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Early steps 3: Sour ‘deal’ leads to a sweet path

Posted by Rakesh Sharma on 2012-11-19 at 12:00 AM

The turning point in my poker journey was the poorly-attended WPPT. I’d played a few tourneys, busted early only a couple of times, with fairly deep runs the other times. I still didn’t think much of myself as a tourney player, esp as it seemed that ITM finishes were out of reach. At one point, my excel sheet showed an over Rs 120,000 deficit in the tourney columns, depleting my balance in the cash tables columns (To this day, I maintain a session-by-session record for the cash tables, even though I play far more infrequently now). Those around me cautioned me about tourneys, and I began to heed the advice, basically deciding to confine myself to 5K events. WPPT was to change things somewhat dramatically, for reasons not entirely based in the realm of poker.

As part of promotions, Carnival held freerolls for all those playing the weekly 3K Tuesday tourneys; a win got me a seat to a satellite to the 100K main event. At the satellite, down to the last 2, with nearly equal stacks, I got suckered into doing a ‘deal’ (splitting 50K) – we shoved the next hand; the other guy won technically. Now – the other guy refused to pay me cash value; those who had ‘brokered’ the deal, a couple of players I’d known, kept assuring me they’ll work it out. Quite amazingly, the ‘winner’ left Goa for home, unwilling to stay on to play the main event! The ‘brokers’ kept up their steady reassurances though, citing their proximity to the organizers.

Next day, both the casino and the tournament management refused to part with the seat to anyone but the ‘winner’ who’d already left! Poor response led them to chop the 100K event to a 50K buy-in; they still refused to give me a seat even though clearly, the 100K satellite ‘winner’ seat should now have become two 50K seats! The ‘brokers’ now washed their hands off completely, one of them mysteriously inaccessible even on the phone!

Seething in anger, I took two decisions:
1. Never make an ambiguous ‘deal’ again, deal directly, with mutual clarity and avoid self-appointed deal-makers
2. Play satellite #2 as I had a second free seat to it, courtesy another freeroll win earlier.

It felt sweet to win the second satellite fair and square, that too outright! I had now freerolled my way into the WPPT main event!! But more importantly, my anger-induced poker was sharp, calm (no tilt) and methodical – no huge pots and coin-flips, no sudden double ups, but steady accumulation of chips with solid hands and controlled aggression (later I was to realize that much of my game that day had a term for it: 3-bet light). Quite a way to learn…

[B]WPPT main and the non-poker lessons[/B]:

Survived Day1b to get to the Final Table in 5th position. Finally busted after a 16-level grind at the money bubble (The “tourney director” had recused himself from an ITM finish; vying for the trophy alone). I’d played 4 days of solid poker (2 satellites, Day 1b and Day 2), holding my own against ‘pros’ in the satellites, countering some rather aggressive play in the main event with carefully timed moves and far better reads than I had thought myself capable of. I now felt ready to take on larger, better fields. It wasn’t as much about improved play as it was about getting to a better mindspace.

The big non-poker lesson was to do with fitness and long hours of concentration. During the prior months of cash table play, I rarely exceeded a self-imposed set of limits – quit after a triple up or after a 2 buy-in loss – and whether win, lose or be even – get up after 3 hours anyway. 4 days of nonstop long hours of poker took its toll on me. Add to it the fact that I’ve had a serious back problem and long sedentary hours had been prohibited by the battery of doctors consulted over 3 prior years. I found my back spasming, my concentration flagging and fatigue impairing my game.

I made one huge blunder while being short-stacked at the bubble position! It was, in fact, pointed out to me by the team reporting the event, one of whom had seen my hand preflop. On my BB, with one limper and SB, and with antes in the pot – I ‘forgot’ my cards or rather got confused. While I thought I had a low pair and a gutshot straight on the turn, I had actually made 2 pairs! I checked the turn, and the river and mucked my cards, thinking a higher pair announced and shown by the SB to be a better hand. Just winning that pot would’ve kept me in the hunt for money, esp as there was a shorter stack on the table!

Since then, I try to pace myself, avoiding long nights before any tourney series. I still face the problem from time to time, esp if I have deep runs in the usual 2 events before the main event in most tourney series – on the ME tables, I find waves of tiredness hitting me, occasionally dulling my observations/ reads and affecting my concentration. An option is to skip event 2 after an FT or ITM finish in event 1 to focus on the ME or the higher buy-in event.

And I never muck my cards unseen on the turn/ river, esp if I have a pair on the board, however small!

WPPT also made me an unlikely friend – allin Maurice – who wised up to some collusion play on the tables, alerted me to it and tried his best to ensure that I didn’t become an early victim to it!

And then – the next month, I won my first tourney! The final episode of the ‘Early Steps’ follows soon.

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Rakesh Sharma

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