€10000 NL Holdem - EPT Main Event
It all started well on Day 1. My strategy was to play tight for the first two levels as the last thing I wanted to do in such a big buy in event was to go bust on one of the first levels. For the first two levels it all went to plan and I managed to get up to 18000 chips from the starting amount of 10000. I had the eventual winner of the final Rob Hollink to my left and I can say that it wasn't a particularly nice experience... he kept reraising me out of pots and was definitely one of the toughest opponents I have ever had in a tournament. Then for the remaining 3 levels of the Day my chips kept draining away. No massive pots and eventually for level 5 I dropped below 10000 chips for the first time and I didn't win a hand for the remaining 90 minute level. I finished Day 1 with 5800 chips and I was going to have to get used to adjusting my strategy to play with a short stack. I was struggling at 109th out of the 118 players remaining. I had achieved my first aim of making the second day and there were 93 players that I am sure would have swapped places with me. There were actually no interesting hands to report. Most of my hands won were preflop and all my chips were never in the middle.
We resumed Day 2 at level six with blinds of 150/300 and running ante's of 25. I was on a new table which looked slightly more favorable than my table from Day 1 and the only player I recognised was Jani Sointula. I knew that I didn't have very long to survive if I didn't double up. I lost a few hands early on and was down to 4800 chips when another player who was to make it far in the tournament raised it to 900 to play from the cut off. I looked down and saw 33. Jani had been very aggressive since arriving on the table and he could have any hand and be trying to steal the blinds. I decide to just call after considering a reraise. Flop came 237 and the trap was set. I checked and he bet 1000. I called hoping that he would bet again on the turn. The turn card was a K and I checked again and he put me all in. I call and he showed JJ and missed on the river so I doubled up. I was at around 12000 chips moving in to Level 7 which was still ok with blinds of 200/400. I then soon found AA for the first time during the tournament and raised it to 1000 to play under the gun. A late position player reraised me to 2500 and I just called hoping for a favorable flop to trap him. It flopped TT2. I checked to him and he bet 2000. I reraised him as there was a flush draw and I didn't want to regret giving a free card and he passed. I was up to the dizzy heights of about 18000 chips. I then played the first of two hands that were crucial. If either had them had gone wrong then I wouldn't have made Day 3. We were at Level 8 and with blinds of 300/600 I raised in a blind steal attempt to 2000 with 2d3d. The big blind who had about the same amount of chips as me called. It flopped 4cJcQd. He checked to me. I bet 3000 chips hoping that he didn't like the flop and he called immediately. I was sure that he wasn't that strong at the moment. He had been playing very tight and I am sure if he had AQ or QK he would have reraised me so my initial thought was to put him on the flush draw... possibly AcTc which would give him a Gutshot as well. The turn came a 7h and he checked to me again. I decided the pot was too big to give up on so I bet 4000 leaving myself with enough chips to bluff again on the river. Again he called straight away. I was pretty sure that he was not trapping me with a set or two pairs as I think he would have raised me in case I had a strong drawing hand. The river came a 2h and he checked again. Now was not a time for the feint hearted. I pushed my remaining chips which was around 10000 into the middle and survived a two minute staredown before he passed. My next big staredown would come from Gus Hanson on the TV table on Day 3. Incidentally he showed the Qc. So he passed top pair to me. I think he had top pair and the flush draw so I survived a bullet there. I was up to around 29000 chips after surviving that pot. I then passed JJ on the button as there was a raise and a reraise before it got to me and it flopped J77. Damn that hand would have tripled me up as my opponents had QQ and AA. We were at the final Level of the Day with blinds of 600/1200 and running ante's of 100 when I played another of my tournaments crucial hands. I had about 25000 chips I raised from the cut off with J9 to 4000 to play hoping to pick up the pot there and a Scandinavian player called in the big blind. We were very close to the end of Day 2 by now and only about 20 players from the money. It flopped 336 and he checked to me. I checked thinking that he may be trying to set a trap for me. The turn came a J. He immediately bet out 10000 chips. Now here is a decision. I have 21000 chips in front of me and would be practically crippled if I make the wrong decision on this hand. My initial thought was that he had JK or JA. The more I looked at him though the more I was convinced that he was bluffing. Do I risk my tournament on top pair 9 kicker? I decide eventually that he is bluffing so call the 10000. The river is a 6 and he checks and I check. He taps the table when I show my J. He later told me he was drawing dead with 8T. I then lost a small pot when I folded TT on a J high flop which was the winning hand..... I was pleased to finish the Day with 37,600 and was ranked 25th in chips from the remaining 37.
