Full Tilt Poker
Roland De Wolfe
Paris Open of Poker
The BIG DAY arrived, I awoke
mid-afternoon feeling great. After freshening up, I
proceeded to fulfil my tourist duties of visiting
monuments, first stop the River Seine.
It was a river that contained water, the difference with
this River is that it is lined by magnificent trees that
have cars zooming passed underneath their outstretched
branches, truly unique. Off next to the giant
electricity pylon, the Eiffel Tower. Flocks of tourists
converged around the base. It's only when you reach the
base, that you are hit by the sheer scale of the
structure. The grand hike continued towards the Arc de Triuomphe, I really should have bought a digital camera
as my words are an injustice to Paris' outstanding
The real deal, the poker tournament. The scene at the casino was reminiscent of mass Wildebeest herd crossing a crocodile filled lake somewhere on the plains of Africa. It was the most cramped environment I had ever been in, at times this wasn't such a bad thing as there were quite a few attractive ladies present but on the other hand, well.. Anyway, I paid the €1000 entry fee and selected seat 1 at the table in the middle of where the cash games are usually held. Sitting down, there were only few players seated when the cards are dealt. The Olympic hurdles qualifying started 7 years earlier as players rushed to their chairs. The one exception, is a young Norwegian guy who I had played a small cash game with the previous night, he joined after about 5 minutes with 2 beers at the ready. Probably 23-25 years old, he was married with 1 child, played 25-50 NL online but had his account closed at Prima for chip dumping. In his drunken liberated state the night before he disclosed that he was inexperienced at live play as poker is illegal in Norway. The guy never stopped talking; it was enjoyable to have such a character at the table.
Stakes began at 5/10 with T1000 starting chips. It was pleasurable that we could actually play some poker instead of having an all-in in or fold situation straight away. I limped in to a few pots with connectors but folded to flop bets. My first sign of aggression was bashed upon, as I raised to T30 with 43d in the cut off. Scandinavian player on the button bumped it up to T80 and I called, no other players in the hand. A78 all clubs on the flop, check, he bet T100. I tilted my head towards his chip stack, after surveying him and them, I folded. Perhaps bad etiquette on my part but I'm not the most tolerant of people, especially when re-raised. The Norwegian is raising nearly every hand pre-flop regardless of any other factors, limpers, position etc. At least 5 consecutive hands he raised pre flop, receiving resistance from a French man with Arabic descent. He had asked the dealer what game we were due to be playing just before the action started, then whether it was NL or PL? One summation I made very early in my poker career (can't say the same about my education practices) is that a sound preparation is very important to success. Evidently this guy didn't agree with that mantle. He was playing quite loose, limping in to most pots and cold calling a few raises from the blind positions. Post flop he was extremely tight passive, I don't think he raised in the first half an hour.
The first large pot involved the Norwegian and the guy to his right in seat 3. Seat 3 was a cross between Danny De Vito and a stereotypical monk; he was listening to an IPod as the hand unfolded. Folded around, monk limped in the small blind, Norwegian raised and is called. A rainbow flop with the highest card 9 is dealt. Monk check raised the Norwegian; he then deliberated over his decision for about 30 seconds. In the end he smooth called and I saw this as an indication of an incredibly strong hand, most likely a set. Monk came out firing on the turn which was another low card. He had committed over half of his chips, when the Norwegian glared at him and announced 'all in'. He immediately leaned back in his chair and exhaled a whispered sigh. 1 minute passed and the monk eventually folded. The Norwegian did everything in slow motion, his speech was slow paced, and his movement was very slow. When he quickly flung the cards towards the dealer, I believe this was a tell, not a very helpful tell, as it happened after the action had finished, but if I was able to notice other characteristics when he did this in future, it would be a handy advantage.
What was more interesting than the hand was the verbal confrontation in its aftermath. The Norwegian eyes were fixed on the monk. "What are you looking at?" Evidently the hand had affected his emotional state. "Why are you so curious all the time?" He came up with an incredible excuse; he was merely looking at the monk's IPod, a fascinating contraption that he had ever seen before. Apparently Ipods have not reached Norway yet. "Stop being so curious." The guy obviously had some issues, which I planned on exploiting when the button came around.
