Leveling Out Back East

Fall 2012 Wildhorse Poker Round-Up Events #1 and #2 (10,000)
Final Table $1,000 Guarantee (8,000) 

All of the bracelets to be awarded during the Fall 2012 Wildhorse Poker Round-Up.

I headed out to Pendleton for the first two events of the Fall Poker Round-Up last weekend. Drove out first thing in the morning on Friday and after three-and-a-half hours made it to the casino with plenty of time to spare before the tournament started. That was a good thing, because I’d been bought in by the folks at Portland Players Club, but the folks at the tournament window didn’t seem to know quite what to do about pre-paid entries and folks started backing up behind me while the two ladies in the office worked through it. Just a few minutes later, the line was stretching down the hall, and by the time  Event #1 began, we were already twenty minutes past noon.

The first event didn’t go well for me. I hadn’t factored in the antes kicking in as aggressively as they did; in level three when they first appear (100/200/25), they’re only 1/8 the big blind, but by level six (200/400/75) they’ve jumped to half-again as much. I rode a short stack through the second break, then busted before dinner. My last hand, I had qsjs, action folded to SB, he went all-in and I called only to be up against axax. I’m sure he was crestfallen not to get any action for his aces. My little stack made up for it a bit.

Saturday’s game went quite a bit better. For a while. I ramped up the aggression, and a combination of that, some good cards, and a different mix of players at the table, put me in the position of one of the big stacks for most of my time in the game. I’d doubled up by the first break; just two hours in (level 4) I had enough chips that I rode as4s down to the river with straight and flush draws to catch a trey and knock a player out. He went off and started in about how I was a “shitty” player. I mentally composed my response for the next time that happens and I’m raking in someone’s chips: “I know, I know. It’s like a fucking curse.” That put me over 31,000 chips. I was still there and table leader with just 50 big blinds when we got to level 7 (300/600/75), which gives you an idea of the kind of jeopardy a lot of the other stacks were in. Now, if I could just avoid doing anything stupid. I figured I was 30% of the way to the average stack when we got to the money. I raised to 1,600 from middle position with adqc and got a call from BB, a guy I think I had just about managed to call off his stack a little earlier with a suspiciously-large bet when I held top set on the flop. The flop fell 4c6ctc, I continued with a bet of 2,000, he re-raised 4,000, and I called. My thinking was he definitely had a club, quite possibly ac. I figured that even if he had two lower clubs and a made flush, there was a possibility that my queen could be best if a higher club hit. The turn card was qh and it was my downfall. I checked, he shoved in over 16,000, and I managed to convince myself that he had ackx. I could beat that. What I couldn’t beat was ac5c, which is what he actually had. Stupid call that cost me 2/3 of my stack and put me down to less than 20bb. I didn’t last to dinner that game, either.

Haven’t had much time to play in town since Pendleton this week, but I did get into one game at The Final Table. Took a chance early on with a suited connector and tripled up, then was over 55,000 on the first break (average was 11,800). Didn’t bother with the add-on. I flirted briefly with 100,000, but started bleeding chips and by the time I finally made it to the 10-handed final table I was the short stack. The first round of blinds at final left me with just about 14,000 on my big blind, at 2,000/4,000/500. A limp and a raise ahead of me, and I shoved with ace-something, which got called by the raiser. I caught my card and tripled up to about 40,000, which actually put me ahead of a couple other stacks. Players started going bust right after that, and I managed to find my way to some chips, so that when we hit the money, I had nearly 100,000 and was a distant second from the big stack at the other end. The player who had doubled me up from my short stack got the bubble payout but nobody was talking about a chop because of the size of the big stack. Then I raised early (heck, everything’s early five-handed) with 5h7h and got called by the big stack on BTN (who was raising or calling everything, naturally). The flop was tx9x6x, and I checked it. BB shoved. I had just the door and buy-in invested in the tournament so I was making a decent profit whatever happened. I called against top pair, hit my eight, and made it to chip leader. Then we chopped.

Back out to Pendleton in the morning for the Main Event!

Five hours. Five-way chop in 39 entries. +933% ROI.

Oregon @WSOP 2012

Jake Balsiger (left), at the 2012 WSOP Main Event with Greg Merson (center) and Jesse Sylvia. Photo via Hockgepokert.

