How to win a UKIPT (or bust trying)…

Can a plucky amateur player win a UKIPT? And if he doesn’t, will his hands stand up to scrutiny from Jake Cody? Dave Woods sets himself up to fail…

I don’t play a lot of live tournaments but I haven’t got a completely terrible record. Unfortunately, most of my cashes have been in small events, and I’ve completely whiffed in my two WSOP forays and assorted other major tourneys through the years. So, when I decided I was going to play the UKIPT Isle of Man, I realised I needed a plan. A good one. So, I scoured the extensive PokerPlayer strategy archives to come up with some sage advice that I could use to propel myself towards the trophy and the £60k first prize.

Staying with former PokerPlayer alumni Rick ‘The Rage’ Dacey, who’s recently relocated to the Isle of Man, I knew this plan had to involve a curfew the night before play. We went out and had a couple of drinks, but I was tucked up in bed with a glass of water pre-midnight. It gave me plenty of time to go through the rules I’d drawn up…

  1. Play in position
  2. Play hands that can dominate
  3. Size your bets for value
  4. Don’t over value hands preflop
  5. Three-bet rather than call
  6. Don’t call three-bets out of position
  7. Play big hands fast
  8. Don’t make stupid bluffs
  9. Be aware of stack sizes
  10. Win the tournament!

The early levels

I sit down with a good ten minutes to spare and get talking to the chap to my left. He might think I’m being friendly (okay, I am), but I’m also scouring him for information. It turns out he’s a satellite qualifier who has brought his bike over so he can go and see the sights if he busts early. Good info.

The first level goes swimmingly too, with good cards and everyone playing pretty passively. Without doing anything dramatic I get up to 27k from the 20k starting stack. Then I play a bit of a funky hand with Tom Ward – a pro I recognize in seat six. He opens in early position and I decide just to call out of the small blind with A-K for deception. We check/check the blank flop and a King comes on the turn. I check-call a bet and then lead out on the river. This sends him into the tank shaking his head.

I try to stay still and not say anything but after a few minutes I realise I’m about to move into the classic steeple – a position of strength. I try to abort but it’s too late and instead modify it a bit, which probably just looks odd. He glances at me and then folds what turns out to be Queens. Oops. 

Back into surveillance mode, over the course of the first few levels I manage to get a pretty decent profile of all the players on my table.

  • Seat 1: A splashy local who likes PLO as it’s got more action
  • Seat 2: The quiet giant. Very tight and checks his cards as soon as they’re dealt
  • Seat 3: Solid, witty, good looking (me)
  • Seat 4: Satellite qualifier who has his bike with him in case he busts early
  • Seat 5: Really quiet/tight bloke
  • Seat 6: Tom Ward (pro who came second in UKIPT London last year)
  • Seat 7:Another pro player in a hoodie that I recognise but can’t put a name to
  • Seat 8: Calling station but a fairly decent one
  • Seat 9: A solid chap who late regs

All in all it’s a good table, with a few weaker spots. I’m back to my starting stack though after three-betting J-T and getting called by the hoodie in seat 7. The flop is Ace-high and even though I river a Jack I can’t beat his pocket Queens. It might seem like a big step backwards, but with blinds at 100/200 I’ve still got 100 big blinds. If you’re not used to big MTTs, the speed of a tourney like a UKIPT can really cause you to mis-step. Patience is the watchword.

I then pick up my first big hand of the day – Queens in the big blind. The button calls, the small blind follows, and I decide to squeeze to 800. I’m called by the button and I win with a c-bet on a horrible A-K-x flop. From here I get up to 30k with a few decent hands, although I can’t help but feel I might have missed value in a few of them…

Unfortunately we’re then the first table to break, which is annoying. One of my first hands on the next table suggests it might be just as good though. I raise with 10♣-9♣ and pick up one caller to a 6-7-8 rainbow flop. After missing lots of value on the last table I decide to bet, thinking it’s a flop that could easily have hit the caller or tempt him into bluffing on. He folds. I don’t recognise anyone on my table but I quickly try and profile the players again – a tactic I’d highly recommend.

It’s easy to profile poker players when you’re playing live, but what does your average online player look like?

Levels 7 and 8

It’s all gone fairly quiet but at around 34k I’m still above average and starting to really enjoy myself. Then I get Aces. I raise the button to 1,400 and pick up a caller to the A-2-4 flop. He checks and I check too. I bet 1,500 on the Eight turn and pick up a call. I then bet 2,500 on the Jack river and get another call. It turns out he’s got the case Ace and I could probably have got a lot more out of him.

Then comes the stack threatening action I’m not sure I’m craving. The perfect way to win a tournament is to never put your stack at risk – but it’s very rarely possible. After raise/folding two hands in a row I pick up Kings UTG. It seems perfect and with blinds at 400/800/a100 I raise to 1,600. The button and small blind call. On a Q♠-T♠-3 flop I bet 2,500, the button folds and the big stack in the small blind shoves.

This isn’t what I was expecting although I had pegged him as a splashy player. Even so, it’s fairly easy to conclude that he wouldn’t do that with a set so I call hoping I don’t see two pair. As it turns out he has the next worst hand for me… K♠-J♠. From an absolutely dominating preflop position (85%) I’m now on the wrong end of a coinflip (44%) for my tournament life.

Luckily the turn and river are solid bricks and I double to just over 70k. Jackpot! I then take another hefty chunk of his chips when I get lucky by rivering a set, leaving him muttering to himself and puffing on his comically huge e-cigarette/bong (toffee apple if I’m not mistaken).

