Tournament heaters, sweating friends and cash game grievances

By: Daniel Laidlaw

It’s been a few months since my last update and a lot has happened. I just won the Sydney Championships on Sunday for my first major live title and first six-figure tourney result, a week after falling just short of victory in ANZPT Queenstown. I’ve been curious what a live tourney “heater” must feel like since, until this year I don’t think I’ve run particularly well at them, and I have to say it’s pretty satisfying.

I’ve had no time to reflect on these results until now, since I flew over to Sydney directly after Queenstown to jump straight into the cash game and tourney action, before catching a plane back to Macau the morning after Sydney.

I was extremely close to back-to-back wins, after failing to fade 3 outs when HU to secure the win in Queenstown. I have to formally congratulate Jono Bredin on his victory again though: it was his first big live tourney, he played a tough HU game, and given the difficulties he’s doubtlessly had to overcome, if I had to lose to anyone I’m glad it was him. The fact he won the tourney holding black kings, while having K spadesK clubs tattooed on his arm, is also pretty epic and makes it appear as though the poker gods were not on my side there.

In the Sydney Champs, I was down to 7k chips in the second level before running up a big stack on day 1; had some hands go my way on a marathon 14-hour day 2; and entered the final day 1/11. The final table saw a fair amount of action: I ran pretty terribly to be reduced to 6bbs when 5-handed, ran good to run it back up again into the chip lead, and ultimately got into a four-handed battle with challenging Sydney-based regs Aaron Benton, Michael Kanaan and Toothpick Tony.

Michael asked to look at numbers when we were 3-handed and after some discussion we eventually agreed to an ICM chop. I rejected a deal when HU in Queenstown because I thought I had an edge and the money wasn’t significant enough to me. However, in Sydney with a difference of over $100k between first and third, and being chip leader with only a 37bb stack, and after consulting with friends, I decided chopping it was a fair result. Unofficially I cashed for $119,799.

We agreed to flip for the trophy rather than play it out, and while it meant nothing to me at the time, in hindsight I’m kind of glad I won since in my mind, if a deal is made the person who receives the most should be credited with the title when there’s nothing else left over to play for. Obviously that’s not what happens though, and one of the things that irks me about tournament media coverage is that true outcomes are often falsely reported when deals are not disclosed. So while it doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s still nice to be officially credited with the win.

I originally intended to go to Thailand during my month out of Macau in July, but made a late decision to see family and friends for three weeks in Adelaide instead, followed by playing Queenstown and Sydney. In recent months I’ve watched a tonne of training videos and discussed a lot of hands with friends, probably more so than ever before, so my confidence in my game had never been higher in going in to these series. The Queenstown FT was actually back-to-back FTs for me there after finishing 5th in 2011 and skipping last year.

The biggest news since my last blog however was undoubtedly my friend and room mate Jeff Rossiter’s second place finish in the Asia Millions for 24.5m HKD in June. While playing final tables is the most fun experience in poker, I think sweating friends is easily more exciting than playing yourself since you’re obviously calm and focussed at the table but have little else to do but get caught up in the action when you’re railing. Having bought 5% of Jeff’s action, it was a massive sweat.

While this tournament probably wasn’t as absurdly good value as originally thought, it still represented an excellent investment opportunity. I seem to have acquired a bit of a reputation as a staking / action-buying luckbox here in Macau and while I’ve undoubtedly run good I also think I’ve gone about it correctly, i.e. buying pieces of people who are legitimately great investments in the games they’re playing, not taking pieces simply because they’re friends.

This tournament was probably the sickest thing I’ve been a close witness to in poker to date, given the enormity of the buy-in combined with the turbo structure. I took all of day 2 off to watch the live stream from our apartment then went in to rail the FT with the other “Team Australia” guys here, where Jeff ultimately finished second to Niklas Heinecker.

On a sour note, the cash game issues I wrote about last time reached their lowest point yet during the Sydney Championships. A couple of Melbourne-based players have taken it upon themselves to attempt to control who gets to play in the high stakes PLO games in Australia, in a very obvious ploy to maximise their self-interest. This culminated in a disgraceful situation in Sydney where they began a “private” table alongside an existing 25/50 PLO game, and openly bribed players from the existing game to join their table.

The Star floor manager refused to do anything about it, turning a blind eye to what was happening in front of him. With an increasing number of guys interested in playing high stakes PLO during major tourney series in Australia, this is an ongoing issue that has the potential to degenerate further.

I think it is up to the poker room managers at Crown and Star to start taking responsibility for actively managing the running of their high stakes tables, rather than the current laissez faire approach of allowing shady characters to dictate the running of the biggest cash games in their casinos.

Till next time, good luck in your games.

Follow Daniel on Twitter @Choparno