T.J. Cloutier Shares Tales from the Poker Trails
In a previous blog I posted about playing the Venetian's Deep Stack Extravaganza, I mentioned that I bubbled the event. As I headed for the door, someone asked if finishing on the bubble puts me on tilt. No, when I've played my best, I can go to sleep at night with no problem. The only time it really bothers me is when I've made a mistake in my play. Actually I had an "opportunity" to get broke earlier than I did in this tournament. A hand came up in which a player raised and a second player called him before it got to me on the button. I looked down at A-Q and just threw it away in a situation where a lot of players I know would've taken a flop with the hand. And you know what was out? Pocket aces and A-K! I patted myself on the back when I saw those hands turned over.
A peculiar hand came up in the tournament that I want to tell you about. It involved Jean Gaspard, nicknamed "Prince," a very good player and a nice guy. Prince plays quite often in the Vegas tournaments, and he likes to play lots of pots. In this particular hand, everybody passed to the small blind before the flop, who raised with a 5-4. Prince called him with a J-10. The flop came 8-7-7. The small blind needed a 6 to make an inside straight, and Prince needed a 9. The SB bet $5,000 on the flop, and Prince called him with no pair, only an inside-straight draw. Sure enough, here came a 6 on fourth street. The SB led out with $11,000 with his made straight. And Prince called him! Guess what happened on the river: Off came a 9 and he doubled up on the end.
When I headed up the elevator later that night (actually, I busted out at 3:00 in the morning when we got down to 18), there was Gaspard playing at the final table. He eventually finished sixth for a nice payday of almost $27,000.
I played a key hand just after the dinner break when I had built my chips up to $49,000. In this hand, a player went all in with a few less chips than the blinds. I raised with pocket 5s from a middle position to shut out the rest of the field because I wanted to play this guy heads-up so that I could pick up a little extra money from the blinds. But my plan backfired when the button called me. "Be careful," I reminded myself. "You've only got two 5s."
Here came the flop: A-5-4 rainbow. Perfect! I wasn't even worried about the all-in player because he didn't have any money. So, I checked to the guy on the button because it looked like a perfect flop for him to be playing an ace. And I wanted him to have an ace so that I could win a big pot from him. He also checked. Then on the turn came a diamond, putting two diamonds on the board. I made a decent bet at the pot, and the button moved in, $40,000 total. "Boy, I've got this guy cold!" I thought. And I called him in a New York minute. "I've got nothing!" he said, as he turned over the Q-J of diamonds. No pair, no nothing. He absolutely had to catch a diamond on the river. No problem! Off came a diamond, knocking me down to $8,000 left to play with.
Why did I check my trips on the flop? Why not? I wanted to get a play out of this guy. It was an absolute rainbow flop, so what's he gonna have in this spot? Remember that he stood a raise before the flop, so there's a good chance he has an ace in his hand and he's gonna bet the damn thing on the flop. If he bets, I can make a decision whether to reraise him right there or wait until fourth street. But he didn't. He checked it behind me. I wasn't worried about a flush because it was a rainbow flop. When he bet the turn, I thought, "Unless he has aces in the hole, I'm really in good shape here." Then bingo! He catches runner-runner diamonds.
It happens. A lot of strange things happen in tournaments. Eventually I ran that little bit of chips up to $120,000 at one point. So, nobody could say that I ever gave up! That's something I don't do. When I'm playing, I'm not trying to finish in the money. I'm always playing to win. And I think that attitude has served me well over the years. I'm not nervous at the final table, I'm relaxed. The only time I'm ever on edge in a tournament is the first few hours of it. Once we start playing, I feel good. But the anticipation gets to me at the start. I'm wondering whether I'm gonna hold any cards, stuff like that. Usually I've gotta fight like hell just to survive early in the tournament. Why is that? I don't know, but that's what happens.
Till next time, this is TJ signing off from Texas to the world