There is something magical about live tournaments for online pros. They become our vacation time. We spend most of our time grinding at the virtual tables on PokerStars, so it's a great pleasure to attend these events. We meet our friends. We get to know new places, new people, and new cultures. We get to let loose at the disco, go to the beach, and do so many different things that we don't get to do in our normal environment. There is another benefit: no pressure. Our economic situation does not depend on whether we win live tournaments.
That was the way I saw it anyway, and thought I was correct in thinking this way. Now I realize that I exaggerated how relaxed I was. The day came when--because of my competitiveness--I decided to pay close attention to the live tournaments. I realized that the field is much softer compared to the online tables. The prize pools are very juicy. Who doesn't want to return from vacation with pockets full of money (or at least with extra bucks to help cover the buy ins and hotels for upcoming events)?
Live tournaments: A chance to cash out
For some time now, I have taken live tournaments very seriously. Taking advantage of having many friends that are regular live tournament players, I take every opportunity to ask about hands and different situations. I think it has helped me. I've also improved using videos and educational materials that I have found at Intellipoker.com.
I have worked a lot in managing my anxiety (e.g. wanting to win the tournament in one day). I learned to avoid high variance situations when possible, and to be very mindful of everything that happens at the table.This is hard, because live tournaments are comparatively slow.
I have learned something very important specific to live poker: physical tells and and attitudes reveal more information than they should. This is undervalued by online pros. The key is to gather as much information as possible so that we are not taken by surprise or unprepared when the inevitable tough decision arrives.
So, my live tournament play has improved. For some time I have been trying to do things the right way but have been unable to make a deep run in a major tournament. Lately that's been changing.
At this year's CPT (Colombia Poker Tour), I made some final tables. I made the money at LAPT Lima. Also made the money in Medellin, and taking into account how I busted, I was satisfied with my play. Pocket jacks couldn't hold up vs KQ, or I would have been in very good shape.
So, this brings me to a key tournament, for which I had been hired as the "marketing face." This tournament happened at a very important time in my life due to a number of personal things that happened recently. it added my own personal pressure to some challenges I had already set.
Holly Poker Tournament Champion 100k Guaranteed to first place
The tournament took place in Cartagena in Casino Royale Masters. I arrived on July 23, settled in quickly, and signed up for a mega satellite. I won my tournament entry after having been down to only one big blind (after a cooler when with AK and an average seve big blinds average ran into ace).
Everything started on the right foot, and I sensed it was the beginning of a great run. After gaining entry into the mega satellite, I sat in the PLO cash for a while (The session lasted a sickening eight hours) I won. It wasn't much, but it helped me get comfortable at the tables.
The next day I played the tournament. I shouldn't have. I was exhausted. Between the satellite and the cash session I got very little sleep. But advertising commitments with the casino compelled me to play on the first day.
The tournament format was $1,000 buyin with re-entry possible the second day. The first table was very tough with some very good players to my left (Mayu, Jxarturo, Johan Inañez, Jimmy Castaño). I played tight, and I avoided getting into any messes against these sharks. Unfortunately I was eliminated when I lost 99 vs A10 and then shoved my remaining 10 BBs with K9 and couldn't improve vs A2.
On the second day, I signed up for the mega satellite and ended up as leader with 50% of the total chips. I re-entered the tournament that night.
Things got better, and I managed to finish the day. I was chip leader most of the day. I finished the day second in chips just one big blind short of the leader.
On Saturday it was time to relax, go to the beach, go to the pool and have a delicious lunch.
The final day began with about 35 players, 19 of which would make the money. On the first hand, I doubled with queens and moved into a dominant first place. The game kept going my way all the way to the final table, before Severino of Panama (great rival) eliminated the two final tables bubbles and took over the chip lead.
The final table was very difficult, with only two casual players and seven regulars, all excellent players in live tournaments. Johan Ibañez, cope, Jimmy Castañeda, Severino, Julian Segura, Anderson. When we reached three-handed play. we were evenly matched in chips. We agreed to divide the money equally because the difference in prize money between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd was pretty high: 100k, 30k, and 15k. It made sense to insure at least 40-45k and play out for the rest.
Play went on but with a little less stress, and the third player (Severino) got eliminated. Julian Segura, a great player with great online and live results, eventually got second place. I predict a great future for him, too. And last but not least, I managed to finish in first place!
I was extremely happy, I had always wanted to win a tournament among prominent players with all the regulars and friends cheering me on. I went to the city to celebrate. The celebration lasted until 8am!
I still have fond memories of Cartagena. I will come back to play tournaments that the Masters Casino Royale will host. I hope this tournament will become one of the most important tournaments on the continent, and I believe it will be because everyone seems to be very committed to the cause.