With the Black Belt London Live II literally hours away, players will no doubt be preparing for the highs and lows of tournament poker, and the emotional rollercoaster to be endured.
Vincent Diver, for one, will be seeking calmer seas, as he left last year’s event as the first ever casualty of a London Live when his set of aces lost out to a turned straight within just 15 minutes of play.
With Vincent’s story in mind, I decided to probe the memory banks of fellow Blue Belts Kevin Williams and Mike Carroll, and see which hands from last year have left a lasting mark.
Jousting with Jesse
by Kevin Williams
My London Live experience began very averagely. My starting table included Black Belt blogger and Vic stalwart Hugo Martin, fellow Irish Open Grader Richard Hinds, and legendary poker pundit and commentator Jesse May. It was the first time I’d met Jesse, but his bubbling personality was having an effect on the whole dynamic of the game. As entertaining as always, Jesse was constantly berating his own play and his amusing self-deprecating analysis went some way in contributing to how the following set-up played out.
My average start had us playing the 50/100 level with my stack hovering at around 18,000 of the 20,000 starting stack. I opened to 300 from middle position with Ah-Jh, the button called and Jesse defended from the big blind. The flop came down a rather pretty 5c-Th-Qh and so I made a continuation bet of about two thirds of the pot. The button folded and Jesse called.
The turn brought a welcome 3h and Jesse checked. I opted to quickly check behind in that “Ah, man, I had a good hand but now the flush draw has come in so there's no way I can bet again,” kind of way, much as I might do if I'd just c-bet with total air or some kind of one pair hand.
The river brought the 2d and Jesse paused for a second and then checked again. I then thought for a few moments myself and elected to bet around two thirds of the pot again. Jesse now paused for the second time, muttered something about being pushed off another pot, cut out a chunky bet from his stack and preceded to check-raise me about a third of my remaining stack. The table erupted at Jesse finally ‘making his stand’ and I waited a moment or two for the furore to die down before announcing to the dealer that I was all-in.
Jesse immediately winced and started talking the hand through with himself as I ‘statued’ and prayed for the call. He thought and thought and it got to the point where I realised that not only did he definitely have a lower flush, but he was about to convince himself to make a very good fold. I decided after a while that I needed to hurry him into a decisive action and so eventually emerged from my stoic pose to call a clock. Jesse eventually made the call.
He tabled 4h-5h for an under-flush and I got a dream double-up to take me to around 37,000. Jesse turned to a passing Barny Boatman to complain that he had been outplayed on all three streets. “I played every street poorly,” he went on, “except preflop, but then I played the river badly twice to make up for it!”
I thought it was a pretty harsh summary of a rather nasty cooler.
Recalling a Horror Hand
by Mike Carroll
The blinds were 150/300 and I had around 18,000. In hindsight, maybe this hand shouldn’t even have got started for me, but when it folded around to me on the button, I decided to try and steal the blinds by making a standard open to 750 with 3c-2c. The small blind had been playing quite tight and was likely to fold, but the big blind was a little looser and had been fairly active of late, seemingly happy to commit plenty of chips with top-pair type hands.
The big blind called and we reached a flop of 3-9c-4c giving me bottom pair and a flush draw. After the big blind had checked, I bet around 1,500. When the big blind called, I was pretty confident that I was behind, but still had plenty of equity in the hand. Thinking back, I perhaps could have checked back on the flop and taken the free card.
Now, with the pot building, I hit two pair on the turn with an off-suit 2. Now I believe that I’m definitely ahead, and so am more than happy to play for stacks. I fired again, this time 3,200, only for him to check-raise to 6,750. This obviously displayed strength, but there was still a good chance that I was head, and so, with my flush draw as back-up, I pushed for around 15,000 total and he quickly called.
He turned over A-5 for the turned straight and I bricked the river. I was down to just a few chips, and although I managed to hang in for a bit longer, a level or two later I was gone.
The hand could and should have played differently. Firstly, I should have just folded preflop. Secondly, I should have taken the free card on the flop to control the pot before reevaluating the turn. Once the turn came, I was then happy to commit, but if a blank had come, I would have saved chips by not betting the flop, and even saved more by not opening in the first place.
We learn from these mistakes and hopefully my sharing this hand will help others avoid similar errors. As always, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.