Today I sat down to write about how patience is a virtue in NL tourneys. I had grand plans of detailing my recent WSOP main event run where I ultimately finished in 282nd place out of nearly 6700 runners for a $38,600 payday. Then I realized that my run in the main event mirrored a run I made last year in a $1600 main event in Biloxi. And to be honest, my WSOP main event is a blur. It was fun but extremely grueling. I did very well on day one bagging nearly 100k. Days two and three saw me make no hands, never pick up premium pairs, yet I was able to steal enough small pots to bag the same 100k each day. During day four I hovered around 100k most of the day, got into the money, and moved up the pay ladder by winning a few small pots and a few key flips each time I got short. I honestly did nothing special except be patient and wait for decent spots to get my money in. Ultimately in day five I was able to get my last 9 big blinds in preflop with 6-6 vs A-5 but unfortunately lost that "flip," ending my dreams of a Cinderella run to the November Nine.
With that said, I'd like to revive my article from last year about patience as it illustrates all the points that I wanted to make about my main event run. It also deals with running bad and making solid decisions even when things aren't going your way. I hope you enjoy.
I'd like to take some time to write about my recent experiences at the tables. This article won't be the normal strategy-styled article, but rather a retrospective of the week I spent grinding both the cash games in Biloxi and my deep run in the $1,580 Gulf Coast Poker Championship main event. Hopefully it will be entertaining and insightful.
Tournament time in Biloxi is always something that I look forward to. I don't play many tournaments but I always enjoy the significant increase in the number of cash games. Rather than having a singular $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game, there are often three to four $2-$5 games, along with one or two $5=$10 no-limit games. Pot-limit Omaha games also tend to pop up during the tournament series, but those are often pretty big, mostly playing as $5-$10 with a $25 mandatory button straddle and a $100 pot bring-in. While that game is fun, I try my best to stay away from it and the brutal swings that are natural in pot-limit Omaha.
I told my wife that I would be putting in a ton of hours during the series, so she opted to take my son to go visit her parents in Houston for the extended Labor Day weekend. This allowed me the complete freedom to work as much as I wanted while they were gone — and work I did! From the time that they left on Thursday until the time they came home Monday, I spent 63 hours at the tables. The bad news was that I was losing in the cash games after playing for 31 hours. The good news is that it wasn't a horrible figure, and I knew that one good session could make up for it.
During my cash-games sessions I ran about as bad as I ever have. I played one hand where I got all in preflop with K-K in a three-way pot against another 200-big-blind stack and a short stack with 50 big blinds. I was relatively happy to see the short stack turn over A-A, as the side pot was much, much larger. That is, until the 200-big-blind stack turned over the other two aces. Nothing like A-A vs. A-A vs. K-K. And no, I didn't get lucky and find another king on the board.
Later, I flopped set under set with 2-2, playing three-handed on an A-6-2 board with two clubs in a situation where my opponent never has pocket aces based on the preflop action. The beats that I took were so ridiculous that it became comical, so much so that my poker friends at the table gave me the new (sarcastic) nickname of "Run Good Benton."
Those were just a few of the highlights (low-lights, maybe?) of my cash session. Luckily, some of the players were horrible, and I was able to minimize my losses by getting max value out of weaker made hands such as top pair, good kicker. Staying calm and patient helped, as well. By not pushing the envelope and not playing sub-par hands, I was able to stay afloat and give myself a chance to get even.
After such a bad run in the cash games, I had decided to pass on playing the main event. I was content to grind cash games throughout the weekend and try to erase my $4,000 downswing. I received several very generous offers from other players and businessmen to buy pieces of my main-event action. Ultimately, I didn't even want to invest half of the $1,580 buy-in for 60 percent of my own action, as I didn't feel like my confidence level was high enough to play my best game for them. The thought of not playing in the main event was disheartening, as I had been looking forward to the event, but I needed to make wise decisions, and passing on the event was what needed to happen.
But then things changed. A good friend, who is a dealer at the Beau Rivage, told me about the last-chance mega-satellite into the main event that started at 10 a.m. on Saturday, day 1B of the main. The main started at noon, and the satellite wouldn't finish until 2 p.m., but with 300-big-blind starting stacks and 70-minute levels, I knew that if I was lucky enough to win a seat, I would still start with 100 big blinds. The satellite was a $235 buy-in event with one seat plus $100 cash for every eight entrants. The problem was that I had just finished playing a 12-hour cash session. Before the 12-hour cash session, I had gotten four hours sleep, and prior to that had played a 14-hour session. Needless to say, I was tired. But for $235 I figured I'd take a shot.
