Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Key to winning at Happy Days: stay out of hands

Played the midnight tournament at Happy Days Casino last night ($25 entry fee), won both match plays (+$40), some additional blackjack (+$5), placed fifth (+$52), ending up net +$72. One very loud guy at the table -- from his loud, social demeanor; his shiny silk tie; his short buzzcut hair; and his discussion of 2006 model year car deals, I think he was a car salesman -- really made me focus on my play, and the table image I was projecting.

Early in the game, I'm dealt AA in middle position. Starting stacks are 5000, and everyone's still close to that. UTG raises to 600, and I re-raise to 1500. The cutoff calls, the original raiser calls, and everyone else folds. The flop comes pretty raggy, so I'm sure my aces are good. UTG checks, I put in another 1500, the button thinks for a minute, and calls. UTG folds, and the turn is a Q. I push all in. The button folds, and I muck my cards.

The car salesman (in seat 8) says something to the effect of "Nicely played. I can tell you didn't have anything. Why didn't you show?" I'm in seat 3, and I glance around the table. "Nobody paid to see it," I say. He's not sure what to make of that comment.

Twice over the next 30 minutes, I'm in the pot with the best hand, and get outdrawn. (The guy to my left gets pocket kings four times over the course of the night, getting beat all four times, including once at the final table to go out in 8th place.) Each time was an all-in (against smaller stacks), so my quality cards are shown. Car salesman points out my quality hands to the table: "You're playing exactly right, but you're not winning the hands," he says. "Guess you can throw your well thought-out poker theories right out the window. What 'cha gonna do?"

"Deuce seven, all the way to the river," I answer. The table's amused.

About 20 minutes later, with 23 players left, I get moved to another table. One hand later, I'm moved back to my original table, but now in seat 6, one away from the car salesman. The blinds are moving up, and because of the table image I have set for myself, I'm able to steal car salesman's blinds twice with marginal hands. He'll call almost anyone else at the table, but not me.

I've got a relatively small stack, but I know the other looser players will quickly start knocking each other out now, so I muck pocket threes, KJo, and pocket sixes when faced with a raiser ahead of me. These hands might have won, but at this point, it's just about survival.

My stack is pathetically small -- 11000 -- but I make it to the final table, with blinds at 4000/8000. The ten of us make the "Happy Days Special" deal: 6th-10th get $25; 10% of the pool is a dealer tip. I'm at least going to get my buyin back. Lucky for me, I draw the button, which gives me one orbit to get a good hand. The best I get is Q9s, with five hands to go before the blind, and I fold it. Nothing else comes. With 8 players left, I post my 8000 blind.

Everyone folds, including the small blind. "Looks like I get to live to see another day." I say. Now with 15000, I post the small blind, and fold it in the face of an all-in when I get a garbage hand.

With 11000 left, I get another two bad hands, then the blinds go up to 5000/10000, and we color up. The 11000 becomes 15000, meaning I'll get to the small blind if I have to. No good hands come, but three more players drop out -- two of them in a monster three-way all-in fest. I'm in the positive money. In the big blind, I push all in pre-flop with KJo. It's folded to the small blind (a big stack), who calls me with T7o. A ten hits the flop, nothing helps me, IGHN.

If I'd played those low pocket pairs close to bubbleville, or if I'd have run with the Q9s, I don't think I'd have made it as far. It seems like folding anything less than a premium hand is the key to placing in the money at Happy Days.

The key to placing in the big money, on the other hand, is to call smaller stacks all-ins with losing hands (K9o against AT), then get lucky when a four-on-the-board flush hits you. This happened more times than I can count last night. Too risky for me to play that way.

(Also, I ran into a former scout from when I was scoutmaster -- Kaspar was in the tournament, too, and although he looked forward to knocking me out, we never made it to the same table.)

No comments: