I’m a poker beginner. Maybe not a true beginner. I play with my buddies a few times here and there and I tend to do well, either winning or getting second in most of our gatherings. I have also been to the casino a few times. I played in four low blind cash games and ended up in the black in three of them, netting a total of about $400.
I’m definitely not bad, but I’m no poker expert. My experiences are limited to playing with friends, a few cash games, and watching it on TV. I’ve definitely got something going for me, but it’s too early to say I have much skill in the game. Still, the other day I entered into my first ever Texas Hold’em no limited poker tournament at a large local casino.
The buy in was $40. 72 people registered. I don’t remember the payouts exactly, but it was for the top 10% (7 people). The winner took home something in the 900’s, second place got 500 something, 3rd 300 and the remaining 4 got somewhere between $100 and $200.
My First Poker Table
I started at a table with 8 players that all knew each other intimately. They were talking about their dogs by name, discussing their recent surgeries (only one was under the age of 50), and continuing conversations they had previously. These may have been poker pros but they weren’t that aggressive. They kept calling the blinds with nothing more than a Q/3 and rarely bet more than triple the blind even when one player hit an inside straight on the river.
It kept on giving me vibes of Slot Online Terpercaya at regular intervals and the players were quite adept in their game as well with the tension giving way to regular doses of humor and their blinds were cracking me up though I repressed it.
I decided not to bet unless I had an Ace or pocket pair. Why? Because part of playing poker well involves having some read on what the players might have. But these guys were playing almost everything. They could literally have any cards. So unless I had a clear advantage, I’d be going against them completely blind. Even a 2/7 off suit can beat pocket aces, but the advantage is that when you have aces you can be reasonably sure that the player didn’t keep his 2/7. When they’re playing almost any cards, you can’t make any assumptions, and without assumptions it’s harder to make accurate bets. My goal was to just sit back and wait, unless I had some cards that “needed” to be played.
Second Poker Table
Since none of these players were aggressive, no one was getting knocked out. Other tables, on the other hand, were losing players left and right. One table lost 3 players in 15 minutes, and we started with 4,000 in chips and 25/50 blinds – those players were playing obscenely aggressively.
So they split us all up and moved us to other tables. I was moved to a much more aggressive table. So aggressive, in fact, that everyone at the table already had the chip lead on me, because they had knocked a bunch of players out and taken the chips. Not only were they more aggressive, but I had to up my own aggressiveness because the blinds were up and I was already at a disadvantage.
Still, I’m a risk-averse poker player. I don’t bed a 3/8 suited just because I want to see if I can bluff. So I player this table a little differently. If the aggressive players folded before it was my turn, I’d double the blinds if I was in the hand. If the aggressive players stayed in, I’d either fold if my cards weren’t good enough, or I’d triple the blinds so that they’d only stay in if they had something.
Most of the players would fold. It seemed like they were more likely to call an all-in with the potential of knocking someone out than they would call a raise and lose chips for nothing. So I kept doing it. I barely got a chance to play a hand. Instead, I kept building up chips from other people’s blinds (as well as antes, which I didn’t know existed until this tournament). I built up about 7,000 in chips, which was still a mild disadvantage, but didn’t put me too far down. There were still about 50 people left in the tournament.
Third Poker Table
A few players got knocked out by the chip leader at our table, so they split us up again. This time they put me at a table with a bunch of old pros. I’d call this a moderately aggressive table. No one was going all in for no reason with bad cards, but the bets were pretty high – at least triple the blinds if the player was in.
At this point people were bleeding chips left and right. I decided to kick up my own aggressiveness, but only if I could stay in if I lost. So I was more aggressive against the players with a lower chip count than me. They were playing more risk-averse at this point, hoping to last longer in the tournament. So they’d keep folding over and over and I’d pick up their bets. Pretty soon I had built up a more sizable chip stack of about 9,000.
Also – and I think this is good advice for all beginner poker players – I only bluffed when I still had a shot of winning. I never made a straight bluff, where if he called I was guaranteed to lose. I’d bluff when I had, say, a shot at an inside straight draw that I probably wouldn’t get, or I had a small shot at making the flush on the river but I was otherwise helpless. This ensured that even if they called my bluff, I wasn’t guaranteed to lose. I was doing pretty well.
Now I could play a little more regularly. I stayed in the good hands, I folded the bad ones – nothing special. I wouldn’t call unless I still had a good chance of winning the hand, and I wouldn’t raise unless I was pretty sure I was going to win.
At one point I was taken all in by one of the aggressive players with a sizable chip lead but I had hit an inside straight on a big blind so I called, won, and created a huge chip stack at this point in the tournament.
Here’s where I changed my strategy completely. At this point I had enough chips that I could bleed blinds and still have a good shot. So I went back to my original strategy that I played at the first table – I’d only play if I had an excellent starting hand. Why? Because I looked at the tables around me and players were falling left and right.
4 tables became 3 tables. 3 tables became 2 tables. And soon I was watching players get up from the second table as it started to narrow down. Now I was playing to get into the money, not to necessarily win the game. This was my first poker tournament – I didn’t expect to get this far, and now my goal was to reach the final table.
And it worked. I bled a few more chips than I’d have liked, but I didn’t have anything higher than a Jack anyway so it’s not like I had a starting hand that warranted any bet. Finally the players at the other table were out. I was at the final table.
The Final Table
I don’t have many interesting things to say about the final table. I played aggressively, and most of the players would fold when I bet. Other players were simply bleeding chips until they were forced to go all in and lost. 10 players got knocked down to 7 players and then two more fell. I won some hands but I lost a big one when some guy got lucky on his all-in and doubled up with a K/10 (I had an A/K). I was in 5th place and was the small stack. I was small blind and probably couldn’t afford to last more than one more turn since big blinds were already at 8K in chips, so I went all in when I got another A/K to try to steal the big blind. The guy had pocket 8’s and hit trips on the flop, so my game was over.
Still, I walked away with $170. Not bad for my first poker tournament.