Stu Rutter Plays the Grosvenor Tour, Blackpool
The Grovsenor UK Tour, Blackpool
The Grovsenor Poker Tour has been a massively successful venture in its inaugral year, hosting £1000 buy-in events all around the country. The last leg before the Grand Final in London was held last weekend in one of the most familiar and exciting poker locations in the country, Blackpool.
A real sense of anticipation was in the air as a field gathered of nearly 400 players, including the Hendon Mob’s Barney Boatman, winner of the Manchester Leg Dave Colclough, and all the familiar faces of the UK Circuit.
I will destroy the suspense, and reveal that an enjoyable and interesting tournament came to a premature end for me just a few minutes short of the end of Day 1. The simple version of the tale would be that I doubled my 10,000 starting stack to 20,000, hovered there for a while, before having a chance to have a really big stack as I got all-in with aces, but was cruelly outdrawn.
However, this is never the complete tale. I thought it would be interesting in looking back over the day and the crucial hands to study whether I could have done more to survive even with this stroke of bad luck.
Except for the strong and tricky Nik Persaud, my starting table was unsually weak, with many players playing hands very predictably. I had a frustrating run, however, not least in a hand where I raised to 250 with , and was called by an unknown player in the big blind. The flop came a pleasing , and the big blind almost immediately led out for 350. From a fairly typical player, this was not a bet to be too scared off, and looked very much like a drawing hand. I announced “raise,” and was amazed that my opponent was picking up chips to call even before I had declared the size of the raise. This really should have been the absolutely decisive clue that he was on a draw, and the correct action for me would have been actually to move all-in!
In stead, I raised to 950, and was not best pleased to see the turned complete a possible flush draw. My opponent checked, and really I should have been sure enough of my read for a flush draw that I could give up on a pot where I was drawing dead.
Instead, the move I made was based on the thinking was that my opponent might well have a flush draw, but could be playing other dangerous hands such as . I bet out for 1,100, half the pot. This bet would be big enough to keep this type of player completely honest. This is absolutely crucial, as it meant that if he did then check-raise, I could be sure it was right to throw away . This is indeed what happened, and it was not a surprise at all to see my opponent table the . If I had absolutely trusted my instincts, I could have saved a valuable 1,100.
I built a stack up to 22,000, and rushed to a new table just in time to collect my hand in the under the gun positon. Almost unbelievably, it was , and better news came as another player raised enough to commit himself all-in with . A 18,000 pot promised a great start to the tournament, but with cruel inevitability a appeared as the first card out, and I was knocked down to 14,000. This moment was of course the most crucial in my first day exit, but at the same time should be irrelevant to my analysis. It was the one moment that I could not control, and so is almost not worth thinking about.
Soon, another move, and this time to a really tricky table including Niel Channing and two members of the fearsome Hit Squad, Praz Bansi and James Arkenhead. Accordingly, I took the battle to the lesser known players, and a raise to 1,800 with was called by the big blind. A flop of missed me but gave me possible outs. However, the texture of the flop could not have been too much stronger, and a bet from me seemed to risk action from far too many hands. We both checked to see the board on the turn become , and my opponent in the big blind now quickly checked. On this information, it now seemed right to take a stab at the pot, and I did so with a bet of 2,800.
My opponent called, and an excited shaky hand contradicted with a slight look of fear, suggested a certain type of hand. It seemed very much that my opponent had some kind of big hand, but did not like either the paired board or the possible straight and flush draws. Indeed, he held , and a turned three of a kind explained these two emotions.
His flat-call was of course completely wrong; on such an action board, the only correct action here for him would be to move all-in. Many players confuse themselves by thinking on one hand that this is a nice trap with three of a kind, but are also slightly scared by the possibility of being beaten, by hand like a straight of full house. It is crucial to see that both of these are fallacies. Firstly, a trap out of position will probably be foiled by me checking behind on the river, and secondly, it would be nigh impossible to get away from if a blank card came on the end. By not making his decision and moving all-in, my opponent allowed me to draw to the last card for free.
Unfortunately, he did not pay for this, as the made the board . The same mixture of excitement and determination came with my opponent’s river bet of 4,000. This looked very much like a defensive stopper bet in reaction to a scary third spade on the river, and my opponent’s hand was as good as an open book for three eights.
I had 12,000 behind, and a had chance. Could I use the scary board and third spade to push my opponent off his good hand? If I did move all-in, the logical assumption would have to be that I could beat three eights. However, the doubt was of course that it is a massive ask of any player to pass a hand as strong as this. I made my decision, and passed.
In hindsight, it was this emotion of doubt and fear that led me not to pull the bluff. I had decided that there was not a good enough chance that my opponent would pass, but in poker decisions are often based more on emotion than on hard fact.
The situation really epitomised the challenge of mindset in poker, and the fact that you never know when this challenge will come. I needed to be ready with a clear and focused head to make the correct read, but further I needed to be playing without doubt or fear in order pull off the bluff. No fear of the embarrassment of walking away on a stone cold bluff, no fear of the dashed hopes of not making the second day, no doubting a read that an opponent had made easy. It is very difficult to eliminate all of these emotions; they creep in even if you think they are not there.
Of course, the more simple analysis of the hand is that the winning play would have been for me to make a big bet on the flop. With bottom pair and no part of the straight draw, my opponent may have passed and allowed me to win without too much risk.
Down to 12,000 chips, I decided to counter attack against Niel Channing’s consitent raising, and so moved all-in with from the small blind as he raised from the cut-off. My expectation that Channing could not call was correct, but sadly the big blind looked down at and his call stood up to put me out. Although it seemed that I had been badly caught, I would actually defend this move as being the right one. I had made the move against a particular player, but unfortunately could not control the one other hand left in the pot.
The crucial moments in a poker tournament are often not the ones they would seem to be. Some of the action hands are beyond your control, and it is often the small mistakes and the missed opportunities that play the biggest part.
Good luck at the tables, and, most of all, have fun!