As I'm writing this, I'm done. I busted out midway trough Day 2. I often joke that my job consists mostly of watching people going all-in before the flop with Ace-King and pocket Queens, then trying to find a new, exciting and funny way to write about it. I must have witnessed a thousand of those classic toss-ups since I started working as a tournament reporter. This time, I was actually playing. I was the one with Big Slick, and lost to the Hilton Sisters.
This was the third time I played the EDC. The event is always a good indicator of my evolution as a poker player. This year I feel like I played the best out of the three editions. I tried a few things that I never did before, made money when there was money to be made, and stayed out of trouble when I was beat. On the other hand, the experience was slightly less fun than last year. I don't think that I played as many hands as during the 2009 edition. There were only a few truly big, exciting pots. I got dealt was less playable hands, or at least didn't find an opportunity to make money with them. It was kinda boring at times. This is what's interesting with a deep-stack tournament like that : you can play tons of hands and still be insanely bored for most of the day. During Day 1, I was the second most active player at the table (with the second biggest stack as well during the second half of the day) and still felt like all I was doing was folding. I was a bit more aggressive on some occasions, but mostly stayed true to my style : patient, tight, with a tendency to trap, avoiding wasting chips (most of the time) and generally knowing what kind of hands my opponents were holding. The biggest change for me wasn't really in the way I was playing, rather than in the way I was thinking about the situations, regarding table flow, hand range, reads, tells, metagame and all this stuff. I felt like I was seeing things under a totally different light in some places. I guess I will have to process, digest and put in practice all the stuff I learn this week-end for the 2011 edition of the EDC and start to really kick ass. Cause let's face it : my record in this tournament is starting to look embarrassing, even if I'm not ashamed one bit of the way I went out the past three years.
Anyway, here is my recap. Warning : it's a long read. Don't go any further if you don't like poker strategy talk. To sum it up : I played poker for sixteen hours. It ended on a coin-flip. I didn't make any money.
Blinds : 50/100. My stack : 50,000.
For the first time in its three (four ?) years of existence, the European Deepstack Championship has sold out. It's probably due to the fact the buy-in has been divided by three this year. With a €500 prize-tag, there isn't a seat available in the spacious tournament room. We're playing ten-handed, and during the first three hours, the eliminated players will be replaced by alternates. All in all, 465 players participated, while previous editions struggled to reach 150 registrations.
Also, for the first time in the entire history of tournament poker, the event didn't actually start on time, but rather a few minutes before the scheduled 4pm start. I had never seen that before. The structure has been slightly revised to accommodate the enormous attendance. Having to cram the entire event in a three-day schedule, Mike Lacey and his crew decided to cut a few levels short. For instance, we will start playing at 50 and 100 blinds, not 25 and 50.
Anyway, I get off to a slow start. I'm seated at Table 18, Seat 05. I don't recognize anyone at the table. Nothing happens for a dozen minutes till I get dealt 94 offsuit on the big blind. I see a free flop with two other players, and take my very first pot with a bet of 225 on the A-K-5-T turn, since nobody wanted it on the flop. An orbit later, I discover two Kings. I make it 300 to go from middle position, and get called by the button, a young Irish player who, I will soon find out, will be my toughest opponent today at a table full of soft French players (who comprise half of the field, with half of that half being Winamax qualifiers). The flop brings K-Q-8 with two clubs. I flopped a set. I bet 425 and he calls. The turn is the 7 of clubs. Check/check. River is a 4 of spades. I value bet 700, and get called by this good player (let's call him “GP”) who moans, showing a King (“With an Ace”, he adds, tho I don't believe him).
