I played in the $5 monthly birthday tournament at Mavericks in Port Huron last night. The tourney is a minimum $5 buy-in, but you can buy in for up to $35. The tournament celebrates anyone who has a birthday on that month (e.g., January). Everyone who has a birthday in January has a chance to win a prize not related to the tournament.
In addition, everyone gets free dinner. This night it was catered by Flaming Wok, the Chinese restaurant located in the food court of Birchwood Mall. Have to say it tasted really good. All in all, a pretty good value for the price of admission. On to the poker.
I started with a full buy-in, which got me T31,500. Blinds started at 50/100, and levels went up every 15 minutes. Antes were added after the first break. At 15 minute levels, the action moved very quickly. If you play a tighter style of play, you don’t get to play very many hands at the lower levels.
Some of the players were splashier and took a higher variance approach, over betting pots, raising 5-10 times the big blind pre-flop, and generously shoving to intimidate their opponents. A few of us, just sat back and waited for better cards, and used a small ball approach.
About small ball: there’s a limit. I mean, I saw a player with T250 chips left bet T150 into a pot of T1,500. Then he shoved on the turn for his last T100. Surprisingly, the other player in the hand was just as bad and folded to the bet allowing the short stack to win without a showdown. Just atrocious play, but let’s face it, some people are just there to have a good time and there’s nothing wrong with that.
An interesting hand came up where I was under the gun in level 4 (200/400 blinds) with pocket 3s. I raise to T900 and get 3-bet by a middle position player to T2,900. The big blind called the bet with very little left (short stacker from the hand above), maybe T1,500 behind. The 3-better had me covered, however, which I felt gave me the right implied odds to call. We go to the flop 3-handed with T8,900 in the pot.
Flop is great for me, A-7-3 rainbow. Big blind goes all in for T1,500. I think for a second and call. The board is really dry here, and there’s no reason to chase the pre-flop raiser out of the pot, although if he doesn’t have an ace it would be really hard for him to call even the small bet. To my delight he decides to raise to T10,000 with over T20,000 behind. He has me covered. I’m not sure if he is going to fold to a raise, so I decide to smooth call with no draws on the board.
Turn is a jack of clubs. I check and the other player shoves . I insta-call and we flip up our cards. Big blind has a set of 7s! He has us all crushed. Other player has AK and is drawing dead. I lose the main pot, but I win a huge side pot. It really was an incredible flop, where we all got a piece of the board.
Just before the break I manage to bust two other opponents in separate hands and that gets me close to 70BB. However, I believe with the blinds going up I was going to be around 56BB after the break. After the Chinese food at the break, I lose some pots where I completed the small blind, flopped draws, bet them and missed and folded on the river to bets. I manage to conserve my stack around 30bb through these middle levels until I flop another set of 3s and slow played them before shoving on the river. My opponent tanked for a long time, I was pretty sure he did not have top pair from the way that the hand went down, but I had a feeling he had a big pocket pair and that my shove looked very much like a misguided bluff. In the end though, he probably could not bring himself to call off all his chips with just second pair (misjudgment on my part) and he folded without showing.
That hand kept me going to the end stages of the tournament to where my stack devalued to about 10bb. Just about everyone at my table had 10bb or less. A couple of players had 15-20bb. Just the antes were a great prize to steal, so I ended up shoving in good spots with mediocre hands (J9o and 34s) and stayed above 10bb.
I made the final table and then got caught stealing by the short stack when we were 8-handed. I had shoved from the cut off with Q6 of spades and got called by KJ of spades. If I lose the hand it cost me half my stack leaving me with about 6bb. The flop has a king and a queen, so I am in dire straights. The turn is a blank, but the river is a glorious queen, and I bust the player and jump to a slight chip lead over the whole table.
Eventually talk of a chop comes up. I would rather keep playing now that I have the chip lead, but at the point of the discussion I believe I only had 13bb, so it was a slight chip lead at best and still shove or fold poker. Even though I felt I understood the shoving ranges better than everyone else at the table, all the other players wanted to chop seven handed, and not wanting to be the guy to hold up the chop, I agreed and collected the $121 prize. It was a small prize that took 5 hour to collect, but I was pretty happy with my play and the fact that I only had to come from behind once when my entire stack was in the middle.
There were already two tables of $1/$2 cash games running when I ended the tourney, and I got a seat right away for cash. Unfortunately, my ride was ready to go shortly thereafter and I decided to call it a night after the long tournament. I will definitely be playing more at Mavericks, and would definitely recommend the Birthday Tournament for a good time.