Tournament Poker is such a beast. I love tournaments and I've worked on my game quite a bit, and I think I'm playing extremely well currently and making very few mistakes. My confidence was already high but then I won a tournament. I got first (out of 1450 entrants) in a $109 tourney for $25,000. I had won tournaments before but always at lower buy-ins, or in smaller fields, and never for more than $8000.
But tournaments can be frustrating and discouraging. By their nature you will play many in a row where you bust out, or win a very small amount, even if you're playing very well, and have no big scores for very long periods of time. Here's where things get odd though. Those periods don't bother me at all. I can weather them fine, know that I'm playing well, and not think much of it. Tournament poker is the most frustrating when you DO get pretty large scores, but fall short of the epic score.
The last 2 weeks that I played the Sunday Million I made deep runs both times. The Sunday million always features a first place of over $200,000, and the final table always makes at least $10,000. The first time I got 41st out of ~8000 players for about $3000. This wasn't too hard for me to swallow. But it was discouraging to think that you don't get that far in that big of a field very often, so it probably would be a while before I had another chance like that. Well, I was wrong, I got another shot the very next week.
And this time it was the largest Sunday Million field OF ALL-TIME. Pokerstars added $1 million to the guarantee of the prizepool, and in so doing attracted 10,000 more players than their usual 7500-8000. Resulting in a MASSIVE field of 18,000 with a total prize pool of $3.6 million. With a first place of $360,000, 2nd place being $292,000, everyone in the top 5 making at least $125,000, and making at least $20,000 if you make the final table, it was an exciting tournament. But at the start very daunting. With that big of a field the odds are stacked against anyone making it deep, even when they're playing well.
Well I managed to make it deep, somehow. I was rather fortunate in a lot of spots to pick up pair over pair where I had the bigger pair late in the tournament, or to win some coinflips. However it wasn't all smooth sailing; i flopped a set late in the tournament and lost a big pot to a gut shot, my AKs lost to JTo all in preflop, and my AQs lost a big coinflip early on. Overall though, my luck was definitely above average. And I was playing very well, making very good decisions.
As we were getting down to around 100 left, and the large prize money getting tantalizingly close, I began to look at some of my opponents results on OfficialPokerRankings.com. As might be expected in a field this large most of them were very inexperienced, most were losing players, and very few were tournament regulars who played often. Watching how they played confirmed that this was the case. With me having a very healthy stack for the majority of the tournament, I really loved my chances of making a really big score.
Down to 42 and I had an average stack of 3.3 million with blinds at 80k/160k. I find pocket tens in early position and raise to 2.5 times the big blind to 400k from early position. My standard raise. A player who I had searched earlier, who was a losing player, and pretty inexperienced as far as number of tournies played, had been playing extremely loose and aggressive the last few rounds. Either he was getting hit by the deck, or he was doing a lot of bluffing. Anyways, it folds to this player who re-raises me small. I found the size of the re-raise troubling; weak and/or inexperienced players often re-raise small when they have a monster hand. Better players will re-raise small with both big hands, AND bluffs, making them less scary from good players. But since I knew this guy wasn't good, I was troubled. However, with him playing SO many hands, and with me only having 20 big blinds, I believe the correct play is to shove all-in. So that's what i did and unfortunately he had QQ making me a 4-1 underdog. Sigh.
Wait! The flop is Td 8c 7d! I am now a monster favorite to win a 7 million chip pot, and be one of the chipleaders with 42 left, with an extremely good chance to make $100,000! Turn is 2d. YIKES! He can now catch any diamond or any Queen to beat me. NO DIAMOND PLEASE! The river... is a diamond.
Now this is not a bad beat. My opponent had the best hand when the money went in, which is all that counts, and he won. It was a brutal psychological hit though. This hand combined with the fact that this was the largest Sunday million prize pool ever and it was pretty devastating to be one card away from a huge stack and very solid chance at a huge score only to see the diamond peel off. I have no regrets with the decisions I made in the hand. And I did make $4500. But it was one of the more painful bustouts I've ever had to deal with. Much, MUCH worse than when I busted the previous week. And although I had an extremely profitable two weeks at poker (not just in tournaments but in cash games also), I can't help but feel more like I lost $20,000-$100,000, rather than like I won ~$8000.