The final table of the 2012 Main Event is over and despite coming close, Jake Balsiger didn’t manage to get out of last place three-handed long enough to shrink that ever-narrowing gap between eligibility to play in Las Vegas casinos and Joe Cada’s current standing as the youngest winner of the big title. One of the talking points about Balsiger was that—although he graduated from high school and attends college in Phoenix, Arizona—he’s a native of Portland.

Naturally, that got me wondering about how the rest of the state’s contingent of poker players did during this year’s WSOP. I turned once again to the dueling WSOP databases of wsopdb.com and the QuadJacks WSOP database (and, of course, the official WSOP site) for some unpaid, self-entertaining research. (An aside, this would be a lot faster if I could get access to the databases themselves instead of having to collate and cross-check incomplete data from multiple front-end sources, but my efforts seem to get lost in the noise.) Bear in mind that all of the results I’m working with are my best effort, not absolute reality; the databases have omissions and errors, but I’ve done my best to correct invalid information I’ve run across. Due to the limitations of the data collected by the WSOP itself, I’ve focused only on Oregon and haven’t included the Clark County portion of the Portland metro area. Sorry, Vancouverites, if you want stats from across the Columbia, you’re going to have to crank them yourself (or pay me).

What Did We Play?

By my count, there were 303 individuals from Oregon who entered WSOP ring events this year. We entered every bracelet event except for:

  • #7 ($1,500 Seven-Card Stud)
  • #10 ($5,000 Seven-Card Stud)
  • #17 (Pot-Limit Hold’em)
  • #22 (2-7 Triple Draw Lowball)
  • #32 ($10,000 H.O.R.S.E.)
  • #34 ($5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha / Six-Handed)
  • #37 ($2,500 Eight-Game Mix)
  • #39 ($10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha)
  • #42 ($2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better)
  • #45 ($50,000 The Poker Players Championship)
  • #55 ($1,000,000 The Big One for One Drop — No-Limit Hold’em)
  • #60 ($10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball)

That’s 49 of the 61 bracelet events, which includes #1 ($560 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em) getting 3 Oregon entries. Apparently, Oregon players don’t much care for 2-7 Lowball games (though I played a brief game of Triple Draw at Encore one evening with JB and SG and had a good time although I bubbled) or million-dollar buy-ins.

The event that drew the largest number of Oregonians was #29 ($1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship), with 53 entries in a field of 4,128 (1.28%). Yet that wasn’t the highest participation rate. The seniors event this year was enormous—the largest single starting day for a tournament in poker history—and even half-century worth of aging Oregonians didn’t quite match the percentages who came for #43 ($1,500 No-Limit Hold’em) which got 37 entries and #44 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em) which got 40, for 1.34% and 1.36% of the field, respectively.

Oregon poker players stepped up to 1.5% of the field in #51 ($1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold-em Championship). 14 of 936 entries was outmatched only by the seven players who jumped into #35 (Mixed Hold’em, Limit/No-Limit) to pump the O up to 1.78% of the field. Sadly, only 12 of the entrants were actually women, with a couple of serious WSOP players adding the Ladies event to their list of 10+ entries. I was there during the tournament and when the subject of guys playing the event came up—as it did a number of times—not a single person elicited any sympathy for the idea of men playing in the women’s tournament. I’m not naming names, but you know who you are, Cody and Steve. So the number of actual Oregon women in the Ladies event was only 12.8%.

The lowest rate of participation (that wasn’t 0%) was 0.21% for the single Oregon player who entered #57 (No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed). Median participation rate in events with Oregon entries (where half the events are higher and half are lower) was 0.78%. Main Event participation was 41 of 6,598 entries: 0.62%.

217 of the Oregon players played just a single WSOP bracelet event. Ten played only the Main Event. Most of the single-entries were in regular $1,000 buy-in events or the similarly-priced Seniors and Ladies events (the 3 entrants to the Casino Employees event only needed to pay $560) but a number of singletons (60) chose to punch a little higher into the $1,500 bracket (including H.O.R.S.E. and NLHE 6-Max games), and a handful of others went up to $2,500 or $3,000 for their big shots.

69 players entered between 2 and 5 bracelet events. Only 8 held the middle ground between 6 and 10 events. Ten Oregonians played between 11 and 19 WSOP bracelet events in 2012.

