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Best of Ryan McLane

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Playing too aggressive at Foxwoods

7 November 2006

I knew I had little chance of winning the $600 Limit Hold'em event when Michael Mizrachi walked by me on Friday at the Foxwoods World Poker Finals.

I'm positive he was playing just to waste some time.

I never had to play against Mizrachi, Men the Master or any of the other known professionals in the room, but even with that reprieve, my dream of winning eventually became a nightmare involving an overplayed pair of Kings.

If patience is a virtue, my play was sinful.

Deep-stack tournaments are not my specialty and in this event, the starting stacks were immense compared to the 25-25 starting blinds and the 50-minute levels.

Those who were patient reaped the benefits, but I did more weeping that reaping.

I tried to overcome what I knew would be a problem by writing the words "be patient" on my hand and telling the girlfriend to text me every once and a while with a little reminder to play slow.

Even with these two safeguards in place, I played too fast. Ignoring the standard slow-structure tournament advice available in countless sources, I got involved in too many pots and eventually got busted holding less than the nuts.

In retrospect, reading Eric Lindgren and Jennifer Harman's tournament advice in the days leading up to the tournament was not a good choice. Both professionals advocate pushing every edge in an attempt to gather a massive stack.

This works for them because they have an amazing ability to read opponents after the flop. I do not possess the same skill, forcing me to guess most of the time and subsequently squander my chips when I'm at a disadvantage.

In several of my key hands, the decisions I made were poor because I didn't have enough chips to get away from my original investment. Here are two of those hands.

Hand # 1

Sitting in the big blind with Ks-9d, I called a raise from the cutoff seat. Normally, I don't play this combination, but the kid in the cutoff seat had been raising my blinds relentlessly and I decided to take a stand. I had 3,100 chips at the time, a thousand below the tournament average. The limits were 150-300.

The flop came As-Qs-Js. I decided to bet out with my double-draw. For some reason, I had it stuck in my head that he was playing one of three hands – suited connectors, a medium pair, or something weak like A-rag. He raised my bet and confident about my read, I decided to re-raise. He flat called, which made me think I was correct.

The turn brought a blank and I bet out again. He raised me for the second time and I went into the tank. I'd already invested half my stack into this semi-bluff and if my read was correct, he either held the flush (unlikely considering the raising), a weak ace, or was on a straight bluff. I decided the ace was the most likely scenario, but now I was willing to give him credit for something hefty like an A-Q. Given this reasoning, I believed he was not on a straight draw nor was he holding any of the spades or the tens I needed to make my hand.

I called and the river brought me nothing. Holding King-high, I decided against a desperation bet on the river. He too had invested most of his stack, so even if he was holding the A-rag, he'd have to call because of pot odds. He bet after I checked and I was forced to lay down the hand. I'll never know if he had me beat, but I do know that that was a tournament changing hand for me.

Hand # 2

I battled my way back to 2,000 chips with a bit of luck and once again found myself in a hand that would decide whether or not I was to remain in this event.

Holding pocket Kings in middle position, I raised the pot and prayed for a caller. To my surprise, I was re-raised. Although the pocket Aces flag went off in my head, I didn't have enough chips to lay down my Kings so I called and hoped for a King on the flop.

The flop was all rags. I was first to act and I decided I would make my stand with these Kings. If he had Aces, so be it, I couldn't afford to wait any longer with the limits already 200-400.

I bet out and he re-raised me. Like I said, I was committed so I called and again prayed for a King. The turn was a Queen. I checked this time and he bet. The river paired the board and the same check-call sequence occurred.

To my horror, he flipped over Queens-full and I was left with a pittance and a bad-beat story to think about all the way home. I could have dealt with the Aces, but Queens? Ouch. I don't blame him for the way he played the hand, I would have done the same thing, but that didn't make it sting any less.

Lessons learned:

1.) I don't belong in tournaments that Michael Mizrachi is playing.

2.) Had I been more patient in the beginning, I wouldn't have had to make decisions with mediocre hands or draws because of my low chip stack.

3.) Big-time tournaments are more fun (and more nerve racking) than anything I've ever played; thus, it's worth throwing your hat in the ring every now and again. I enjoyed computing cards and reads at an "advanced level." Knowing a person needs to be somewhat of a player to pony up a $600 entry-fee, I felt like I had to up my game at Foxwoods. And I tried.

4.) Don't chase royal flushes.

My challenge to you the reader:

Let me know what you think of these key hands. I'm looking for honesty here. What would you have done with the straight-flush draw and the pocket Kings given the circumstances and the chip stacks? If I get enough responses, I'll post the best "How Ryan Should Have Played" comments in an upcoming column.


Mucking McLane
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.