Man, I'm really having a great time in the WWdN Friday tourneys at PokerStars. The average field is about 120 players, and each week we've seen some fantastic play, some lucky play, some donkey play, and even some plays that haven't come from me. :)
The Donegal Invitational this week was the best one, yet, and I'm not just saying that because I finished 14th out of 127 players.
One of the best hands for me happened early on, when I got a pair of queens. I was the first player to act on the hand, so I made a raise that would discourage drawing hands, but encourage people with strong over cards (like ace-king, ace-jack, etc) or weaker pairs (like nines or tens) call me. A hand like queens is pretty strong before the flop, but it's a very vulnerable hand if you've got to play it against a bunch of opponents, and it's pretty much dead to aces or kings (duh).
A player who was in middle position called, and the button (the player who is the nominal dealer, and who can act last on every hand after the flop) also called. The flop was queen-something-ten. BINGO! This is a BEAUTIFUL flop for me, because there were no straights or flushes possible, and I would almost certainly get action from players with ace-queen, ace-ten, or a pair of tens. In fact, I was really hoping for someone to have a pair of tens, because I'd have a better set and almost certainly take all their chips.
I was the first player to act, and with a strong hand like this, I'd normally check. But I made what Dan Harrington calls a continuation bet which says, "Okay, I had a stong hand before the flop, and I still like it." This is a great bluffing tool for times when I raise with a pair of fives, get a caller, and an ace hits the flop. If I make a continuation bet, it's very likely that a weaker ace (like ace-six, for example) or a pair better than mine (like jacks) will fold to my bet. I knew that I'd have to show this hand, and I wanted to set up for later that my continuation bets were real. Note that it would also be perfectly appropriate to check and raise with this hand, which would also announce to the table that you're not afraid to check a strong hand, and possibly buy you free cards later on when you need them; it's sort of up to player's individual style, and the texture of the other players' styles to make the best choice.
So I made my continuation bet of about 1/2 the pot. The first caller immediately raised me for half of his stack, and the button folded. I thought for a second about how to get all his chips: would it be best to just call, and put him all-in on the turn, or would it be better to force him to decide to play for all his chips now? Again, with an eye toward my image for later in the tournament, when I may have to put my chips at risk without the best hand, I decided to make him play for all his chips. I pushed all-in and he immediately called with a pair of tens. Ding!
Note that this hand illustrates the element of luck in poker: jsmitty399, who had the tens, was entirely correct to call my raise, and must have felt great when he made his set. If I were him, I would have gone broke on that hand, too, because from his perspective, pocket queens is "monsters under the bed." If he hadn't made his set, he probably would have gotten away from the hand on my continuation bet. I don't know what the button had, but my guess is small suited connectors (like 67 or 89) or a suited ace that missed the flop, and I doubt I would have gotten action from that hand either. Also, I could just as easily have had AQ and been way behind. Hell, if I had aces or kings I would have been way behind. So jsmitty399 got very unlucky at the same time I got very lucky. That doesn't make us very good or very bad poker players . . . it just makes us poker players.
Here's how I reported the action in my live blog:
I got queens UTG, so I raised it, got calls from LP and the button. The flop came Q-x-T, I made a continuation bet, and LP raised me for half his stack. I came back all-in, and he called me with TT. The button folded, and I busted jsmitty399 with set-over-set. I've got 3525 now, and I'm third in chips!
I applied lessons learned from Harrington on Hold'Em (volumes one and two), Tournament Poker for Advanced Players by Sklansky and Malmuth, and Winning Low Limit Hold'Em by Lee Jones in that hand. If you're interested in improving your game, I suggest checking them out.
And, as always, I hope to see lots of WWdN:iX readers in future Friday games!