Last night saw me play my first online tournament. I was prepared. I had whisky. I had beer. I had cigars and strippers and sunglasses. Okay, I didn’t really. I had a peppermint tea. But I didn’t just have peppermint tea: I had peppermint tea and a strategy.
My strategy wasn’t particularly mind-blowing or novel. The idea was to sit back and observe, only play outrageously strong hands, pick up some blinds here and there, wait until the bulk of the players had been knocked out and then strike.
It went wrong pretty much immediately. I decided that before putting my plan full of holes into action, I’d like to try and win the first hand dealt at my table. So I tried. And I failed. So I decided I’d like to try and win the second hand. I failed at that, too. But I did win the third and the fourth and the sixth and although my plan of sitting back appeared to be pretty much evaporating, within half an hour or so of playing in my first ever tournament I found myself the chip leader on my table.
It felt good. It gave me the necessary confidence both to bluff when it seemed feasible and, as strange as it may sound, gave me the confidence to fold more regularly. This has been perhaps my biggest problem over the last five or so weeks: I just can’t seem to fold my hole cards and see flop after flop after flop, no matter how costly or futile. I’m slowly getting better at folding, but it’s tough. It’s tough when you’re dealt jack/six unsuited, fold, and see six/six/jack come down on the flop. So, of course, next time you’re dealt jack/six you pay a fair whack to see a flop and see a scary gang of queens or kings come down and have little idea of where you are in the hand. I now realise that most of the time I should fold jack/six – probably the most hateful hand of all time – but I often find it stupidly difficult to do so.
Anyway, back to the tournament. I soon found myself not only chip leader on my table but also sixth in the whole thing out of 40-odd players. Then for a while I drooped. The blinds kept increasing, my cards began to stink, my confidence followed and I suddenly noticed that most of my chips were melting away. ‘Where did they all go?’ I thought. ‘And why has everyone else at the table got so many of them?’
Just as I was starting to panic (just as I was starting to think about going all in on my next jack/six) I won a decent pot after being dealt ace/queen and then, already buoyed, I soared when dealt pocket kings on the next hand. They looked about the most beautiful thing in the world. I bet bullishly pre-flop, was re-raised and called. An innocuous rainbow flop came down. My opponent went all in. I called. I suspected they had ace/ace, was relieved to see they had ace/king and even more relieved when nothing sinister came down on the turn or river.
Suddenly I was seventh out of seven and thinking that my first tournament may see me on the final table, may even see me win the thing. Alas, it was not to be. I don’t know how I screwed up but I screwed up and was out. Still, seventh. Not bad for my first stab at playing a tournament. And do you know what? I loved it. And do you know what else? Straight afterwards I drifted around the tables playing cash games and almost trebled my money. It looks like I might be getting somewhere. Might be.