He open raised to 1200 from the small blind, and I called 800 more with Queen-Jack in my big blind The flop

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But I digress. I was rolling now, and when I got another chance to play a pot with UGP, I took it. He open raised to 1200 from the small blind, and I called 800 more with Queen-Jack in my big blind. The flop was a very favorable KQT. He checked, and I checked also. The turn was an 8 and put a second spade on the board. He checked and called a bet of 2000. The river was the Qs, giving me trips. It also completed a possible flush, but there wasn't much reason for me to worry about that. UGP checked, I bet 6000, and he called and mucked his hand disgustedly when I showed. I'm thinking he probably made a pair of Kings.

Next orbit, I reraised one of his raises with a pair of Tens. He looked at me, said, "Oh you're going to be trouble, aren't you?", and called. The flop was a beautiful Kh Th 7s, giving me three of a kind. There were way too many draws out there for me to trap, and with him already suspicious that I was bluffing, no reason I'd want to trap anyway. I guess he didn't have anything, though, because he checked and folded. Oh well. I got moved away from the table before UGP could take any revenge on me, and the new table looked pretty favorable for me. There were a lot of short stacks and only one guy who had more than my 50K. That guy, however, had well over 100K and was probably at that time the chipleader in the entire tournament. Everything I observed about his play in the next few hours suggested that he completely deserved it. Adam was in his early 20's and wearing an old Ramones t-shirt that hung shapelessly on his skinny frame. What really struck me about him, though, was the intensity with which he focused on everything that happened at the table. He didn't excessively waste time on any decision the way Cory had done with his grandstanding, but Adam always took a second or two to consider his options before doing anything. Often, his brow would furrow and his eyes narrow as he pondered all of the facets that might affect how a hand plays out: which players are involved, from which positions, how many chips do they have, who looks uncomfortable, who's been playing tight, who just lost a pot, who seems to have what level of poker knowledge, and on and on. I've just never seen someone so intensely focused on a poker table before (thought I've heard Phil Ivey has a very similar table presence), and it was really impressive/intimidating to watch him. The term 'shark' was invented to describe poker players like Adam.

For the most part, I was staying out of his way. Early on, I took a few flops against him when I was in position since we were the two big stacks at the table. I won most of these pots, but he got away cheaply every time I had a strong hand, so I didn't take him for much. When two good players clash, losing the minimum can still be considered a victory for the player who is out of position, so I did not take great pride in outplaying him, though I was glad to have the chips. I went into the fourth break with high spirits and 50,000 chips, more than four times what I'd had two hours ago and the most I'd had all day. When we returned, blinds were 300/600/75, and this is when things started to go downhill again. I wasn't doing much steal raising, but nonetheless, I was getting called or raised almost every time I opened the pot. My good starting hands kept getting bad flops in multi-way pots where I pretty had to give up. I wussed out of making a big river bluff against Adam in one hand. I had gone for an early position steal with Td 8d, as early position raises usually get a ton of respect in live poker and I wasn't having much luck from late position. But no such luck here, either, as one guy called in position and Adam called from his BB. The flop was 994 with two clubs, but I bet at it anyway, because my early position raise represented a big pair. The first guy folded, but Adam called. This is a tricky spot here because Adam could have a 9, a pocket pair, or a club draw, and he would play all three differently on the turn. The turn was an off-suit K, and we both checked. This is a good card for me to represent, but not on the turn. If I had hit the K, I'd probably check it because of the chance that Adam has or chooses to represent (since he knows I will rarely have) three of a kind. The river put a third club on the board, and Adam checked it again. A bluff here was going to cost me 25% of my chips, and of the hands that I put him on after the flop call, I felt he would only fold the pocket pairs, not trips or a flush. So I checked, and he showed me 66 for a winning hand.

