Tales From The Felt: Walsall and Vienna
UK Poker News contributor, Stuart "Easy Pickings" Rutter, was 22 when he qualified for the Monte Carlo Millions in November 2005 and then made the Final Table at the Helsinki Main Event. In his last report, Stuart described how he won a cool £15,600 playing the £200 rebuy Hold'em tournament at the Midlands Medley in Walsall. After savouring the victory, it was back to work at the felt as the Medley continued and then a quick waltz to Vienna. Full house anyone?
The Midlands Medley at Walsall continued throughout the week with a flourish, and Wednesday saw the first 150-strong full house. The festival was leading up to the £1,500 Main Event at the weekend, and the familiar faces had already started to arrive. Paul "ActionJack" Jackson, Julian "Yoyo" Thew, Tony "Tikay" Kendall and Marc Goodwin were a few I spotted before taking my seat on table seventeen, which had been assembled just outside the overflowing card room. A full house would become the story of my day.
After the unexpected success in Tuesday's £200 rebuy event, I had a feeling of foreboding that things may begin to go a little awry. Holding T9 of clubs just a few hands in, and seeing a flop of ThTs9d, I didn't expect things to go wrong quite in the way they did. So, how did this flopped full house bring me crashing down? Quite simply. Before the river card had even arrived, I had passed my hand.
With one limper and the small blind in as well as my big blind, I checked the flop to let the others catch up a little. Checked all the way round, a jack of diamonds fell next. This looked another wonderful card, as it made straights and straight draws possible. I still had thoughts only for how to get as many chips as possible into the middle, entertaining no thoughts that I might be beaten. However, what would happen next changed the whole complexion of things. With a very deep starting stack of 7,000 and just 150 in the pot, the action went as follows:
I bet the pot, and the limper made it 300 more. The situation still looked great, and I made it 700 more to play. My opponent then immediately pushed all his chips into the pot, 6,700 more of them! My confidence about my hand transformed into massive doubt. Could my opponent really be putting all of his chips on the line with a hand that I had beat? I realised that this hand was going to be a toughie, and dived deep into the tank.
Early in the tournament, the play seemed too adventurous and too unlikely to be a bluff, so there seemed to be three possibilities. My opponent could well have made a straight. But would he be so confident that he was ahead as to put all of his chips in, and so quickly? Surely, a re-re-raise from me gives him some warning of a full house. However, if he does think it likely that I have trip tens, then it would be right for him to move everything in, to stop me from outdrawing his made hand. Similarly, he could hold trip tens himself, and be scared of me outdrawing to make a straight, or indeed a flush. Three or four minutes had ticked by, some people had even taken to watching the football on the TV screens, and these possibilities still seemed unlikely. In these deep-stacked tournaments, the action often starts conservatively, and I felt sure that a re-re-raise from me would signal a very serious hand.
Therefore, I was very willing to believe option number three; my opponent too had made a full house. If so, I would beat one of the two pocket pairs and lose to the other, but lose also to the hand that seemed most likely for a late limper, J10. After what must have been six or seven minutes of agonising, with people even getting bored of the football by now, I made my biggest ever fold. Unfortunately, Easy Pickings had struck again; it was also my most stupid ever fold.
One of the most important skills of the game is reading your opponent's perception of the hand. What does he think your betting has indicated, what is he thinking about what you are thinking? This I had horribly misjudged, as he let his holding be known. His KQ had made him the top straight, and his worry was stopping me outdrawing this hand with my perceived trips.
I realised my mistake; nobody knows a player's betting pattern nearly as well as that player himself. I knew that I would not back-raise a back-raiser with anything but the real goods, but it was foolish to assume that he could know exactly this. It can often be very sound to let go of a very strong hand, but some hands are so strong that the sheer unlikelihood of them being beaten makes it right to call.
