7 PM Apr 15 2014, Tulalip (Marysville, WA), 25th (54 entries)

Despite having played several tournaments during 2013 and so far in 2014, this is my first tournament blog entry in over a year. What prompted me to write was the unusual way this tournament went, being forced into survival mode early then managing to survive for quite awhile.

I started the tournemant in the cutoff seat. All my hands were easy folds until I caught

under the gun. After six preflop folds to start the tournament, I decided to just limp with the jacks with no plan to reraise. It turned out nobody did raise. One middle position player, the button and both blinds also chose to see the flop at the minimum price, which came

Probably a mistake to check this flop but that's what I did. The middle position player led out with a smallish bet, the button shoved all-in, both blinds folded, I obviously called, and the other player mucked.

The hope here is for my opponent to have a lower set or even just two pair. Such was not the case. He instead turned over one of the two unique hands that stood the best chance against my top set:

The turn and river came, in order,

The other player had been somewhat active without winning any prior pots, so I did at least still have some chips. My stack dropped from 7K to 550. This was a bounty tournament, so not only did my 58-to-42 postflop advantage fail to almost double me up, it also failed to snag my opponent's $20 bounty chip.

Short of probably being able to steal the blinds with a preflop shove (which is a very bad play in my opinion and something I would never do so early), it's doubtful the hand would have played out any differently with any different actions on my part. For example, I don't see myself folding the set to any bet before the river, and the button probably was not going to fold to any bet at any time (with the probable exception of a preflop shove on my part). He was almost certainly going to be all-in after the turn no matter what, so even though I could have made a rational fold on the river, that opportunity was never going to happen. Also, the button player turned out to be a very active player, so I'm pretty sure he would have called a normal preflop raise had I made one. This was just one of those “that's poker” hands - my stack was simply destined to be decimated, early in this tournament.

Since it was still the first level with the blinds at 25 and 50 (with no ante), my now-small stack wasn't a complete disaster. I patiently folded every hand preflop for a full round until the big blind came back around and I was holding

Luckily nobody raised, so I got to see the flop, which came

I led out with the rest of my 425 chips and got two calls. By the river there was just one player left. I turned over the nuts and tripled up.

My stack was still small but I at least had a little more breathing room. I felt completely comfortable folding hands like

and

preflop. Eventually however, with my stack back down to around 800 chips and the blinds at 100 and 200, when I caught

under the gun plus one, it was clearly time for my first preflop push all-in after the UTG player folded. This time three players called. The flop came very good for me:

The betting was even better: everyone checked! Two more blanks fell on the turn and river and my ace took down the pot.

Still busy organizing my newfound chips, the dealer tossed me

under the gun. I plucked out a 1000 chip and bet it. A player in late position and the small blind called. The flop came

All three of us checked. The turn came

Everyone checked again. The river came

The small blind checked, I shoved all-in, and the other player folded. The small blind called and turned over

Since he had me covered and it was a scary board, I was mostly just happy to still be alive.

After that hand I went into a dry spell for about three or four rounds. With the blinds now up to 200 and 400 with a 25 ante and my chip stack back down to around 1500, though just a couple hands earlier I had elected not to open shove from middle position with

this time from early position, with the devastatingly large blinds imminent, I decided to open shove with

Two players called. The flop came

One player bet and the other one called. Things were looking dim. Then a miracle card fell on the turn:

This time the second player folded to the first player's bet. We turned over our cards. The other player showed

The river improved the other player's hand, but not enough to win the pot:

Forgetting the board had paired, I rose from my seat to leave. Multiple players immediately spoke up, saying things like “Sit down!” “You won!”

A round later I found myself holding

in the big blind. A few players including the small blind limped and I checked. The flop came

Everyone checked. The turn came

Everyone checked again. The river came

The small blind checked, I shoved, then everyone folded except the small blind, who called and turned over

This was disappointing but could have been worse, so I gladly took the small profit. By this point my stack had risen back above 4K, but the blinds were about to go up to 500 and 1000 with a 100 ante so I was still pretty short-stacked.

A little while later in early middle position I caught

I obviously could have shoved all-in with this hand, and maybe should have, but decided instead to just limp in with 500 of my precious chips. Several others did the same with nobody raising before the flop, which came

I check-folded. A player won the pot with a pair of jacks. It's questionable whether he would have called a preflop shove on my part. I might have stolen the blinds or even doubled up had I pushed before the flop. Or, I could have been knocked out of the tournament. I don't think it was wrong to limp and then check-fold in that situation.

After another dry round and my stack having dwindled back down to around 2600, I caught the

in early position. With the blinds about to decimate my stack, I knew I had to shove all-in with this hand, so I did. Things went well at first, as it got folded around to the button (the same button who drew out on me early in the tournament), who gave it some thought, then called. Both blinds folded and we turned over our cards. Knowing what type of cards I had been playing, before he saw my cards the button declared that I was ahead and turned over

He was right, but my 53-to-47 advantage was about to disappear:

I now had a 15-to-85 disadvantage, and when the turn came

my longer-than-expected tournament appearance was done.