Friday, May 24, 2013

MTT Survival Instincts, Part I

I've played in a fair share of MTT's so far this year - definitely more so than at this point last year - and have been fairly satisfied with the results.  If you've been reading previous posts you should already know that I managed to final table four out of four of the local monthly league tournament that I play in, including one win and another cash.  These generally get 40-45 players - not bad for a friendly home game.  You might also be wondering what happened this past month and whether or not I'm still towards the top of the leaderboard.

Unfortunately a fifth final table was not in the cards in May.  Not only that, but I actually busted first, and believe me, it's been a hand that's perturbed me ever since.  Here's how it went down:

Level 4, blinds at 100/200.  Hero is off to a slow start and had to give up on a failed steal attempt or two, now sitting on about 13.5k or so from a 15k starting stack.  UTG, a fairly bad and straightforward player limps in, UTG+1 folds, Hero looks down at KK, and raises to 700.  A player on the button, who I have not played very often with but seems to be more on the loose-passive side so far, makes it 1400 to go.  It folds back around to me and I decide to raise to 3700, expecting either a reluctant fold or loose call.  Instead our villain ships it for what turned out to be only T25 less than my stack.  I make the call without much thought, find myself up against AA, fail to improve and am out.

At the time I thought nothing of getting my chips in preflop with the 2nd best starting hand, and I'm not sure I've ever been in a situation yet where I've folded Kings preflop (though most of my experience is at lower limits where doing so would be highly -EV without any sort of soul read).  In retrospect of course, my decision seems rushed, and there may have been a small chance that I could have laid down the 2nd best hand and lived to fight on another day, despite being a below average stack.  I didn't go through this at the time, only for a long time afterwards, but my thought process likely would have gone as follows:

Okay, I have the 2nd best starting hand, one I normally don't mind getting all-in preflop with.  What about my opponent though?  He seems somewhat loose-passive... has played a fair number of hands, including calling a number of raises, but has only raised preflop once himself - it was a min-raise - and he ended up showing AK.  I have a tight-aggressive image, which he may or may not be aware of, and have made a substantial early position raise, which he 3-bet the minimum amount.  He has position and he seems to want a call.  What is his likely range here?  He would probably just call with a hand like TT, JJ, or AQ, particularly this early on.  QQ+ or AK is more likely, though KK would be rare, and we'll also remove some of the AK combos since I have two Kings myself.  I don't have enough information to find a fold yet, but I also don't want to call and play this out of position.  A substantial raise should give me the info I need, and my opponent might opt to fold or call with hands like QQ, AK, or less.  If he shoves he could still have these hands, but more likely better.  What he does and how he does it could also give me more information to determine my next course of action.

After I raise and my opponent quickly announces all-in, I remember my guts being a little unsettled.  Unfortunately I didn't listen to my gut and I didn't rely on my tournament survival instincts.  Instead I acted on the general rule of thumb that with Aces or Kings you should always be fairly happy to get your whole stack in preflop, particularly in this sort of game.  My snap call was almost unconscious and involuntary, like a reflex that I'd rehearsed thousands of times before.

After going back and forth over this hand countless times in my head, I'm actually glad that it occurred.  Sure busting out in last place and getting nearly nothing towards my overall league points sucked, but it was a vital lesson in the importance of tournament survival instincts.  In Part II of this post I'll continue in showing how this hand enhanced my instincts in the most recent tournament I played - and happened to win - which is part of another league that I play less frequently.