Heads up poker tournament

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Some of you may know that in addition to running the CheckRayz Poker site, and doing my best to provide a quality poker blog primarily on the world of online poker, I also run a small weekly poker game for a local charity. The weekend, we held a heads up tournament. Normally, my tourneys were typical NL Texas hold'em tourneys with the standard blind clock, 1000 chips, etc. Nothing "spectacular," except that I guarantee that the experience, the feel of the game, and the atmosphere of the game is by far the best one will get without driving at least two hours.
Beerguy note: if you're looking for poker content, and believe you'd become bored by this tourney logistics stuff, skip down to where I have the heading "poker stuff."

Enough tooting my own horn, as I am already drifting off topic. Anyway, my initial point was that I have experience and know what I am doing running these traditional tourneys and can calculate or "plan" the length of game based on the blinds, so that I can tell people with great certainty that if they "go the distance" they'll be here until roughly 8.15pm, give or take thirty minutes. The reason I could do such a thing is because the blinds are structured, and when blinds get to a certain level based on the starting chip count AND providing they proress in a natural manner, you can know that the tourney should finish plus or minus one level from the "target point." Thus, I can "plan" to hold a game that lasts almost exactly three hours every week. I can tell players that with certainty, and then look all smart-like when it comes to pass. With these heads up tournaments, I can make no such promise.

Anyway, we have ten players show up. I wanted 32 players, but would have been content with 16. Based on the feedback I received, the start time was an issue (we started on a Saturday at noon, as opposed to early Sunday Evening). Additionally, this tournament was a two day committment. I planned to play down to four players on Saturday, and run the finals on Sunday. The initial problem was how do I play down to the final four with ten players? I thought it through, and it made most sense to break into two groups of five, where we'd hold a round robin style of tournament. Each player in the group played all the other players once. This gave everyone four heads up poker matches. The top two in each group would advance to the knockout phase to compete for the prize money.

Easy enough, right? Well, initially it seemingly made sense, at the very least. And it worked in my bracket. In fact, two of us finished exactly 3-1. I was 3-0 going into the match, my opposition was 2-1. She beat me, and we both went through. She was the top seed from our group and I was number 2. I matched up against the top from bracket B, who went undefeated.

Here's where logistically things broke down. One player went through in bracket B, one player went home. Three players were tied record-wise in second place. Additionally, it turned out that none of them obtained both wins against one another, so we had to "play off" for that second spot in their group. We'd been playing for about 8 hours by the time we got to this stage, so everyone agreed to play at noon on Sunday.

Of course, considering it was a heads up tourney, I felt it was most appropriate to have heads up matches to decide their fate. Yea, bad idea... Wouldn't you know, they again failed to take care of their business. So, they decided to play a three way poker tourney to decide who went through. "The actor" finally ended up advancing and we were able to play the tournament out.

Poker Stuff

So play begins - best two out of three matches to move on. It should be noted that my opposition has won the last four poker tournaments he has played in. I'm not sure how much of that is due to skill, however, I will start out by saying that while he's not as good as he believes he is, he's surely not nearly as bad a poker player as I believed him to be.

During the first match, I was making him very uneasy, it seemed. I had my head propped up on my arm, leaning on the table, almost appearing to look up at him. He believed that I was studying him, eyeing him up. In reality, however, someone may have had too much to drink the night before still been slightly drunk from the night before. Because he thought I was watching him, I figured that anytime he moved unnaturally, with a jerking reaction, or seemingly forced movement, he was "acting." Said another way, his play meant the opposite of what he was trying to make it seem to indicate (strong means weak, weak means strong). In these situations, I would make laydowns even though I had sufficient odds to call. I would compensate for throwing hands like low pair low kicker away (with odds to call/continue) by re-raising him when I believed him to be weak. I'd reserve the right to do this with both my stronger and weaker hand ranges, as they related to the board.

This strategy panned out well for me. Our starting chip counts were 5000 each. By round nine, with blinds going up every five minutes, we were beginning to feel stressed. Twice during this match did I need to mount a comeback. I had him on draws three times, of which he hit once, nearly crippling me. The other two times, I had him on draws I knew he couldn't let go, and I got all-in with the better hand/draw, and held up. My reads on him were seemingly dead on during the first match. After crippling him when his flush did not complete (note: i too was on a flush draw and a straight draw), he got allin with 5-5 vs my 10-10. My tens held up and I took down the first match.

