EPT San Remo Day 2 – second table

Whatever happens now in this tournament, i’ve already got great value from coming here and playing it. Apart from the first five minutes, when I was stiff as a board and could feel my heart beating out of my chest, i’ve been relaxed and confident and focused the whole time. Soon after the event began I realised that I was on the same level as a good number of the other players, outclassed by some, and streets ahead of most. It seems like whenever and wherever nine people sit down at a poker table, only one or two of them regard poker as a competitive pursuit that requires training and discipline. For the other seven or eight players, the game is in their eyes some combination of gambling and recreation – or a simple game that is easy to play, where the winners are determined through luck.

Whether I make the money in this tournament or not, I will return home full of confidence and drive to keep pushing my game and my bankroll on to the next level. I will dare to believe that I might be further along in my development than I had assumed.

Its inspiring to chat to Joel Gorton during the breaks between play. He is an online pro from the UK who now lives in Barcelona. His EPT comes to a sour conclusion when his aces are cracked by the 3-6 of diamonds. He gets an earlier plane back to Spain to get back to the grind of $150-300 HU PLO8.

Another level or two after the first break my stack has shrank a little as my heater cools down from blazing hot to chilly. Our table is broken as the field is now small enough to continue in one room. There are about 300 left of the 600 who started day 2. Still a long way from the pay bubble at 112, which for the record is far too small a number from a field of 1178. To make matters worse the pay structure is so top heavy its ridiculous, with more than one-third of the places earning less than double their 5,300 buy-in. I guess I won’t be complaining if I win the 1.5 million.

Over the next four hours the field is depleted rapidly as players continue to risk their championship life on dodgy hands. The second half of my Day 2 begins with my first and worst bad beat of the tournament – a sick table draw. I get three big stacks, with three pros handling them, in the three seats to my immediate left. The structure has caught up with my stack leaving me with around 25 big blinds and no room for error. I test the waters with a middle position raise and the Swede to my left re-raises. I fold. The tone is set. Later I try a late position raise. The 19-year old Frenchman Tristan Clemencon re-raises from his blind. I fold. The wonderfully charismatic and friendly Mauro Corsetti open limps his small blind into my big blind. I raise. He calls. The flop comes K high two spades. He leads. I fold.

I’ve had about enough of this folding when we reach the last hand before the dinner break. I get dealt the A-8 off-suit in my small blind and action is folded to me. I think about raising but i’m worried at what devious plans the great Swede is cooking up on his big blind. I decide to limp and 3-bet all in if he raises. The Swede checks as the players begin to amble upstairs to the fine and varied Casino San Remo buffet. The flop comes T-8-2. I should really bet for value, right, but I do expect him to bet if I check and the stacks are such that I would love to check-raise all-in and hate to bet-fold. To my surprise he checks behind. Turn comes another deuce and he surely has to bet if i check to him again. He bets small and I re-raise small, representing a deuce or a ten. He thinks for a short time then goes to dinner, flashing an ace into the muck. My two pair was very likely to be the best hand, and my A8o probably best preflop. So I guess I’m playing a bit scared against this Swedish pro and could have won a bigger pot had I taken the more straightforward line of raising before the flop…? Hmmm, not sure.

There’s a German in the 1 seat with a padlock and chain around his short stack. He seems to be waiting for aces or kings, but finally ships it all in from early position with the A-7 of diamonds. Mauro says ‘in bocca al lupo’ when the Brit with the big stack in the 7 seat turns over QQ. Mauro is wishing the short stack good luck in a dire situation, which seems to do the trick as an ace peels off on the flop. The Brit stands up and walks around complaining about how much bad luck he has had in this tournament.

Play grinds on in an excruciating fashion for me as I really do need a quality hand to attack the big stacks on my left. I need a great hand to re-raise action from the shorter stacks on my right, knowing that the big stack pros are yet to act behind me. Unfortunately I can’t find a good hand when one of the lock-ups raises, or find a good hand when they fold to me.

