By Karaoke Phil
The Free Poker Network’s (FPN) State Championship for MN was held this past Saturday at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. This was the Vegas or Bust Championship with the top 16 winning a seat in the Independence Day National Championship in Las Vegas. It is there that 11 seats to the final $1K WSOP event will be awarded with the National Champ also receiving a $10K Main Event buy-in on Day 1a.
This was my 8th straight state championship – one for each promotion I have played. Those who follow the podcast know that I finished in 19th – basically the bubble – in my 7th state championship at Running Aces last October. The top 16 qualified then – as with this championship. Playing well and going deep has its rewards, but becoming a national qualifier must certainly be better and I was looking forward to a good day. In a cost-saving move, I car pooled with state championship qualifiers and friends of the CPL – Wyn Santo and Wanda Bublitz. The had single and double stacks respectively – I also entered the day with a double stack of chips. As an additional cost savings we decided to depart Saturday morning versus a Friday night departure and another night’s hotel cost. So, I was up at 5 am and we we rolling towards Mahnomen at 6:30. I’m all decked out in my Show Down Poker Gear attire.
We arrived in plenty of time – at 10:45 – for the Noon tournament start. I got a replacement player’s card and then my free beer and nachos as part of Shooting Star’s Cinco De Mayo festivities.
I took my chair at table 12, seat 10 at noon sharp and awaited the start. Turnout was good and they needed to sprinkle in one extra player at some tables. We got an eleventh player and the tournament had kicked off by about 12:10 pm. I began level one in the big blind with blinds at 50/100. I won the first hand and a small pot after no one seemed to want it by the turn. My hands were decent enough with the blinds low enough and my extra 10K in chips that I was fairly active. I moved up and down a little but was down about 2K in chips when I was dealt pocket 6s in the BB. A middle position player raised to 325 and I smooth called – we were heads up. The flop came down J high with 2 over cards to me. I check called a bet of 500 – not yet believing my opponent was ahead. The turn brought a 6 giving me a set. I check called a bet of 700. The river brought another 6 and quads. This time I lead out for 925, got the call and moved back up to my starting stack.
I continued my activity through level 2 – ending at 17K in chips. Around this time it was also announced that we had 282 players of the qualified 350 or so check in and play. It is, I believe, the largest field for a state championship that the FPN has had. A boat came in for me in Level 3 to allow to end that level with 22.8K in chips. Level 4 brought a second consecutive uptick in chips and another full house on the last hand. Dealt pocket 6s UTG with blinds at 150/300 I bumped it up to 700 and received 2 callers. The flop came 4/4/4. I led out for 1200 into the pot of 2250. One player called but the BB folded and I was heads up. The turn brought a 7 and I stated, “Bet – 1425” which no-so-coincidentally matched the exact amount remaining in my opponent’s stack. He called quickly – a little too quickly for my comfort – but, turned over A/J. I was ahead and needed to fade the A or J which would give him a better boat to my already made full house. The river was a 5. I eliminated the player, ended the level with 26.4K in chips and momentum. We had also begun to lose players and were down to 257 remaining participants.
Level 5 – Blinds at 200/400. The second had of level 5 saw me take a drop in chips to 18.3K. It is also the first notable hand of contention between myself and Matt Neumann who plays out of IDK Sports Bar in Atwater. He had been challenging me up to this point, but this hand hurt the most (up to this point). Tom Bebeau from 50 Lakes Bar from, where else, Fifty Lakes MN was also chipping up nicely, but Matt seemed to be my personal nemesis and may well have also been the tournament chip leader by this time. I get pocket Ts in the SB. UTG+1 raises to 1500, Matt calls and action is on me. I didn’t have a great read on the raiser, but Matt had already become a bit of thorn to me. With too many possibilities of being beat/behind I smooth called the 1500 buidling the pot to 4900 with the BB folding. The flop came out 9/7/6. This was likely my mistake, but I checked to see how my opponents felt about the flop. They both checked. I now felt good and when the turn came out a deuce I led for 4700. The original bettor folded and Matt called. The river brought a J. A little gun shy and having a bad feeling. I decided to check. Neumann now bet out 1500 into the 14300 pot. It screamed trouble for me, but I thought there was enough of a chance that he had A/9 – or maybe A/7 that it was worth calling the value bet. It wasn’t as Matt tabled pocket 2s for a turned set. About 7 hands later I’m on the BB. Action is folded around to the button who has 11.6K in chips to my 18.3K. He makes a standard bet to 1200. My instinct said he was mostly blind stealing, looking to increase his chip stack by more than 5% with the steal and playing with position should he be called. Looking at his stack (10.4K behind) and my hand, QcTc, I wanted to raise. Bumping it to 3500 would either induce a reraise shove from the button – requiring me to call 6900 into a pot of 15300 or he’d smooth call in position with a pot of 7200 and only 6900 behind. Either way I felt that all the chips would get into the middle in those scenarios. But, if I’m correct and he’s stealing and I have him covered in chips then one other option presented more appeal to me. I shoved all-in over the top. He quickly called. Obviously, not a steal attempt as he showed pocket Js. The flop came down 8/K/6 – not terribly good for me. The turn was no help, a 4. The river was peeled off, presented and viola – a Q. It was my first suck out of the day and rather than being down to 6700 chips I had eliminated a second player and was up to 30.1K in chips. I ended the level with 29.2K chips.
