San Remo Day 2 – first table

I return to the tournament with the disadvantage of being in the bottom 10% of the field. However I have two factors working in my favour: firstly I am very experienced and confident at playing this sized-stack in this situation. It is easy to decide whether to shove or to fold. Secondly I have the good fortune of a perfect table draw. There is no big stack at my table. There are a couple of players with even less than my 11,500, and no-one has more than about 30k. That means that I should have plenty of opportunity to stick my chips in with a reasonable chance of others folding. Also I might be able to snap off a desperate all in if I pick up a good hand.

I get my first opportunity after six hands. I post my big blind of 800. An Italian who has already been involved in two or three pots opens the cut off for a raise.  One of the desperate stacks moves all in for 5k. I note that the opener does not seem thrilled at the re-raise before I look down at AJo. ‘This is it’ I think and shovel in the chips. The opener is pleased to fold his trash hand and his dead money plus the 10x 100 antes and the shorty’s 5k totals a pot of 18,500. The shorty has ATo and I fade the T, thats a good start. Now I can let the blinds pass through me a couple of times and find a good spot.

One or two rounds later I have KK after two early limps. I make a healthy raise and all fold to the second limper. We do not speak the same language but written all over his face is ‘for fks sake i now realise that I should not have limped behind with such a short stack, because if I call this raise I’m effectively all-in. The raiser is likely to have a better hand than I have but there is a lot of dead money in the pot providing great pot odds. I wish I thought this situation through a bit better before over-limping with this hand.’

I call his under-raise all in and he shows me 99. I win that one and now I’m up to around 30k. I allow myself a smile as we move into the second level of the day. Perhaps things will turn out OK after all.

My optimism is reinforced when the German in the small blind open raises all in for 19k. As I have already posted the 1000 big blind its a pretty automatic call with the AKo. He shows me AT, again I fade the T, and we’re up to 45k.

At this point the English player Steve Jelenek joins the table. He seems a bit disatisfied like he has just lost a big pot or is struggling to find hands. I’m grinning because things are going so well for me.

The seat on my right that the German player so kindly vacated is filled by another young Italian. Like so many of the Italian lads here, it quickly becomes obvious that he i) likes to see a lot of flops and ii) is willing to stake his tournament life on a second-tier hand like AQ or TT. A player like this will three-bet all-in or call all-in with these hands. I nickname these players ‘combustibles’ and hope that I will have the opportunity to catch them when they blow up.

On my left is an older Italian guy with a lot of chips who doesn’t play many hands. My impression of him as a tight player, however, is soon shattered. I see him call a raise with 66 in position then move all-in when the raiser continuation bets a Jack-rag-rag board. The raiser also had lots of chips, so the flop all-in was a big overbet to the pot. My eyes widen as I realise that this Italian guy on my left is also a ‘combustible’ who has no chance of getting deep in this tournament. It is simply a matter of how long before he donks off his chips. I hope I will be the one he donks them off to.

I raise the TT up and the Italian guy on my left looks at his cards, sits straight upright in his seat and reaches for the re-raise. My cards hit the muck almost as soon as his chips are in the middle. I make a little prayer to the poker gods: next time he raises, please let me have a premium hand to double up with…

There’s an American in seat 10 whom Julian Thew informs me is ‘a top player’. I don’t play a pot with him until he raises from second position on my small blind. I look down at red queens. Taking a careful look at the stacks I decide that we’re not deep enough for me to flat call and then get away from the hand if there is heavy action on the flop. We are too deep, however, to make a shove a good idea – he will only call with aces or kings. I decide to re-raise with the intention of folding to a shove, shoving any undercard board, and check-folding boards where I think i’m behind. As I reached for my chips I noticed my hands were shaking. This may or may not have influenced this top player’s decision to fold.

A round or two later and bang – combustion! The young Italian on my right raises under-the-gun and I have the KK. He has about 30k so the killing floor is set up beautifully. I re-raise to 10k giving him a chance to re-raise all-in or retain a pot-sized bet for the flop. He chooses the former, as clearly for him folding TT is not an option. He stands up as the cards are placed on their backs, and I do the same, relishing this EPT moment. Three hearts hit the flop. No ten. Turn bricks and the river another heart… a ten! He gets excited when the dealer announces ‘set of tens’ but I calm them both down by waving the king of hearts around to show that I have a flush. Up to 71k and double the average going into first break.

A sick footnote to that hand for Steve Jelenek who held the AhQh and surely would have himself re-raised all-in had I flatted. I’m never flatting there anyway, Steve, and I was sorry to see you go out a few hands later. Steve shoved his 20 big blinds over the top of an aggressive player who unfortunately held AK. Even more unfortunately Steve held the AT.

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