Winter Bayou Poker Challenge – PLO

So i ended up winning the 2nd Pot Limit Omaha event during the 2011 Winter Bayou Poker Challenge yesterday. It was a tough battle for me because i suffered an early beat that put me at a fairly short stack for most of the middle levels, but i was patient and chose my battles and think i played some of the better poker that i’ve played in my life. There are aspects of the tournament that i need to write down before i forget it.

Harrah’s December WSOP event has had a low turnout the past two years – circuit player regulars speculate that they’re trying to find a pretense to eventually shut it down. The first year i moved here, the afternoon events would have 200-300 people in them, but last year that december number dwindled to an average of 100-150 and this time the average attendance per tournament was 50-100. For non hold-em events that made it even worse. The first PLO event i played last week had about 33 people in it. When this one started yesterday, there were only 9 people for the first level or so, and then others trickled in. The final count was 22 people.

I didn’t do very well in the event last week. Part of it was that i was getting crappy cards and getting sucked out, but the other part that i realized in retrospect was that i just didn’t manage my chips well, making improper bet sizes – namely, betting too large when fold equity was too small and then being crippled with my remaining stack. I chalk this to not having played in any tournaments in months. I ended up having a brief conversation with Jeff Becker about it and coming into this tournament i adjusted my mentality, played more in context.

We started with 8000 in chips with blinds at 25/50. The rounds were 30 minutes each and were pretty solid for patient playing. The table that I started out on before i got moved was super super passive, so i was able to limp cheaply for a lot of pots with great potential hands and i caught good cards enough to bring myself up to about 13k in the first hour. Then, at some point in level 3, I ran into two rough beats. The first was me losing 67 to a 6J on a 66J7x board. The second was me also flopping trip 6’s and a guy making his wrap on the turn. This didn’t put me in the red zone, but i got blinded down so far that i did end up having to shove on an open ended straight draw and i hit it.

Between the first break and the second break, a similar set of actions happened – i built up a pretty healthy stack from what i feel was solid play, and then someone who was shorter than me ended up pushing in when i had top set with a 15 outter that he caught on the river. That hurt my chipstack to about 6bb that i was later able to double up against the chip leader, a very solid PLO player. I raised pf with QQxx and hit a set on a 10QK board. I bet on it and he potted me, effectively putting me all-in. I didn’t want to call because he had been playing tight all night and didn’t usually make moves like that so i felt like he had the nuts, but folding would have been stupid. a) i would have been so crippled in chips that it would have taken 4 double ups to get out of the red zone. b) he was a smart poker player. Even though he hadn’t made a move like that, he also saw me as a pseudo conservative player with a shortstack and could have easily decided to make a move thinking that i could fold two pair when he doesn’t have much. c) even if he was ahead, i had outs and i needed to make a move. So i called. He ended up having a pretty weak hand, maybe one pair with a gutshot draw. My set held up.

There was a period of about 2 hours where there were 11 people left, one table of 5 (that i was on) and a table of 6. In those two hours, everyone tightened up. I was probably 8th in chips, but i kept on grabbing the odd pot here and there to not make me feel in too much danger. At that point, i was trying to survive well enough to make the final table so that i had breathing room. Finally someone got eliminated, and then 45 minutes or so after that, 10th place went out, so the remaining 9 people moved. I was still low in chips at that point, under 10bb for sure, but not the shortest stack. One person had maybe 3bb left, another had about 7bb, &c. The chip leader had a solid chip lead – no one was even close to touching him.

the guy sitting to my right was an interesting fellow. He had been drinking a lot and was a little bit of an obnoxious personality, but he was also clearly a seasoned poker player and managed his play pretty well. He started chatting with me during the game, mainly making comments about hands or other players, two of which he knew. He also kept on complaining about his headphones, saying that they were crappy because “my stepson must have taken my good ones.” He definitely made the table more interesting for me, and helped keep me awake when i started to get a little tired.

I ended up making a few big hands and was about 4th in chips when i ended up shoving an all in against a guy who i’ve played with before. I played him really well in the hand too – I think i raised with AKQ5 double-suited or some similar hand, and he called. The board came out 55x. I’m out of position, so i bet out, he thinks for a moment and calls. Turn comes a K, so now i have 5’s full. I check trying to induce a bet. He does, i pop him, he calls. He put me on the trips but not on the made full house, he was holding a flush draw and pocket 10s… and caught a 10 on the river. from 4th in chips down to 8th in chips on a two-outer. it was ugly.

So here i am in critical position yet again, and after folding a whole lot of hands i hit another break, doubling up on a key hand against the guy who had 2-outted me. I had Ax2s4s9x in the big blind and it had limped around to me. The board came 35x with two spades. I shove. if everyone folds to me, i take down the pot easy, but if i get a call (i only expect one call based on how play has been going at this point) then i still have a flush draw (even though it sucks) and a wrap. I get called by that guy who had top two pair, i turn the straight. That guy eventually busted, i think he went out in 6th place.

When it got down to five people, 5th was really short and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (i was 3rd) were really close in chips. Chip leader was way ahead of everyone else, but he wasn’t being overly bullyish – he was a very patient player. Chips exchanged for about 45 minutes and then a miracle happened – chip leader was on the button, position raised. small blind (5th) shoved for his remaining chips and big blind (4th) shoved on top for his remaining chips. Chip leader had a healthy lead – he wasn’t going to fold. He ended up making some marginal hand but one that still won so knocked 5th and 4th out. Suddenly i was in the money.

The guy on my right was 3rd in chips and i ended up taking him out by hitting a flush to his set, so it went heads up. I knew based on conversation with the chip leader earlier that he didn’t want to deal because he had been running bad during his time here and winning the full prize would put him back to even which he wanted to do, plus he had about 3.5x my chip stack so he was in a good position to win it.

We ended up playing about four hands before the big one hit. I was on the button/sb with 467Q double suited. I min raised, he called. The board came out 779. He decides to lead out, 5000 into a 16000 pot. I think for a second about slow-playing, but i worry about him catching up to me and/or not maximizing what i can out of the hand, so I pot him, he pretty much instantly repots which puts me all in. He flips over xx7J. My Q kicker holds up, and for the first time in the entire tournament he loses his chip lead because i had a healthy stack in front of me – now he’s behind, although not by much. Since we’re pretty even, he asks, “how about we split $1700 each?” I don’t hesitate. I’m tired, i have to get up early the next day for a doctor’s appointment. I win the tournament, profit of $1500.

Looking back on the tournament, i was very happy with how i played. I got lucky on a couple of hands, but i only made one truly blatantly bad call because i couldn’t let go of my trips on a guy who never bluffed so i should have known better. Everything else felt like solid poker and given how poorly i played the last tournament and the subsequent cash games, i needed it.

There are still a few gaps in my play that i need some study on. I still need to get an omaha book to sharpen my skills. i’m a decent omaha player, but i still don’t count myself as a true expert. We’ll see what happens in the coming months.

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