The first elimination of the tournament occurs after 45 minutes or so. I'm impressed. Last year, it only took ten minutes before some fool shipped his whole stack on the flop with a beaten pair of Aces. 45 minutes, it's about the time it took me to witness a preflop 3-bet at my table. Those people are playing cautiously and not much is happening. I play a few hands like J8 or T9 suited, but not much happens. I either win or lose a small pot. I also attempt those small early-stages-bluffs or semi-bluffs that can help set up an active image for a moderate price. Like betting 65 of hears on a K-7-3-9 board. Or continuation-betting pocket Deuces on a 9-6-3 offsuit flop.
Blinds : 75/150. My stack : 52,375.
I raise T-7 offsuit on the button and take the blinds. Then I call a raise on the cut-off with 53 of hearts, and find a dream flop : Q-6-4, with two hearts. Flush and straight draw The original raiser bets 625. I raise him right away to build a big pot, but he folds, and the other player involved in the hand does the same.
The first elimination of the day at our table is a crazy one. But the guy with 66 on this 2-A-6-2-3 board could still have avoided 4-betting all his chips on the river – there was not much he could beat, especially not quad Deuces. Maybe a flat call would have worked the same, saving more than half his stack.
The award for my “most creative hand of the day” goes to this one... Good Player raises to 425 in early position, and I call from the small blind with Q-T of clubs. The flops is A-8-6 with one club. I check/call 550. Why not ? There might be a way to steal this pot later. The turn is a King, giving me a gutshot dra. We both check. The river is another Ace. My reasoning at this stage is : if I bet, he's gonna call me with TONS of hand. Let's do something different. GP is probably gonna bet if I check, bluffing most of the time. I check, and GP bets 1,000. I study the board for a few seconds, then check/raise to 2,900. He quickly folds, saying his Queen high didn't get there. I show him one Queen, and he says he had a Ten ticker. Me too, I say. He doesn't believe me. I think this hand helped create some respect between me and this good player – like I successfully gave the impression I'm also a good player capable of coming up with weird shit, which led to a limited number of confrontations between us during the rest of the day. I dunno.
There's a few others hand that happen before the first break, but nothing to write home about. I see a flop with Ace-Jack and find an Ace, I raise with Ace-3 of clubs but give on on a K-J-9 flop, and I play pocket threes to no avail.
Blinds : 100/200. My stack : 55,975.
Two hours of play to increase my stack by a mere 10% : I've been used to better starts in previous editions of the European DSC. Anyway, I give up a small one with pocket threes again (I try to steal on the turn, get called in two places, and loose the showdown on the river), then raise UTG with Aces (everybody folds, fuck me), then I get a walk with King-Queen offsuit.
Then another hand I quite enjoyed. A really nitty player, kind of guy who was making tons of mistakes like betting so much money on the flop with Aces that nobody will call him unless they have him beat (a classic nit mistake, they never play a hand but once they do, they screw up and loose tons of value), anyway, this old nit raises to 750 and I just call on the cut-off with... pocket Queens. The big blind calls, too. The flop is good : 642 with one spade. The old nit bets 2,100. I call and we're heads-up. Turn is an 8 of spades. Old nit bets 6,000. I call rather quickly. River is a 5 of spades. Old nits checks : he doesn't have Aces or Kings, for sure. I have the best hand and bet 6,000. He snap-calls, then mucks upon seeing my Queens. “Jacks ?”, I ask. “Tens”, he says.
I loose a small one against GP when I get outkicked with T8 of hearts, then flop two pairs with K-7 of hearts. I raise straight away and my opponent folds.
Blinds : 150/300. My stack : 70,225.
Now my stack is starting to look nice. Too bad I will spend most of the level losing pot after pot. Like this monster draw with Q-T of clubs on a T-6-3 board with two clubs, against King-Ten offsuit. Or the 9-6 offsuit that I play a bit too aggressive, and the 7-5 of diamonds that I stubbornly go to the river with, despite a lousy Q-J-7 flop. Showing some kind of tilt after being unable to win a showdown for a while, I even raise with 7-2, and sheepishly fold to a check/raise on an A-J-6 flop. “Tilt ?”, Good player asks. I don't answer. I tighten up and fold King-Queen off suit after a limp then a raise from the nit. Now I'm playing too tight ! It's still early in the tournament, but I need to cool off.