This is what I call torture poker. I’m frustrated at waiting so long for a good spot to present itself. I see one of the shorter stacks limp-fold a couple of hands. I see a new player come to the table with an average stack, which he soon disposes of by 3-betting all-in with AQ. He is replaced by an obnoxious Italian with an above average stack. He pisses everyone off by acting out of turn and taking a long time to fold weak hands.

Tournament director Thomas Kremser announces that we will play until the end of level 15 or until the pay bubble is burst, whichever happens first. I think there is no way we will get down to 112 players before the end of the next level.

The rest of the field obviously do not share my view as the the number of remaining players tumbles from 270 to 200 to 160 to 140 over the course of two hours.

We get halfway through level 15 with 128 players remaining and blinds at 1500/3000 + 300 ante. My stack has dwindled to 44,000. From the very start of this tournament my chips have fluctuated from big stack to short stack. The state of my stack sets the emotional background in my mind when I’m playing. I have a big stack, I’m optimistic of doing well, I have a short stack, I dig in and lower my expectations. Over the past two days my expectations have soared, dipped and soared again. Now, this close to the money, I can’t help but feel excited at the prospect of making the cut. I won entry to this tournament with 700 player points. Getting into the money would multiply my bankroll.

Would it be possible to fold my way into the money at this point? Probably not. I ask myself if I am willing to fold a great chance to double up in exchange for making the money, and I decide I am prepared to risk bubbling. I will not fold the opportunity to go deep in this tournament.

The obnoxious guy in seat 8 raises to 10,000 from second position. Seats 9 and 1 fold quickly. Seat 2 has a little think, perhaps contemplating a baby pair or weak ace, and folds his hand. While he is thinking, I look down at two red queens. I realise that this is likely to be either my last hand of the tournament, or the hand that propels me into day 3 and the money. Mauro in seat 3, who has just had a shouting match with the raiser, looks at his cards and goes into some kind of agony. He obviously has a second-tier hand. He would love to shove it up the obnoxious guy, but would hate to lose his chips to him. If that happened Mauro’s head would fall off as he stood to walk towards the door. He writhes in his seat muttering something in Italian, as the obnoxious guy gives him the eyeball.

Meanwhile, I’m quietly waiting to shove all-in. I know that my hand is far ahead of seat 8’s opening range. He has me outchipped by about 2-1. I expect him to call with jacks, tens or even worse pairs, and fold some hands like AJ, AT or QK. If he has AK he will call instantly, which is not a bad scenario, but I would prefer him to fold and let me have the 17,200 already in the middle. If he has aces or kings then c’est la vie. I’ll still shove if Mauro calls or raises because anything he’s dwelling this long over won’t beat QQ.

I sit upright with my hands clasped underneath my chin, looking at the middle of the table. This is the serious posture I have retained throughout this tournament, giving nothing away and taking everything in. Mauro folds, I announce ‘all-in’ and the chips are counted for the raiser in seat 8, who has to call 33,800 more to win 61,000. He doesn’t call straight away, so he doesn’t have aces, kings or AK. He thinks for about two minutes. I grow more optimistic and confident, realising that queens dominate his hand. Eventually I ask the dealer to call for the clock. His chips are in the middle as soon as she calls for the floorperson.

I flip over the red queens, and he rolls his eyes before tabling the A-Q off suit. His face says something like ‘yeh, I thought that you must have had a big hand to be putting all your chips in this close to the bubble, but I’m getting 2-1 pot odds and there was always a chance you were bluffing’.

I grit my teeth and prepare for the ace to hit the flop, but three rags hit the flop. I relax a little bit, knowing that if can dodge an ace on the turn and river I will double up into day 3 and the money.

I show a bit of class as I stand up, smile, shake everyone’s hand and say, sincerely, ‘thanks for the game’. I’m a bit stunned as I walk out the door, shaking my head and saying out loud ‘unbelievable’. For a while I will keep seeing the dealer peel off the ace of clubs and place it on the felt, installing it finally and irrevocably in its rightful place as the turn card. The victor tells me ‘I could say sorry but…’ and he’s right, why should he be sorry? He’s put his chips in and now he has more chips. I’m not sorry either – i’ve raised my game during this tournament and my efforts have been rewarded with a great experience and a lot of confidence to take home with me.

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