Blinds were now 10-20; I picked up the bullets in
mid-position and made the standard raise to 60. Only the
loose passive big blind came along for the ride. I
flopped a set and checked with position hoping he would
lead the turn representing the ace. Unfortunately he
checked and I had to bet as there were now straight and
a flush draw on board. T80 and he folded with a careless
expression. A few hands later I picked up AT of hearts
on the button, there were 2 limpers before my turn to
act. The loose passive player and a man from the UK he
looked a lot like Tony Bloom, might have actually been
him. I considered raising and then limped as I would
rather see a cheap flop than being re-raised by any of
the limpers. The flop was Q55, with 2 spades. Checked
around, I checked as the blinds could be concealing the
5. First to act, the Scandinavian in seat 2 bet T50 and
it's folded around to me. The turn was an off suit 7. I
immediately put him on a draw, most likely an open ended
or gut shot straight draw. I flat call, and he hurriedly
bet T150 on the in noxious river non-spade deuce. I
sensed something different about him, when he was
betting against my 34 d earlier there was slight
movement, now he was frozen. I trusted my convictions
and called. He said, "Nice call." Twirling his KJ of
spades around. I show the Ace of hearts, the guy
opposite me in seat 5 requests to see the other card and
is shocked that I would call with A high.
About a round later I pick up JJ in mid-early position and made the standard raise of 3xBB. Norwegian makes it T200 and everyone else folds. I can't call out of position, and as he was raising 50+% of the time, I pushed. I felt he would have made a smaller raise with a stronger hand than JJ and this was the correct play. For a very 'curious' person, in the 2 times that I had played with him he had gone out of his way not to make eye contact or even look at me. This continued, as he rubbed his cards. Finally, he said, "I have a big hand but I think you have Kings." Having watched Joe Awada make a tell of Scott Fishman when he did not talk at the final table of one of the lesser NL WSOP events. I thought I'd better engage in conversation. "There's an easy way to find out!" He then focused on me, "I think Kings, perhaps Jacks." I smiled at the Kings part and immediately dropped as he said Jacks. HA! Talk about a bad poker face. I can't believe he didn't spot it as he passed his pocket Queens. I had not really been tested like that before, even I was conscious that I was giving away tells, something I definitely need to work on.
After a few more blind steals I was moved to seat 3 on a new table which included Simon Trumper. Seat 1, was the spiky haired lady I had played with on the 300 tourney. Seat 2 was a young English guy, who was itching to talk to me. Next to me was an old French man and in seat 5 was a Finn, perhaps Juha Helppi the runner-up of the Monte Carlo Millions, not totally sure. Then a middle-aged English guy and Simon Trumper. Next to him, was a ginger haired Swede, one of the many team Expekt players there. I had played a cash game with him 2 days before, he had a very expressive face which clearly showed his unhappiness at his current chip standing. Seat 9 was a peculiar looking French lady with curly blonde hair. I'll try to describe her peculiarity, her eyes were the opposite to cross-eyed, they were both pointing outwards and her head was moving up, down, left, right, round and round. A smartly dressed French man was in seat 10, he had a mountain of chips probably totalling over T5000. He was running riot, winning pot after pot, simply raising and then continuing his aggression. He made an excellent river call with J2, (yes, he raised J2 pre-flop from under the gun) and took most of the spiky haired lady's stack. After a while he settled down to raising only about 2 pots per round.
Blinds were still at 10-20, I felt incredibly relaxed at the table, perhaps because I was an unknown quantity and there was no pressure to achieve anything. Seat 10, who appears in the background when Surinder Sunar won the Paris WPT event, opened for T60 in early position. I made it T200 to go, holding Ace King. Only he called. The flop produced J86 with 2 spades. He checked and I quickly bet T300. He couldn't get his chips in quick enough, called with haste. A great turn, an off suit ace, he sat back, grasped his lip and did a slow motion check, I saw this as "I give up, maybe if I check slowly he'll think I'm trapping and give a free river card." I think not, T500 to see the river. A pained expression grew on his face as he slid the dealer his cards. Exactly one round after I picked up Ace King spades, rent-a-raise (seat 10) opened to T60 again. I re-raised to T300, hoping that he would break emotionally and push all-in. Once more, he flat called. The flop came J77, he checked and I also checked, goading him into believing I had a monster and was giving him a free card. The turn was a blank and he checked again, allowing my bet to take the pot.
