After busting the Main Event of the WSOP this year I was absolutely miserable. We all hear the stories of the bad beats and coolers that can occur during the most anticipated and prestigious tournament of the year, but let us be honest running AA into KK during the first level and losing does not happen to most of us and, it has never happened to me. Bad beats have never made me feel miserable about poker but my mistakes can certainty get me down on myself. And that is exactly what I think happened that sent me to my exit this year.
You see, the Main Event is a very special tournament. If we are experienced cash game players, unless something happens that is very out of the ordinary I do not think that there is an excuse to get knocked out in day 1. And that is exactly what I told my students in my SeatOpenPoker.net pre Main Event meet up. And then I proceeded to get knocked out in Day 1. The reason why the Main Event is so special is because players are very deep and the structure is super slow, usually two hour levels. You literally do not have to force anything or get lucky early on like you do in a lot of other WSOP events. Also, when someone is experienced playing deep they know how to do things in the pot in order to not get knocked out or to not put yourself at risk.
That is why this year was so disappointing because I put myself in a situation that did just that. We were in the last level of day 1 and I had a pretty tough table. One particular player was opening a ton and was playing extremely aggressive preflop. I heard him talking with another high stakes player about all of the large buy-in tournaments he had played that summer and I knew that he was at least a very experienced larger buy-in tourney pro. The blinds were $200-$400-$50 and I started the following hand with about $22k on the button. The villain, who was Russian, had $33k and opened for the minimum to $800 under the gun. It got folded around to me and I looked down at 6♣ 4♣ on the button. Now, even though this is a pretty hand and we were over 50bbs effective, this hand looks deceptively good. Any time you are calling with an implied odds type of hand like a suited connector or a pocket pair, you want your opponent to have a strong range when raising so that when you hit the flop you can get paid. People make the mistake and give these types of loose aggressive players way too much action with hands like these not realizing that when they do hit something they are not going to get paid off. Now I did realized this but made a plan for how to play the hand. I knew I could not just call based on the chance that I might hit big, I decided that I was going to bluff raise a lot of flops where I picked up some equity.
This particular villain had also been continuation betting a ton, regardless of the board texture. After I called, the blinds folded and we went heads up. The flop came out J♣ 8♣ 4♥. I almost jumped out of my seat. Next to flopping a flush or a straight, two pair or trips, this was about the biggest flop that was not fully made that I was going to see. My opponent thought for a while and bet $1100. This is wear my poker brain failed me. You see, I had it in my head so strongly that I was going to raise almost any flop that gave me at least a little equity that I did not consider that the best line might be just to call. I ended up raising to $3600 and the UTG player did not take to long and announced “All-In”. “Damn”, I thought to myself. I had gotten into the exact scenario that I told everyone else to avoid—flipping for my life during day one. Once I put in the raise I knew that there was no chance that I could possibly fold to a shove as I would be getting over 1.5-1 from the pot and would only need 40% equity to call. People talk about passing on small edges in events like these but I truly feel that no one is good enough to pass on those types of pot odds. The simple fact of the matter is that I would be about 50% against a jack or an overpair, a slight favorite versus a higher flush draw and would only be in bad shape against a set. So I doubled checked the math slowly at the table and reluctantly called. I felt sick to my stomach when my opponent tabled A♣ 8♦.
The matchup was still basically a flip, pretty much the same as if he had pocket kings. But the thing that made me ill was what I thought, at the time, an awful re-shove back against my raising range. In fact, if I am very rarely ever raising the flop and then folding 4♣ X♣ is literally the worst hand I can possibly have and because he has the A♣ in this hand I cannot have A♣ 4♣. So basically that only leaves two combinations of hands with a 4♣ that I can have—6♣ 4♣ and 5♣ 4♣. And a lot of people would not even play those hands against such a wide opener in that spot. The other ludicrous thing about the under the gun having the A♣ in his hand is the fact that I cannot have the nut flush draw. That leaves only other combo draws and made hands in my range. If I had a hand like 9♣ T♣ I would be over a 70% favorite to win the hand. My raise should have worked and I should have taken it down—that was what was so disappointing.
However, after analyzing the hand again my biggest mistake was not just calling the flop. You see, when you flop a pair and a flush draw, as opposed to a straight draw and a flush draw, you have showdown value. On the J♣ 8♣ 4♥ board if my opponent had two unpaired over cards, say like A♥ K♥, he is drawing extremely slim to improve—only two non clubbed aces and kings. If I do not have fold equity against a hand as weak as A8 then I do not have much fold equity with a semi bluff at all and I probably should have just called and tried to make my hand. It would be very, very rare that I would be bluffed off of the best hand whilst not improving. And the value in saving my stack and not getting into an all-in situation that could knock me out outweighs the tiny times I am bluffed off of the best hand.
The most important point of the hand is that I did not recognize that things changed after the flop. I had it so entrenched in my head that I was going to bluff raise that I did not correctly adjust to the different scenario that occurred. And as bad as I thought that my opponents’ play was at the time I just finished explaining that I was planning on bluff raising a lot of flops so perhaps here he thought that I was bluff raising him. Again, if I were to tell him before he moved all-in that I was not raising and then folding than his shove would be awful against my range but the fact of the matter is that even though in this specific case I was not going to fold, on other flops I was going to raise and fold. So perhaps his play was not as bad as I first thought. Lesson learned though you need to identify and adapt to certain things that happen within a hand even if it forces you to change your plan.