Tales From The Felt - Stockholm
Once more, Stuart "Easy Pickings" Rutter, reports back from his journeys across Europe in the quest for poker stardom. Stuart might be only 22 years of age but that has so far not stopped him picking up some useful cheques from final table appearances since his qualification via 32Red Poker for the Monte Carlo Millions last November. Here, Stuart tells of his latest brush with success in deepest Sweden.
The start of April brought me to Stockholm, and the Nordic Masters of Poker. With a large contingent at the Luton Grosvenor festival, I was one of only two Englishmen, along with Poker Night Live's James Browning. Seeing the usual long procession of young, aggressive and successful Swedes in the Casino Cosmopol, I felt a little foolish for leaving home soils. Taking on the Swedes at poker is like taking on the Americans at baseball. The game really is a national pastime, especially amongst the young, and the level of the TV coverage is something England can aspire to.
The week would lead up to a €2,500, 3-day Main Event, and the big names arrived as the week progressed. Ken Lennaard, Martin Wendt, and young guns, Bengt Sonnert, Johhny Lodden and Peter Gunarrsson made for a formidable line-up. Monday's satellite came to a crushing end for me as I made trip jacks on a flop of J87, but found that I was the one needing to catch up against a made straight.
With no success in the smaller Hold'em event, the trip hinged on the outcome of the Main Event. One man who you don't want to see at the table in this scenario is American, Woody Deck. He ignored the traditional conservative start, and was not afraid to shove in a large part of the 25,000 starting stack from the off. Big over-bets of the pot, which could be just a big draw or a lock hand, put his opponents to real pressure decisions, and repeatedly hands were folded to him and big pots won.
Though the style seemed almost reckless, his laid-back attitude was a disguise to sound judgement, as he thought long about folding a pair of aces on a 985 flop, before turning trips and winning another mountain of chips. 25k became 50k, and soon 120k, to race Woody into the chip lead. What was most impressive in his play was his ability to set up situations in advance of the hand. As a short-stacked player moved in for 10k with AQ, Deck made an instant call. His 45 suited was a surprise to everyone, and despite being live, was behind the odds. In isolation it looked like madness, but the reason became apparent a few hands later.
A short stack moved all-in after a raise under the gun, and Woody Deck himself put all of his chips into the middle. With the next biggest stack of 60k being with Swede Jens Ogsater (recently 2nd placed finisher in Tallinn, Estonia), the message to everyone on the table was that they would be all-in if they wished to call. His pair of queens looked good to him after the previous 45 call, but I felt his call was a poor one, and he fell to Deck's pocket kings. The previous hand had worked as planned for Woody. This is the mark of a player who plays successfully with his level of aggression. Though their moves may seem crazy, they are actually in complete control of their play, leaving other players to lose their heads.
I found myself almost a spectator to this chaos, and had caught no cards myself, dripping down to 13k. The table had become a very difficult one for the shorter stacks to play, should they not hit the biggest hands. The slow blind structure, however, left room to play, and with a tight image, I raised in a late position with KJ of spades. A flop of AJ8 brought mixed news, and I would be playing out of position to Woody Deck. The hand would be too marginal to play if I gave up the aggression, so I bet out heavily, hoping to take the pot. Instant call. The turn brought a 10, a second diamond, giving me the extra gutshot straight out. I felt that Deck was unlikely to have much in the hand, but that a check would take the pot away from me, so bet out heavily. My heart sank as Deck dramatically shoved all of his chips in, and I had too little left to avoid calling. Luckily, I faced only a draw, and was ahead of his K9 diamonds. I had been read for weakness, but fortunately was not as weak as my opponent's hand.