Plus, exhaustion is settling in. It's 6 pm and I've been up since 5 am, having traveled from Paris on the same day instead of arriving the night before tournament time to get some rest. Genius move that now pays off : I'm dozing off at the table. At least it makes me play tight and thus avoid unnecessary spewing. Which doesn't prevents me from making a stupid raise to 1,000 from the big blind (!) with Q-8 of spades (!!). GP calls in position (having limped) and wins the pot after I fail to c-bet the Queen high board. The turn is an Ace, completing his Ace-4 of clubs. Grrrr.
Blinds : 150/300, ante 25. My stack : 59,075.
I'm pissed off, but the antes are here. Soon enough I'll find an opportunity to make a big score, I say to myself. Or I'll just try to pick up uncontested pots before the flop.
I keep playing small pots against Good Player. We never go too crazy. Like this one when I limp from early position with King-Jack offsuit. He raises in position to 800. I call. We check the K-Q-T flop (two spades). I check call 1,100 on the 8 of spades turn. We check the 2 on the river, and I win against As-Queen. Later, GP limps from EP, and a French player raises to 1,000. I find Ace-King offsuit on the button, and raise to 3,600. Everybody folds, including the small blind, claiming it's “an easy fold with pocket Tens”. I find Aces again, and get two callers. Unfortunately, the final board comes A-4-4-6-6. It's a tough ticket to sell, and I don't make any money after betting on the river – nobody believes it could be a split pot.
With that, plus a few boring hands, the level is over. We go on dinner break.
Blinds : 200/400, ante 50. My stack : 64,150.
With the best player at the table seated four to my left and one active player located to my immediate right, it's quite difficult to steal the blinds. The Good Player always defends his blind whenever I raise, and when he folds UTG or UTG+1, it's my neighbor who raises before I get the chance myself. Too bad cause the three players on my right played insanely tight all day – easy pickups.
Anyway, I raise with King-Queen of hearts, and of course GP defends his blinds. Flop is A-T-x with two diamonds. We check. Turn is a King. We check. River is a Jack. I bet, he calls with a Jack, and I win. Maybe I'm playing a bit too passive. I'm definitely playing tight, not even calling a 3-bet with King-Queen of diamonds a few hands later. To my defense, I was out of position and facing the old nitty player. Later I'll fold Ace-Jack of diamonds on the button after a raise, a bunch of calls and a 3-bet. My own nittyness makes for a short level. Next.
Blinds : 300/600, ante 50. My stack : 60,800.
The 250/500 level has been skipped. For the first time in the tournament, I'm only 100-big blinds deep. I feel very short stack. I know, ridiculous, but after playing so deep for hours, I will need to adjust. Now I can reasonably expect to bust out on a coin-flip or with a good flopped draw. I wait till the GP is on the small blind to raise with Jack-4 offsuit. It works and I take the blinds and antes.
Then the craziest hand of the tournament... I find 65 of clubs UTG and raise to 1,600, merely hoping to pick up the blinds. I get called in four places, including the button. Then the small blind (a tight French player) decides to raise to 6,500. It's a small 3-bet given the amount in the pot already. I have a very decent hand that will often find a good flop. I call, hoping my opponents will call as well, so I can have the necessary leverage to ship my stack on the flop with a donk-bet or a check/raise. GP calls in position. Then, suddenly, the hand doesn't make sense anymore : the button goes-all in for 50,000 ! What is he representing ? Certainly not Aces or Kings or Queens. He would have 3-bet 100% of the time, unless he's the most stupid player in the universe, flat calling on the button after 4 players already entered the pot. He has Ace-King at best, or most likely Ace-Queen or Jacks. The small blind folds – he will later claim he had Queens, provoking lots of berating on my part. What the fuck ? I fold as well, of course, after hesitating a bit. I almost have proper odds against the button's range, but no way I can risk my entire tournament with 6-high. GP folds as well.