Level 7. Blinds 400/800 – 227 players remaining, 30.1K chips. Level 6 was uneventful as I both did not get great cards, but also wanted to try and reestablish a tighter image. Now in level 7 I had splashed in a few pots and lost when I limped in with Qc/Jc UTG. A MP player called, the button moved all in for his last 2400 with the BB calling. I and the other limper called as well building the pot to 10K. The flop came out J/5/J giving me trips with the Q kicker. The BB checked. I decided to slow play and checked. The other live player checked. The turn was a 9. I still felt that I was way ahead. The BB checked but I thought the player in position might take a stab at the pot. He didn’t and we went to the river. It was a blank. Checked to me, I couldn’t wait any more and tossed in 2200. It was folded around. The all in button’s pocket Ks couldn’t beat my flopped trips. It was my second suck out and third eliminated player. It also bumped me up to 38K in chips. Taking down some additional pots saw me rise to a high of 47K in chips during this level.
Level 9. Blinds 800/1600 – 171 players remaining, 41.2K chips. The rest of level 7 and all of level 8 saw me dwindle down a little. Much of that due to poor cards and lost blinds, some due to dumping hands post flop to my new nemesis – Matt Neumann. This was the level before dinner break and the final hand. I’m UTG+1 and raise to 3600 with A/Q off. Matt calls OTB and we’re heads up. The flop comes out J/3/6. I decide to check as Matt has seemingly owned me through every hand we’ve played. I don’t believe a continuation bet will do much for me and, frankly, I’m a little gun shy right now. He checks. The turn seems harmless – a 7 I think. I decide to check one more time. He checks. The river brings a K. I don’t think it’s hit him but I have Ace high. I check and he fires out 2500 into the 9600 chip pot. I try to go meta on him and another level deep. I check/raise 5700 more making it 8200 to go. It’s a bad play, and a poorly played hand, on my part I think. Matt 3 bets me to 20,200 all day – 12K more call. I have 27K left and decide to let it go. Matt looks at one card, then flips over the second one to show me a 3. It’s the first card he’s willingly showed. I think he actually ended up with 2 pair, but I didn’t have his 3 beat in any event. I’ve lost about 12K on the hand but I’m above my starting chip stack and able to break and regroup.
Level 10. Blinds 1K/2K – 129 players remaining, 27K chips. We’re back from dinner – I didn’t eat. I researched the opponents at my table spending the most time on Matt and Tom. I have 13.5 BB and have decided that I am in shove or fold mode right now. I’m not going to “stop and go”, limp (other than maybe the BB ), or try some sort of raise. I’m either going to double up or end it. With my luck it’ll be the latter, but I’m not going to dwindle down to 5 BB and then have three people call an all-in. They announce that Matt Neumann is indeed the tourney chip leader with 90.5K. Tom Bebeau appears to be in 5th.
I’ve made up my mind on returning strategy and even discussed it with Wyn Santo who has busted out. The first hand back I wake up with pocket Js….and, shove. It’s folded around to the BB who only has 2.5K behind after the blinds. He calls with Q/2. The flop comes A/Q/K. The upside is he’s the short stack – I’ll still have some chips left. But, I still have some life on this hand. The turn is a 2. I’m down to 7 outs – a J for a set or a T for Broadway. The river is T for the nut straight. Have I sucked out for a third time? Maybe. I have certainly eliminated my 4th player. A few hands later I get A/Q and shove again for about 18 BB after a player had limped. A short stack with a few thousands less than me calls with A/J. It’s not a suck out as the A/Q holds. I’ve eliminated 5 players now and am up to 70K in chips. By this time, Wanda Bublitz has been moved to my table – she is short stacked with about 24K in chips. It’s only a hand or two later and I get pocket Ts. Now, with chips, I call. Wanda raises to 4K. A seriously short stacked player moves all in for about 6500. I decide to isolate the all-in player and shove all in versus Wanda. She calls. Wanda shows K/J suited and the short stack player shows Aces. If I remember correctly – the short stack tripled up and Wanda won our side pot. I know I dropped to 46K in chips. I tried to eliminate Wanda again a short while later in the tournament and she took down that hand too. I end the level with 38K in chips.