How Did We Do?

Sad to say, the facts of poker are such that only a small number of players make the money and even fewer make a profit. The good news is, 59 of the 303 Oregon players I found in the databases cashed at least once during the WSOP this year. That’s 19.5%. Those players accounted for 81 cashes out of a total 627 entries, meaning that the ITM rate of the group was 12.9%. That’s relatively in line with the 13.2% average ITM I calculated for 2011 WSOP final tableists back before this year’s events began (and it’s better than a random distribution of 10% payout structures).

24 of the single-entry players cashed. At 11.1% that’s lower than the state contingent as a whole, but the good thing is that each of those players has a positive ROI—even if it’s small in some cases—for their ride on the WSOP wheel. Because the grim truth is—as I pointed out in the June analysis—many of the pros who buy in to multiple events have a negative return on their WSOP investment even when they cash. The 2011 final table sample group had a 41% negative cash flow rate among players who entered 10 or more tournaments and cashed at least once. For Oregon players in 2012, 39 of the 59 cashing players had a profit at the end of the series (33% had negative ROI), but if you remove the two dozen single-entry players, the numbers are 15 profitable players among 35 players who cashed. 57% of that group showed a loss for the series. Looking at just the players with 10 or more entries: 4 profits in 11 cashing players (64% losing).

Is There An Upside?

One Oregon player got a real bang for his thousand bucks this year. A player from Bonanza—near Klamath Falls—entered #59 ($1,000 No-Limit Hold’em) just before the beginning of the Main Event and made it to 6th place in a field of 4,620 for a payday of $120,748. Five other single-entry players made profits between $5,000 and $16,000. The others were all profits of $3,500 or less.

Only one of the 22 cashing players with 2 to 8 entries made more than $10,000 in profit. Alexander Beck of Happy Valley cashed twice in six events—including nearly $33,000 for a 372nd-place finish in the Main Event—ending the series with more than $21,500 in profit. 49 of the players with 2 to 8 entries didn’t cash. 12 of the 22 cashing players lost between $76 and $20,000.

Two Oregonians with 9 or more entries were the bright lights of the hard-core poker players this year.

Greg Hobson took first in #49 (Ante-Only No-Limit Hold’em), winning the bracelet and $256,691 (and, combined with former Portlander Jeffrey Dobrin’s WSOP Circuit ring win back in January, making the city a powerhouse of ante-only, for whatever that’s worth). It was Hobson’s only cash in ten entries. Hobson’s entry illustrates one of the issues with tracking information on poker players, the official WSOP entry list for the event says he’s from Portland, which is also what’s on all of his other entry forms for both 2011 and 2012, but the official final report says Alaska.

Jamie Robbins, also from Oregon?, was the most visible player from the state, making it to the last three tables of the Main Event, and busting in 19th place for $294,601. Robbins’s entry sheets say Portland, a 2009 interview with Card Player says San Diego, and ESPN’s coverage of Robbins’s madman bluff of Stephen Gee has him living in Lake Tahoe. Ironically (from an Oregon connection standpoint), Jake Balsiger was the player who knocked him out. He’s a power player who finished 11th at the Main Event in 2009. A $6,142 cash in #36 ($3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha) is logged to Portland, the Main Event cash is logged to Lake Tahoe, California.

Robbins and Hobson are the only Oregon players who played more than one event with six-figure profits. 15 players entered 9 or more events. All but one of them (a player with 13 entries) cashed at least once. Only four other players from the group were profitable, however, by amounts of $497, $3,851, $26,294, and $26,552. The other players with nine or more entries who cashed (and the one who didn’t) ended the series with losses between around $1,500 and $38,500.

What’s It All Mean?

Beats me. Even with 19.5% of the players cashing, the average profit for Oregon players at the WSOP this year was a meagre $3,177. Most players who entered more than one event and cashed still lost money. Poker is a harsh mistress, maybe?

I’m headed to Pendleton for the Wildhorse Fall Poker Round-Up this weekend and next, after winning a seat to the Main Event there at the wonderful Portland Players Club. Let the cards fall where they may….

Poker Mutant goes to the 2012 Pendleton Poker Round-Up Main Event.