After six hours, only 45 players busted out. There are 420 players left but I don't have anything to smoke in order celebrate the moment. That's the moment I choose to play my biggest pot of the day. I truly enjoyed that one, which made me remember why I loved poker in the first place. Old nit raises to 1,600 UTG+1. I call in position with 7-5 of spades. GP calls from the big blind. I find a dream flop : Q-6-3 with two spades. Old nit bets 6,000. I wonder about what to do, then decide I won't raise before I get there. On two separate occasions, I saw Old nit min-3-betting his strong hands on the flop (Aces, Top-pair top-kicker, etc). If I raise, I will have to be ready to play for all my chips on the flop. I don't wanna go all-in on a draw, not now. I just call. GP folds. The turn is the 4 of diamonds. The best card in the deck : I made my straight and I'm invisible. Old nit bets 15,000. Now it's clear he has Aces, Kings or Ace Queen. I flat call, leaving myself with 31,000. The river is an Ace putting a third diamond on the flop. Old nit checks. I go all-in. Old nit tanks for one minute while I try to look worried about my hand. In the end, he calls and I promptly turn my straight over. Disgusted, he mucks a pair of Kings. Very bad call, as there's no way I'm bluffing on the river here.
Just like that, I'm feeling great ! For the first time in the tournament, I have more than 100,000. Last time I won a big pot, I lost several few pots in a row afterwards. Same here. I try to bluff the Old nit and he calls me with Ace high, nice one. I raise with 7-2 on the button, make two pairs on the river, and lose to a straight.
Blinds : 400/800, ante 75. My stack : 101,600.
It's late and some people aren't thinking clearly anymore. More mistakes are being made. People start playing their hands even more stupidly than usual, betting too much and committing themselves without knowing why. My brother Aurélien comes at my table to say hi – he busted out after seven hours of play. Bummer.
My biggest laydown of the day is interesting. I limp in with Ace-8 of clubs, and see the flop with a few players : A-7-2, all diamonds. We all check. Turn is another Ace, giving me trips. My three opponents checks. I bet 2,500. Only the small blind calls. He's a VERY nitty player. So when he comes out firing 12,000, a big bet, on the 5 of hearts river, I snap-fold my trips, even showing them. There's no way he's betting here with less than a flush or a full house. Period.
I stay quiet and keep folding, then find 75 of diamonds in early position. I can't resist : I raise, and GP calls me in position, of course. Flop is K-9-6 with one diamond. I check/call. Not very good. We check the turn (5) and the river (Jack). I loose to King-Queen. I raise 98 suited UTG but fold to a reraise, then I find Jacks on the big blind. The small blind limps, I raise, he calls and I win the pot on the flop. A guy with almost no chips limps, I raise with Jacks again, and he folds. Weird. Then I raise with pocket sixes, and fold to an all-in shove from the Old nit (30,000 total). Last year I called in a similar situation with 55 and won a coin-flip.
Blinds : 500/1,000, ante 100. My stack : 90,500.
It's well past midnight and there is still three full levels to play, but I don't feel too tired anymore. I limp with Deuces, me and a few players check all the way, and amazingly, I win the showdown. Then I get those three hands back to back : Ace-Ten of spades, I raise and win, pocket deuces, I raise and win, pocket fours, I open fold – I don't want to overdo it, and I'm in early position. I play a few minor pots and stay afloat. Not much happens until the last hand of the level : UTG limps, then the cutoff goes all-in for 10,000. I call from the big blind with KQ of spades. I'm up against A-8 offsuit, and turn a flush. I bust my first player of the day. This is only the second elimination we witnessed at the table so far.
Blinds : 700/1,400, ante 100. My stack : 102,700.