Level 13. Blinds 3K/6K – 71 players remaining, 41K in chips. Players are dropping quickly now with us losing nearly 1 per minute over the previous 3 levels. I have since moved to a new table and gotten away from my nemesis. Levels 11 and 12 have seen me move between a low of 41K and a high of 51K. I’m now back into shove or fold mode. I pick up pocket Aces and move all in. I’m called by a short stack that has A/9. I hold and eliminate my sixth opponent, moving up to 69.5K in chips. The very next hand I take a hit. I am now dealt pocket Ks. I shove again – taking down 9K in blinds is plenty for my stack. And, with 11.5 BB I’m still in that shove mode. My short stack opponent calls and show pocket Qs. I’m an 80/20 favorite but that changes on the flop when he hits a Q. I lose and am down to 44.5K in chips.
Levels 14 through 17. As we approach the bubble to the top 16 the blinds are increasing dramatically and antes have kicked in. I shove fold from here on out in a level after level of volatility. I hit lows of 13 and 15k but an able to double or triple up. I never have more than 86K which is where I end level 17.
Level 18. Blinds 10K/20K, antes at 2K – 21 players remaining, 86K in chips. We are so close now, but I am terribly short stacked. I have stayed alive with timely double ups and a triple up. I have also used the antes to my advantage. Yes, I have stolen blinds (with antes), but I have gotten decent cards. The worst hands I’ve shoved with are A/8 suited, A/9 off and Q/7 suited, everything else has been a pair, stronger Ace or two face cards. I mostly avoided confrontations and was able to take blinds without needing to see any flops. Wanda went out in 20th. I lost a hand and was knocked down to 20K in chips only able to get back to 41K. We dropped to 17 left – on the bubble. With 37K left in in chips I put in my 2K ante and another 20K for the BB only 15K behind. There are two other short stacks at my table. If I need to release this hand I still have enough for the SB with 3K left over. It’s enough to get through the other shorter stacks. It’s folded around to the button who bumps is up to 40K. The SB let’s his hand go. I look down at A/2 off. Dropping the hand puts me on life support and puts my future on the someone else losing a hand and going out in the next three hands. The button stalled just long enough to raise that I feel my Ace might be ahead – perhaps he has a suited K/T or Q/J or something in there. It’s the bubble. This is where I’m meant to go out, right? I decide to face fate on my terms. Plus, the other short stacks have just enough to try and right out the few hands I can play until I’m forced all in. I’ve done plenty of folding the last level or so as we’ve whittled from 25 players to 17 left. I call for less – my last 15K. The button shows A/9. I have about a 23% chance of winning and another 16% for a chop. God, I’m hoping it’s a chop. The flop comes Q/2/6. Wow, I’m ahead. I now have an 85% chance to win with two cards to come. Of course, I know how I run. An 85% chance to win really means I have a 20% chance to win. The turn is a blank – a 4. I need to fade a nine. The river brings a J. I’ve survived. I’ve doubled up plus and now have plenty of room over the other short stacks at my table to go back to folding – which I do. Thankfully, I never really get any good hands. The short stacks double up and someone on the other table survives their all in and call. It’s been just more than a full rotation since my A/2 win. I’m in the BB with K/J suited. A short stack UTG+1 calls. The next player shoves all in for about 75K. There’s a call. I know the original bettor will call. I let my hand go and she does call. The two larger stacks check it all down. The shover shows pocket 9s. He was up against pocket Js and A/K. The 9s lose and he’s out on the bubble. I have qualified for the National Tournament. Now, it’s time to get tot he top to win some airfare and hotel money. The level ends.
Level 19. Blinds 15K/30K, antes at 3K – 16 players remaining, 50K in chips. We’re two hands in. I’m on the button and now down to 29K in chips. The BB is the short stack and all in for 23K. There are two calls before it gets to me. I have A/Q. The short stack could have anything – I should be ahead. I may well be ahead of the other two callers or perhaps crushing one with the other sporting a pocket pair giving me two overs. I don’t like needing to wind me way through an all in and two callers, but with less than a BB left this may be the best hand I see in the next 6 or 7. I decide to call for a little less. A win here will put me in very good shape. The SB also calls. The board runs out and neither the short stacked BB nor I win. We’re both out – but with more chips I take 15th to his 16th.
|It’s 10:15pm. I’ve had a granola bar, meat stick, nachos, a little popcorn, power drink and 3 beers since 6 am. I’m spent but, have a sense of heightened alertness. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. It was a grueling day full of deep thinking and hard work. The chip leaders on my original table are long gone. Tom Bebeau went out in 79th. My real foe and dinner break chip leader, Matt Neumann, busted out in 53rd. I’ve secured my seat at nationals – my first in 8 attempts. Friend of the CPL Nels Peterson is also still alive. He becomes the first 4-time National Qualifier.|
I play a little blackjack to wind down. Only 1 shoe though. My luck is running high – I make $66 and cash out. It’s just about enough to cover all my expenses for the weekend. I toddle of to a great sleep.