October 31, 2008

World Heads-Up Poker Championship 2008

Last week I certainly enjoyed myself in Barcelona with fellow pro Dan Carter and both of our girlfriends. With the side events getting very few runners (a consequence of the last-minute putting together of this tournament which also saw the main event only get 59 runners instead of the usual 128), I didn't really play all that much poker in this week...only the main event itself.

So I was totally focussed on the main event. My 1st round match went well. I was happy to draw a person I wasn't aware of called Raul Paez (although having looked him up since I see he has amassed $1 million in tournament winnings!)

I took a small lead in level 1 (100/200...22,000:18,000) just with small pots. But then an ugly phase in level 2 (150/300) where he was picking off c-bets, made a couple of 3 bets preflop when I had TJ and such. I also made a call with ace high thinking he was weak, but he tabled bottom pair. So we're now 12,000:28,000 and getting a bit concerned.Rallied back though.

Started to get paid off with hands on the "He mucked after calling when I bet with bottom pair" and "Every time he bets he seems to have nothing" image. I let him bet into me flop and turn on KQTx with K8 and value bet the river and got paid off. And called a bet on AKTx with J4s after turning the flush draw, and got paid off when I hit the river. So midway through level 3 (200/400) I'm back to a slim lead, about 23,000:17,000.

Can't say my winning hand involved much skill though. He had raised me the last 2 times I'd limped on the button, and had probs done it 1/3 of the time overall. So I decide to limp with QQ. Of course he checks this time(!). Flop comes QJ7, all diamonds. He checks, I bet 500...he raises me to 1500. I repop it to 4000. He calls. Turn is the jackpot card, the 7 spades. He checks, I whack in 4500 and he shoves. I insta call and he shows down a rather sick A2 of diamonds for the flopped nut flush. But I'm certainly not complaining about the cold deck in my favour.

My 2nd round match was over much more quickly. I was up against Jon Wong, not someone I know that well, but someone who I have a lot of time for on the circuit, and who I know is a very adept player. I was hoping the first hand wouldn't be a bad omen on how the game would go, after inevitably losing chips with 66 on a T3348 board against his 77.

I was a little worried he had a read on how I played after he layed down what I know was a reasonably strong hand on a J43J8 board when I made it a little too obvious I was strong (I infact held JT).

His aggressive style would certainly have been tricky to contend against if I didn't get a little fortunate in a pot in the first level. I made my first button raise to 550 (100/200 blinds, stacks about 23,000:17,000 in my favour at this point) with 66, having limped the previous time I had it. He repopped to 2200. I almost layed down here, thinking I could wait for a better spot. But I figured the implied odds here made this a call. The flop came 834 with two clubs. I'm very wary of this flop because of the possibility of an overpair. However his check surprised me, and led me to believe he had more of an AK type hand. I checked behind and, bingo, the 6 hit (not a club). He led out for about 4500, and I decided a shove disguised my hand best here. He made the call and flipped 63 off for 2 pair. I have to say I was surprised at his hand. He certainly wasn't as strong preflop as I was imagining! The case 6 was the only hand where I win all the chips here, so I was very fortunatew with that. He said he was going to check raise-shove the flop which would have been very strong, and just got unlucky that I was canny enough to check and hit THAT turn, as it is so hard to put me on a set there. Another cold deck in my favour.

Sadly it all ended one round before the money in the 3rd round. I actually lost to the eventual champion Mauro Stivoli. (It would have been difficult to have found a tougher 3 opponents to have played in succession in this draw!).

Early doors, he won a few small pots to take a lead. I fought back, winning my fair share of pots to put me up about 23,000:17,000 in chips. Then this hand came up. He limped on the button and I made perhaps only my 2nd raise out of the big blind. Perhaps I should have raised more than the 700 I did (blinds 100/200), but with QQ you tend to want action. The flop came an ugly A57 with 2 spades. He check raised my 900 bet to 2300. I almost mucked...but when I analysed the hand I didn't have him for an ace (based on his previous play) so I called.

The turn brought the deuce of spades. He checks, and with the Q of spades I am happy to check behind. The river brings a red King. He leads out for almost the size of the pot. I tanked here. This might seem like an easy fold but I went through what hands he might have here. Putting it all together I ruled out him holding an Ace. I also ruled out a flush. Based on previous hands I was sure he'd bet less and might even lead out the turn. My gut feeling was he had a 7, and that the only hand he had that beat me was something like K7 suited. So after a fair few minutes, I made the call. He flipped over 57 offsuit. This was a big call to make with QQ, and obviously it was the wrong one. However I feel I analysed the hand correctly, I just didn't think about the possibility of him calling with this hand preflop.

The rest of the match I had to scrap for every pot I could. I was relying a lot on making bets and raises with nothing...because that's exactly what I had 95% of the time. One such hand I bet a black 67 offsuit on a QJ3 board, all hearts. He called. I checked behind on the brick turn. The river brought the 8h and I fired at it, and he folded his Queen face up.

However inevitably he took a lead with me hitting nothing, and was up about 26,000:14,000 when this came up at 300/600. I limped with A8 off as he had been raising a lot out of the BB and I was potentially intending to raise if this happened. He checked behind. It came an A37 rainbow. He checked, and I decided to check behind, as he had been firing the turn almost every time I checked in this spot. This time he checked though, so I fired 1,000 into the pot. The river brought a very blank looking 3. He checked again. 9 times out of 10 I'm value-town betting here, but my gut instinct told me to flip my cards over to signify a check. This is exactly what I did, and he flipped over a very ugly 23 offsuit. I can't help thinking that although small, this pot was quite significant.

We swap stealings of big-blinds for a little while and then my elimination hand comes up right at the beginning of the 400/800 level. I have about 11,500 chips at this point. He limps in. I check behind with 49 offsuit. The flop comes a 479 rainbow. I check raise him, he moves all-in. I almost flipped my cards over before calling I was so happy to get the money in there! I managed to say call before doing so, but when he fist pumped and shouted "yes" before even seeing my hand I assumed I was dead. And I certainly was as he held the old 79 offsuit, and I missed my 2-outer. This time it was a cold-deck against me...

I was told later on that "at least I lost to the champion". That's little consolation when he's nursing his €65,000 prize while I missed out on the €5,600 which would at least my cut of would have paid for the week (I was giving away 45% to backers, which I appreciate guys, thanks) and a shot at the big time.

Nevermind, I had a really good week in Barcelona, and since I've been back I've been running pretty good on some juicy limit FL hold 'em games in the €2/4 - €5/10 range (I needed a break from heads up). I'm still trying to discover what I should spend my time playing, but it's possibly I might give MTTs a whirl for a little while, something I've never done seriously. I've signed up for pocketfives.com to this end, although I have yet to get playing.

I still have a bit of sponsorship in the pocket thanks to poker.co.uk, so I will be looking at playing at least one live event in November, and might even venture out there with my own roll!

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