Finally I get a hand, Aces actually, and 3-bet my neighbor. He calls (he has 70,000) and check/folds the K-3-2 flop (with two spades). Too bad, I was ready to play for all my chips. I steal the blinds with K4 of diamonds, then see a poor guy busting out with Kings against King-Ten offsuit, all-in before the flop. He didn't have much chips but it still hurts. A guy who only played two hands today wakes up with Kings and find someone to double him up with Ace-King of Diamonds. Then I bust the Old nit with 44 against K9, all-in preflop. GP is in the hand as well, with 55, and we check all the way on a K-Q-x-J-4 flop. Yeah, I sucked out on the river. Apart from that, I just wait, since I'm not getting much playable hands.
Blinds : 1,000/2,000, ante 100. My stack : 123,300.
Yeah, it's the last level of Day 1 ! It was about time. There are 320 players left with an average stack of 72,650. I raise 5,500 with 54 of diamonds on the cutoff, but have to fold to an all-in raise. I keep playing tight, and can't find any profitable situations where I could squeeze or see a flop cheaply in position. I'm beginning to realize something that I always knew but never fully understood : poker is not a game of cards. It's a game of position, and chips. Chips are the ammo. The cards come second. During those late stage levels, a good player could certainly win lots of money without even looking at his cards. Chips could be won just by taking advantage of weaker players, scary flops, and position. Unfortunately, I'm not that kind of player. I fold for 40 minutes straight apart from a couple of blinds steals with small pocket pairs. Then Day 1 ends, after eleven exhausting hours of play. I bag 102,600 in chips and sign the form. I try to write the recap you're reading, but am too tired, and go to bed.
Me wearing my poker player costume
Blinds : 1,200/2,400, ante 200. My stack : 112,600.
Unbagging my chips, I realize I miscounted them the night before. I got 10,000 more than I thought. Nice. There has been a redraw, and my table is a mix of big and short stacks, no one that I recognize. Mostly French people. I have 40 big blinds. Some room to maneuver, but I better win the first hands I play, otherwise the situation is gonna get tricky fast.
I keep playing tight, steal the blinds once with Q-T of spades. Then a guy who doesn't look like a genius raises UTG to 7,000, and I find Aces in the big blind. I 3-bet to 19,000. He calls, then unfortunately doesn't give me any action on a 6-6-3 flop with two hearts. Later, someone limps from early position, and a guy from Belgium raises. I'm next to act with Ace-Queen offsuit, and 3-bet to 19,000. Action goes back to him and he quickly announces all-in. I'm fold and I'm not happy, especially when one hour later he terribly overplays Ace-Jack of hearts on a 8-5-4 flop with two spades, committing his entire 70-big blind stack on a complete bluff only to get snap-called with 6-7. What a fucking donkey, I should have called him. Then I raise to 6,500 with 99, and a French dude goes all-in for 35,000. I call, and loose against pocket Tens. On a funny note, the flops goes, in that order : 9-T-T. Quaaaaaads.
Blinds : 1,500/3,000, ante 300. My stack : 73,000.
I'm below 25 big blinds, the most difficult stack size to maneuver with. I cannot 3-bet all-in before the flop after a single raise, and I cannot really call a reraise unless I have something good. But there are still a few perfect spots, like when UTG raises to 7,500, and another player calls in position. I'm in the small blind with Ace-Queen offsuit, and move all-in. Both players fold. Then someone limps, I have Ace-Queen again but something smells funny. I flat call too, and give up on the flop. The limper had Kings. Phew. I double up the terrible Belgium player when he calls one-third of his micro stack before the flop with 5-4 offsuit, and then I get moved to a new table with only fifteen big blinds. I'm pissed off. “I'm gonna bust out in two hands, maximum”, I say to a friend who's seated at the table. Maybe my rant explains what happens during the first hand I get dealt at this table : Ace-Ten offsuit on the big blind. The hi-jack raises to 7,500. I go all-in for 52,200. Despite having only 80,000 or so, he snap-calls with Ace-8 offsuit ! Wow, what a gift. I get a welcomed double up. I limp in with Q-J of clubs in late position, and make a straight. I cannot make any money, however, since there are four hearts on the board. Lucky, my sole opponent hasn't any.