Locking It Down

Lock Poker $1,000 Guaranteed Deepstack NLHE (T5,000)

I haven’t been playing online except in spurts in recent months. Haven’t had great results overall, but I’ve been plugging away at a single buy-in level on Lock the past couple weeks. My last “big” win online was a couple years back at Full Tilt, when I came in second in a field of over 400 but today marked a relatively significant win. I apologize in advance for the length of this recap even without every hand; it’s a long way to the money.

Hand 1. 7c4h UTG
Blinds 10/20. Fold.

Hand 2. 7h2d BB
Raise and two callers ahead of me. I fold.

Hand 3. 9cth SB
A significant hand.  There are two limpers ahead of me and I call out of position. BB checks and four of us go to a flop of 7h7d8s. This is pretty decent for me. I bet 35 into a pot of 80 and get calls from UTG1 and CO. 6s onthe turn makes my straight and I bet another 100. UTG1 calls. The river is just 3d. There are several full house possibilities on the board (and the quad 7s possible). My opening bet is 20, a measly 5%of the pot, but that seems to make UTG1 go wild. He shoves all-in with just over a full starting stack. I call and he’s just got 9hks, a complete bluff on the third hand. The win puts me over 10,000 chips (but I’m still in something like third place; apparently there were idiots all around). UTG1 is down to 170.

Hand 4. 7h2d BTN
Twice in my first four hands? It’s OK, I’ve got twice the starting stack. One raise ahead of me and I fold.

Hand 5. 9cqh CO
A raise from UTG. I fold.

Hand 6. 8s3s UTG
New table. I fold.

Hand 7. 3cjc BB
UTG2 raises to 60, SB calls, and I’ve got chips, so I call. The flop is 5d5c7s, it’s checked to UTG2, he raises to 60, SB calls and I fold.

Hand 8. 3cks SB
Raise and a call, and I fold.

Hand 9. 7s2c BTN
Third time in nine hands. I fold.

Hand 10. 8c3h CO
OK. Seven-deuce three times and eight-three twice. In ten hands. Fold.

Hand 11. 3s6s HJ
Blinds to 15/30. Fold.

Hand 14. qhqc UTG1
Raise to 60 and three calls.  Flop of 5s7s8s, I bet 100, one caller drops out. Turn is tc, BB checks, I check, UTG3 bets 308, BB calls, and I fold my nice pair. Likely flush for someone other than me with ks on the river and I’m glad I’m out of it.

Hand 15. ahad UTG
The tide of less-than-premium hands turns? I min-raise to ahad. Only the blinds call. 9h8skc flops, the blinds check, I make a pot-sized bet of 180 and get a call from BB. Turn is 9h, we both check. River makes me a full house with 9c. BB bets 540 and I figure that unless he’s got the 9s or a pair of kings I’m good and I’ve still got a regular starting stack if I’m wrong. I shove and he folds.

Hand 16. 2dac BB
CO limps, SB raises after losing a big pot to me, and I fold.

Hand 17. 3s2h SB
HJ limps again. BTN raises again. I fold, despite my penchant for the deuce-trey.

Hand 18. 8c7s BTN
HJ limps, CO raises (again). I fold.

Hand 19. 4c2d CO
Blinds to 25/50. Fold.

Hand 20. kc7d HJ
UTG3 raises (again). I fold.

Hand 23. qsas UTG1
I open to 125, three callers, blinds fold. Flop is qh3s3h. I’m first to act and bet 500 into a pot of 575. Everyone folds.

Hand 25. js3s SB
Two limps and I call out of position again. Flop’s 6h4h4d. I check, BB bets, and I’m finished with this one.

Hand 26. 8hks BTN
Blinds to 30/60. Fold.

Hand 27. qhkc CO
Only seven players on the table at the moment. UTG1 raises to 210. I call and we’re HU to the 7c3djc flop. He bets 255, which I call. 8d for the turn. He puts out another 1,020 and I fold.

Hand 31. acqc UTG1
Back to nine players. I open to 200 and get called by UTG3 and CO.  7dks3c on the flop and a c-bet of 400 takes it down.

