Playing Loose and Playing Tight
As the final table of the Potawatomi MSPT Main Event moved from 10 players down to 7, I continued to grow my stack from 1.2 million to about 2.7 million. Helpful along the way was a double up with QQ over Jason Mirza’s KQo for a sizable pot. But it was my weaker hands that most allowed my chip stack to grow.
The MSPT final table is live streamed online, on a 15-minute delay. Because of this, many of the other players could hear about all the hands that had been played, so long as they were at least 15 minutes in the past. Several of the players, Bai and Mirza included, had friends railing, and reporting back to them about how their opponents were playing. It was obvious I was active at the table, since I was opening frequently when the action folded to me. But it wasn’t obvious just how many hands I was willing to play until my opponents heard back from their rails. I wasn’t sure at the time who all was paying attention to this, but it likely wasn’t everyone.
Not everyone was as active as me either. Morford, who doubled me up earlier in the event, made an extremely tight fold with AK of diamonds after open raising, and facing a 3b shove from Mirza, who held AQ of spades. The blinds were 30k/60k/10ka, and Morford had opened to 150k. Mirza shoved for 1.2 million (just 20bb), and it folded back to Morford, who had 2.6 million behind. He folded one of the best hands in poker face up, and the table went mad. Personally, I was frustrated because I was positive Mirza had shoved worse and I would have vastly preferred his chips go to Morford instead.
As we approached the one and a half hour mark at the final table, another interesting hand came up. Blinds were 30k/60k/10ka still, and with a 2.6 million chip stack, I opened 98o on the button to 140k. Bai, in the SB and with a 2.8 million chip stack, made it 275k to go. This was already the second or third time he had 3b me and I figured he was going to continue doing it light. I thought he was usually going to just fold to a 4b, and my hand didn’t play that great post flop, even in position. I elected to make it 550k to go, hoping the bet was big enough to get the job done and small enough that I didn’t need to risk too much of my stack in case I was wrong.
“How much do you have behind?” Bai asked. I was nervous at this point, mostly because he hadn’t already folded.
“I started the hand with about 2.2 million?” I reached to count out my stack and realized it was more than I thought. “I actually have about 2 million behind.”
It didn’t take much more time for Bai to fold and for me to pick up another 300k+. This put me at just a hair over 3 million chips and gave me a very slight chip lead over Bai. Everyone else at this point had under 2 million.
Up and Down, with 7 Players
At my peak, I reached a high point of 3.1 million chips. But things could only stay that way for so long. I had won some small pots, but I got a little bit too greedy with my light 3betting. Goepel, the expletive-shouting regular from earlier in the day opened the button to 255k at 40k/80k/10ka with a 935k stack. I was in the big blind with A3o and figured I could put a lot of pressure on him by 3betting. But I wasn’t thinking about how much of his stack he had already committed. I made it almost the minimum, at 450k, and it was obvious Goepel was unhappy. But he’d just invested too much of his stack, and had too good of a hand. After about a minute of thought, he finally went all in and I was left with a very awkward decision.
I’d put in 450k, so with Goepel’s chips, the small blind and the antes, there was 1.5 million in the pot already and I had to call just 485k more from the 2.7 million that I had behind. I knew Geopel likely had a pair or a better ace and that I was in bad shape. But getting 3 to 1, I figured I was getting the right price. It was frustrating to be wrong about the 3b spot, but in the end, I called it off. Goepel immediately sighed when I called and turned over 88, far from happy to be at risk. I flopped a pair of 3’s, but the board ran out clean and I was all the way back down to 2.2 million.
Things continued to go south. The very next hand I was dealt QQ in the small blind and it folded around to me. I open raised small, but Bai just folded his T5o in the big blind. A few hands later I open raised the cutoff with KQ of clubs to 170k and it folded around to Mirza. He instantly announced all in, which was for about 1.6 million chips. I had just 2.1 million behind after my raise and I figured Mirza wasn’t shoving many worse hands, if any. I wasn’t sure, but I figured with the other shorter stacks at the table, I could pick a better spot. I folded, and it turned out Mirza had QQ. The very next hand I opened again, Mirza shoved, and I folded once more. This time, I was technically ahead, since I had a medium suited ace, and Mirza had KQ. I felt like they were very close spots, and I hated to give Mirza more chips for free, but I wanted to maintain my chip position at the table and figured taking such a huge flip was probably a mistake.
I faced several other difficult preflop spots, where I made disciplined folds that ended up being correct. I also managed to chip up in a small way when Goepel opened the cutoff with A4hh, and I 3b shoved with AQ for about 25bb in the SB. Goepel had only 15bb behind, but he folded, letting me move back up to about 2.2 million – almost 30bb. The next time I picked up a playable hand – JJ – I again got a walk to my open raise.
In the same 40k/80k level, I raised KQ of clubs to 170k from under the gun, and Morford was the only caller in the hijack. I flopped a flush draw on a jack high board, but Morford immediately folded A5 offsuit. This put me back up to 2.7 million and gave me a very slight chip lead over Wagner in the 9 seat, who had doubled through Bai on a bad beat a little earlier. We were still 7-handed.
The blinds went up again, now at 50k/100k with a 10k ante, and my loose play continued, though I was more card dead than before. In one hand I opened the button to 220k with 2.6 million in chips, and the good old 42 of spades. Bai and Morford folded the blinds, with Morford wistfully tossing 43o toward the muck. In the process of mucking my own hand, I accidentally exposed it. The table exploded in “ohhhhhh’s” as I jokingly said “uh oh!”