Blinds : 2,000/4,000, ante 400. My stack : 122,000
I feel a bit better. I win a small pot during a blind battle, then pick up Jacks in mid-position. Someone who hasn't played any hand so far raises to 12,00 UTG+1. I don't like the spot but I don't see any other option than 3-betting. I raise to 31,000, and he folds, showing an Ace. I bust a player with a micro stack (half a big blind) when my A-8 of clubs beats his A-3 of diamonds. I raise with Q-J offsuit, but fold to a reraise. Then I find pocket sixes UTG. I raise, and get called in three places. I have no choice but to check/fold on a J-8-4 flop with two diamonds.
Blinds : 2,500/5,000, ante 500. My stack : 110,200.
A good player raises UTG to 12,500. I find As-Queen on the button. I 3-bet to 29,000, ready to play for all my chips. I have only 22 big blinds : a coin flip is more than welcome. And if he's setting there with something better, well GG me. Anyway, the unexpected happens : the guy just flat calls. Uh oh. I don't even want to look at the flop. It's J-5-2. Fuck. He checks. I check behind. Turn is a Queen. Relief. He checks again. I check. River : a King. He checks one last time. Is it necessary to bet ? I don't know, but I do bet, and he snap folds, groaning that he should have bet earlier.
I get moved to a new table. On a side not, during both times I got moved, I left the Big blind position only to be seated on the Big blind again. True story. There are 150 players left for 45 paid spots. If I'm lucky enough to reach Bubble time, the game isn't gonna be easy cause most of my opponents have lots of chips, and doesn't seem to afraid to take chances. I'm seated at table 2, so chances that I get moved are remote. The dream scenario - a soft table full of short stacks eager to make the money – won't occur.
I stay patient. I raise Ace-Ten in late position, but have to fold to a reraise. I steal the blinds with K-J of diamonds.
Blinds : 3,000/6,000, ante 600. My stack : 119,700.
Aka “the level where I go out”. I find Ace-King UTG+1 and raise, and am very disappointed when no one wants to play with me. I want to play an all-in pot ! Instead, I fold for half an hour. But somehow the poker Gods must have heard me, cause a few minutes later I get Ace-King again, and raise from the hi-jack seat. 17,000 total. This time I get action. The button (a solid French player) 3-bets to 42,000. The blinds fold, action is back to me. I think about it for just a few seconds, then push all my chips. It's only 70,000 to call in a 169,000 pot, but somehow my opponent is gonna think about it for a full minute to call me with... pocket Queens. One will argue it's a proper slowroll, cause there is simply no way the guy is gonna fold here. He's just pretending to be bothered by the situation, “oh what if he has Kings or Aces”, bla bla bla, but the thing is, from a math standpoint, he actually almost has the proper odds to call even if I have Kings or Aces. Word of advice to everyone : when you have Queens facing an opponent all-in for 20 big blinds, please don't wait. Just fucking call. We know you're not going to fold. No need to Hollywood.
The cards are turned over, the camera is rolling, there is 240,000 in the middle. If I can win this, I'll be at my highest – 40BB - since the day started. Three diamonds on the flop give me nine extra outs to make a flush, but the turn and the river are desperately black. I'm out around the 115th position or so. I don't say “nice hand”, I don't shake hands and sheepishly exit the tournament area faster than a Vegas prostitute doing the walk of shame in the Bally's corridors at 4am. My only tournament of the year is over. I'm pissed off to burst out during Day 2 for the third year in a row, having done not much wrong most of the time, but I'm glad I won't have to suffer trough this for another year. Tournament poker is for sadomasochists.