However, there's nothing as valuable as a valuable lesson, and I felt determined to carry on unflustered. I sat tight for a while, often a good idea after a bad mistake, and the table developed aggressively, producing many large pots. I missed an expensive draw and was caught red-handed against a flopped two pair before the table was broken. I took just 2,500 of the starting 7,000 to my new table. Soon after, I picked up QQ, and a flop of J72 looked good against one sole caller, the big blind. My bet was called, and the rest of my chips went in on the 5 on the turn. Unfortunately, my opponent's J7 had flopped the top two pair, and the river offered no lifeline. I was left to watch the action unfold, proudly so as my brother Tom finished in the top 30 in his first big event.
The beginning of March saw a 230-strong field travel from all over Europe to Vienna. Formerly called the European World Series of Poker because its wonderfully slow structure mirrors that of the big one in Vegas, the event had changed its name to the Austrian Poker Championship. Within a few minutes of arriving, I had scared myself by noticing Mickey Wernick, Julian Thew, Dave Colclough, and a strong Scandinavian contingent. Mats Iremark was especially recognisable; his face covered the poker magazines in the casino after his EPT victory in Deauville the previous month.
In an event scheduled to last four days, a starting stack of 10,000 and blinds levels the length of a football match made it nigh impossible to suffer too much damage early on. I tried to get involved, and my first big decision came facing a massive re-raise with pocket kings on a turn of 6c 5h 2s 10c. Something in my opponent's demeanour told me to fold, and I was happy to see him show a set of fives. My lovely run of good luck and good cards had seemed to come to a sudden end as I again ran into trips on the next significant hand. A flop of K92 was a good one for my AK, my opponent flat called as the board paired the 9 on the turn, and I didn't manage to pass when he value bet his suited 89 on the end.
Down to 6,000, I enjoyed a flurry, and felt happy to be starting afresh with the average stack of about 12,000. At my table, one player had shown a real willingness to fold a hand when put under pressure. I feel that in the big tournaments where the action is aggressive but tight, this is exactly the type of player to attack. In doing so, I didn't mean to create a comical moment. With position on this player, I re-raised his bet of 600 to 1,600, regardless of my offsuit T2 holding. When he just called, I felt fairly confident about putting him on one of four hands- JJ, QQ, AQ or AK. With any more, he would have raised, and with any less may well have let it go. I actually caught a little piece of the A32 flop, but more importantly, the ace on the board I hoped would convince my opponent to fold. When he called my bet of 1,500, however, I felt the game was up. The two that fell on the turn changed things again completely. Now, it would be very difficult for even the tightest of opponents to fold against my flukey trips if he had indeed paired the ace. Knowing this, I fired out 3,000, and was called.
Like a thief chancing one heist too many, maybe I had it coming. The dealer cruelly dealt a second ace on the end, making a board of A322A. My low full house was almost definitely useless, but I felt I couldn't pass to my opponent's wisely small bet of 2,500. He indeed showed ace king, and sympathy for my plight. Turning to his friend, he said about me "He is unlucky, he probably had pocket kings." "No, actually a full house as well," I said. Confused for a minute, he said to his mate "What, he re-raised me with pocket threes!"
I had been crippled, but managed to scrape back up to 8,000 by the end of the third level. Though we had lost very few players, the event had been running for four and a half hours, and I could already appreciate the exhaustion that players must experience during the five full days of the World Series.
Shortly after the dinner break, I was moved for the first time, and found myself next to a very aggressive American player. A few times before I entered the fray, he hit back at a check raise with a further raise, often putting opponents off their hands. After he raised in a late position, I decided that my QQ was enough to trap him with. After a check raise on the flop of 6c6s2c, I got exactly what I was hoping for as he put me all in. His AhKc gave him a decent number of outs, but the elimination was cruel. Down came the 8 of clubs, followed by the jack of clubs to give my opponent the king flush. I had even made a queen high flush myself, and felt dejected for a while.
However, I had learnt that luck will turn against you as quickly as it will turn for you, and soon was happy to watch the action on tables still stretching the length of the casino. At the end of a wonderfully organised event, there was a home country winner in the form of Siegfried Stockinger, beating Canada's Jonathan Plens in the heads up battle. Here's hoping that luck swings back in the other direction in Stockholm at the start of April.
Ed note: Stuart Rutter plays at 32Red Poker where an instant $10 bonus is available when you join.