Bubble Boy

Bubble Boy

Friday, 12 June 2009

Well, I’ve finished my first tournament in Vegas 2009 and there’s already a story to tell. I have a shiny new baseball cap with “Binion’s Poker Classic Final Table” stitched onto it. Is that the story? Yes and no. The real story is that I bubbled.

I’m the victim of one of those weird situations where you make the final table but don’t get paid. In this case, myself and eight other final-tablers outlasted a field of 61 in the $500 PLO at Binion’s Classic. When we made it to the final table, there was the commemorative hat and a $10 food voucher to greet us. There was a certain amount of fanfare too, as the tournament director congratulated us and ran through the rules.

So there were nine of us left and the prize pool paid the top seven. Myself and the other shortstack tried to convince the others to take $500 off first and second place to give to eighth and ninth, but, well there’s always one, isn’t there? I wouldn’t have minded but the instant I went out in ninth place they all agreed to give $500 to eighth.

I shouldn’t be bitter though. On two occasions I’ve held on past the bubble only to have the prize pool chopped hugely in my favour shortly after the hapless bugger had left. So here I am, the hapless bugger, riding back to the Strip on the Deuce (Vegas’ bus now has an inappropriate name – they put up the cost to $3 a ride).

The other reason I shouldn’t be bitter is that I can’t really see myself playing the hand I exited with any other way. Even after having almost tripled up when my T975 single suited cracked Aces, I was still one of the shortstacks at the table – 35k in chips with an average chipstack of 67k and an M of 12 or so. In the cutoff I looked down to find AQJT single suited and brought it in for a raise to 6k. It folded around to Andy O’Flatley – the only player I’ve played with before and someone I knew was capable of three-betting light. So when he reraised, given it was him, given that I had an Ace, and given that my hand that was good against a sizeable portion of his range, I had to push. He tabled a thoroughly dominating AAKQ, and you know the rest.

I came to Vegas thinking that I would play as many PLO tournaments as I could, in spite of the general view that Omaha is a game which lends itself to cash games more than tournaments. Largely, I agree with this wisdom – a game where most preflop match-ups are 65-35 to 55-45 is not so good in the shallow stack situations which are prevalent in tournaments; as they say in the texts, Omaha is a flop game. Moreover, the pot limit structure takes one of the major weapons out of the tournament arsenal: the overraIse all in.

Oddly enough, though, that can make PLO actually fare better than NLHE in certain tournament situations. For example, when everyone has an M of about 8-12 in an NLHE tournament, there are a few moves you can pull, but not too many that everyone else hasn’t seen or done a million times before. With an average M of 10 or so in a PLO tournament, there’s still plenty of play left. A broad range of PLO hands at this stage in the tournament can afford to see a flop, or can face a raise preflop and still have decent implied odds. Thus players can afford to speculate a bit more at a time where speculation is dead and buried at the equivalent stage in a Hold Em tournament.

Ironically, this turns the reputations of each game on their heads. Hold Em is considered less mathematical and more about feel and tells, yet at that tense middle portion of the tournament when everyone’s M is around 8-12, decisions are much more mathematical – it’s all about first in shoves or reshoves, and having the right percentage against your opponent’s range. At the equivalent stage in a PLO tournament, you can still pull some fancy, “non-mathematical” moves.

A nice thought, but scant consolation for bubble boy. I wonder if I should wear my hat to the WSOP Academy tomorrow.

Tags: Pickleman, Alex Rousso, Strategy