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Chipped up in Main Event

I rocked up for Day 1b of the Main Event and found myself on the feature table, but disturbingly it felt like the final table as I looked around and saw some familiar faces.  As I sat in seat 5, I found Crown Player of the Year leader Peter Artistidou (Seat 1) and Jie Gao (Seat 3) who had both also final tabled the ANZPT Melbourne event that I finished 2nd in.  It didn’t get much better as I looked to my left to find ANZPT Adelaide champ Karl Krautschneider (Seat eight) and high stakes local player Billy Seri (Seat 9).  Things got even worse a few minutes into the day as PokerStars Team Australia Pro Emad Tahtouh claimed Seat 2.  Shiiiiiiiiiit.  “Wow, the chip leader is so coming from this table!” laughed Emad as he sat down and I buckled up.

I really didn’t want to tangle with Peter, Billy or Emad too much as I knew they would make my life hell.  Billy especially, I find very angry-aggressive and difficult to play against.  Karl isn’t too dangerous, and I felt Jie would spew chips to me and I could trap him if he gets overly aggressive.  The others were weak-tight and I since they were next to me in seats 4, 6 and 7 I wanted to try and be in as many pots as possible with those guys.

Not too much eventuated early and I was pretty quiet.  I then picked up pocket jacks, raised, and took it down with a c-bet on a king-high flop.  Very next hand I pick up pocket jacks again and raise from early position to 300.  I get three callers and action moved to Jie in the big blind.  He popped it to 1,300.  I felt like I had the best hand, and was happy to isolate the loose Jie in position, so I four-bet to 3,800.  The table folded back to Jie who tank-folded.  I three-bet Jie again a few minutes later with AQo but then I check-folded a dangerous looking flop and he took some chips back.

Peter busted when his two pair fell to Billy’s straight and flush draw, so that brought a little relief.  I remained tight and then my first big hand came in the 100/200 level.  Billy limped UTG, and Emad raised to 825.  I found Ad Kd and raised to 2,200.  I’m never raising Emad without a real hand there, and he probably should know that. The table folded back to Emad who made the call.  Straight away I felt like he was thinking of pulling something on me as we saw a Ac 2c 5d flop.  I immediately thought of our hand at the ANZPT Queensland (where he doubled me up with 52o vs my AK) and hoped that he didn’t have the same hand!  He checked and I bet 3,000.  He quickly called.  I was a little concerned and when the Qh fell, he checked and I decided to check behind.  I still think this was the correct play against someone like Emad for a number of reasons.  He is capable of check-raising me with virtually any two cards there, and I don’t really want to blow the pot out of proportion with just one pair.  He could have a better hand like AQ, but by checking I control the size of the pot.  Really the only river I fear is a club to complete the flush draw or perhaps a 3 or 4 to fill a funky straight, and by checking I’ve under-rep’d my hand enough to enduce a bluff from a bully like Emad almost 100% of the time, since he thinks I’m tight.  I was prepared to call most rivers, but I was a little sick to see the 8c peel off and Emad fired a solid 7,400 into the middle.  It was almost half my stack and I gave the decision plenty of thought.  The only hands he bets on that river are the flush or air, and his bet just seemed too big to make sense.  AQ might put in a small blocking bet, and a flush probably bets less looking for value.  Either way, I don’t see how I can ever fold against Emad as I’ve seen him float flops and fire rivers hundreds and hundreds of times.  I called and he turned over T8o for the airball.  I raked in the chips and moved up over 30k.  “How can you call with ace-king?” asked Emad.  “How can I fold?” I replied, “I’ve seen you do that so many times!”  Emad chuckled and said, “Yeh I guess I shouldn’t bluff someone who has seen me play every hand!”

Soon after and I picked up pocket sevens and put in a raise to 600 at 100/200.  Billy then popped me to 2,100 on the button.  I went set-mining and spiked it on the T72 flop.  I checked, he bet 6,500, I raised to 14,000, he shoved and I called.  He turned over pocket queens and I doubled through to be close to 70k within the first three levels!

Next level, Billy had doubled up Karl and the very next hand I looked down at pocket nines on his big blind.  I had no intention of really trying to steal or clash with Billy unless I had something as I expected him to put up a fight everytime.  Since he just lost a big pot, I expected him to come back over the top with any two cards when I raised to 1,200.  Sure enough, he shoved for around 9,000 and I called.  I was surprised to see he was as strong as AQo, but the board bricked out and Billy was gone as I got close to 80k.  Emad busted a little later when he tried another bluff against a guy who called him down with pocket sevens, and suddenly the three dangerous players were gone and I had a stack!

Jim Mastorkas took Emad’s seat and it didn’t take long for him to get active.  Jim raised to 1,200 and Jie called on the button.  It was the perfect spot for a squeeze.  I’d recently written an article for PokerNews magazine about situations just like this can be perfect for nits, as I looked down at pocket kings.  To everyone, my raise to 4,200 looks like a squeeze, but with kings I was deceptively super-strong.  I was hoping Jim or Jie might re-pop me, but sadly both called.  Even more sad was the A-Q-T flop. Against two opponents I decided to give up, expecting at least one of them to have an ace.  The flop checked around and an 8 hit the turn.  I checked, Jim checked and Jie fired 8,000, leaving himself 13,000 behind.  I considered that I was ahead but still folded, before Jim did some Hollywooding before raising to put Jie all in.  Jie thought for a few minutes but folded.  Jim obviously had a hand, my guess is AQ as he claimed to not have a set.

