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Tournament Tales

by Nick Heather |  Published: Nov 01, 2010


Perfect and Imperfect Plays From Portugal

I had two polar opposite days on day one and day two of the European Poker Tour Villamoura. On day one, everything went fantastically, I played great, I felt great, and I also ran pretty damn hot. I had the pleasure of having Viktor Blom (Isildur1?) two to my left on day one. He had a crazy Swedish friend on the table also and being honest, I’ve never seen two players enter so many pots with the word raise. It was very entertaining to watch.

I tightened it up the first level and a half, just trying to get a feel for the table. Blom’s mate even commented how tight I had been playing. So I had a tight image at a table of maniacs, I could use this to my advantage, and I did. At 100-200 blinds I opened in middle position to 525 with 9♠ 8♠ playing close to 34,000 in chips. Blom peeled from the cut-off playing about 30,000 and his crazy friend in the big blind called too, having us both well covered. The flop came 7-6-4 rainbow and the crazy Swede lead for 1,200, which he had done several times in the past, both with air and with good hands.

I elect just to call, one because if I raise I can get blown off my hand by Blom and also because if Blom decides to raise it gives me more options. Well surprise, surprise, Blom raised to 3,800, his friend started laughing and snap called the raise. This left me in a very interesting spot. It seems obvious enough Blom’s friend had a weak holding, perhaps something like a pair and a gutshot or just a random straight draw. Then to look at Blom’s hand range is a little tougher as he is obviously not only a fantastic player but also an aggressive maniac. I felt that, coupled with the fact he was in the hand with his mate and the fact he thought I was a scared little nit, he could easily have a lot of air in his range and also a lot of combo draw hands, one pair and an open-ended straight draw.

I decided it was a good spot for me to raise, so I made it 11,200. Why? Firstly because of my image, in their eyes my line would look absurdly strong and even if either of them had as strong as two pair it would be hard to continue against me. And secondly because Blom and his friend had been battling with each other a lot already, trying to outplay each other, and loving getting the better of each other. Coupled with those two reasons and the fact that I had a hand with decent equity if called, I made this play. They both snap-folded, so I was either just lucky or my thought process held some value. That hand ended up giving me a lot of confidence and I had a great day one and finished as one of the chip leaders on 140,000 in chips.

Day two went horrifically badly for me but definitely had some interesting hands for discussion. This hand occurred very early on day two, so no reads on any of the players thus far. With the blinds at 500-1,000 with a 100 ante, a middle-aged gentleman from somewhere in Europe opened to 2,800 under the gun, it folded to me in middle position and I looked down at A♠ K♠. The initial raiser was playing about 80,000 and I covered. I elected to just call for two reasons. Firstly I had no reads on the player under the gun and if I three-bet I would be put in an awful spot if he decided to four-bet. We were also very deep and I would never be comfortable getting in 80 big blinds with A-K against a random hand.

Secondly, I had Dario Minieri and Stevie444 on my left, and I thought by me flat-calling it would give them the opportunity to squeeze light and thus put me in a favourable situation with a very strong hand against an extremely aggressive opponent. However, everyone folded and the European gentleman and myself went heads up. The flop came down K♦ 7♣ 6♣ and the raiser led out for 4,000. This was obviously a very good flop for me and I think the only option at this point was to just call. Yes the flop is very draw heavy, but if I raise I could put myself in some very tough spots and also fold out a lot of his weaker holdings and bluffs.

So we go to the turn, which is the 10♠, and our European friend bets 12,000. This bet size kind of shocked me at just how large it was and it left me in a pretty tough spot. The only hand that got there on the turn was 9-8 and I’m not saying I discounted it from his range but he just didn’t seem like the type of player to be opening 9-8 under the gun, so I felt comfortable he didn’t have that hand.

I narrowed his range down to A♣ X♣ type hands, sets, A-A, A-K, K-Q , K-J and perhaps the odd random bluff. I felt that my hand was still underrepresented in his eyes and that if I called again here it would look very strong and he should slow down on the river unless he had the goods. So I elected to call with the intention of folding to another large river bet. The river paired the board with a 6 and he snap lead for 10,000. Again I was completely confused and shocked by his sizing, but one thing did seem clear, he was value betting. And at this stage I wasn’t beating very many of his value-betting hands. But the fact that he was offering me such a good price to call and the fact that he could take this line with K-Q or K-J (albeit unlikely) and A-K I decided to make what now seems like a pretty bad call.

He showed me A-A and scooped the pot. Looking back at the end, even though I was getting such a good river price on my call it has got to be a fold. All I am doing is calling hoping for a chop and perhaps the very slight possibility he is bluffing. That hand set the tone for day two and I just never got going. I busted about four levels in getting my A-To in preflop against a very aggressive young Russian player with K-9. A king on the turn and I’m out.

Big congrats to Toby Lewis for winning this tournament, he is a class act and completely deserves it. ♠

Nick Heather finished fourth in a $1,000 no-limit hold’em tournament at the World Series of Poker 2010. He plays and blogs at