where you can and maybe running a bluff here and there, but it mainly seems like you are just sitting there watching the other players trying to bust themselves out of the tourney! You wait and wait and wait for the right situation and then finally you pick up a big hand and you end up with someone like this villian calling your all in when so many hands could have him beat!

  6. After reading this entry, it got me thinking about play on the bubble during a tournament. I think I disagree with the advice you have given. Rod H. made a mistake getting mixed up with the one player who could bust him. I think he could afford to show weakness to the big stack until he had a made hand. As the other guy said, 56-44% isn’t a monster favorite. Why risk your tournament life on a coin flip? You advocate playing this hand fast but even Rod admits that if he had played it slower before the flop, he could have found a fold on the flop instead of pushing tin with a coin flip. Put pressure on the small stacks, they will do anything to make the money, including letting you rob them blind. Rod was on the right track when he said, “DO NOT Tango with this guy”. Too bad for him, he didn’t have the discipline to stick to his game plan.

  7. What do you recommend? Just limping in with the hand because the monster stack is in the BB? And when he sees his free flop and he leads into you just fold? You might as well not play the hand at all.

  8. I would encourage Matt to read more on the subject of bubble play. I think the “villian” is guilty of mixing it up with one of the few stacks who could put a major dent in his. As to picking on small stacks, I believe it is Phil Gordon who talks about this – basically, picking on the average size stack is often more effective than targeting the shorter stacks. These middle size stacks are more willing to lay down borderline hands than short stacks who don’t want to bleed to death before the bubble bursts.
    Poker Players Alliance Update – The PPA continues its fight in Washington for poker and for the rights of all Americans. The PPA is currently holding a membership drive and they need your help. There is a free membership option and this is a good way to show your support for the cause. For more information, visit http://www.pokerplayersalliance.org and get involved!

  9. Bullington- Thanks for putting my email in your column. I feel a lot better about that hand now that I have read your advice. That was one sick, sick hand. I love poker very much and am always trying to become the best player I can. Becoming a great poker player is a long journey and there are many peaks and valleys along the way. I hope to play in the PSSM again soon. I will keep you guys updated on my progress and look forward to reading more about others playing experiences right here. This is a good site but have you guys thought about making a separate site called Greensboro Poker. Just an idea. By the way, I am interested in playing in a tournament if you guys can get one going. – Rod

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