Hand 34. ac6c BTN
UTG2 limps in and gets raised byHJ to 200. I call and both BB and UTG2 are in. I get top two on the 4has6s flop. Action’s checked to me and with nearly 900 in the pot and a flush draw out there, I bet 600. BB folds, UTG2 raises me to 1,954, and HJ is out. UTG2 is about even in chips with me, although I have him covered by a bit. Everyone else is about half my size. I raise him all-in and he folds. The win puts me over 13,300, with about 6,000 between me and anyone else at the table.

Hand 46. ah4h UTG2
Blinds are 40/80. UTG1 opens to 180 and I call, with both the blinds following along. 7cqs2d on the flop and I fold to a pot-sized bet of 720 from UTG1. Heck, I would have gone away from that flop for 80.

Hand 54. kc8c HJ
Blinds are 50/100. I call a raise to 225 from UTG1. BB comes along. Catch middle pair on 8hqc5d flop. UTG1 overbets the pot with 1,000, I raise him to 2,000 out of cussedness. BB folds and he shoves for over 60% of my stack. So much for cussedness. I fold. Down to 10,700.

Hand 59. 6hkc BB
UTG2, HJ and CO limp in. I check. I get a gut-shot with 5d4s7c and donk-bet 250.  UTG2 raises to 725 which is called by CO. I call. The turn is a qd. I check, UTG2 checks, CO bets 500 into a pot of over 2,600 and we both call him. 7h on the river goes nowhere for me. It’s checked around to CO again, he bets 900 and I get out of the way with my nothing-burger. UTG2 calls with 8d8s but CO had a flush draw and made a set on the river with 6d7d. I’m down to under 9,400.

Hand 60. 7s2c SB
Again. Fold. By this time, changes to the table have brought in a couple players with bigger stacks. BB on this hand has over 14,000 and there’s a stack of more than 18,500 on the other side. Even HJ had more than me, so I’m just table median.

Hand 63. tctd HJ
Blinds 75/150/15. Open-raise to 500. Blinds fold.

Hand 66. 8d8c UTG1
Open to 400. Called by HJ. Raised to 1,960 by CO. Blinds are out. HJ has only another 1,400, but an all-in loss to HJ would cut me below starting stack. I just call, rather than re-raising, which leaves me with 7,600. HJ is all-in for less. The flop isn’t good: thks9s. I check-fold to the expected shove from CO, who has khas. HJ has some potential life with 3s4s, but no more spades come (and no eights). Now I’m actually the third-smallest stack at the table of eight.

Hand 85. tcqs UTG
Blinds are 125/250/25. I’ve blinded off 1,500 chips waiting for a playable hand. I limp in with The Butcher and to my surprise, find myself HU with BB. Flop’s 8cqdks, 850 in the pot, BB bets 425 with 4,800 behind and I raise him all-in. He folds. Back up to 7,100.

Hand 88. jcth BTN
UTG1 open-raises to 675. I call and we’re HU. The flop makes me open-ended with 4dqskd but we’re both playing it cautious and check. 3c on turn. Checks again. 3s river does nothing for me (or him, apparently), we both check, he shows 8s8d and wins. Down to 6,000.

Hand 91. thjd UTG3
Action folds to me and I raise to 600 (10% of my chips). Jack-ten can’t always lose, right? I get one call, the flop is ugly for me: 2dkh7h but I take a stab at it anyway with a bet of 1,000 and HJ folds. It’s just that easy. Back over 7,000 for a little while.

Hand 95qsjh BB
UTG raises to 600, action folds to me, and I call. 6cqh2d on the flop, I check it, UTG c-bets 675, I raise to 2,000 (4,400 behind, he’s got me covered by 600), he calls. Turn is 6d and I shove. He folds, and I’m nearly back up to 10,000.

Hand 96. 7c2c SB
At least it’s suited. Maybe it’s some sort of divine retribution for winning that hand. I’m going to check the deviation from norm of this when I get done.

Hand 99. td9d HJ
Blinds are 150/300/30. UTG opens to 600 and I call, along with BB. BB’s big stack at the table with about twice the 9K the other two of us have. ks4sjd on the flop and everyone checks. 5h on the turn and everyone checks. qs on the river. It’s checked to me, I bet 1,000 with my bottom-end straight and take the pot. Finally over 11,000 again.

Hand 103. 8c7c BB
HJ (big stack) opens to 600, BTN, SB, and I call. Flop is th8s2c. Both us blinds check, HJ bets 1,760, and I decide to fold after everyone else is out, too. Still over 10,600.

