Broke out of a bit of a funk tonight and made two final tables and the final two tables in a third -- taking 3rd in a $10 rebuy tourney on Bugsy's.
The last couple of sessions had been very frustrating because I was building big stacks in several tourneys but then losing them on risky plays during the middle stages of the tourney. It led me to really assess my game and try to determine what was happen.
The realization I came to was that my greatest strength in tourneys is also my greatest weakness later in tourneys.
I have concluded that I have a strong ability to build a big stack early in a tourney, whether a rebuy or a freezeout. I do this by taking some key risks early in tourneys and either busting or doubling. I also tend to play well after the flop to assess an opponents strength and when I spot weakness I will pounce to take the pot -- know matter what my holding.
While these strengths serve me well early and for the first couple of levels in the middle of a tourney -- they were tending to be my downfall in the later middle stages of a tourney.
Here is an example, I have built a very large stack in the middle of a tourney. blinds are 150/300 and I have about 40,000 chips. I get 66 in late middle position. An early position player makes it 3x the big blind, or 900. Now this individual had raised a couple of times in the last 10 hands and I was starting to label him as a LAG. However, he had not showed a hand and I was playing several other tables so I did not yet have a good read on him. He had about 25,000 chips.
I decide to come over the top of him, but there are a couple players to act behind me. Early in a tourney -- I will push here to get all in and see what happens. But here I should have only reraised about 3000 to 3500 chips. Instead my adrenaline was flowing and I had a big stack so I make it 9000 to go. He pushes and unfortunately I am pot committed to call. I call and he has KK. My read was AJ to AK based upon his earlier raises. I am now hammered down to 15,000 chips and while sufficient to hang on, I should have still had my stack.
Here is another example, in the UB $3 rebuy with a guaranteed $7k prize pool. We are down to 22 players and I have about 119,000 chips. The blinds are 4k/8k and I have not had cards for awhile, I have been unsuccessful in a few blind steals and have whittled down from about 145,000 in chips. I am UTG+1 with 99 and I raise to 22,000 to go (just below 3x bb). A middle position raiser raises another 27,000 and it is folded to me. Again the adrenaline was flowing and I did not take long enough to think through the situation.
There are really only two choice here, push or fold. Calling is a very bad decision (unless you plan to stop-n-go and push any flop -- then it is like pushing anyway), because if you call you will be left with 70,000 in chips (or 8x bb) and the flop will have an overcard about 50% of the time.
I ended up pushing and was up against JJ, but in hindsight if I had thought this through more thoroughly what could he have had. First, let me say that I did not have a great read on this player but he had not been out of hand so I had to assume he had a hand. What could he have had -- realistically his range is AJ - AK and TT and up. So best case I am up against a race and worst case I and dominated. Not a good place to push, unless the player was a LAG player that had been raising alot. Clear fold -- in fact in hindsight I think I should also fold TT here and JJ is about a 50/50 proposition. AK, QQ to AA are all pushes, but no 99.
The lesson: With only 22 players left and a prize structure that pays $39 to 22nd and $1,500 to first, I really need to take more time to think through the situation and really be more careful with a large or decent size stack. Here I had 97,000 chips before the raiser's additional 27,000 -- I can fold and still have 12x the bb. I had flexibility and should have looked for a better place to push from late position later.
So tonight, I still built the big stack in three tourneys but this time I played much more wisely down the stretch. I was much more cognizant of my stack and preserving it. I was an aggressive raiser, but did not call many reraises unless I had a monster.
Once it gets to all in poker, I play well. Tonight gave me confidence that I can preserve a big stack in the late middle rounds and play wisely until we get down to the bubble.