I register for the Epic Poker Mix-Max Event a day early to avoid the nuance of being seated at the same table as the geniuses who show up late. Unfortunately, everyone has the same idea. After presenting Doyle with the first ever lifetime membership award, I make my way to table three and sit down in the two seat. We begin six handed with house hold favorites such as Sam Stein, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Shawn Buchanan, Nam Le and young gun Pro AM qualifier Tony Gargano.
I splash around the first level and chip up from 50,000 to 55,000. Play is tough. Nobody gets a walk and three bets are as frequent as raises. On the break, I decompress with a game of air hockey and ping pong with Sorel Mizzi. He beats me for $40.
Level two begins and the two vacant seats are filled. Michael Mizrachi is seated two to my right. He raises nearly every hand and bulldozes his way to 70,000. With the blinds at 150/300 and a 25 ante, I finally get a chance to open in the cutoff with 6c 8c. Tony defends in the big blind. I flop gin: 4d 5c 7s. Tony bets out 1,200, I raise to 4,000 and he calls. A 5h pairs the board on the turn. I try to conceal a cringe. Tony checks. I’m scared of a full house, but I bet 6,500. Tony calls. The river is a king. Tony thinks for a while before finally checking. I value bet 13,000 into a pot of 23,000. Tony methodically counts his chips. He slides them back and forth, tipping them over like a tower. After thirty seconds he stacks them. “He’s going to shove,” I thought. He pushed forward his messy stack of chips toward the center of the pot. All 28,600 of them. His shove was reluctant, almost apologetic. I’m disgusted. I almost call out of spite, getting 4:1. Before the tournament, I promised to breathe during each big decision and focus on patience and discipline. After pitying myself for my misfortune and lamenting at my idea of having a decision, I start thinking.
I replay the hand in my head. What hands does he check raise here? On the flop, he bet and called a raise. If he has a made hand, the overwhelming majority is two pair or a set (specifically, 45, 57, 44, 55, 77). Since the flop is rainbow, the only draws he has are combos: 56 and 76. He also could have flopped a straight and given how he acted, I feel there is a small chance he has 88 – JJ.
Once he calls 6,500 on the turn, it skews his holdings more toward strong hands and less toward pair + draw combos and over pairs. On the river, he looks down at his chips, a strong indicator that he wants to bet. He delays checking for twenty seconds and my read is that it is not because he is trying to induce a check but rather feign weakness.
Back to basics. Can he really be bluffing? It seems close to impossible. Still, it doesn’t make folding fun and something about only having to be right 20% makes me want to justify a call. However, losing 16,500 in chips represents over half of my remaining stack and would leave me crippled if I’m wrong. I mull for minutes. I conclude he never has a worse hand unless he’s bluffing and bluffing seems too risky given the price I’m getting and the possibility that I have a full house. Depressed, I fold.
Over the course of the next three levels, I play very few hands and bounce back and forth between 15,000 and 20,000. With the blinds at 400/800 with a 100 ante, Mizrachi opens the button to 2,200. I shove for 15,000 with Kd 8d. Without asking for a count, he calls and I know I’m in trouble. He turns over Ac Qs. The cards don’t fall my way and before long I’m vacating the premise.
During my walk of shame I ponder why I continue to play major live tournaments. Surely it’s not for the money. The variance is so ridiculous that it may take lifetimes to actualize your long term expectation. What is it then? The fame, notoriety, competition? During the glacial elevator ride to my car, it all seems silly. I know better than to focus on fame and if it’s just competition that I’m after, there are always cash games. In 2012, I aim to be more disciplined with those. Only time will tell if this is another post tournament rant or the beginning of change. ♠