I breezed through the satellite and easily collected one of the six seats awarded. In fact, from 15 players down to six, I didn't really play a single hand because I already had the seat locked up. My chips came easily, and I wasn't complaining. I won "flips" with A-K vs. A-5 and 9-9 vs. Q-J to get a monster stack and never looked back. The slight problem came in the form of sleep — I hadn't had any in a while. It was now 2 p.m. and I was about to start the $1,580 main event, yet I had been playing since 9 p.m. the night before! Coffee, red bull, and sheer will were all I had to help me get through the next 12 hours!
During day 1 of the main, I played pretty snug, winning a ton of small pots by raising in position and continuation-betting good boards. I made very few hands, but also got very little push-back from my opponents when I bet. We started with 15,000 in chips, and by the day’s end at 2 a.m. I bagged up 46,400 and was headed to day 2. This was slightly below the average, but with 500-1,000 blinds on the horizon, I felt very comfortable with 50 big blinds.
This time, I did things right and went home and got nine hours of solid sleep. As a side note, at 2 a.m. I was offered a prop bet by my friends. They knew I had been up and playing for nearly 30 hours straight and decided to test me. They offered me a freeroll — stay up and go play $4-$8 limit hold’em until day 2 started, which would be in 12 more hours. If I did it, they would pay me $500. I countered that I would do it for $5,000, but they declined. Thank god! I was exhausted.
I went into day 2 well rested, confident, and feeling great overall. I had a sense that the cards were turning and maybe my unlucky streak was over. I was gifted with a sweetheart table draw on day 2. There were a ton of chips on my table, and most of the players were pretty bad. I chopped away at blinds and antes, winning small pot after small pot, and grew my stack from 45K to 60K to 80K. Slowly and steady chipping away, I found myself with 150K in chips with 30 players left and 18 spots paying, which was above the chip average. Things were looking up!
With 26 players left and a stack of 150K, the action folded to the cutoff, who opened for 5,300 at 1,200-2,400. I looked down and found Q-Q on the button, and three-bet to 13,500. The blinds folded, and the cutoff thought for a while before four-betting to 29K. He had just shy of 60K left in his stack, meaning his four-bet represented one-third of his chips. If I doubled him up, I would lose 90K and would be left with 60K. If I busted him, I would increase my stack to 240K. I was in a very tough spot. Looking back, I think folding would have been best. Forfeiting the 13,500 and still having 135K at a soft table nearing the money bubble would have been the best idea. Although my thoughts said shoving made sense, it just didn't feel right. I didn't want to be crippled near the bubble. Ultimately, I called 15K more, leaving myself 120K. The flop was J-6-3 rainbow. My opponent tanked for a minute or so and then shoved for his remaining 60K. After thinking for a while, it became clearer to me that if he had A-K, he likely would have maximized his fold equity preflop and just shoved over my 13,500 three-bet. Ultimately, I folded the QQ, preserved my 120K stack, and moved on. He didn't show his hand, but I still feel confident that I made the right fold.
After that hand I went card dead for a while. The money bubble eventually popped, guaranteeing us all a payday of $3,600. We continued playing from 18 down to an unofficial final table of 10, and then played two more hands until one player busted out and we bagged up, with the final nine of us set to return the following day for the final table. I bagged a paltry 102,500 in chips going to 3,000-6,000 blinds, good enough for 17 big blinds and sitting eighth out of the remaining nine in chips. I was ecstatic to make another live final table, my fourth of the calendar year, and a chance at my biggest tournament score to date. Ninth place was guaranteed a little more than $6,000 and first was a whopping $112,000.
Unfortunately, there is no Cinderella ending to this story. I got a good night’s sleep, showed up on time, stole the blinds once or twice, outlasted two players, but ended up busting seventh when I shoved nine big blinds from the button with J-7 of spades, and the big blind called with 6-6. I wasn't lucky enough to win the race, but was happy to collect my payday of $13,200.
While this may all be entertaining to read, there is a message that I think we all can learn from throughout this story — patience. When looking back over the reporting on this tournament, I noticed that I was never written about until the final table. All of the other players had these dramatic hands that were game changers for them that were interesting enough to get the reporters’ attention. Not me. I was silent. I was focused. I was patient. And sometimes, patience is enough. I may never have had a chance to win this tournament because I just never caught the hands or good situations to accumulate a pile of chips. But through patient and careful play, I parlayed a $235 satellite into a $13,200 payday.
Then again, had I won that last race who knows what may have happened next...