The bluff probably would have worked, but even that isn't a guarantee, and just because it would have worked doesn't mean it would have been a good idea. I have to play against a range of possible hands my opponent could have, not just the one that he turns out to have, and in this case, I felt like there were a lot of ways for him to have hands that were not going to fold to a river bet. That's what makes good players so tricky to play against. I was card dead for the entire two hour level, and between the blinds and antes eating away at me and a few aggressive moves not working out well, my stack got ground down to around 28,000. An interesting dynamic can occur on the last hand before a break. For this particular one, we were going to get only 15 minutes, so a lot of people were looking for an excuse to fold and cut out a few seconds early to dodge lines at the bathroom or food store. Because of this, smart players will often steal raise very aggressively, expecting that no one will play back at them without a stronger than average hand, electing instead just to give up and go to the bathroom. The first six players all folded and stood up to leave. Adam open raised to 1700, his standard raise size, with only three players left to act behind him. I was one of those players, in the small blind, where I held King-Jack. I contemplated my options. King-Jack is a good but not great holding, but I felt like Adam could be raising almost anything here. If that's true, then I'm going awfully easy on him by just calling and letting him see a flop in position rather than reraising and putting some pressure on him. But if I do reraise, I open myself up to getting re-re-bluffed if Adam suspected what I was up to. Finally, I decided I didn't want to play out of position against him and that it had been so long since I had played back at him that my reraise should command some respect. I announced, "re-raise" and pushed 5500 chips into the pot.

Adam stared at me for a few seconds, and then grabbed a tall stack of orange chips, worth 5000 each, and deposited it into the center of the table. He was putting me all in. While it's possible he was bluffing here, I also think he would play most if not all of the hands that dominate mine, such KQ, AJ, AK, JJ, QQ, KK, and AA, like this as well. The presence of those hands in his range meant that I couldn't call off the rest of my chips here. I sheepishly folded and left for break with just 22,000. It was more of the same when I returned, except blinds now were 400/800/100. I managed to steal a few pots to keep my head above water, but all in all it was an awkward stack size to play, as I couldn't afford to open pots without a legitimate hand but was a little too deep to reraise all in on a semi-bluff. Plus, there were a lot of shorter stacks at the table getting desperate and moving all in at the drop of a hat, so mostly I was just hoping to get dealt some cards that would enable me to snap one of them off. That never happened, but the experience of sweating out these last two, grueling hours (the round began at about 1:30 AM) helped the table to bond a bit. Also, since we knew we only had a few more hours of playing together, we were less guarded than we'd been earlier in the night. Across the table from me were two Mexican guys, one a real friendly and funny middle-aged man named Javier, and the other an older guy who didn't say much, in part I think because he didn't speak English very well. The rule is that only English can be spoken at the table once cards are in the air, so Javier would be talking in Spanish with the other guy while the dealer was shuffling, and then as soon as he picked up the cards, Javier would transition seamlessly into English without missing a beat and continue his story. He amused the table several times with this little trick. I wasn't aware of any stereotype about old Mexican poker players, but this guy turned out to play just like most of the old white men and the only old black man I've every played with, which is to say that he was very very tight pre-flop. Consequently, I was not thrilled to find Ace-Queen after this guy had already open raised to 3200. However, the raise was coming from middle position, I had a good stack size to shove on him, and Ace-Queen was the best hand I'd seen in four hours (that last point shouldn't matter, but psychologically, hands start looking stronger than they otherwise would when you've had nothing but garbage for hours). If he was really tight, he might even fold something 99 or TT that would have 50% equity against me. So I moved all in for about 22,000, and he stared at me for a moment before pitching his hand. Phew. After that, I got away with another steal or two, including taking a pot away from Adam on the flop, and ended the day with 31,100 chips, less than I had at the end of level 1 and about half the average stack. That was a little discouraging, but at dinner I didn't even think I was going to make it through the day, so I can't really complain. I had a good time, got to play with a wide variety of players, met some interesting characters, and played solid poker. The first day was a real roller coaster ride, where some times everything went my way and other times I couldn't catch a break. On the whole, though, I don't feel I made any big mistakes, and I've lived to fight another day. I play again tomorrow, at which point two thirds of the field will already have been eliminated. Blinds will start at 500/1000/200, so with a stack of 30,000 chips, I'll be in jeopardy from the get-go. A lot will depend on how things go in the first few hours. If I can get off to a good start, I could easily double or triple up and be right back in contention. It was 4AM when I left the table, and 4:45 by the time I had parked the car and begun walking down the street to the house where my girlfriend is staying. Even at night, Vegas in July is stiflingly hot, easily in the high 90's, but it can also be quiet and beautiful. The desert sky was crystal clear, with rarely a cloud in sight, and the sun, just beginning to rise, painted the distant horizon a brilliant bluish pink.






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