Last night, I finally broke my seven game streak of sub-par tournaments. After suffering all sorts of bad knockout beats, including losing with Online Casino Malaysia eights against an ace kicker since the board had a pair of tens and a pair of nines, I finally survived longer than I would have if I had not played at all.

My survival was due to laying down a few high pocket pairs, including jacks pre-flop and queens twice on the flop, and each time I would’ve had the best hand in the beginning but not at the end. There are far too many people who will never lay down an ace before the flop, and I have yet to figure out what to do about such players. The ace should fair to pair with the board more often than not, but that wasn’t the case last night.

My conservative play helped me survive, but it also prevented me from building much of a chip stack. I think that my highest total was about 17000, and we started with 10000 chips. When the ante is 500 chips, which it was after the 2nd break, having about 12000 chips is very uncomfortable. I knew that I had to pick a spot to go all in, but when?

I was dealt queen ten soon after the break, and I should have went for it then but for some reason I didn’t. I suppose that I thought I’d get a better hand before the blinds came back to me, but I had no such luck. Waiting for a great hand may work once in a while, but the odds of winning with a decent hand like Q10 are probably better. Especially since great hands are susceptible to losing to mediocre hands.

Patience is a virtue, but too much of a good thing isn’t so good. If you find yourself short stacked with big blinds and big antes, you’re probably best off pushing all in with the first decent hand you get – as long as nobody pushed all in before you. The strategy isn’t foolproof, but it’s better than waiting and ending up all in with a jack and a three.

Royal Conundrum – What Would You Do?

It was early in a large tournament, freeplay at PokerPages, and I found myself with pocket kings in early position. I had a choice to make – how would I bet them? Would I bet slow and try to trap people? Would I throw all my chips in the pot immediately because I probably had the best hand by far and people play loosely over there? I could’ve even folded, but that would not have made much sense at all.

I ended up going with something in between the first two options and put a tenth of my starting stack in the pot. That way I’d probably get a couple of tentative callers with much worse hands. Didn’t happen. Someone called my thousand chip bet and raised me another 8300 – all in for that player and almost all in for me. What should I make of that bet?

If I was playing against professionals, I’d suspect pocket aces. Trying to steal the pot from someone making a substantial raise from early position is not a decision that I’d consider prudent on the second hand of the tournament, and a good player would have to be extremely strong to risk everything against that sort of bet. However, most people playing for free are not especially good, and I believed that I had the best hand by far.

Even so, should I risk all my chips that early in the tournament before the flop? I read something in a book called Winning Secrets of Online Poker by Douglas Frye & Curtis Frye indicating that Doyle Brunson probably wouldn’t call a bet like that with less than pocket aces. Phil Hellmuth, who considers himself the best in the world and is certainly a talented professional, has made statements to the effect that he would probably fold pocket aces in that situation because of the possibility of elimination by a bad beat.

I was right – I had the best hand. The player who went in hand ace ten off suit. I know that because I’m not Phil Hellmuth and I called. Despite being the heavy favorite, I was scared. The first three cards were low cards, as was the fourth. The fifth was also low, which might sound like a good thing but not with a 2,3,and 5 already on the board. The bicycle ran over my chip stack and I was essentially crippled.

At least I managed to stick around for another hour – not a good finish but still much better than the maniac who almost knocked me out.

Could I have played that hand better? What would you have done, or what have you done in a similar situation?

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