BY RUSS SCOTT
SEPTEMBER 25, 2007
THIS TOURNAMENT STRATEGY WORKED — UP TO A POINT
Come with me now on a wild ride in pursuit of a bracelet in Event 13 of the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker, the largest tournament series held online.
The game was pot-limit hold’em. When registration closed Saturday afternoon, there were 1,090 players seeking the $117,175 first-place prize. Ol’ LuckyDog was one of them.
First, some basics: Each player started with 3,000 chips and blinds began at $10-$20. With blind levels of 30 minutes each, the tournament offered competitors plenty of playing room. There was no reason to be in a hurry. The final 153 finishers would get paid.
My strategy, then, was to play solid, mostly conservative poker for as long as that approach worked.
One early hand showed the danger of playing big pockets pairs slowly, especially in pot limit as opposed to no limit. A player limped in for $20, so with 4-4 in the hole I also called from late position. Four of us saw a flop of 2-3-6, with two hearts. The blinds checked, but the first limper made a pot-sized bet.
This is a situation where pot-limit hold’em plays differently than no limit. Because no one raised pre-flop, the pot was small ($80), meaning the player couldn’t bet enough to make me fold my small pair and straight draw.
A beautiful four came on the turn, giving me trips. My opponent bet the pot (maximum amount) again. I decided to just call, setting a trap for the last card if I made a full house. I also wanted to see if a third heart hit the board, since a flush draw was a likely holding for my opponent.
The king of hearts came on the river and the player checked, possibly hoping to entice me to bet into his flush. Sticking with conservative play, I checked also, not wishing to give him a chance to make a big raise. The computer then exposed our hole cards.
Surprisingly, my opponent held pocket aces! Had he raised the maximum pre-flop, I might have folded. Even if I’d called that bet, a maximum bet after the flop surely would have forced me out.
The lesson: Don’t slowplay big pocket pairs, especially pre-flop in pot-limit games. You need to build the pot early so you can push out inferior hands after the flop with larger bets.
With steady play and some good cards, I finished level four with $8,267 in chips, $2,500 above the average stack, and 565 players remaining. About half the field was gone already!
A roller coaster ride followed in the next four levels. At one point my stack reached more than $17,000, about double the average, thanks to some good starting hands that held up. Just as quickly, though, good starting hands began going sour. By the end of level eight, only 177 players remained — just 24 bustouts from the money — but my stack was down to $7,756.
Then luck intervened. I raised with pocket eights in late position, but a player from Finland in the small blind re-raised enough to put me all in. It was an easy call, since so many of my chips already were in the pot. He showed J-J, and when the flop came A-A-10, it looked like curtains for me. Then a magical eight came on the turn, and my stack doubled to $10,700.
Twenty minutes later, the field was down to 153 and I was guaranteed to win at least $872!
A run of good cards came at just the right time. During the next five levels I won pots with starting cards of 10-10, A-K, A-Q, A-J, Q-Q, 8-8, K-J, A-8 (flopped two pair, got paid off the whole way) — you get the idea. After 12 levels, I had $62,936 in chips and was 18th out of 64 players.
Things flattened out after that. I entered level 15 ($1,250-$2,500 blinds) with $54,836 and sitting 25th (out of 44). Then disaster struck.
Looking at pocket tens, I raised to $7,500 in middle position. Online pro Matt Graham (mattg1983) re-raised another $14,500 from late position, leaving him with about $17,500 chips. I had him covered, but had to decide whether to just call or to raise again pre-flop. I chose to raise.
He called, then showed A-K. Pre-flop, I was a 57 percent favorite. After a flop of 9-8-3, that rose to 76 percent. But an ace on the turn took away the $80,000 pot, leaving me short-stacked and second-guessing myself.
A few hands later I went out with K-J against A-2, but finishing 40th was worth $1,907!
WCOOP’s INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR
The World Championship of Online Poker has grown like crazy — from nine events in 2002 to 23 this year with a guaranteed $15 million prize pool that will be far exceeded.
Sunday’s no-limit hold’em event, for example, guaranteed $2 million purse. However, a whopping 3,325 players pushed the prize pool to $3.325 million, making it one of the biggest online poker events ever.
A big part of WCOOP success comes from international players. In the event I played, 74 of the 153 who cashed, and five of the final-table nine, were from somewhere other than the United States.
Most of the finalists were professionals. Two of them — Bill Chen and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier — are members of Team PokerStars. A Swedish pro using the screen name “antroff” won the tournament.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com 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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