Hand 111. as6s UTG
I open to 700 and get a call from BTN. BB re-raises to 1,945 with 6,300 behind. I call and have 8,300 left. BTN goes all-in for 2,566, which gets called by BB and myself. 8,100 in the pot pre-flop. The flop is 5s6h2d. BB goes all-in. I call, thinking he might be trying to shove me off with ace-king. BTN has ah2h, BB has me over a barrel with qcqs. The turn is no help with jc, but the classic ac on the river gives me top two pair and more than 21,000 chips, second at the table.

Hand 116. kdkc UTG1
Blinds 200/400/40. New table. I do the classic limp, wait for BTN to go all-in for 6,840, watch the blinds fold, then call. He catches a pair for his thac on the turn, but ks on the river makes my set and I’m at nearly 29,000.

Hand 117. qdac UTG
Min-raise to 800. A call from the only other stack with more than 20,000 at the table in SB. 6c2sks flop, he checks, I c-bet 1,000, he folds.

Hand 118. 2s2c BB
I’ve been discarding my small pairs as a matter of habit, and even though there was just a limp, min-raise, and call ahead of me in BB, I tossed these only to see a flop off 2dtc6h. Never know when there might be a better set out there with deuces, though.

Hand 119. 8h8s SB
Eights, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. UTG moved all-in for just 3,800 which, though small, was 20% of anyone else at the table’s stack. Action folded around to me and I called. BB folded and I was HU  against 3dqd. The board ran out ah2sac3c5h, proving that it wasn’t just me getting lucky that day. I was still over 26,000.

Hand 127. 9d9s BB
Another middle pair fared poorly against the same player not long afterward. He was UTG1 and raised to 865. I called and was HU. We flopped tsqs5h, I checked, he bet 915, and I called. td on the turn and I bet 2,000. He had 5,800 remaining and shoved it in. I called, he flipped kckh and the river 8s (and my own stupidity) dropped me down to just over 18,000.

Hand 135. 8ctc UTG
Blinds 250/500/50. I raised to 1,000 and everyone folded.

Hand 136. 9skd BB
Everyone folds to SB, who limps in. I check, the flop falls 7cqdtc. He bets 725 and I call with my gut-shot draw. ac for the turn. He bets 1,500 and I fold, preserving my stack of 17,600.

Hand 138. qdqh BTN
Big hand. HJ opens for 1,325, with 10,600 behind. I raise all-in for 17,262, more than either of the blinds behind me. HJ calls with as9s and doesn’t catch anything on the board: js7djc6h7s. The knockout puts me over 30,000.

Hand 141. 5s5h UTG1
Seven-handed. The fives are still out of my preferred range, but I’m more than 10,000 chips ahead of anyone at the table. I raise to 1,000, get re-raised to 2,695 by CO (12,000 behind), then think better of it and fold when action gets back to me.

Hand 143. jcts UTG
Eight-handed. I raise to 1,250. UTG1 shoves for 9,205. Without any more money in the pot, I fold.

Hand 144. ahjd BB
HJ opens for 1,000 with 17,400 back. I just call. The flop is 3stc3c and we both check. I check the jc turn, so does he. 8d for the river. I bet 2,000, he calls, and I win against as8c. Caution, caution.

Hand 148. 9sqs HJ
I open for 1,250 and take the blinds.

Hand 149. kcad UTG3
Open for 1,500. Everyone folds again.

Hand 157. ts8s HJ
Blinds at 300/600/60. Seven-handed. I open to 1,500 and BB calls. The flop isn’t particularly good: just 5c6d6s. We both check. qs for the turn. BB checks, I check. The river is 8c. No flush for me, but it’s a little something. BB checks again, I bet 2,000, he calls and his thqh is the best. This player would eventually take second place in the tournament; he started this hand with less than 9,000 chips, so I can blame myself for that. No serious damage to me, still above 28,500.

Hand 159. tsad UTG
Open to 1,450. Apparently I’ve still got some cred, even without the table lead, because everyone folds.

Hand 160. 5s5c BB
The player I just lost to bumps it up to 1,560, so naturally I call him with my fives (about which I already had something to say). This time, the flop falls 4s2cas and we both check. 3c on the river and I check, he checks. I wait to see the river 6d to make sure there’s no ugly flush waiting for my straight, then bet 3,000 into the 3,800 pot and he folds.