Ten minutes later and the blinds had increased to 25-50. Trumper raised to T150 under the gun, flat called by the ginger haired player next to him. The young Brit on my right went all-in for around T1300; lifting my cards I view the hooks, JJ. An unpleasant situation to be in, one which I deliberated over for a couple of minutes before passing. The obvious and correct play was to fold especially with the original raiser and caller to act after my turn. Still, I found laying down the hand when I potentially dominated the all-in player a difficult task. Everybody folded including the ginger haired Swede who showed Ace King. The young Brit spiritedly told the table that he also had Ace King, he later confided to me with hand over mouth that he had AA, of course I didn't believe him.
Simon Trumper with less than T700 limped under the gun, I limped with deuces in the cut off and both blinds checked. The flop produced JA2, the action was checked around to me and I bet the pot of T200, I fired the chips in with pace to make it look like a steal. I picked up a straggler; Trumper revealed he had an ace as there was not a flush draw on board. The turn was the seven of hearts, matching the Ace of hearts on the flop. He checked and I checked, hence leading him to believe my bet on the flop was indeed a steal, this I thought was the best way to extract maximum value. The river was a queen, Trumper flicked out a T100 blocking bet. The nature of blocking bets allows a player who is unsure where he stands either to receive a cheap showdown or minimize his loss if the opponent raises, a valuable asset to possess in the arsenal against weaker players. If employed against strong players it allows the opponent to potentially bluff, leaving the bettor with a tough decision. My feeling was that Trumper had committed practically half of his chips and would have to be incredibly disciplined to fold, which to my surprise he did. Credit where it's due, he played the hand very well post-flop.
Soon afterwards the table was broke up. I moved to a new table, having drawn seat 2, I was seated next 'Le Dangereux' Robert Cohen and obese French toad I'd played against in Dublin and then again in Paris in March. The opposite side of the table was full of short stacks, who were taking turns at pushing all-in pre-flop. There were miraculous two-outers on the river every few hands as the short stacks swapped bad beats. After half an hour of frantic action, the short stacks exited and normal play resumed.
Most people say their biggest adrenaline rush at the poker table comes from making a stone cold bluff; I derive greater satisfaction from putting people on exact hands and making the correct read. An Expekt team lady was seated in seat 4 and I was on the button with pocket tens, before the action began I noticed the lady had frozen stiff, her usual meticulous neat placement of the cards had deserted her. The curse of pocket Aces, I knew before anyone had acted that she had Aces. The chip leader min-raised under the gun, folded around to me on the button, I folded as I knew what coming. She didn't mess around, pumping it up from T200 to T1000. The chip leader called. The flop came KJ6, the dramatic lady started hamming it, "Hmm, oh, hmm, all-in." She pushed in another T1400. Somehow the Northern Irish man believed his pocket 8's were good and called. The lady showed her Aces and the dejected former chip leader showed his dominated hand, which received no further help. The table was disbanded shortly afterwards, I and the Expekt lady were moved to a new table in the main tournament room.
The tournament organizers were enjoying a game of human Tetris, 3 Expekt ladies in identical white suits were aligned in seats 4, 5 and 6. I was in seat 9, to my left was the English fish that I'd played cash games in Dublin with. This was an enjoyable table, half of the players clearly didn't know how to play, there were moderate sized stacks firing out all-in bets with any ace being called by queen high. I was getting some respect with my pre-flop raises, taking down numerous pots uncontested. It was time to mix it up, see how much respect I truly had earned. About 30 minutes in with blinds 100/200, I was sitting in the big blind with just under T4,000 and Q6 of clubs. The action was folded around to the semi-aggressive but paranoid looking bald headed man from Nottingham, he made it T600 to go, which was quickly called by the small blind, who was the worst calling station I'd ever played against, he had me covered. "All-in" I said. The button had about T3000 left, he went in to the tank. I made the play for two reasons, mainly because there was T1400 sitting out there, also the button's aura suggested he wanted to stick around and get as much play for his 1000 buy-in as possible. He continuously looked at the small blind, good news for me, in truth I would have never made the play without the small blind adding extra value. Time was called and the button passed, attention turned to the small blind, he couldn't get rid of them quick enough. I picked up the Q6, "You guys are too kind." The cards floated in slow motion, facing upwards Q6 landed on the oncoming chips. The bald button consoled himself, "I knew he was making a play. I had a dominating hand but couldn't call." Ah maybe next time.
