Yesterday marked the beginning of Pokerstars' inaugural Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). This series of poker tournaments features the novel idea of running three separate tournaments with different buyin levels (low, medium, high) for each game. With the Pot Limit Omaha/8 tournaments being held on the first day, I played in all 3 buyins.
My first major decision came in the medium buyin tournament. There were about 870 people left out of 2104 with 306 cashing and I was a little above average in chips. A short stack in middle position made a pot raise and I called from the button with ♦Q♦4♥3♥2. I figured that since the short stack didn't have many chips left, I'd probably be able to check down the hand with someone else. Both the small blind and big blind called. The flop came ♦A♣K♣8. This was checked around to the preflop raiser who as expected put what little he had left in chips into the pot. I called from the button, and the small blind now check-raised the pot. The big blind then pushed all in on top of that, and it was to me. I had the big blind covered but the small blind had me covered. At this point I had 13k in chips left, which was about average. If I went all in, the pot would be about 48k. In general, I'm a big advocate of never putting all your chips in for half the pot (in this case I still had scoop chances of runner runner straight). I went through my read and it seemed to me that the only reason players would check raise here would be with high hands susceptible to redraws. If I hit the low alone I'd get 24k in chips while if I shared the low I'd still get back 12k in chips. The problem was that if no low came my tournament was over. So the real question here is the marginal utility of the extra chips versus me continuing to grind with an average stack. After considerable thought, I decided that I had the only low draw out there, and that an extra 45 big blinds was very important considering we were still far off from the money. So I pushed and the full hands were:
Preflop raiser ♠A♠3♣J♣3
Small blind ♥J♥8♦J♦8
Big blind ♥K♥Q♠K♦9
This was about as good a distribution of the other hands as I could have hoped for. When I ran the numbers, I had an 81% chance at the low. Unfortunately, no low card came and I was out of the tournament.
In the low buyin tournament, there were an astonishing 7622 entries, which is a ridiculous number for a PLO/8 event. I played fairly well, but found myself a little impatient and undisciplined at about the 4 hour mark. At one point, I was drawing to 16 outs on the river just for half the pot. I managed to survive that and was in good shape once we made the money. With about 250 players left I'd just taken down a big pot to push to 12th place. Then the very next hand, I get ♠A♠J♥A♥5 and have it all in against someone's ♦A♦8♣A♣6, only to get scooped when they hit their flush. I was ahead on that hand 54-46 in terms of expected value. That hand crippled me and a few hands later I have it all in against someone who decided to chase an A3 low and hit a straight on me. I ended up 242 of 7662 for a return of 3.3x my buyin after 6 hours of play.
The most fun was in the high buyin tournament, which drew a field of 327 players. There were many big name players, from live pros to well-known online pros. The table I was at early was so stacked with online PLO and PLO8 pros in fact that a couple of good PLO8 players commented in the chat box "WTF table" and the like. I'm not even sure if they acknowledged my presence with that comment, there were so many known guys there. I played well early, realizing that the table was pretty tight and loosening my game up just enough to take advantage. Again, I started to lose my patience and discipline about 4 hours in after a string of missed flops. With a little less than average chips and less than 100 people remaining, I went all in over the top on the flop with the worst of it when both my opponent and I had trips but I was outkicked. I hit one of my 9 outs and came back up to above average. Much of the road to the bubble was fairly smooth from that point on. I was at a great table where I was second in chips, but double the next players' stacks, and the chip leader of the table was fairly tight. Also, the player directly behind me was tight. This was really useful as I could raise mildly favored hands preflop and expect to get checked down most of the time.
With two spots to go until the money, came one of the toughest hands of the night. I was well above average in chips when it occurred. I held AA2J once suited and raised in early position. From the button, the chip leader of the table reraised me. This was a very tough decision. With 2 till cash and a healthy stack even if I fold, it's a much tougher risk/reward guess than the hand in the earlier tournament. I finally pushed all in over the top, but I think that I would have folded anything that was AA4x or worse. I scooped that hand and made the money comfortably. A little later on, about 9+ hours in, I got a little tired and made some uncharacteristic plays.
Another interesting hand came just as we were about to collapse to the last two tables. A shorter stack raises from the button and I'm holding AK35. I think this is a very strong hand because it's a very good high hand with AK, you can counterfeit an opponent's A2xx with both an A and a 2, and if you were to run into aces, you still might have the best low draw. So I pushed over the top and ran into AA46. Somehow I managed to win the hand (I think I hit trips but it's all a blur right now).
So not long after we became the final two tables, I got dealt A24Q and limped UTG. The chip leader calls from the button and 4 players see a flop. The flop is 832 with two diamonds of which I have none. It checks around to the button who bets the pot. I call after some thought and the turn is the 3 of diamonds which makes the board 8323 with three diamonds. I check again and the button bets the pot again. This is a very tough decision here. My read was that I was either entitled to half the pot (ie. opponent has a hand like 88xx) or even 3/4 of it if my opponent has a hand like A456. I decided to call again. It is important to note that even if I thought I was ahead, it makes no sense to raise here. It is ok to be wrong on my read and still come away with a quarter of the pot. It is not ok to get counterfeited and lose everything. I call because if the river counterfeits my low, I'm very willing to let the hand go. The river is a K and I check call the final pot bet. Chipleader shows A4JK and I feel sick. Getting quartered by a 6 outer is tough enough. But the pot bet on the turn by him is such an amateur move that it's so gross when it lucks out. A guy looking at AKJ4 should be much more worried about both getting quartered or counterfeited than even I was. My guess is he's from that school of poker where if the opponent check calls he must be weak and you can bully him off if you keep betting.
A few hands later, chip leader raises in middle position and I reraise with ♥A♥2♥Q♣Q. The flop comes ♣9♣8♥6 and I push. This is a pretty good flop for me. Nut low draw, no overcard, and a backdoor flush draw. Chipleader quickly calls with ♦A♣K♠Q♣6 and the ♣2 hits the turn and the ♠T on the river and I'm out. I spent 10 hours straight in that tournament, the longest I'd ever been in a tournament, and came away 17th of 327 with 3.5x my buyin. It was a disappointing end to get sucked out on twice at the end by the same guy playing badly. But overall it was a fun if tiring experience and I'm looking foward to the next set of PLO8 tournaments. I think at this point I'm ready to admit that PLO8 is my best game and I should only play these tournaments. I have cashed in the last few big online PLO8 tournaments, but have not gotten that run of cards late that's seen me to the final table. Still gonna keep trying.