BY RUSS SCOTT
AUGUST 14, 2007
HOW TO SURVIVE A FINAL TABLE WITHOUT PLAYING A HAND
Is it possible to win a main-event seat in a qualifying tournament without playing a single hand at the final table? It was last weekend.
Fifty-five players competed Saturday at Riverside Casino just south of Iowa City, hoping to make it to the final five and win a $600 seat in the $100,000-guaranteed no-limit hold’em tournament there on Labor Day weekend.
My path to the top five offers some good lessons about patience, observation and luck at the poker table, plus strategies for playing a tournament with re-buys.
For a $30 buy-in, each player received $1,000 in chips. Blinds started rather high at $25-$50 and increased every 15 minutes, but for the first hour players could get another $1,000 in chips for $10 anytime their stack fell below $1,000. A $20 add-on after the first hour got you $2,000.
My partner Scotty and I agreed that the best early strategy was to re-buy as soon as possible. That way, an early double-up would produce a nice-sized chip stack. I mucked a puny K-8 offsuit from the small blind on the first hand and immediately asked for a re-buy.
Although Scotty was card-dead all day, the strategy paid off for me in the second level with the blinds at $50-$100. From middle position, I open-raised to $300 with pocket aces and was called by the player in the big blind holding 9-7 of clubs. A flop of 9-7-4 rainbow (three different suits) looked harmless, but he pushed all-in for $1,500.
I made an easy call, then cringed when I saw his pocket cards. I’d gone from a 4-to-1 favorite pre-flop to a 3-to-1 underdog. Happily, the ace of clubs on the turn restored the odds in my favor and only a club on the river would beat me. The four of diamonds gave me a winning full house.
With all-in bets happening almost every hand, I was determined to protect my stack and play only premium cards. Then disaster struck.
From under-the-gun (first to act) and blinds still at $50-$100, I looked down at pocket kings. My raise to $350 chased everyone except the button player, who called with A-9 of hearts. The flop came 5-4-2 with one heart. I pushed all-in (about $3,000) and he called with his last $1,025. A harmless five paired the board on the turn, but an ace came on the river. Yuck!
Now I was down to $1,925 and finished the re-buy hour with $1,625. I bought the $2,000 add-on for $20.
Play tightened considerably, as expected, after the break. I had just $6,000 when the field was reduced to two tables (18 players). That’s when Lady Luck stepped in.
I was randomly moved to seat four, table four, and was thrilled to see I would be on the button at my new table. That meant I’d have a few free hands to pick from before paying the blinds of $1,000-$2,000.
On the first deal, three players called the $2,000 pre-flop before the action got to me. I looked down at A-10, decided that probably was the best hand at the moment, and raised all-in. The blinds folded, but the three limpers called, one of them all-in just like me. The pot was $27,000.
An all-spades flop of 5-3-2 looked good, since I held the ace of spades. The two tall-stack players opted to check the hand down. The nine of diamonds and eight of hearts completed the board. At showdown, the other all-in player had 10-7 suited, the tall stacks had Q-J and K-Q. My A-10 was a winner!
The blinds jumped to $2,000-$4,000 right after that, and players were being eliminated right and left. I opted to sit tight, realizing I could make the final table (10 players) without playing another hand. Sure enough, before the blinds got to me, we were down to 10.
It was time for some deja vu. I won the button again, safe from the blinds for a while. I was sixth in chips, so I decided not to gamble unless I had a monster starting hand.
Before the blinds got to me, five players busted out! Two of those came on one hand when the chip leader’s K-K took out pocket aces and pocket fives, thanks to a king on the flop. Sweet!
I’d made it through without playing a single hand at the final table! Next stop: The main event.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
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