This year's World Series of Poker has so far been an enjoyable return to tournament play for me. Event 8, the $1,500 buy-in "Millionaire Maker" with $1 million guaranteed to first place, was my first event of the series, and it proved to be an exciting reminder of the nuances of no-limit hold 'em tournaments. With a well-timed taunt, I was able to set up two key pots that would vault me comfortably into the money.
After the first day of play, I managed to bag up about $41,000 in chips heading into day two. Fortunately, I drew a great seat at an ideal table for my strengths. During the first two levels I had chipped up easily, picking on competent players, attempting to steal the blinds and antes. I could feel tensions rising when the blinds jumped up to $600-$1,200 with a $200 ante.
In the pivotal hand, action folded to a decent player in middle position who was becoming impatient to pick up a pot. He raised to $2,500, and when the action got to me in the cutoff, I looked down at 2s 8s. Certain that I would be able to take this pot away with near impunity, I reraised to $5,300. When he called, his demeanor was tight with frustration.
The flop brought 10h 7c 4d, and he checked after some deliberation. This was an ideal flop for me, innocuous enough to goad him into one more call but disconnected enough to leave him highly unlikely to have made a strong hand, so I bet $7,100. His shoulders deflated as he tossed in a call.
On a turn of 2h, he checked again, unsure of what would happen next, so I fired $11,400. After some thought, he commented that he had wanted to "play some pots" upon returning from break, then folded his hand. I showed the 2s and smiled, rubbing salt in the wound.
From there, building my stack up to $200,000 was trivial. Just an orbit later, action folded to me in the small blind, and I raised to $3,100 with Ad Ah. My very tight opponent called in the big blind with Ac 3s, and on a board of As 10d 4h 9h 2c, he called off his whole stack, about $40,000 more chips -- not a typical hand for him to show down in a big pot.
Another few hands passed, and I raised to $3,700 with As Kd in early position. Another very conservative player called from the big blind, and as the board came Ad 6s 3d 7h Jd, he also called off his entire stack, about $50,000 worth. I did not get to see his cards, but he probably had something like Ac Qc, another hand with which I normally wouldn't expect such an opponent to go broke.
Thanks to these abnormal windfalls, I was able to coast through a few more levels, eventually seeing a payout of $6,353. Despite a humdrum run of cards, I showed a bluff in the right situation and was then able to maximize payoffs in two crucial hands, giving me the flexibility and momentum to stay alive while hundreds of other players busted out.
These scenarios remind me invariably of why my first love will always be tournament poker.
Corwin Cole is a poker coach whose instructional videos can be found at CardRunners.com.