I was a little annoyed at losing with pocket kings, as the next hand was underway.  Karsten Kobbing opened to 1,200 and Jim called.  Incredibly I looked down at my cards in the small blind and found pocket aces!  Perfect!  I raise, a little bigger this time, to 4,600, and once again it looks like a squeeze and in fact it looks like a tilt squeeze.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  Karsten folded (what he later said was QJs) and Jim fluffed around before making the call.  The flop was K-Q-8.  Not great but I’m only in trouble against KQ or 88 (maybe QQ), so I fired out 6,600.  He again danced around with his chips before making the call.  He seemed a little unsure, but I didn’t think he’d call with less than a king.  Maybe ace-king or king-queen.  The turn was a sick card as a repeat king hit.  I was sick.  I checked and he instantly checked behind.  Strange.  Strange, but I’m still unhappy with the situation as I feel like I now have to be beat.  The turn was another fucking queen, and I’m like WTF?  So sick, so I check and again he instantly checks behind.  Hmmm, he checked? Well, I guess I’m good as I show my rockets.  Jim then reveals Ad Qd.  After Karsten had folded a queen, Jim had just hit a one-outer to crack my fkn aces.  Fuck me.  Even being checked down, the pot was over 20k, and if the turn isn’t a king I probably bet again and take it down.  Unbelieveable.

A couple of hands later and Jie opened to 800 at 150/300/25 and I pop him to 2,500 with Ad Kd.  He made the call and the flop was Q-T-8.  Again not a great flop, and Jie only had 11k behind.  He checked and I decided to take a free turn card.  An ace hit and Jie comes out swinging for 5k.  He’s such a lagtard and I’m probably often beat here by a two pair type hand, but I decided he was too much of spaz for me to fold, so I put him all in and he insta-called with KsJs for the nuts.  Another dominated hand that gets there on a sick board.  Running good.

So at that point suddenly I was back down to about 45k and the walls were closing in.  I found kings again and had to fold on another ace-high flop before I find pocket jacks for the fifth time for the day.  Jie had limped and I made it 1,250.  Two callers and Jie also called to see a Th 9h 3s flop.  It checked to me and I fired 3,500.  One fold before and ex-Crown dealer named Jimmy check-raised to 10,000.  Jie reluctanly folded and I was in another tough spot.  I didn’t beat much but a big draw and even then I’m not far in front.  I gave it up and he later told me he had a set of nines.

Getting hit by the deck and playing well, the missing ingredient was a little luck.  From there I sat tight for a long time, probably the best part of the next two levels.  It wasn’t until the last level at 400/800/75 that I found a playable spot.  Karsten limped and Jie called, and I decided to punish them with a raise to 3,500 with ATo in position.  Karsten folded and Jie made the call.  The flop was Ac 7c 6d and he checked to me.  Perhaps the right play here would be to check behind for a little pot control with a weak ace and let him get overly aggressive at me, but there were also a few draws to worry about to I decided to bet 5,500.  He immediately grabbed his two stacks and slid them into the middle.  I had 28k behind and he had me covered.  I was pretty sick and took a long time to come to a decision.  I asked him a few questions to try and get a reaction but didn’t get much.  The clock was then called.   Now that I look back at it, it’s probably an easier call than I made it.  But it’s hard in the heat of the battle.  A set didn’t make much sense, but was possible, as was two pair, but I think he would take more time and raise me to something like 13-14k to get some value considering our stack sizes.  Why shove for so much?  He never has a better ace after he called preflop twice, so the only hand that made sense was a flush draw that was trying to take the big pot.  Since it was a repechage that was even more likely, and with 20mins to go in the day, it made sense.  That fact also meant that it made sense for me to make the big call and try to get a stack, ore repechage, rather than be left with just 28k.  I called and indeed he turned over Qc 8c for a bare flush draw.  The turn and river bricked and boom I was back over 70k where I belonged!  Justice restored.

I bagged up 77.7k in chips to put me in the top 10 for the day, and roughly the top 10% of the field – exactly where I wanted to be after day one.  It was an interesting day, that started with the table from hell, flew skywards with some big hands, hit rocky ground with some cruel luck, and finally climbed again with a big hero call.

For those keeping score at home, here’s how the deck hit me today:
AA – 1 – lost
KK – 2 – lost both
QQ – 0
JJ – 5
TT – 1
99 – 1 – won nice race
88 – 1
77 – 1 – hit set, doubled up
66 – 1
55 – 1
44 – 1
33 – 1
22 – 0 – thankfully
AK – 6 – lost 3
AQ – 2

My Day 2 draw looks good with only Ricky Kroesen and Karsten Kobbing as the names I recognize.  Big day of poker tomorrow!

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