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The pain of the game, by Peter Costa

The pain of the game Since my last article, I have played three events here at the Bellagio. And as was the case in the three events that I played in Reno - I kept hitting the crossbar.

A few days ago in the $2500, I had enjoyed my first real bit of luck. Having allowed the button to constantly raise my blinds unchallenged - I waited for the chance to trap the young kid from Boston. Having amassed a fair size stack that was more than twice the average - I never felt the need to make any sort of stance. But with blinds at 100-200, I finally called the extra 600 from the kid. Holding Ah-Th, I liked the flop of As-Jh-4d. However with a stack of 12,000 - I was not going to get too busy. I checked to the expected bet. I called the 1,100. Not too sure about my kicker, I was pleased to see another ace hit the turn. I checked and hoped to trap. I had no other thought but to go all-in when be bet 3,000 on the turn. But his quick call set the alarm bells ringing. Oh,oh! Full-house! His four’s full of Aces left me needing one of only seven outs. I had him exactly where he wanted me!

You’ve got to hand it to some of these young Internet players! This kid is mainly an online limit player that has done very well in the 100-200. His venture into the “real” world and to tournaments - was totally alien to him. And yet, when another ace hit the river to give me quads - he acted like an old pro and just smiled. Perhaps the new breed can teach some of their elders a lesson or two. Take a bow kid - you were a joy to play with.

Having had such a big break and with a stack of 24K - I had no problem reaching the last five tables. Having made a couple of chip-happy calls to lower stacks (even though I had fair outs to win both hands), I am usually beyond such play. I decided it was time to go back to the tight approach. Recovering back to 18,000, and being dealt A-A - I was in dreamland when I heard an all-in. Having seen the first two limp for 600, a novice Aussie player (real nice guy - aren’t they all these Aussies?), decided that 6-6 justified an all-in move. I obviously called. But what goes around in poker, tends to come around. A six on the river had me smiling like the kid.

Having lasted between 7 and 12 hours in most events to date, and with no reward, I decided to take a couple of days off.

I must admit that I sat down in the next $2,500 event, determined to have a lot of fun by playing as many hands as possible. As it happens, I raised from the button on the very first hand with Kd-9d. I bet 300 on the turn into a king high board, and was called by A-4os. OK, the ace hit the river and he won a small pot. But the actual call of 300 caused a few raised eyebrows. Having already decided on the style of play for the day - this little beat made sure that there was no chance of my changing my mind. In fact, I played almost every hand, sometimes in the dark (with 5K to start and such small blinds - this is not as crazy or brave as it sounds).

As to that call with the A-4 - it was just the start of some very weird calls that I would witness later in the event.

I found myself in good shape as the field of around 260 - dwindled down to 90.

Holding an above-average18K, I was at ease. Especially as the three big stacks were all to my right. But that changed when the seat to my left was filled by a real huge stack. Even worse, I soon realized that he would also be a man of action. But even I was surprised as to what followed.

With blinds at 300-600, UTG (under the gun) and second chip leader on the table, raises to 2,500. Looking at K-K, I re-raised an extra 8,000. Imagine my horror when our new friend next to me announces all-in. If ever there was an obvious case of running into Aces - this was it! Surely it had to be Aces? Well, you would expect Aces! Wouldn’t you? He turned over T-T as if Ten’s were wild! I was obviously delighted that (unlike the WPT in Reno) - there was no other ten in sight.

OK, he still had a big stack - he just had to learn his lesson and get it right next time. But this next hand still mystifies.

Our T-T man is now down to second chip-leader on our table. Making a standard raise to 4K with As-Kd (blinds 400-800), he gets called by the new chip-leader. He then seems to love the flop of A-J-6, ALL HEARTS - and leads out with a bet of 10K. I guess with another 50K in front of him - it could be seen as a, lets-find-we-are, bet. He still has enough to be in the game should he have walked into a big hand. But he called an all-in re-raise, without a heart in his hand or a second thought in his mind. Facing a set of sixes - he was virtually drawing dead. From big chip lead to busted. I know that happens all the time and that we all make mistakes - but those two hands didn’t require much thought to muck.

As for Peter? I dried up for a couple of hours but went to the dinner break and the final 36 with an average 48,000. Nine to the money, but more importantly - 35 to go to a first prize of $240,000.

If I was dry before dinner - after the beak it got even worse. Without a playable hand for the next two hours - I was now down to 16K. Also, having reached bubble time, the game ground to halt at a level when it was a disadvantage the short stacks. Waiting ten minutes for each hand - and seeing a deuce or a three almost every first card, it was looking very ominous. With blinds set to go to 1500-3000 and an ante of 400 - it was gamble time.

But wait! What a nice bunch of players I have on my table. From the usual raise and re-raise before I even had a chance to act with my usual 5-3os - UTG decides that it’s time limp with Q-Q. This set up a chain reaction that saw five of us take the flop. I studied the flop of 3-4-K, one club. At least this time I had a monster 5c-6c on the BB. And seeing an open ended straight draw and almost 14K in the pot - I took my shot. I suppose that I could have waited and tried to make the money - but that could not be a factor in my mind. I cannot sacrifice the chance to win a tournament for the sake of a small return. Anyhow, I had outs! I might not even get a call! There’s also a few other reasons (which I’d rather not go into), why I chose to move all-in in this spot for another 14K.

One by one they mucked. Just one more to go! Hmm, a slight pause. I might well have just escaped with murder here. But with K-9 and chips to spare - a pause seemed unnecessary. The call was made. I hit a pair but to no avail - I was Mr Bubble once again.

OK, I know it made 27 other people happy. And anything that makes others happy - must be good. Right? Yeah right! So I again took pleasure by doing my bubble duty - but I don’t think I want this job anymore. In fact, I quit!

Moving on - as part of a future article that will focus on the fine line between wining and losing in poker, I studied up on my near misses. Looking at the last eighteen months, I tried to obtain a guide from my own history. Suffice to say, the line looks mighty thin to me.

Obviously, a lot more players have near misses than wins - but it does raise questions when it happens regularly. Some players may take the negative view and cast doubt about their game etc. Although this may be understandable - luck does play a role in this game. Therefore, as long as you keep getting close at these great rewards - would it not be healthier to the mind by looking at it positively? Who would you rather bet on - the guy who gets close but looks down and defeated? Or the guy who gets close and yet is optimistic?

I recall, that in early 2003 - I tried to defend an accusation by an anon post on a forum, concerning my ego. I tried to explain that when faced with large fields of 500 and even 1200 - a player should feel confident. Otherwise, why play? Come to think of it - I was actually right! If making 33 finals the previous year, and winning eleven - is a result of ego - I WANT MY EGO BACK! Seriously though, ego is just one of the many driving forces that we can use to push us. And anything that can drive you - can only be good. After all, the time and commitment required nowadays - is beyond what many can cope with. So when players get called egotistical - they should not try to defend it. In fact, I would now take it as a compliment!

Until next time - play well get lucky and change your nickname!

Peter "The Poet" Costa



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