Blinds had increased to 200/400, all of the Expekt ladies had departed along with a few others. The action was folded around to the calling station small blind, who called. I looked down at Ace King diamonds and raised it to T1200, he went all-in for T2,800, and without thinking I announced call. There was some confusion with the dealer not understanding the small blind's decision. After everything was cleared up the bald guy helpfully pointed out that my verbal declaration was binding. The small blind excitingly flipped over KK, a grimace on my face as I show big slick. The flop came J53 with no diamonds, at this point I'm preparing for the short stack struggle. The turn brought a Q and 4 extra outs. The river was greeted by a massive slam on the table, Ace. After a few French obscenities and frantic arm waving, it dawned on me, everything was going my way, and perhaps it was the day to clinch my first live tournament win.
Scrap the victory celebrations, the very next round I picked up pocket queens on the button. Baldy had limped before my turn, this probably meant a small ace. I raised it up to T1200. The small blind, an elderly French man with a big stack, totalling over T10,000 peeked at his cards and announced "Tapis." Putting me all-in and in a tough predicament. I hadn't seen get out of line before as he'd only been at the table for a few orbits. I tried to analyze him, but to no avail, he had turned in to a statue. He wasn't at the table when I pulled the Q6 stunt, so it was unlikely he was making a play. I had about T5500 remaining, how could I possibly fold here? Time was called, I allowed it to tick down already knowing I had no intention of calling the bet., yet I wanted to wait and see if my instincts would change my mind. Throughout this process, I remained calm and relaxed, there was no adrenaline rush like calling the all-in with Ace King. In the end I mucked my cards, probably a bad fold, but one I was content with.
The tournament director announced that the break would begin after the next hand. As each person folded, they left the table. I leaned back in preparation to fully relax for the break, lifting my cards I see the rockets! AA, first time in the day. Small blind, old man, probable bad bladder, if I raise he will fold. I limped. Checked to the flop, which came 37K. I decided slow but not too slow was the way to go, T700 trickled out. He was interested with his call, obviously he had caught a piece of the flop as there were no draws. I continued milking with a double stacked T1200 bet, as soon as the chips crossed the line, he announced "Tapis". I couldn't contain myself, standing up I called flipping over the Aces simultaneously. A group of spectators drew round the table. He showed K5 for 1 pair, anything but a king or 5 on the river and I would be chip leader. Blank and I'm the new chip leader. A proud moment as the cards remained on the table whilst my chips were counted. Players breaking up from the other tables walked passed, witnessing AA vs. K5 and myself with a huge smile and mountain of chips.
Resuming after the break I was in great shape with over T12,000 which was double he amount of anyone else at the table. I loosened my play significantly, stealing the T900 in blinds countless times. The next big altercation occurred when Robert Cohen moved in to seat 2. He had about T6000 stack at the time whilst I had over T14,000. He'd only been at the table for one or two orbits and was playing tight. He made a raise to T1800, I picked up pocket jacks in the big blind and showed him a little too much respect and also big stack inexperience by just flat calling. The reasons behind not raising were that I believed he had over cards, hence I didn't want to commit a large portion of chips on a presumable 50-50. The flop came 368, all hearts. I held the jack of hearts and immediately put Cohen all-in for T4000ish, attempting to take the pot down right there. He puffed his cheeks and called. As the dealer counted his chips, he picked up his cards and showed the 6 of clubs, underneath he sled out the 6 of diamonds for a set of 6's. The turn came a non-paired heart, giving me the flush. The tension mounted as it went down to the river, thankfully the sea sickness quelled as the river washed up a blank. "Merde" No translation needed. Everything was going my way.
The original plan was to play down to 9 players as the time was past 5 in the morning, the tournament organizers decided to stop when we reached two tables remaining. Normally I would have approved of this break but at the time it benefited my opponents who were noticeably much worse for wear than me, the prior week had acclimatized my body and mind to stay awake until 8 am. Regardless, I had made the money.
(Continued: Paris Open of Poker Final Table)