Up 1-0, he now surely believed I would begin to get aggressive and go for the kill early. I figured, with blinds reset, that when I saw JJ in the first hand, I'd raise big, he'd think steal and he'd chase. Didn't happen. Can't blame a brotha for trying though. Hand two he raises, I fold. Hand three, I'm dealt 4-7 suited. The flop comes 10-10-4. I throw out a half pot bet. He raises and I reraise slightly. He calls. I have him, at this point "probably" on a four, "maybe" on an ace or king, and "possibly" on a ten - based on his play. The turn inflicts another ten onto the board. I bet 1/4 the pot, he throws out a pot sized raise, which I call cleanly. Now, I have him on "most likely" an ace, king, or four. I decided that he doesn't have what is now "the ten." At no time do I put him on a pocket pair, as it's highly unlikely he'd not have raised pre-flop with a PP, especially this early in the tourney, as this went against his "logic."

River delivers a three. So, assuming I am correct, and he doesn't have a PP, I do have the nut full house. The only other card that's not a ten or a four is the three. He either has an ace, a king or a four. He checks, and does so fairly certain that I am going to bet, which of course I overlook. I bet slightly, just something he'd be comfortable calling with his ace or king, but suspicious enough to make it possibly seem like I may be better than board. He raises to allin. I become irritated now because I am certain he has a four and know that he does not have "the ten" because "he couldn't possibly have the ten." I call his allin, only to find that ten... you know, the one he "couldn't possibly have."

So, that's right... three hands into the first blind level, I am 1-1. And of course, the words, "Judith, I will never go out in round one of a tourney because I don't get allin without the absolute nuts" and the words "everytime I think so and so cannot have something, they do... because they can" all come to mind.

You read me correctly if you have me on tilt right about now... and of course, I play like I am on tilt for the opening two rounds of the third game. I drop chips and then win them back. I have a 6000-4000 lead when the following hand took place, which is a derivitive of my favorite situation and most profitable situations. It played out as follows:

I'm dealt Queen seven, both of hearts. I called a preflop raise of 3x the blinds (blinds are 50/100). The flop comes king of hearts, seven of clubs, two of hearts. So, I have a flush draw, the hammer draw (everyone knows my obsession for the hammer in our weekly crew, despite not having dropped it in nearly three months), and I have middle pair. I love pushing on middle pair, flush draw, however, ideally I like to have one overcard to the board, which I do not have. This overcard is usually a clean three outs if I need them. Usually, I do need to improve to win, as it's quite often two pair or TPTK that falls into "the move."

Anyway, he bets into me, suggesting he has top pair. I think about it and reraise... hard. I am certain that if he has top pair, he'll lay down anything that is not a decent kicker, thinking I may have him outkicked. Additionally, he'd lay down any hand that did not contain at least one heart. Odds are, he'll lay down about 50-60% of the time in my mind. Of the 40-50% of the time he doesn't lay it down, I'll win this roughly half the time. So, I am winning money here roughly 75% of the time. He makes the call, turning over king ten not suited. I do not catch on the turn or river. We're down to 8000-2000 now, going in his favor.

I make a few steals preflop, working back to 7-3. We teeter back and forth for quite some time. Blinds end up at 400-800. I have exactly 4950 chips, he has 5050 chips. I push allin, holding the gap tooth whore, who is dressed as if she's going clubbing (Qc9c). He thinks it over and decides to make the call, even though he indicates he believes he is behind. He knows this is the tourney on the line. I feel kicked in the stomach when he flips over Qd10d. Ouch. He's winning this 70% of the time. Fortunately for me though, the nagging slut hand of mine was determined to go clubbing, as we flopped ourselves the nut flush, with the ace and king of clubs hit the board with the matching seven of clubs. His tourney hope is shattered when the redundant cards hit the turn and river. Two forced allins later, he's eliminated after one hell of a battle.

We ended up splitting the main prize, as there was entirely too much football on and we'd played a combined 12-14 hours over the last two days. My opposition was quite fatigued, as her game lasted 20 more minutes than ours did. She asked for a split, and I had no problem delivering. Overall, it was a great tournament. I'd conduct it a bit differently in the future, but no complaints from this guy now.