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Mate vs Mate, State vs State

Someone asked me the other day which tournament I get most excited about. To be honest, once you’ve worked or played at enough events, they all become pretty similar. That may sound a little unappreciative, but the fact of the matter is that most casinos in the world look the same on the inside.

However I was able to come up with an answer to the question posed at me.  The event I actually get most excited about is the State of Origin event at the Vic Champs. This may sound like a strange choice, but this is a unique event which I am very passionate about. I’m proud to be representing my state, I’m honoured to get the opportunity to play against the best in the country, and I love the friendly rivalries that have formed in the event’s short history.

After numerous emails with team captain George Mamacas, we were both somewhat concerned about getting together a strong team. Finding eight solid Tasmanian poker players is a harder task than it may sound. Fortunately I came in contact with a couple of guys online and George knew a couple of other locals, and we were very content with the team we were able to put on the park. We played a home game together as a little training session and I knew we were in good shape after a hand that went down within the first 10 minutes. I opened from UTG, there was a 3-bet, then a 4-bet. I folded my A9, the 3-bettor folded (what he said was weaker than A9) and the 4-bettor showed QJo. Nice!

I was very happy with my table draw as there were plenty of sharks to avoid in this field. I drew Tino Lechich and Eric Assadourian and was happy that they were both two to my right. I’ve seen Tino play a lot and expected him to be very aggressive, while I always seem to draw Eric in any major tournament I play, and while he talks big, he plays very snug. Two to my left was James Honeybone who I knew as being a solid player, but I’d only played with him once online. From the early going he appeared to be happy to sit tight which was good. It quickly emerged that the two players to watch out for were Stevan Lackovic from WA on my direct left and Dominic Olm-Milligan from QLD who was three to my left. These two guys were young and aggressive and I quickly thought they were the threats on the table. The value was definitely NT/ACT and SA. The SA guy was on my direct right, and quickly proved to the room why SA are A) the worst players and B) the worst blokes of any team in the event.

In the first level I picked up pocket aces under the gun and made a standard raise 3x raise. Both NT/ACT and SA called. The flop was JT5 rainbow and I fired a c-bet. NT/ACT called in position before SA put in a decent check-raise. At this stage I didn’t know much about SA but check-raising over two players felt very strong. I was worried about JT or a set as there weren’t too many other draws other than KQ that would c/r, and I had two of the aces that KQ would need. I could reraise here, and in hindsight if I realised he was such value or we’d started with shorter stacks I would have, but since we had 20k start banks and we were on the first level, I didn’t particularly want to stack off here, so I flat-called. NT/ACT called behind. The turn was another brick, like a deuce, and SA fired out a bet of 1,500. Not a huge bet, but it felt strong into two opponents when out of position. I wasn’t about to fold yet, so I called and again NT/ACT called behind. The river was a 9 and if SA would’ve fired a standard bet of 3-4k or so here then I would’ve folded my aces, but SA fired a weak 1,000-chip bet. I’m not folding for 1k so I call, and NT/ACT raised his eyebrows and gave up his hand. SA genius tabled J-9 for rivered two pair and started celebrating with his idiot SA buddies like he’d just discovered the cure for cancer. WP sir.

A few minutes later I tangled with Stevan Lackovic in a blind battle. I limped with A2 and he raised in the big blind. Usually I avoid calling OOP in marginal spots like this, but it was early and we were deep, so I called and flopped big on the A26 flop. I checked, planning to check-raise but he checked behind. I didn’t know what to make of that, but sensed it was strong rather than weak. The turn was a ten and I again planned to check-raise but he fired a big pot-sized bet. I decided against letting the pot get out of control and just called, figuring I’m either way in front or way behind. The river was a brick and I check-called his half pot bet. He showed AT and raked in the pot. Again if I was shorter I would’ve probably lost my stack, but since we were deep I was able to lose minimum. I probably didn’t play any street of this particularly well, but I guess I should give myself some credit for making a good read.

Soon after we tangled in another blind battle where I raised K4o and then checked a 679 flop. A king fell on the turn and I fired turn and river for value and he called and turned over KQ. Sigh.

It just seemed like nothing was going right. I was down to about 12,000 and needed to pull something to recover some chips, when a really interesting hand went down. I believe the blinds were 100/200 when James Honeybone raised in early position to 600. Eric Assadourian called on the button and I had 5c4c which is a nice hand to call in a multi-way pot in the big blind. The flop was 923 rainbow which again looked like an innocent flop. I checked, Honeybone fired 1,500 and Assadourian called. I had an open-ender and plenty of options as to how to play this hand. I put Eric on a middle pair like sevens or eights, while Honeybone could’ve had a similar hand or maybe he was c-betting with overcards on a dry flop. The flop was so dry without any real draws, so I felt like I could take down this pot with a raise as I’m really only representing a set since my image is tight, and if called I’ve always got eight clean outs unless they have aces. So I decided to raise. With about 11k or so behind, I could raise a standard amount to 5-6k, but since that committed over half my stack and since there was already around 5k of valuable chips in the pot, I decided that a shove was my best play to take it down there and then. James cringed, tanked and folded what he later said was pocket sevens, and then Eric went into the tank. This really had me worried. If Eric is tanking then he must have a real hand. Suddenly the sevens I put him on started to feel more like tens or jacks. I really felt like he was going to call, but after a good few minutes he folded and I scooped a nice pot with my draw. Eric then started talking about how he was laying a trap for James, and later told me that he’d folded pocket kings. I couldn’t believe that I’d forced him to fold kings. In his spot I don’t mind the flat on the button, but since he under-represented his hand so much, he probably has to make a crying call here. I dunno, it’s a tough spot he put himself in.

Unfortunately that hand was about my highlight of the evening. I couldn’t find too many good spots, and after a few raise/c-bet/folds I was back down to 10,000. I doubled up with KQs versus Tino’s pocket sixes, but after that the blinds snuck up and I found myself back down to 10BB’s. I stole the blinds once, but when I tried again with 98ss I was called by Stevan’s AK and it was all over. I was out in 5th on my table.

The other boys also didn’t have much luck, and although only one guy failed to score points for his 7th place, most of the others finished either 5th or 6th for minimum points. Andrew Scott was going pretty well before busting out in 4th, so our lone hope was captain George who played really well to win his heat and book us a spot in the final. By that stage the Kiwis had dominated the events to win three of their heats to have a virtual lock on the trophy and team prize. George battled valiantly in the final to finish 4th, as the Kiwis teamed up to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Once again this was a great event to be a part of, and while I landed another sick pot against Eric for the 2nd year in a row, I was disappointed not to finish stronger and cash. All the boys are looking forward to next year where we will definitely be more than competitive once again.

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