I had a really bad nights sleep after Day 2. Probably a mixture of nerves and excitement. With only 38 players remaining I was in touching distance of the money. As I qualified through a satellite on Betfair even finishing in the money would represent a welcome boost to my bankroll. Still with blinds of 800/1600 and running antes of 150 I couldn't just sit back so decided I would try and pick up a few early pots even if it was just the blinds and antes. The dangerous Julian Gardener was sitting with alot of chips to my left. I soon had Gus Hanson move to my table and luckily he was sitting to my right so at least I could see what he was up to before I acted. Soon after he arrived he called in early position. I had JJ which was by far the best hand I had seen since the Day began and raised it to 7000 to play. Everyone folds including Gus after a dwell. I then won another two hands without seeing a flop after raising with AQ and AK. The players were slowly dwindling and I was playing very cautiously as I would have been gutted to finish on the bubble. There were a few shorter stacks than mine about but out of nowhere Willie Tann finished on the bubble when he clashed in a big pot with Rob Hollink. I was in the money and now I could play a bit more knowing that anything else was now a bonus. I soon was moved to the TV table and after getting used to Gus raising plenty of hands pre flop I then encountered Marcel Luske. He went through a spell of raising a huge number of hand before the flop. I had a really tight image on the TV table. I was literally getting no playable hands so on the occasions I did raise I won the pot there. I did make a move with 25 when Kevin O'Connell limped from late position and I decided the pot was worth stealing so I made a big raise. I flipped over the 25 hoping that when I did get a hand that I may be called now. The very next hand I had AA and made a small raise and everyone passed. It seemed to be that some of the big stacks were self destructing themselves. I watched on as player after player clashed and before I knew it we were down to 17. We drew seats again and I had the pleasure of drawing Seat 4 with Gus Hanson directly to my right. He had about 100,000 chips and I was on around 65000 with blinds of 2000/4000 and running antes of 400. I built my way up to 90000 reraising hands preflop with KK and AK suited. The following hand then happened. Perhaps I should have played this stronger. I raised in middle position to 15000 with 99 and the big blind who liked to see plenty of flops and had about 200,000 called and it flopped 45J. He was first to act raised 15000. I went into the think tank trying to work out whether he had a J or better. Eventually I decided it was quite probably he was bluffing. A reraise here from me though would probably mean that I had to put the remaining 60000 chips in to the middle. I called hoping it would scare him if he was bluffing. The turn was a 6 and he bet 35000. I mucked eventually and later I found out he had QK so he was bluffing. I got blinded away for a bit and was down to 40000 chips when I picked up AQ suited. I late position I moved all in as I wasn't going to pass to a reraise. The big blind woke up and called..... it looked like my tournament was about to finish when he flipped over KK but a flop of QA4 saved me as I was back in it. That was the only time I had all my chips in the middle with the worst hand and won. Gus had raised me when I made up the small blind against him so I decided if everyone passed round to me when Gus was on the big blind I would either fold or raise him. I had A3 and everyone passed around to me. I decided to make a large raise to try and pick up the pot. My bet was 16000 and Gus called in the big blind. Damn that didn't work out too well. It flopped A68 and with only 45000 chips left I pushed it all into the middle. Gus gave me a two minute staredown. I was convinced he was never going to call but just wanted to stop me from raising his big blind again. Soon Gus departed after losing a very big pot with JJ v AK. Julian Gardener than went as well when he walked into AA with JJ in a 270000 chip pot. I was still one of the shortest stacks with about 80000 eventually we got down to 10 players. We were now playing hand for hand and I noticed that it was a €16000 jump if another player got knocked out. The blinds were now a massive 3000/6000 so I had only about 13 big blinds. There were two other players just below me so I decided unless I had a monster I would try and wait for one of those two to get knocked out. I passed TT under the gun and it was the right move as everyone passed to the BB and he showed AA. Dodged a big bullet there. I stayed about the same amount by winning the blinds twice without seeing the flop. Isabelle Mercier then got extremely unlucky when all in with the best hand on the flop. Her opponent hit runner runner clubs to make a flush and we down to 9.
There were still a couple of players who had less chips than me and with another €20000 jump in prize money and the massive incentive of making the final you could cut the tension with a knife. Any raise before the flop was winning 90% of the time and I managed to win a couple of pots with 88 and AK. Jani Sointula eventually departed when he didn't believe a late position raise holding AJ in the BB. His opponent had QQ which held up and we were down to the final 8. Woohoo
All the players had to go and do tournament interviews for the final table. Not sure exactly what I said as I was so focused on the final starting that I probably waffled a bit. Studying the chip counts my position was not good. However there were two players with even less than me.
Seat 1: Romain Feriolo 475,000
Seat 2: Alex Stevic 57,500
Seat 3: Abdulaziz Abdulaziz 181,000
Seat 4: Ben Grundy 90,500
Seat 5: Kevin Seeger 364,500
Seat 6: Mikhail Ustinov 68,500
Seat 7: Brandon Scahefer 488,500
Seat 8: Rob Hollink 384,000
I was just praying for some good hands. We kicked off and John Duthie decided to reduce the blinds which was good news as it meant that I could at least have another move than all in. With blinds of 3000/6000 we kicked off. There was a big crowd watching at quite a few were cheering me on. This was not the time to card dead but it happened. I watched 3 rounds pass by without even an A in my hand. Alex Stevic and Mikhail Ustinov then tangled and Stevic had JJ which beat QQ to take Mikhail out and we were down to 7 players. I then had AT two hands on the trot and everyone passed to my raises. I was still not picking up any hands as was at 68000 chips when I found AJ in the small blind. Rob Hollink made it 18000 to play. This was the best hand I had got in 3 rounds so after a dwell I decided to call and hope for a favorable flop. I also knew from playing with Rob for 10 hours on Day 1 that he could literally have raised with any hand and my AJ may be winning. It flopped QK4 with two clubs. I checked and Rob checked. The turn was a J. I checked again and Rob bet 25000. I first thought I should muck it but the more I thought about it I managed to convince myself that Rob was bluffing. Even in my mind if he had a Q or K then I had out with a T, J or A. So I pushed all in. Unfortunately Rob had KK and had trapped me. No help on the river and I was out in 7th place which paid €79500. Do I have regrets about that hand? Maybe a little. Perhaps I should have passed preflop but I knew he could be raising with anything. I wasn't in a position to sit back and watch another player get knocked out as everyone had at least double my chip count. Rob deserved to win the tournament and he was my tip in the exit interview.
Overall I couldn't have been more pleased with how it went. I concentrated through over 30 hours of poker and the majority of that time I was never in a great chip position. I knew that each and every decision I made from Day 2 was crucial and I don't think I made too many bad ones. The one thing that did surprise me was the amount of players who were in a much better chip position than me self destruct when we got into the money. It really was a bizarre tournament from my point of view. In 30 hours of poker I knocked only two players out. I only had two or three flops in the whole tournament where I wanted a caller when I bet. I had been getting a bit frustrated at getting so close to decent money in a few big tournaments so this is a massive confidence and bankroll boost with me turning pro in a week or so.