July 3, 2006
I went pretty deep in the first event at
the World Series of Poker, a $1,500 No-Limit
Hold 'em tournament. While I wasn't pleased
with the outcome - I finished 45th in a
2,776 player field - I was happy with my
play. For this tip, I'm going to share an
interesting hand from the tournament - one
where I made a mistake.
It was late in the first day of play, and
things had been going well. My stack had
grown to over 60,000 and I was among the
chip leaders. The average stack was around
20,000 at that point, the blinds were
600-1,200 with a 200 ante, and I was
fortunate enough to be at a timid table. I
was stealing with impunity. I was meeting so
little resistance that, at points, I was
able to steal the blinds and antes four
times per orbit. I'd raise pre-flop,
everyone would fold, and I'd add valuable
chips to my stack.
After some time at this table, an
under-the-gun player raised all-in pre-flop
for a little over 20,000 in chips. It was
folded to me on the button, and I found
Ace-King off-suit. I decided to call. My
opponent also had Ace-King, but he was
suited with hearts. I lost the large pot
when my opponent hit his flush.
It would be easy to write off the hand as
plain old bad luck. After all, we started
with hands of almost identical strength.
But, the truth is, I shouldn't have played
the hand at all.
Sure, Ace-King is a strong hand, but it's
no better than a three to one favorite over
something like Ace-Queen. Against other
hands my opponent could have held, like
pocket 10s or Jacks, it's a slight underdog.
There were also factors beyond the math
that I should have considered. For instance,
given the table dynamics, there was no need
for me to risk one-third of my chips on this
hand. If I had folded, I could have gone
back to stealing, padding my stack while
risking only a fraction of my chips. What's
more is that, after I lost, I had to become
more conservative, as I no longer had a big
chip advantage over the other players.
Losing that pot had other consequences,
as well. In this tournament, the
blind-to-stack ratio didn't allow for a lot
of play. For much of the tournament, the
average stack had no more than 12 or 13 big
blinds. When I lost those chips, I could no
longer re-raise pre-flop, then fold to an
all-in if my move didn't work out. If
someone raised before the action got to me,
I had only two choices; fold or move in.
There are plenty more tournaments to come in
the WSOP and I'm hopeful that, in the
following weeks, I'll win my first bracelet.
To do that, of course, I'll also have to do
a better job of protecting my chips the next
time I have a big stack.