I survived the dangerous last card, and was happy to be pulling in a starting stack again. Some mis-timed aggression against Martin Wendt produced a new dent in my stack, as I raised heavily on a flop of 875 with K6 in my hand. I avoided the temptation to move all-in on the turn of a Queen, and luckily so, as Wendt had flopped two pair. As I missed on the river, though, I was back to square one, and now the blinds were rising. With blinds of 300-600, and two of the looser players limping in early position, it looked a good opportunity for me to push from the small blind with A10. I judged that the hand would probably be folded round, and that, if called, I would only be behind to one hand - an Ace Jack. To feign strength, I bet only nearly all-in, raising 11k of my 13.5k stack. To my dismay, I was called, and missed the KQ3 flop. My opponent now put in the last few chips, and I could not avoid calling.
Against his 99, I had more outs than expected, and breathed again as I hit a jack for a gutshot on the turn. The hand brought some hilarity to the table, and more so for me as I read on a Swedish poker website in the evening about the Englishman Stuart Rutter who had called all-in to hit a gutshot!
As midnight passed, I was happy to be moved to a new table. With a running ante now in each pot, it was time to become more aggressive. However, my aggression was defended well. A pre-flop raise with a lot of limpers was re-raised by a Chinese Swede, and I had to pass my KQ. Soon after, he put all of his chips in after I raised in a late position, putting me to a real decision with AQ offsuit. I sensed weakness, called, and was happy to see that my opponent had been trying to steal. However, his K10 offsuit was not in bad shape, and I was ecstatic to see no card higher than an eight hit the table.
Two o'clock and the end of the day's play approached, and I must confess to hanging on a little towards the end in the hope of surviving to the final day. Twelve remained as the end came, and we would be joined on Saturday by the survivors of Friday's action. I had a healthy, but below average, 76k.
My first goal would be to survive to the final 18 players and the start of the prize money, but this would be made a stiffer task by the news that 16 survivors of Friday's play made up a total of 28 players. Even if conscious of these goalposts, it is always a mistake to let them affect your play, and early on I was annoyed with myself for a missed opportunity. In the big blind, my A4 of hearts flopped the nut draw with 1073 on the board. I checked the flop to the one limper, hoping for a check raise all in. However, the plan was foiled as he checked behind me. Another seven, unfortunately not the heart, looked good for a steal on the turn, and I bet out for 20k into the 31k pot. After a long dwell, my opponent called. The river missed my hand, bringing a queen of diamonds, and I pondered another move. With 71k in the pot, I would have to move my remaining 55k in to have a chance of taking the pot. I guessed my opponent had a low pocket pair, but the situation must have got the better of me, and I wimped out with a check. To my dismay, my opponent took the pot with 44, a hand he would have really struggled to find a call with on the river. I told myself to find some courage again, and played back at a Danish player too eager to steal the blinds with a re-raise all-in.
Soon, twenty-eight had become nineteen, and commotion on the next table meant that the end could be nigh. Indeed, an unfortunate local player had run into Aces with Kings, and we had hit the money.
Rising blinds meant that my 80k stack was under growing pressure, and with 21k dead money in each pot, it was a good-sized stack to move all-in before the flop. If well-timed, with an eager eye on the big blind picking up his cards, this is a move with good expectation. The chance of picking up 21k with no contest makes up mathematically for the fact that the odds will not be in your favour if caught red-handed. A hand like Q10 suited is in true bad shape against only the two biggest hands, and 78 suited only against the big pairs, so I made this my plan.
As Swedish player Loc Ly played the same trick from the button on my big blind, I looked down hoping to find an easy decision. My finding A10 gave me the toughest possible one. On one hand, I was aware he would make the move with a range of hands, possibly including all the lower aces; on the other, I lost all of what is called fold equity (the chance of winning the pot uncontested), if I called all-in myself. I eventually felt, with so much in the pot in blinds and antes, it was a gamble too good to refuse. I was pleased to see his 94 offsuit, disappointed to see a 4 on the flop, and dismayed at the 4 on the turn.
I was soon cheered at the chance to watch the rest of the action as part of the loudest and most passionate crowd I have ever seen watching a poker event. They were delighted to see local player Metin Antar take the first prize, beating Ferit Gabrielsson in a lengthy heads up contest.
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