July 23rd, 2006

WSOP Event #35 -- $1000 NLHE with rebuys

Okay, so rebuy strategy. The jist of it is that I don't have one. I don't believe in having a rebuy strategy. Daniel Negreanu went off for some like 48 rebuys or something, and got to the break with 15000 in chips. I don't know if that outperforms his expectation of $49000 in buyins, but whatever. Good for him that he can afford it. Whatever his motivations are - whether he believes a 20k stack in his hands is worth $60k in equity, or he is willing to spend to improve his bracelet chances, or he just is a degenerate - matter not to me. I'm glad he can do it, I totally support it, but that will never be me. What I'm talking about here is ev.

A number of people have expressed to me the idea that a player who fires one bullet in this tournament is wasting his money. That's a completely ridiculous statement to make. It's especially ridiculous in light of the fact that there are guys like Negreanu in the tournament who are just giving away extra chips in the first two levels. Obviously players who are willing to rebuy have a better chance of winning the tournament or making a lot of money. But if you play poker from a simple perspective of trying to win money, you are +ev in this event if you play better than the field, regardless of your propensity to rebuy. In fact, because of people going off stupidly for rebuys, a slightly -ev player might actually be a slightly +ev player if he just plays sensibly during the rebuy period and is at a table where people are going off. I really wonder about otherwise seemingly sensible people who say stuff like "if you're not willing to rebuy you're at a disadvantage to people who rebuy."

Of course, a winning player should be more willing to rebuy. In a regular tournament, a good player would pass up a 0 ev situation to get a lot of money in. In a rebuy period, the good player should look for that opportunity. But making tremendously -ev decisions on purpose just to increase variance is nuts. Making slightly -ev decisions on purpose may be worthwhile. For example, I had 1150 on the last hand before the rebuy period with the blinds 25-50. I had K9s 2utg, and I raised to 150. Obviously I don't raise with this hand in this spot by default (and any raise I make in this spot would be to 125), but it seemed reasonable to do so since I'd get to rebuy if I lost the hand to get down to 1000. As it turns out, I won the blinds which is great!

My opening table draw was unfortunate. It was probably the tightest table I've played at during the whole WSOP. We all started commenting on it. We would go full orbits without a flop. Raise and take it, raise and take it, over and over and over. We took very few rebuys as a table. I think the average stack on our table after the rebuy period was something like 5000.

I got to nearly 8000 by busting a player on a rare flop. I opened for 600 2-off with QsJc. The button cold-called and a blind called. The flop came QT8 with two spades. Blind checked, I bet 1000, button moved in, blind folded, I called. Button showed red aces and I made backdoor spades to win.

Then I got presented with another tough spot from a limp-reraiser. Somehow five people limped (which is freakishly unusual for this table) and I had the button with AT. I raised to 1500. I guess with my stack being less than 6 times the pot I should have just jammed. Now the utg limper limp-reraises all-in for another 3225. Now I run the numbers and figure I'm getting over 2.3:1. I'm kinda crushed by most distributions like {88+,ATs+,KQs,AQo+} and yet even with that distrubtion I'm slightly positive chip ev to call. So I call, get shown AK like yesterday and am down to 3200.

On that same orbit comes probably the wackiest call that I've personally been involved in during the WSOP. I am now 2utg with 3100 after a few antes. I find QQ and push all-in. It's folded around to the cutoff who calls fairly quickly. This player has not done much of notice at all; he seems to be competent and tight, like everyone else. All fold, I table my hand and he shows...... 97s?!?! There is no expression on his face that indicates that he misread his hand, or that he didn't see my all-in, or anything like that. He turns his hand over, the board is run out, I win, and he pays me off as stoically as someone who held JJ would do so. It was completely bizarre. No one asked him about it, he made no comment about it. I looked around and there were no confused expressions on anyone's face. It was like I'd stepped into this bizarre parallel universe where I'm playing at this tight table but suddenly for one hand, 97s becomes a perfectly legitimate hand with which to call a 15bb all-in push from early position.

Not much happens for the rest of the 100-200/25 or 150-300/25 level. My chip stack depletes as I go through this back-and-forth of raising to some moderate amount, getting jammed and folding, and then stacking off because I'm below the "raise a reasonable amount" threshold, and building up to the point where I can raise a moderate amount, then folding again, etc. I get to dinner at 4800 in chips, not having done anything since the QQ hand other than raise or fold preflop.

Obviously when I get back from dinner with 4800 in the 200-400/50 level I'm in clear push-fold territory. And boy do I push! I push three hands in the first orbit, with no call. I push two hands in the next orbit, with no call! That's a double-up without actually having to win a showdown or see a flop! I jam again over the top of a standard raise, and again win. Before I know it I'm at 15000 without ever being called at all. There's something really fun about playing jambot style when you actually get the cards to do it. It was a complete about-face from the PLHE tournament; I was picking up 99, 88, AK, AQ, TT, and I was picking them up in positions where I would have settled for a much weaker hand. It's also nice to basically have no stress about your decisions; I haven't felt I've been on the correct side of a lot of my recent tough decisions. Maybe it's burnout from all these tournaments or whatever, but just being able to jam and not have to think about anything else was nice.

My table breaks -- a full 90 minutes of me tripling up my stack without ever being involved in a flop -- and I get moved in between Mike Matusow and Tony G. This actually turned out to be not as bad as it sounds because Tony G. wasn't as talkative as expected, and when he did speak he seemed nice. Mike was Mike though, with his usual "I've been playing this game for 15 years and when you've run as good as I've run and as bad as I've run blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah" speeches. Anyway I don't get to see a flop at this table either. This table is much colder for me, as I play (all jams) only three hands. Juha Helppi opened from middle position and I jammed with KQo; he folded A9s. Then another middle position player opened and I pushed with AQ. Finally at 400-800/75 I was called. Early position raises, I jam on the button with AKs, Matusow overjams, early position folds and Matusow's KK holds up.

CardPlayer's description of the hand is moderately amusing to me:

Sun Jul 23 22:48:00 PDT 2006
Matusow Enforces With Kings

A player from middle position raises to $3,500, the player on the button reraises to $10,000, Matusow re-raises all-in for about $30,000 more, the original raiser folds, and the player on the button makes the call all-in for less. Matusow shows KK and his opponent has AK. The flop comes Q103, the turn is the 5, and the river is the 9. Matusow rakes in a huge pot and now has $60,000.

You can play with Mike Matusow exclusively at FullTilt.net

I hang out at the PokerStars suite for a while, then go back to register for tomorrow's limit shootout. I see Matusow walking down the hallway. He spots me and tells me how he went from 65k to bust running into two sets and losing three coinflips.

Tomorrow ($1500 limit shootout) is my last event before the main event, unless I somehow manage to talk myself into playing the NL 2-7. I probably won't play the NL 2-7 but I've been flirting with it a little. I don't think anyone is fantastically great at it since the game isn't spread at all, I certainly understand the fundamentals behind the game, and other people will probably make some bad mistakes. But it's a lot of money to put into a game I'm not 100% comfortable with, so I probably won't play it.

So, in all likelihood, tomorrow is my last opportunity for a bracelet in 2006! But it's a pretty good opportunity. Shorthanded limit hold'em is my best game, and it'll be a small field. I'm still a massive dog to win it though; just a slightly less massive dog than most of the field. :)