TrickyRock on the EPT: Prague
TrickyRock’s European Poker Tour comes crashing down to earth
The European poker trip was flying, but it just came to an abrupt end. The fact that I am now on the flight back home from Prague means that it’s not good news from today’s EPT Main Event.
The seventh hour of play saw the end of my struggle, as I lost my race to get back into the tournament, with my unable to outdraw the of my opponent. It was a day on which nothing seemed to go right, and served as a reminder that tournament poker throws up as many frustrating days as it does the kind of great day that I had before the final table in Paris.
A key skill of tournament poker is to resist feeling the disappointment that it so often throws up. I feel the best way of spending the frustrated energy of a bust-out is not to rue your bad luck, but to think over the hands that went wrong, and see whether there was anything you could have done to stay alive. Almost always, the hands do paint a picture of missed opportunities, and chips that could have been saved. Let’s see what my tale of woe brings up:-
• I did in fact flop one big hand, right at the start of the tournament. We were five way to the flop in a pot of 250, with me holding on the button. The flop came a brilliant to give me the middle set, and the action was checked to me.
I feel that in a deep stacked tournament, it is often right to bet a big hand from the flop to give yourself a chance of building a massive pot. On this board, there are of course a good number of draws out there, and to check and see anything like the or on the turn would have slowed me down in getting value from the pot, and in the worst case had my hand beat.
For these reasons, I bet 200, and was disappointed to pick up only a measly pot as the action was passed round. Even if this may have been the right kind of bet, it still goes down as a mistake in my opinion. On a day where you do not flop many big hands, you need to gain every chip you can when you do. Maybe an uncertain looking 100 would have been more likely to get a call, and may even have prompted someone to re-raise in an attempt to win the pot?
• The most frustrating hand came with the blinds at 100-200 with me looking down at in the small blind. Some of the players at the table were unusually weak for an EPT event, and with two weak players in the pot for 500, I decided to call to try to flop the miracle set.
With a small pair like this, I will usually give up any interest on the flop if I do not hit the set. However, a flop of kept my interest, and I was the first of us three players to check it round.
The player who was last to act re-checked his cards before he made his check, in a manner that suggested he had some kind of interest in the pot, but had no kind of hand yet. This said to me that he had a straight draw, rather than two clubs for the flush draw.
The on the turn was a good card for me, and I hoped that a big bet of 1,500 would win the pot. The same player called the 1,500, and it was clear that he did not have much. He was probably was still just playing a draw. The river, which made the board , was therefore bad news, as it fitted many of the drawing hands. I checked, and frustratingly knew it was right to pass to his small 2,000 river bet. He flashed , for a straight draw which had become top pair, and it was no surprise at all to see his hand.
Although I had not made an awful mistake in the hand, once again I had passed up on a chance to be more confident in my read, and to really act upon it. If I had followed the insight that his behaviour and action on the flop did indicate a straight draw, there were at least two opportunities for me to win the pot from my opponent. A really big bet on the turn would have forced him to fold his draw, and actually on the river my read would have confirmed that he held just a dodgy one pair. A really big bet to turn my into a bluff, or even more daringly a check-raise all-in, would have been a great play to have pulled off.
• And here’s the pot that was the nastiest part of my downfall. With in a big blind of 300, we were three way to a flop. We checked round, and I held little interest until the hit the turn. The small blind checked, and I felt a check from me would very likely prompt the limped player into betting.
His 500 bet was unsurprising, but one feature was that it was unlikely to be the hand most obvious for me to get value from- an ace for two pair. With an ace in his hand, he would surely have bet the flop.
My plan was therefore just to flat call the action, for a couple of reasons. There was a chance I was behind, and so flat calling would avoid a disaster on this kind of sucker hand. Also, the prospect of a club on the river was of limited worry; it would at least be a card that would keep my opponent honest, as my flat call was probably representing a flush draw to him. There was also a decent chance that my value in the pot would come from my opponent bluffing, in the more likely event that a club did not hit the river.
This plan was thwarted when the small blind moved all-in, for just 775. Now I had to feel that I may well need to protect the best hand in a growing pot, and made a small raise to 1,600. The other player quickly called, and the on the river was not bad news. I made a small bet of 1,500, to serve both as a value and stopper bet, and felt confident as my opponent just called. However, he tabled for the flopped nut flush, and a big pot.
Of course, the worst mistake in this hand was made by my opponent, as he played his hand far too passively. He was right to be conscious of the paired board with his flush, but my tiny 1,500 bet on the end should have held up a sign that I did not have a full house. Had he picked up on this and made a small raise, it is difficult to say I would have got away.
And what of my action? Of course, it goes down as a mistake in theory, as I twice bet with the inferior hand. A lead out on the turn, however, would have been more disastrous, as I would have been unable to pass to a re-raise from my flush-holding opponent, as I still held outs for making a full house.
There was, however, some kind of clue for me in the fact that my opponent checked the flop before betting the turn. This rules out a lot of the typical hands, like a flopped top pair or two pair, as most opponents would protect these kind of hands on the three-club board. This opponent may well have bet even if he just held the for the nut flush draw, and so I maybe should have worried more than I did about the possibility of him having flopped a flush.
Once again, I was maybe guilty of being happy to put my opponent on a range of hands and justifying my action on that basis, rather than really homing my read in on a particular hand.
• It was against this same opponent that another frustrating hand had come up earlier in the day. I looked down at in early position, and my raise to 275 was called by this and another player. A flop of was a good one for me, and I planned to fire as many as three shots, holding two overcards and the second nut flush draw. A small bet of 400 into the 850 pot seemed a good start to represent a big hand, and the weak opponent on the button called. I in fact then slowed down, as the hit the turn, and ended up passing to a small bet on the end as I again missed on a river.
The was an interesting card, as I felt it was one of only a few cards bad enough for me to slow down on the turn. The reason was that it fitted all of the hands that my opponent could have called with on the flop:-
• A straight draw was a good possibility on the flop. The ten could have made the straight, or more likely given him top pair with a hand like .
• One of the single most likely hands for his calls on the flop was a hand like , which the ten of course helps by giving it an open-ended straight draw to go with a pair.
• He could have flopped a big hand like a set or for two pair, with which he would of course not be passing on the turn.
However, my action of slowing down is of course now with regret. Apart from the massive flopped hands, I could very well have won the pot with either one or two big bets, and this goes down as an opportunity missed.
Once again, the hand analysis shows that despite no awful mistakes, there were very possibly opportunities for me to build chips and stay in the game. It’s so important not to beat yourself up too much, but this game is a learning experience all the time, and hopefully I’ll be just a little stronger and more learned next time!
Good luck at the tables, and most of all have fun!