Blackpool

Went to Blackpool last weekend for jokes and for poker. The Hilton have deals on this time of year so three of us stayed there. My word that breakfast was excellent. We also availed ourselves of the health suite (which doesn’t cost any extra) on Saturday morning. However, even after a full English AND continental breakfast, followed by swim, steam, sauna and gym AND a red bull, I still felt hungover on account of Friday night. This troubled me a little, as I had only had around 6 bottles of beer and two whiskies. Perhaps I can’t handle it anymore, or perhaps I was suffering because I had drunk no water and eaten no food the previous night.

We visited a trio of Blackpool cesspools with loud music, drunkenness, and toilet attendants attacking you with a cocktail of knock-off fragrances. Only after a couple of drinks would I accept this lavatory advance, tossing a pound coin into his tray and cheerily announcing ‘cheers mate’ as he ejaculated half a bottle of fake John-Paul Gaultier on to my crotch, grinning broadly as he did so, winking at me and adding ‘one for the ladies’.

Driving to the casino the next afternoon, my head turned right, dreamily observing the sea. I felt a little bad that there was no time for a bracing seaside walk. I didn’t feel so bad after realising just how cold and icy the town was today. That bitter wind was not only bracing, it was shocking.

No weather in the casino. We sat down to a 15,000 chip starting stack, 166 runners, and a 45 minute clock. Sounds great. Should have been great, but some poor quality dealers and a steep structure made the tournament less of a ‘deepstack’ than it could of been. Still, over twelve hours later some lucky fish would be taking down the £6,000 first prize.

Third hand in, a middle-aged guy raises to 350 from under-the-gun, in a ten-handed game. I don’t know anything about this guy, whether he is a rock or a maniac. Very likely he has a massive hand like Aces, Kings, Queens, perhaps AK or JJ, maybe a lower pair or AQ if he is a fish. Who knows? I know that he thinks his hand is massive, his breathing has got a little heavier and he was very positive about throwing chips in for his 7x raise.

Two folds and I look down at two jacks. I could muck these, but decide to call as I have great implied odds to flop a jack if he has an overpair, and if he doesn’t have an overpair I’m ahead. The problem is that if a raggy board comes and he bets out, I will lose some chips to queens, kings and aces.

A third man also calls. A raggy board comes and the raiser bets out 750 into a pot of 1075. For fks sake, I think, as I flat call with the intention of giving up if he shows strength again on the turn, or if the third man gets involved. The third man folds. The turn comes another rag, but its an interesting rag. Now the board reads 4 5 7 6. The raiser doesn’t like it but he keeps betting, now 1500 into 2575. Urgggh, i hate it. At this stage I can fold, because the guy is so likely to have my jacks beat. I rack my brain for a reason to call and manage to find two-and-a-half reasons. I don’t know this player, maybe he is playing TT or 99 like this. Perhaps he is playing AK like this. If he does have me beat, an 8 or a 3 on the river will chop the pot. A jack will win me the pot. If he does have me beat, and checks on the end, I can bluff him off with a big bet.

Perhaps if I had not drunk too much the night before I would not have entertained these bullshit thoughts. I had a chance to make a great fold. Of course I called. Now when the river came an 8, and he bet 1850 into 5575, I did not need to call his bet to know what his hand was. That blocking bet said it all. ‘I have a big pair, and I am pretty sure we are chopping this pot. Just call.’

On the turn I had passed up an opportunity to make a good fold. On the river I can just call, or I can raise. The only hand he can realistically have that beats me is 99. If he doesn’t have 99, I can make a raise and put him to a tough decision. Now there is 7425 in the middle. If I shove, he has to call all-in for more than 10,000 chips, in order to win around 15,000. He could fold and preserve two-thirds of his starting stack, or call and risk going out on the fourth hand. The best thing about this situation for me is that my shove is almost risk-free.  Around 5-10% of the time he will have two nines, and he will check his cards to make sure that yes, he does have two nines and this idiot has just shoved all in on the fourth hand of a deepstack competition when the board reads 4 5 7 6 8 (no flush). The rest of the time I either gain 7425 or lose nothing.

His blocker bet gave me an opportunity to make a great play. Of course I didn’t make a great play. I just called, and the guy showed two kings. I felt lucky to have chopped the pot, and said ‘bad river card for you’. Unfortunately it was only in hindsight that I realised just how bad that river card should have been for him.

Played many hours of solid tight poker. Bled down to a short stack. Eventually went out with AK vs AJ. The standard of players was predictably poor, but the structure was inhibitive. After the first two or three levels, the average stack is too low to allow for much play. My frustration grew as I sat hour after hour waiting for the right cards or the right spots, missing every flop and watching fish hitting flops. Many of the dealers were quite poor, dealing something like 20-25 hands per hour. A poor dealer makes a steep structure even steeper.

By the time I exited the tournament I was on tilt. I found my friend arguing with the tournament director. Apparently, Grosvenor Casino have a rule which states that a player is allowed to take their bet back if they have mistakenly put chips in the pot.  I.e. if a player does not pay attention, and calls a bet without realising there has been a raise, they can take it back. When I found this out I was even more tilted, and still tired, and still hungover. The cash game lists were filling up. My better judgement kicked in and I decided not to play.

One good thing about G-casino in Blackpool is the restaurant. We enjoyed a really good steak dinner before heading back to the Hilton.

I feel pretty anti-tournaments at the moment. Compare them to cash games. Beyond the first few levels of a tournament, the cards I play become quite narrowly specific, strictly dictated by my position and stack sizes. If I’m short I have one bet – all in. If I’m not so short, I can raise and shove the flop, or perhaps I have enough to raise and fold to a re-raise, or maybe I have enough chips to bet the flop and fold on the turn. Its not that complicated. Beyond the first few levels of a tournament, I often feel that I have my hands tied together. There is not much opportunity to leverage an advantage against less skilful players. That is why it puts me on tilt to see a fish raking in all the tournament chips.

Playing a cash game, a deep stack is the tool which allows one to leverage an advantage. Deep stacks mean dire consequences for bad decisions. Position is more important, and quality starting hands are less important. The ability to reload is a beautiful thing – if a fish takes your money, it doesn’t matter! You have more! If a fish loses his money to you, he can reload and give you some more! In a cash game, a hand can take a variety of different lines, and there is much more to think about. You get to choose where you sit, and take advantage of the information you have carefully accumulated on each player. You can take a break anytime you like… I could go on.

I can think of two really fun things about tournaments as opposed to cash games. One is that you get to make well timed all-in bluff shoves or re-steals. The other is that once in a blue moon you go on a rush of cards, get loads of chips, and get to play a final table where there is serious money to be played for. That is a lot of fun.

Returning on Sunday afternoon, I made sure I was back in time for some Sunday night tournaments. At least on the internet you can play several at one time, reducing the tilt factor. Perhaps one day I will turn a few dollars into several thousand. As far as live tournaments are concerned, I don’t intend to play one until November.

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