Hand 162. khks BTN
A player with twice my stack of 32,000 chips has been moved to my immediate left, which is just great, but this hand does help even things up a bit. UTG raises to 1,333, then UTG1 shoves for 15,300. Action folds to me. Aside from the big stack in SB, BB has 22,000 and UTG has about the same, but unless they’ve got aces or catch a card, I should be good. I shove to force them out and they fold. UTG1 has ahkd, nothing shows up for him in the board, and I’m near 50,000.

Hand 173. jskd UTG1
Blinds were 400/800/75. I opened for 1,750, My nemesis in SB shoved 11,314 and I brazenly called, only to be dominated by kcqd. I was incredibly lucky when the board double-paired: 3h2c3s5c5d and we split the pot.

Hand 178. qh7h CO
Seven-handed, this was on the edge of my range. I raised to 1,700 and took the blinds.

Hand 180. ks7s UTG1
I was the second limper into the pot, and we both saw the flop along with BB. 4s4d5h, a bet of 1,000 from BB, and a call from UTG and I was finished with the hand.

Hand 181. acts UTG
Blinds 500/1,000/100. Raised to 2,000, BB called. Flop was 9ckd2d, we both checked. 7h turn. Checked through. 6d river, he smells my weakness and bets 5,200, I fold.

Hand 192. qhkh CO
UTG2 (the nemesis) is all-in for 11,600. Things have leveled out over the past 30 hands, and while I’ve gained 10,000 chips, the big stack on my left if BTN has lost 20,000. Still, I’ve got him covered by only about 750. SB has half my stack of 41,200, and BB has 36,700. I just call. Then BB shoves. I could fold and maintain nearly 30,000, but I call with just 3,500 behind. UTG2 has acas. BB has jsjc. The flop hits me hard: qc4cks. The ah turn starts to lock up at least some of the pot for UTG2, and a 3s river triples him up, wipes out BB, and earns me a profit of 14,400, putting me around 55,700.

Hand 200. 9sjs BTN
Blinds are 600/1,200/120. CO opens for 3,600 and I call. I get a beautiful 7s8h6s flop, CO bets 6,600 into a pot of about 10,000. I just call. The turn 8s gives me the flush as well as the up-and-down straight flush draw. CO is all-in. I have to call; even with only 19,400 behind. He’s drawing thin with qhqd hoping for a queen or another eight. 9c on the river and I’m at 89,000.

Hand 201. tsac CO
UTG1 is all-in for 9,900. I call and we’re HU. He has jsqh, catches a qs on the flop and wins.

Hand 202. kcas HJ
I open for 4,000 and take the blinds.

Hand 209. qctc CO
UTG min-raises to 3,200 (76K behind), HJ calls (54K), and I call (76K). Flop ts5h6s. UTG checks, HJ bets 3,200, I raise to 10,000. They both fold and I’m over 92,000.

Hand 210. astd HJ
I open to 4,000 and BB calls. I’ve got him out-chipped by about 17K. The flop is 8cjh2c, he checks to me, I check back. Turn is 9h. Checked again. 5c on the river, we both check, and his 4h4s take the pot of 10,000. This player would go on to win the tournament.

Hand 211. qdkd UTG2
UTG1 opens to 3,200, I call, then HJ shoves for 29,800. Action folds around to me and I call against kcqc. We’re chopping by the turn card.

Hand 217. ah9d CO
We’re eight-handed and I’m in late position, so I play a hand I might not normally go with and raise to 4,000. The short stack at the table in SB shoves for his remaining 15,500 and I’m the only caller. Up against adqd. I nearly get a straight with th6s7cjctd but I get cut down to 72,600.

Hand 222. thah BB
Blinds are 800/1,600/150 and we’re seven-handed. Action folds to the SB, who flat-calls. I raise him to 5,000, he three-bets to 10,000, and I shove right into his kskh. Not the smartest move in the world. I have him covered by about 25,000, but that’s not a lot at this level. The tables turn in my favor with a 8c6dac flop, the ts turn and 3s river don’t help him and I’m over 118,000.

