Monday, July 9, 2007

Now this feels familiar – Brick and Mortar SNGs

In only the second time I have played poker in a brick and mortar casino, I had both fun and success. Until Sunday, I had only played poker once in a casino that wasn't a tournament for the Minnesota Poker League. My only comparison is Treasure Island Casino, and that place only spreads limit games and a few tournaments.

Bodie25 had asked me to join him for the journey to Diamond Jo's Casino in Northwood County, IA. The trip took us about an hour. We were excited to try their sit-n-go tournament format. 10 players hit the list and they start the tournament. Well, that was a little bit less action then we had hoped. They only started one while we were there, the $35 dollar one. More will be written on that in a moment.

We got our names on the list right away. Bodie25 was really excited to sit and play some cards, so he got into the $1/$2 NL Hold'em game. I get a bit more nervous when I do new things, so I took a little time to do a walk-a-bout. I really find that this helps me collect myself. I also practice some of Joe Navarro's book, "Read 'Em and Reap: A Career FBI Agent's Guide to Decoding Poker Tells" about opening up your awareness.

I milled about the card area for a while, talking to the poker room manager, and got the nerve up to plunked down the cash and sit in on a newly formed $1/$2 NL Hold'em table. I was actually glad not to be on Bodie25's table. I won't soft play him, but I also hate being in pots…seems counterproductive for us to take money from each other.

I was locked down tight at this table, and only played the limped BB for about an hour. I have never played this before, I have never played any of these people before, and frankly, my cards sucked. I used this hour to build my dossiers on the people at the table. Attempting to guess their hole cards and get a good feel for their style of play. I'd categorize most a few of the people at my table as kitchen table players, some of those were even regulars as the staff new their names and talked like old friends. At my table, I'd guess there were only 2 players that really had a good grasp of the game and weren't just playing their cards. I avoided these guys.

I played only 2 real hands of note and baled on a few that saw more action than I'd care to venture my money into.

The first hand had 1 limper into me and I squeezed AA. I raised it to $6. Now, I must admit, the standard raise seemed to be to $7 or $12, but I wanted to project that naïve tourist image that people seemed to be putting me on. I got 2 callers. The flop came with 2 clubs and a K. Not a horrible flop with AA, and neither one of my aces was the club. The other 2 checked to me and I bet $20. One of the players then folded and the older lady called. The turn was the Ace of Clubs. OK…that's both good AND scary at the same time. It's nothing for people to call bets here with a flush draw. She checked to me and I really felt that she either had a weak flush or something else. The flop came a blank, she checked, and I value bet. She called and showed she had 2 paired the king. Yeah! A set of aces wins! Of note too were the comments from the table that not a single person at the table put me on aces. Yeah!

The pretty much locked me into a winning session of NL Hold'em. I lost a bit of that when I needed to lay down, but I ended the session up.

The Poker Room Manager came over and told those of us with names on the SNG list that it was time to go play. I was excited for this. I was looking forward to the tournament style I was used to.

Bodie25 joined me at the other tournament table with 8 others. Only one of the other players had been at my ring game, so the rest I was figuring from scratch. I left the headphones off, people were really chatting it up before the game and I was getting a lot about their personalities from this.

On my left, was a younger man wearing a Poker Player's Alliance shirt. I think he wore this to intimidate people. As the tourney progressed, he lacked any idea of aggression and blinded/called himself to death.

2 to my left was the only person from my ring game. She was a female that seemed confident in her game, and educated. She was aggressive in the ring game, but toned it down in the SNG.

3 to my left, was a quiet guy that I later found talked his reasoning out loud. (He would talk himself out of a call by listing the hands that would beat him before laying it down).

The guy on my right was definitely a kitchen player. He and his wife were arguing about how bad he played before we started, and his inexperience really showed.

2 to my right, was a bigger guy. He had been at Bodie25's table for the ring session. He came out betting strong to start things off. By the end, he was a bit of a gambler, but really didn't have much experience playing tournaments.

I found some big success early on in this event. The format for the SNG had use with 1000 in chips and 10 minute blinds. The structure only had 10 levels and was very steep. I decided to employ a tight strategy early and then find spots to exploit people's lack of skill later. I folded for the first 2 orbits without putting any extra money in. On the 3rd orbit, I found pocket 10's. I raised and got one caller. The flop came with no tens and 2 to the flush of clubs. I was in the pot with the girl from my first table. I really thought she was drawing to the flush, but her raise was more scared, so I was thinking that she was weak in the flush draw. The turn came and it was the 10 and put out 3 to the flush. In this steep format, I decided right there, to push her all in. If she's weak in the flush, she might not want to die right there. If she calls, I have all the outs that pair the board and the case 10. She thinks and calls. The river pairs the board. She proudly turns over the Q high flush, and I flip the full house. Oops…she was not a happy camper, but I now have a large pile of chips. I was able to switch gears and raise more often with position to steal and intimidate. That worked well!

As I played the tournament, I got some good cards at the right times, and avoided making any really bad calls. I never put my money in the pot dead!

After all the cards were played, I was in 2nd place and received a $90 payout.