End of the day drama

I get moved again for the final level of the day into seat eight. I’m down to about 62k with the average nudging 60k and I’m getting tired. I’m also pretty happy to leave with the stack I have at this point and only have time to profile the two players to my right, who have a pro rail and are drinking pretty heavily, including one nasty looking neat vodka shot. Seat six has a pretty decent stack and is moving it around in the knowledge that people don’t want to bust close to the end of the day. Best not to tangle…

Blinds: 600/1,200/a200
Villain (Button) – X-X: 90k
Me (BB) – A-Q♣: 62k

Villain raises button to 2,400, I three-bet to 7,100 and villain calls.
Pot: 16,600
Flop: K♠-2-7
I bet 7,500 and villain calls.

Pot: 31,600
Turn: Q

Okay, so this is good. It’s improved my hand. But it’s also bad because I could be in terrible shape against a random King. I check, villain bets 12,500 and I call.

Pot: 56,600
River: 3♣

I’ve only got a half-pot bet left now and I’m not entirely sure I want to call it off with second pair. I check and the player in seat six tanks. After a few minutes I glance at him and then look down at his chip stack. After playing with his chips he checks behind, to my relief.

I show my hand and he mucks muttering, ‘Brilliant, the only card on the turn that wins it for you.’ Not true, an Ace would have been good too, but I decide to spare him my pedantry and concentrate on getting my breathing back to normal. It’s an exciting end to a decent day, and one that leaves me on 85,500 with an average of 71k. Good work.

Jake Cody’s analysis

I think this hand is well played. I like our three-bet and the sizing – it’s important to raise bigger out of position. He calls, which is fine and pretty expected.

It’s a very dry flop and one where we can potentially fire multiple barrels on various run outs. It’s a very standard c-bet and I like the sizing. He calls, and I’d expect his range to be weighted towards pocket pairs, some K-x hands, Sevens, some Ace-high hands and a few floats.

The turn is an interesting spot – it’s a pretty good card for our range and, although we will barrel a lot here, I think this is a bad spot to bet. We’d be folding out every worse hand and every better hand will continue, so I like the check.

He now bets 12,500. Against some opponents we can happily check/fold, so this is a very read-dependant spot. I’ll be paying huge attention to everything he does physically. On the 3♣ river I think we have to fold if he bets again but, luckily for us, he checks behind and we win!

Day 2: Hammer house of horrors

My stack: 85,500
Average stack: 71,000

I am feeling pretty chipper after a walk along the seafront and, after playing ten levels, I only need to last another four to cash. The plan? Play tight and snug. But, if Day 1 was picture perfect, Day 2 is a bit of a horror show. I find myself on a seven-handed table populated by pros including Mark McClusky (seat two), Christophe de Meulder (seat four) and Adrienne Rowsome (seat five). From the off it‘s a different proposition, with awkward stack sizes to deal with everywhere. I start as the table chip leader but don’t really settle until I win my first hand by three-betting K♣-J♣ in position and getting a fold from de Meulder. Then I pick up Tens UTG+2…

Blinds: 800/1,600/a200
Villain (UTG+1) – A-A: 36k
Me (UTG+2) – T-T: 80k

Adrienne Rowsome raises UTG+1 and I look down at Tens. I check her stack to see just one blue 5k chip and make a plan to three-bet and call a shove. In the end that’s exactly what happens. I flip my Tens over and Rowsome shows Aces.

With hindsight I think I make two critical mistakes here. First I miscalculate her stack. It’s easy to do but it’s still a schoolboy error. If I’d known I’d be calling off half my stack I would have thought about playing the hand differently. Added to that, I’ve got to know that if she does shove I’m not doing well against Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces and only flipping against the majority of the rest of her hands. Despite being seven-handed she is showing a fair amount of strength betting and shoving in early position and she hasn’t shown any signs of getting out of line up to this point.

Jake Cody’s analysis

I think with an aggressive dynamic this spot is trivial. Once villain opens from a 23BB stack and we are next to act with T-T it’s not a fist-pump spot unless they’re extremely loose. However, I do think we’re strong enough to get it in preflop and it’s likely to go multi-way if we call. I like three-betting with the intention of calling a shove.

End of the road

In a bid to rebuild I raise A-9 from the small blind and get shoved on by the big blind who’s just sat down. It’s for my tournament life and I tank. There are worse Aces he could be shoving. Then again there are plenty that are better. And pretty much nothing else that I’ll be in great shape against. Do I want to get it all-in on a flip? It shows how tight the margins are. With A-J I’d snap him off, with A-T I’d probably sigh-call. With A-9 I reluctantly fold, only to get it again next hand in the big blind. It must be fate…

Blinds: 1,000/2,000/a200
Villain (SB) – A-Q♠: 205k
Me (BB) – A♠-9: 36k

Villain raises to 6k – more than the table norm which had been 4k. I see this as weakness and ship only to get snapped by A-Q. A Queen on the flop and another on the turn sends me to the rail a little bit shell-shocked. That wasn’t the way I’d seen the day play out in my head. Time for another walk on the sea front.

Jake Cody’s analysis

The first A-9 hand should have been a snap call unless the opponent is outrageously tight. The fact that he’d just sat down doesn’t help here. Your exit hand is again fairly trivial – A-9 is just so strong blind versus blind that there is no way we can do anything other than shove. Flatting makes little sense here and we can significantly add to our stack if our opponent folds. It’s just a cooler – unlucky!

The UKIPT returns for Season 5 in 2015 – look out for satellites on PokerStars!

This plucky amateur might not have won the UKIPT Isle of Man, but there are plenty of others waiting to take his place according to

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