1 PM Mar 1 2012, Aria Casino, 42nd (95 entries)

A psychological downside to playing more hands is it puts you at greater risk of going on tilt if/when you fold a winner preflop. If it's a hand that you occasionally choose to play and a bunch of fireworks ensue after the flop that would have enormously increased your stack had you only chosen to make that tiny little call (or call that preflop raise), it can be utterly devastating to your frame of mind.

Having evidently picked my spots well for some aggressive moves during the first three levels, I managed to triple my initial stack of 10K to a healthy 30K by the first break.

But as I alluded to above, there were two hands especially that stick out, that if I'd only played instead of folding preflop, would have completely changed my tournament experience today. The first occurred when I was in middle position holding

One player had limped in front of me and I almost called, but chose instead to fold. Earlier I had been limping in with hands just like this one. A couple other players limped, then one of the blinds raised it 5.5x to 550. All of the limpers called the raise, then the flop came

Everyone checked, then the turn came

At this point two players went all-in holding just

and

Of course I was already seething when I saw the flop, but it was sickening to then watch two players push all their chips into the middle with those measley holdings. The icing on the bitter cake came on the river card:

The player with the T6 hand was openly gleeful as he took down the large pot. I just sat there silently, boiling inside for not having seen the flop.

I still had a large stack in front of me so there was good reason to be pleased with my situation, but a missed opportunity like that is still a painful pill to swallow.

Another chance at increasing my stack occurred when I held QQ on the button and raised an early position raiser all-in. His stack was 6K and he called with AK. Two kings fell on the board and no queens, so my stack took a 20% hit. Fortunately I got a lot of that back a few hands later when I reraised the small blind to 3650 in the big blind holding

He called, then the flop came

He then check-folded to my pot-sized bet on the flop, giving me almost 4K in profit on the hand.

A little ways into the fifth level our table got broken up. With the blinds and antes now at 25-200-400 and my stack hovering in the low-to-mid 20s, following Gus Hansen's advice I took a shot at stealing the blinds in early position holding

To my dismay, the player to my left called, then he got reraised, then a fourth player went all-in. Everyone folded except the first reraiser, who held

The all-in player held

To both my and the all-in player's dismay, the flop came

The turn made me feel a little better, and the all-in player, who was pretty much drawing dead already, a little worse:

Those quad aces would have demolished my flush.

On the very next hand, under the gun, I caught

Given the dismal failure of my steal attempt on the previous hand with the same exact hand (essentially), I decided to just limp in this time for 400 chips. It didn't come as any great surprise to me when the player to my left then raised it to 1650, the player to his left reraised it to 6000, and the player to her left reraised all-in to 6750. So what else is new?

Everyone else folded, then when it got back to me, with my stack still around 18K-20K, I couldn't see much point in turning my 400-chip investment into a 6750-chip investment holding just the Q8 of spades, so I folded. The player to my left called, then the initial reraiser to his left tried to put in a big reraise, but the dealer called the floor manager over to verify that she was not allowed to, since the all-in raise wasn't a full-sized raise. The floor manager enforced the rule, only allowing her to call.

Reviewing the hand later, I realized that I should have taken into account the facts that (a) the player to my left, who still had the ability to reraise, probably wasn't going to, and if indeed he didn't, then (b) the reraiser would have no ability to reraise again.

Given this information, I could have been pretty sure I'd be calling 6350 chips (about 35% of my stack), for a chance to win a pot that would likely - and did turn out to, when the player to my left called - contain another 21,450 chips in it. To make that a good call I would need just a 23% chance to win the 4-way pot with my Q8 of spades. My implied odds were probably way better too, as it definitely appeared that the lady who kept wanting to raise was holding a very strong hand preflop, and she wasn't likely to fold easily postflop.

To my utter horror, the flop came

The player to my left checked, then the lady put a huge pot-sized bet out there. The other player folded. When the lady and the all-in player turned over their cards, the lady showed

Though it wouldn't have served any purpose beyond that of a blank card against the lady's aces for me, the turn card then came

The sight of it was sickening just the same. I don't remember what the all-in player was holding, or whether I even bothered to look. All I know for sure is that the lady took down the huge pot with her two pair, aces and eights. Her stack had been about the same size as mine, maybe just a little larger, so had I played the hand I would have doubled up and then some, to somewhere in the neighborhoood of 50K in chips. It might have even given me the chip lead at the table.

This was just too much. My whole outlook on the tournament, even though I still had a decent, average-sized stack of about 18K chips in front of me, turned really sour. I just couldn't shake the shell shock from watching that flop fall.

With the blinds and antes now at 50-300-600, facing an early position raise by the under the gun player to 1500, I was holding the

and reraised to 3200. As always, the player to my left immediately called my raise. This time everyone else folded though, except the under the gun player who called. The flop came

The under the gun player checked, then I put out a relatively small continuation bet of 4200 chips. The player to my left pushed all-in, the other player folded, then, after a somewhat prolonged show of deliberation holding nothing but air, I folded too.

That was a really costly hand. It frittered away 1/3 of my stack, leaving me with just 12K left. Even though the blinds and antes were only at 50-300-600 - not desperation time yet - I was still reeling from the Q8 of spades debacle, essentially on tilt.

A round later I caught the

in early position and opened for 1800. True to form, the player to my left once again called my preflop raise. He either called or raised every single preflop raise I made at that table - I don't think he folded once. A player in late position also called, and both blinds folded. The flop came

Without much hesitation I rounded up the rest of my chips and put them all in the middle. This time the player to my left finally, for once, folded to my raise. However, the late position player needed time. His stack was barely bigger than mine was. He deliberated for a little while, then finally called, holding

No jack or running queens fell on the turn or river, so I was out in 42nd place.

A case could be made for going all-in preflop with the QT-suited and trying to steal instead of waiting until after the flop, but stealing seemed to be an impossibility at this table. It seemed like players were constantly raising and reraising. Not a very promising scenario for stealing the blinds.

It's tough going out that early after building up a healthy stack, and even tougher knowing how close I came to having a really healthy stack, if only I'd seen a couple flops I let go by instead.