Going Full Tilt
In the second hour of an MTT, I call a minimum raise on the button (blinds at 100/200) with ATo and three of us see a flop of Td8c4d. First to act leads out with a minimum bet of 200. Into a 1400 pot. Original raiser just calls.
What am I facing here? The minimum bet, at first glance, shows weakness. As does the call behind. With TPTK I have to raise to defend and advertise my made hand, which I do, to 1200. Original bettor calls and the other drops.
Turn is Qd, a scare card in several ways. Again, first to act leads out for 200.
Based on the way he played the flop, I can put him on diamonds and THIS TIME the small bet is an inducement for action. But I'm unsure enough about the made flush, that I can call the cheap bet that's only 5% of the pot at this point. So I do.
The river is a rag and he checks. I mull again the likelihood of him having the diamonds and am happy to check behind. He shows JTo and I drag the pot.
Welcome to Full Tilt Poker.
Now, his play confuses me for a number of reasons. First, he was the big stack at the table. If you flop top pair, don't you want to lead at it reasonably strongly to gauge your place in the hand? I certainly do. By not doing so, he has no idea where he stands (dominated) and has no information to continue later in the hand (though my big flop raise should have alerted him). Second, if you're gonna CALL a 1200 flop bet, why not make that bet yourself?
Of course, I hardly played it flawlessly myself, letting the turn shut me down. Not unreasonable, but I did let him see a cheap river with 7 outs. My defense is that I truly didn't know what to make of his betting pattern. And really, how could I? It makes no sense given his holding. I gave away a value bet on the end, but feared a trap, so I'm okay with that.
I have found myself in this situation several times in my brief flirtation with Full Tilt multis. This was my fourth and each has featured a considerable amount of passive play, especially in contrast to Poker Stars, my usual home for MTTs. I see a lot of minimum pre-flop raises take the blinds (and antes!). Late in last night's tourney, flops were scarce. The tourney leader with 15 left had an M Ratio of just 8. We're talking about extremely tight/passive play. The flip side of that, naturally, is that when someone plays back at you, you can bet they're packing a hand.
So I made some adjustments last night. I had to be willing to limp early on with marginal, but playable, holdings (K9s for instance) because if you wait for Group One hands, you're not gonna get any action (and people trying to get fancy to create action lost their shirts, as in two slow-played AAs losing to 53o and KJo respectively) . As the blinds/antes escalated, I raised all my suited connectors pre-flop. I stole from every position at the table. I put in a continuation bet EVERY time I was the pre-flop raiser, even when the flop whiffed me completely. I didn't see a lot of check-raising. Generally, when it got checked around on the flop, a position bet would take it down. I led out on my drawing hands and got folds. Nearly all of which worked perfectly. I gave up some smaller pots in the face of (rare) aggression, but I was able to build my stack by mixing it up more often (and winning the one coin flip in which I was involved).
The best factor in all this is that I had to adjust my normal game, play outside of the comfort zone, and I felt like I adapted pretty well. I had a solid table image. I only had to showdown 4 hands all night and all were suitably monster-ish. I also tried to sow some seeds, min. raising some crappy hands and folding to re-raises. I told Jason, who was graciously sweating and advising me, that I was just waiting to spring the trap by min. raising when I got aces. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.
By the end of the night, I'd fully embraced being the aggressor, which ultimately put me out. I open-raised pre-flop 3 times once we got into the money and, unfortunately, the one time I had a big hand (QQ), I got no action. The other two were 33, which I folded to a pair of re-raises (AA and TT) and, when I was finally short, A4o and was busted by AT.
All in all, not just a slightly profitable evening, but a good learning and playing experience. Sometimes, okay a lot, I get distracted playing online--what with AJ running about and wanting me to change my monkey avatar to angry or confused because it's funnier--and the subtleties of the players elude me. With full attention and some counseling, I was able to devise the best plan of attack last night. It ultimately didn't win me the tourney, but it did get me some money and valuable experience.