Back From the Brink
Athletes and competitors of all stripes crave "The Zone," where everything seems to slow down, feints and moves are crystal clear and a player Can. Not. Miss.
I used to get in The Zone sometimes playing hoops at UCLA in the early morning hours while under the influence of Northern California's finest skunk buds. It's almost difficult to describe. It's instinct, I imagine, letting yourself be a slave to your adaptive unconscious and trusting muscle memory to take it from there. Don't analyze, just feel the flow. As a wise friend once said, "Don't think too much. It will fuck you up."
Last night, in the $6K Guaranteed MTT on Full Tilt (the world's fastest growing online poker room, doncha know), I was feeling The Zone. I doubled up in the first 20 minutes with Big Slick topping the Hiltons (I think I have a longer, hopefully more corroborative post on playing AKo in early parts of tourneys, especially in regard to reverse implied odds, but I'll leave that for another day). I then managed three huge laydowns to keep my stack together. Twice, I dumped my pocket jacks. Once to a raise and re-raise in front (pretty easy, actually). Once when a short stack limp-re-raised (okay, so that wasn't too hard, either). Both times, the villain had Kings. Must be a glitch in the RNG. Speaker gets Jacks, someone gets Kings. No need to mention when I doubled up again at the end of the first hour when I got Kings and someone got Queens.
Where was I? Oh, maybe my best laydown ever. I have JsTs on the button and limp into a family pot. The 8s7d4s flop gives me all the draws. A min. bet (50) from the BB is called once before it gets to me and I call as well. The turn is 2s and the BB throws out another min. bet. Other fella folds and I pop it to 350. BB pushes over the top. I think I go broke on this hand 97 times out of 100. But not last night. I mucked and he showed his Ks5s.
While I ritualistically kiss myself all over in awe of my excellence, I get the aforementioned Kings and go to the first Break with nearly 6K and a top 20 chip standing.
I get 66 the first hand back and I raise to get the blinds. That would be the last hand I would play for the next 40 minutes. I made up a fictional skit starring our friends who work at Full Tilt to explain.
"Hey, let's fuck with Speaker."
"Sure. To start."
"Got it. No Hammers though. He might play those."
"Give him an ace-little. Suited. See if he can resist."
"Ohhhh. Test passed."
"Okay, try this. When he gets done posting the blinds, move him to another table right into the big blind. Try to do it when the blinds go up, too."
(Much laughter in the Full Tilt office)
To their (fictional) credit, they did bestow aces after that long drought. And they did bestow aces when I had three short-stacked Push Monkeys at my table, so my 3x raise hardly fazed two of 'em who were itching to get their money in with KQo and A8o. Thanks, kids. I was up near 11K at that point and then it happened. You might wanna shield the women and children.
I limp on the button with a pair of twos. Six of us see a flop of KQ8 rainbow. It's checked around. I know somebody got a piece of that and don't make a position bet. I'm happy to see a free card. I check to see if any of the remaining twos complete the rainbow and one does. "Gimme the deuce of hearts," I implore my computer screen.
Ask and Ye shall receive.
See? In The Zone. I'm giddy with my disguised set and believe not only that I'm way ahead, but I'm gonna get some action. UTG leads out for 800, twice the minimum bet. UTG+1 bumps it to 2400. I pause for just a moment and conclude pocket 8s is the only semi-reasonable limping hand I could be behind here. They're betting the flop cards, since only one two remains. Two pair is possible, but a set is unlikely and I'm through seeing monsters under the bed. I push my remaining 10K into the middle. UTG is the only caller, with KQo.
The good news is I had him out-chipped by 2800. The bad news is he hit his River 4-outer to win boat over boat. I'd suggest this put me on Tilt, but that comes nowhere close to what I felt. I quite literally assumed the fetal position. I'm sorry, Poker Gods, was that rectal examination today? I totally forgot. The carnage showed that I fell from the top third of the field with 60 left (36 paid) to 58th. Absent the 4-outer, I'd have been second in chips.
You know what happens now. With less than 6x the BB, with a sub-atomic Harrington M Factor, I have to push with a marginal hand. Get called by a big stack who either a) dominates me or b) sucks out. So much for the The Zone.
Ah, but wait.
Two hands later, I push over the top of one limper with Jc9c. Folds back to him and he happily calls with his AQo. But the River Jack saves me and I'm back up to 5K. I get blinded down for a couple orbits, when I'm first to act on the button with Qh9h. Hey, it's better than average! I push at the blinds and the BB, a loose player who's also short, though not as much as me, calls with 87s. No improvement by either and I'm still kickin', baby.
From there, I manage to fold into the money, hanging on to about 6K when that time comes. A few orbits later, another shortish stack pushes at me from the SB. I happily call with KTo. He shows 42s and I double up again. Now I've got chips. Still only about 10x the BB, but no reason to get crazy. With about 8K left, I get AKo in the BB and raise out the SB, who merely completed. The very next hand, I again get AKo and re-raise the same guy's button raise all-in. He calls with AQo and I am REALLY kickin' now, baby, 10th in chips with 3 tables remaining.
Alas, that was the end of my card rush. I stole enough to keep treading water. Got 88 once, but no action. Down to 14 players and about 16K, I pushed over the top of a button raise (which was so transparently to protect a small pair, I can't tell you. The Zone) with Kournikova. Sadly, his 44 held up (and did I really hear Vince Van Patten refer to 44 as "mid-life crisis" last night? Holy Crap) and I was out.
Nonetheless, from a chip and a chair to 14th of 307 sent this boy to bed happily. It's starting to come back. And even the bankroll got fed.