Survival can often be the name of the game in tournament poker, making it to day two, trying to make the money, eyeing up the final table, the pay jumps, the trophy.
Look around your average poker table, especially as you get deeper into the tournament, and half of them are in survival mode, all-in or fold poker.
There’s no opening light, never mind three or four betting without the goods, it’s a case of waiting for a hand before getting it in and hopefully doubling up.
GUKPT Manchester proved the complete opposite for me.
I was cruising along beautifully, never in danger of being knocked out, never even all-in, then all of a sudden, just as we were about to make the money, a day and a half into the tournament, I was out!
I’d had a great week, winning the £200 six max, a victory made all the sweeter beating someone as good as EPT champ Tom Middleton, a great player and friend, heads up.
Next night I ran deep in the PLO too, eventually finishing in fourth spot, having lost a flip to get right into it.
With renewed confidence and a pep in my step, I attacked the Main Event head on, and had a big stack all of day one.
With Cheltenham on and a few chores to take care of, I didn’t turn up until the first break, but straight away I was in the thick of it, flopping a set in a three bet four way pot and knocking a guy out with his overpair, taking me straight over 40k form the 20k start.
Progress was steady, though I felt like I kept getting coolered, nearly every time I’d pick up a big hand soon afterwards to keep the progress on an upward scale.
I defended A9 from the bb against what turned out to be AT on a JT9Ax board which cost me a few, while raising with AQ and finding only the small blind putting up resistance, you’d think AQ8r would be a good flop, but it proved the opposite against his pocket eights.
I lost the minimum when things could have been far worse when I raised QQ with the big blind sat out.
The button three bet but instead of going crazy I just peeled, and when he checked behind on the JJT flop, I bet turn and river only to be shown AA for another nasty one.
A9 v AJ on AT4JA wasn’t great either, but the biggest cooler was saved for the last hand of the night, when I called a three bet against the other big stack on the table with TJ suited.
The AKQ flop have me the nuts, but when he called my check raise I knew he had a big hand, and the board pairing on the turn meant I didn’t lose too many more. The 70k pot was shipped to my opponent, but I still ended day one with nearly 95k.
Rather than feel down about the coolers, I felt great about how I’d played, winning some big flips and making some great calls and moves to maintain and increase my stack.
Day two was more of the same, playing well, losing a few skirmishes, but winning some key pots, knocking Middy out with QQ v 99 all in pre, and later getting there with AQcc on a six high two club flop against kings.
With 20 left, and 17 paid, I had 1.5x average, as Id had throughout most of the tournament, and with plenty of short stacks in survival mode, I had one eye on the final and the other on continuing to play as well as I had in months when all of a sudden I busted.
Blinds were 2k/4k and I had about 220k.
I’d just moved to the six handed live streaming table and didn’t know much about most of the players, bar Mike Hill, who is a mate I’ve played with plenty of times. The only stack that covered me was that of Alex Golubevs, the overnight chip leader who just had me covered.
Two hands before my exit, Mike and Alex played out a blind on blind hand that saw Mike limp, Alex check, and the flop action go bet, raise by Alex, reraise by Mike, fold.
My impression of Alex therefore was that he was antsy to play hands, wanted to get involved and was looking for spots to get busy.
Next hand I found QQ under the gun and raised to 10k.
Mike passed but Alex looked interested, and called on the button. The blinds passed and I went to the flop heads up, with Alex having a pretty wide range on the button.
The flop came JT4 with two hearts, not perfect but having avoided the dreaded overcard I was quite happy. I bet 17k and Alex quickly raised to 43k. All of a sudden I was in a massive pot and really not sure where I was.
My thought process was I felt he’d three bet tens and jacks, so I was behind to pocket fours or JT, and on such a draw heavy board it was far more likely he had a flush draw or KQ or 89, all very much part of his button peeling range.
I decided I couldn’t fold and out of position I wouldn’t like many turn cards, and might end up checking and seeing him check behind to complete his draw on the river, so I stuck the lot in, only to see him snap me with a set of tens.
There’s no doubt I was shocked, I’d not been close to being out, wasn’t in the danger zone, I wasn’t in survival mode, and maybe I was over confident having had a great week.
Looking back at the hand, there are definitely lessons to be learned, especially from remembering that in no limit hold ’em you’re only ever one hand from being knocked out.
Moreover, I made my mind up on how Alex played by watching only a couple of hands, and obviously got his range wrong, given he had a hand Id decided he would almost always three bet.
Lastly I think I should have thought about the bigger picture and played the hand slower.
This was a great chance to win another GUKPT, not to mention the £59k prize money.
If Id folded QQ on the turn, having peeled the flop, and Alex had the gumption to fire twice with something like KQ or a bare flush draw having seen the turn brick, then maybe tapping the table and saying nice hand and carrying on with 35bb at 2k/4k in a tournament full of satellite qualifiers, short stacks and a lot of players I feel I am better than wouldn’t be the worst scenario, even if I passed the best hand.
Having negotiated coolers all tournament and bounced back and stayed positive and fixed on winning, Id managed to go bust in a hand that while a bit unlucky, I think I should have been good enough to get away from.
The great thing about poker is you never stop learning, and I’ll learn from this hand and not make the same mistake again. If I keep playing as well as I did this week, everything will be okay.
Next up I’m off to Aspers to defend the PKR Live title I won last year. It’d be nice to successfully defend that, and with a little run good and me back to playing my best, I don’t see why I can’t!
The GUKPT YouTube channel lets you watch all the coverage from the live stream of past events, so you can watch the final table of the GUKPT Manchster six max for happy times, or my exit hand on day two of the Main Event if that’s your preference!