The Grand in Tunica is a good place for Omaha Hi-Lo, and you can always find a game there. They also feature low entry fee tournaments. The weekend before the Mid-America Poker Classic at the Horseshoe in Tunica, I was playing Omaha Hi-Lo at the Grand. I raised before the flop, the board came with two nines and I led out at the pot with a bet. Some kid, who didn’t look old enough to be there, raised me. I mucked. He then showed me pocket kings and said, “I didn’t think that you raised with a nine.” The kid made a solid play; moreover he was giving me running commentary.
Later that weekend I ran into him playing satellites at the Horseshoe. He said, “Mark, you have to sign up over there.” Strange, I didn’t remember giving him my name. I concluded that he must have overheard it. He also shared with me how well he had been doing in all the satellites. On the other hand, I was playing like crap, but I didn’t confess my poor play to him.
On Sunday, my luck began to change. I won a satellite before breakfast. I ran into the kid and told him about the Sunday night limit hold-em tournament at the Grand. It was a small rebuy tournament.
That Sunday evening, as we waited for seats in a ring game before the ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล tournament, we had a chance to talk. He was from Nashville and wanted to play some tournaments for the first time. I offered him words of encouragement. I told him how I made the final table in my very first major tournament, just this past March at the World Poker Open. He said, “I know, I read your article.” I was stunned. One of my greatest fears was that someone would recognize me and then think, “God, he sucks at Poker! What’s he doing writing about Poker?”
Furthermore, he seemed inspired by my article. I was over-taken by a new responsibility to play better Poker. No more 9-7 off-suit under the gun. I was immediately thereafter called to my hold em seat, which I played for twenty minutes prior to the tournament. I made a nifty slow play with pocket kings and won my first pot when I trapped an unsuspecting opponent into betting his top pair into me. I continued with my responsible play until the tournament started.
My responsible play continued into the tournament. I did a rebuy to start the tournament, and I never came close to going bust thereafter. With my add-on at the last rebuy level, I was in solid position the whole way. My newfound protégé, the kid, was out of the tournament long before the final table. I made it to the final table with a chip position that was about third or fourth place.
Earlier in the month of July, in my home games, I had evolved a sentimental attachment to Jack-8 as a starting hand. There was some mystique to the hand for me and I generally won with the hand, and generally raised with it. I know this to be purely immature play, but I still have a day job. This is how I fund my addictions such as raising with Jack-8 off suit.
How’s the preceding text relevant? Well, I was at the final table and guess what I had; J-8 suited. I raised under the gun, and I got a re-raise. It was from a player I had met the day before at the Omaha Hi-Lo game, where we spoke about the poor play of our opponents as they chased every ridiculous draw they could find. Naturally, it was pure commiseration, as these chasers were hitting their hands, and we were getting stuck. Now, he had raised me with a good hand, pocket aces, and he was called by me with nothing but a hand of mystique and sentimentality.
His dream confrontation had come true. The board flopped rags with an 8. I bet. He raised, and I re-raised him, so that he was all in. It was a small tournament, so I was willing to play on the strength of mystique, and I had more chips than he did. The turn brought me another 8. He proudly turned over his aces after the river, as I showed him my Jack-8. He just shook his head, and I just laughed. I said, “Sorry, I never lose with Jack 8.” Now there’s another bad beat story about the busted aces to the moron with the Jack-8 that is probably being told in every card room in the mid-south.
Later when we were five handed I raised again with J-8 suited. I had one caller. The board came with rags and two cards in my suit. I bet and she folded. She said that she threw away Ace-Jack. I told her that it was a good lay down. I finished fourth in the tournament. And it was the first time at the Grand that I had made the money in about five or six tries over the preceding nine months.
The next morning, I ran into “the kid”, and he asked me how I did. I told him that I made fourth. I also told him how I always raise with J-8 and how I could only win at the final table with hands that had J-8. As we talked, we found out that we would be at the same table for the first event of the Mid-America Poker Classic, which was the $500 limit Hold-em event.
When tournament time came around I was late, because I was taking care of business issues with my medical practice and my wife and I were having a bit of a spat. So I walked in ten minutes late and the kid saw me and said “Hey Mark, there’s your seat.” As I sat down I had Greg Weitzel two seats to my left. He made the final table in this event that day. He was playing very aggressively. Limpers paid a big price to see the flop, if he had a hand. It turns out that Greg grew up in Paducah, something that he shared with me later in the week. I decided that my only chance was to trap him.
Finally, I had pocket eights in the small blind. I called Greg’s raise that he had made under the gun. The flop brought me an eight on the board as well as three cards to a straight, but I didn’t anticipate anyone playing a J-9 after a pre-flop raise under the gun. This was a check raise opportunity. As I flopped the hand, my wife had come down and she was still upset with me. So she was trying to bicker with me, while I was trying to check raise Greg Weitzel. It’s not like I can say, “Shut Up! I have a set!”
However I managed to keep my cool and still not give away the hand. I checked. Greg bet, however a third player raised Greg near the button. I went ahead and put my raise in too. Greg called and the late position raiser folded. I kept betting until I ran out of chips and then Greg called me down with what I had presumed to be an overpair. This had really built my stack and I went on a tear. As I pressed on I saw a J-8 in early position. I limped in with it. There were a few callers, including the kid. The flop came with a 9-10 giving me a double end straight draw. The kid liked the flop and bet.
With regard to the kid’s play, I thought that the kid made good bets and played tight with quality cards, however I found his play predictable. I put him on a ten with a big kicker or an over-pair. He was not the type to bet a draw. When a seven came on the turn, and I made my straight. The kid and I kept the betting. A queen on the river meant that I didn’t have the nuts, but I couldn’t see him capping with K-J. After the betting he showed me a K-10. I turned over J-8 with a straight and I said, “you know I like to play J-8. How could you not put me on a J-8?”
“You didn’t raise.”
Here I had given him real insight into my twisted play and he still bet into me, failing to capitalize on what he knew. At this point I had a giant stack. The table was broken up and I cruised for a while. The kid didn’t last beyond six tables and I never saw him again that week. I self destructed with five tables left and departed at that point.
With regard to my play of the J-8, I continued to play it like aces from time to time. I couldn’t really get anything going in the tournament until the championship event: the $1,000 No Limit Texas Hold-em. In this event I went into the final table as chip leader. When half of the players were eliminated from final table play, my stack was on par with the others. I looked down under the gun and saw J-8 offsuit. Do you think I raised with it? Hell no! I threw them right in the muck where they belonged. I finished second winning twenty thousand dollars. J-8 was just a little game that I played when the time suited me. Little game that went bye-bye when the real money was at stake.
So what is the lesson? As you try to move up in major tournaments, remember the insights that you read from the authors when you play against them. Some day you’ll find yourself up against the likes of Dan Negreanu, T.J. Cloutier, Tom McElvoy or maybe even me. Just use our words against us. If your opponents don’t write about their play of poker, read your opponents through observation of their play. Use the insights gained from observation, so that you know who is vulnerable to a check raise, and who will only peddle the nuts. With regards to me though, I warn you; I am still learning the game. By the time you run into me at the Poker table I may have concluded that J-8 is no good.