“There it is!” I continued. I was sure no one was surprised by it, but it was still a funny moment so I played it up. Mirza was the most vocal at first.
“What a sicko,” he exclaimed sarcastically. “All of the sudden it’s been exposed that you’re opening light… shockerrrr.”
“Oh yeah, nobody knew that,” I said, playing along.
“Wait, what did he show,” asked Bai, who had missed it from the 1 seat.
“The deuce four suited,” Mirza replied.
I couldn’t help but chime in. “Yeah, queue the: ‘but it was soooooooted!’ ”
“You could have flopped a straight flush,” Mirza concluded.
“Mhm. Nothing like a good accidental show on the final table,” I noted.
“Oh, trust me – I got some information on you my friend,” warned Mirza.
Finally feeling strong enough to give his two cents, Bai finally burst out with:
“Yeah, he’s a poop-flinging monkey…” Everyone laughed. “A complete monkey.”
“Not anymore though!” I couldn’t help letting it continue – referencing my open raise with the 42s. “Clearly… wait…”
On the Decline
As the table continued to discuss how Morford had me crushed with his dangerous 43o, another hand developed. Wagner opened to 250k in the cutoff, and I called with KQo in the cutoff. We went heads up to a T93 rainbow flop with 730k in the pot, and Wagner checked with just 1.1 million behind. I decided to bet 300k, hoping to just take it down, but to my surprise, Wagner called. The turn brought an innocuous 4, and Wagner led into me for 300k with just 520k behind. It was 300k to call with a little over 1.6 million in the pot. I was getting a pretty great price, but figured I wasn’t in great shape. I ended up making the call, leaving myself 1.9 million. The river bought an A and Wagner immediately shoved all in. I didn’t think his line made much sense unless he had a set or AT, but I ended up folding. He ended up having KK.
A couple hands later, Mirza opened in the CO to 225k, and Kasputis, who’d open shoved and 3b shoved wide a couple times, shoved all in for 1.1 million. I woke up with QQ in the big blind and re-shoved my 2 million. Mirza folded and Kasputis had AT of spades. The flop immediately brought an ace and an offsuit board. the turn K brought me nothing to work with, and a meaningless 8 on the river saw me beaten, knocked all the way down to 10 big blinds.
At this point, I completely lost steam. I won and lost a couple small pots, though two more players were knocked out in the meantime. Five handed, normally I’d expect to be able to open up my game. But because I had just 8-12 bb during this time, I felt limited to shoving or folding, and I wasn’t picking up very many shove-able hands. In one spot I had AK in the BB, managing a full double up when Morford opened the CO and I shoved. He had Q9o and flopped a 9, but I managed to river a K to stay alive.
The blinds went up again, to 60k/120k with a 20k ante, and I woke up on the button with 77 and 1.6 million in my stack. Bai folded the SB, and the action was on Morford, who had 1.9 million. At this point Mirza held a dominant chip lead with about 5 million and Bai had around the same stack as me. Wagner had around 2 million as well. I felt good about my shove obviously, but I felt even better once Morford took more than a few seconds thinking about it.
He asked for a count reasonably quickly and stood up. It was clear he had a decision. Once we got past the 30-second mark, I felt like maybe I wanted a call – perhaps he had 22-66, or a weak ace in his hand. He sat back down and asked for the count again. It was still 1.6 million. At the 60-second mark I thought he probably wasn’t even going to call. Most people don’t deliberate that long to call. They’re just agonized about folding.
At the 100-second mark, Morford called, and I was expecting to see something highly marginal. AT at best. More likely A5 suited, or pocket three’s. Instead, he turned over TT. A monster even at a full-handed table with deeper stacks. And what should have been an insta-call facing just a 13bb shove – especially since no one was significantly shorter at the table. I got up as the board ran out clean, tried to minimize the expletives spewing forth un-prompted from my mouth and shook everyone’s hands. Yes… even Morford’s.
The Slowroll and Coming Up Short
Now, the word “slowroll” is relative and subjective. But even after I left there was a short discussion at the table about what happened in that hand. And while I don’t by any means believe it was meant maliciously, Morford’s extremely slow call with such a strong hand in such an easy spot would definitely be classified as such. I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked, but I’m not too embarrassed, since I think I still handled it a lot better than some other players might have. In the moment it was so brutal to see because 99% of the time that someone takes that long to call, I would have been way ahead, or flipping, rather than way behind.
That hand and a couple other bad beats and coolers aside though, I obviously had to run extremely well to make it as far as I did. Even though I came up short of the win, and my primary emotions in the moment were frustration and disappointment, it’s important to remember that it was still a big accomplishment. It was my first major final table, and people were telling me I’d easily played the best at the final table. Some of these people had biases, some didn’t. But I knew that I’d played very close to my A-game the entire time and that’s about all you can hope for at any final table, but especially your first.
Missing the win weighed heavily on me for a while. I thought about the hands I’d lost, and whether I could have done anything differently. But now it just keeps me hungry. I know I’ll be back there, on that final table stage. And when I get there again, I’ll be sure to play my best once more. Even so, there’s a chance I’ll come up short. No matter what, the point is that I’ll keep getting back there – having my shot at the win.
And eventually… I won’t come up short.