Hand 223. qdac SB
Six-handed. HJ (eventual tournament winner) raises to 4,000. I call. We see 9h7h2h HU. I bet 5,000 and he calls. 7s turn. I check when I probably should have bet a chunk into the 21,200 pot, and he checks. 4c river. We both check again, he shows jhqc and I win. 130,000 chips.

Hand 229. jcth SB
Blinds 1,000/2,000/200. Five-handed. UTG limps in, I call, BB shoves for 31,400. UTG folds and I call with nearly 96,000 behind. He has acjh and we both hit top pair on the flop of 3hjs9c. Nothing saves me, and I lose the hand.

Hand 230. jdkd BTN
UTG raises to 5,000 with a slightly larger stack than mine. I shove. Everyone folds. Now I’m the big stack again.

Hand 231. jdqc CO
I open to 5,000. Everyone folds.

Hand 232. ackd UTG
Raise to 6,000. Both blinds call. The flop is 3hts6c and everyone checks. 4s for the turn, SB checks, BB bets 11,500, and I fold.

Hand 237. tcth HJ
Blinds 1,250/2,500/250. Back at a full table. Action folds to me, I shove and everyone folds, putting me back over 100,000, which isn’t so much any more.

Hand 246. ts7s HJ
We’ve lost a couple of players and I’ve blinded down to 98,000. I open-raise to 6,000. CO calls. The flop is 6d4s9d. I make a small c-bet of 2,500 and get a call. The ac on the turn slows both of us down. The river is 3s. We both check and were going for ten-high gut-shot straight draws; his tc8c has me out-kicked. Back down under 90,000.

Hand 255. khkd UTG
Blinds 1,500/3,000/300. Seven at the table. The hand that put me into the top five for the end of the tournament. I min-raise to 6,000. UTG1 calls. Everyone else folds. The flop is jdtd4s. I bet 12,000, UTG1 (who has me covered) raises to 24,000. I could be beat here, but…I shove for a total of 77,400. UTG1 calls with the flush draw: 6d8d, but the next two cards are both spades and I double up.

Hand 264. 8s8c SB
Five-handed. BTN raises to 9,000. I shove for just under what he has in his stack. Everyone folds.

Hand 266. jstd CO
I raise to 10,000. Everyone folds.

Hand 271. 7sts CO
Yes, this hand burned me just half-an-hour before, but I open to 7,500 and take the blinds.

Hand 276. ad8h CO
These regular CO raises are going to get some push-back one of these days. Raise to 9,000. Take the blinds.

Hand 280. 9sac BTN
Blinds 2,000/4,000/400. Down to four. Raise to 9,000, take the blinds.

Hand 281. jhjc UTG
Raise to 9,000. BTN calls. SB re-raises to 34,000 with 125,000 behind. BB folds. Smart move here would be to fold and preserve my 175,000 behind, which would still leave me in third and just a few thousand behind second, but I shove, BTN folds, and SB calls with qcqh. His win leaves me with just 24,000 and probably makes the tournament for him.

Hand 282. 7d2s BB
You’ve got to be kidding.

Hand 286. 9dth BB
Only 4bb left. BTN raises to 8,000, SB raises to 22,400, and I’m all-in for 15,938. BTN calls and they check it down. ah8h v jcqs, with SB pairing his queen on the river.

VPIP for this tournament: 22.30%. I had combinations of seven-deuce (suited and unsuited) eight times: 2.8% of my hands. Standard distribution is 0.6% so that’s more than four times as frequently as average. It was the hand I had more often than any other. Then again, I had kings three times, and that’s twice as often as average (plus, they all held up). Went to the flop more than 17% of the time and earned chips almost half the time I saw the flop. Went to showdown about half the time I saw the flop and earned chips more than half the time I showed down.

A look at the online stats for the top two finishers revealed some interesting comparisons. The second-place finisher has a truly remarkable ITM of nearly 52% over more than 270 games, while the winner has a still-respectable 23% (on 500 games). The winner is far more profitable, however, with an average profit of nearly +90% versus the runner-up’s +23% ROI. Even though the winner only makes it to the money half as often as the runner-up, it looks like he cashes for eight times as much on average: +395% on each cash versus +45%.

Four-and-a-half hours, 286 hands. 4th of 152 entries. +1,144% ROI (first paid +3,180%).