Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sunday Qualifying

The way ESPN has the WPT promotion set up is this - you play in tournaments throughout the week to amass tournament points. If you manage to grab at least 60 tournament points in a given week, you can register and play in the Sunday Qualifier tournament.

Each SQ has about 1200 people in it, starting at tables of 10, so 120 tables to begin. The last 50 remaining folks in the tournament qualify for the big final tournament at the end of the whole mess. That tournament will involve around 400 people.

What this means is that by placing in the top 50 on Sunday, you give yourself a 400:1 shot at a free seat at the WPT in Atlantic City (worth $10,000.)

I played one previous Sunday and found the whole thing to be rather bizarre - because there is little difference between 50th place and 1st place (there are actual prizes for the SQ winner, but they are pretty lame), once you get down to about 70 people, everything slows to a crawl as people try to just stall their way into the top 50.

This whole approach struck me as kind of chincy, so I was determined to continue to play aggressively. I figured this would give me an advantage against the people who were trying to stall. I wound up with about 15,000 in chips with 60 people left in the tournament and the blinds at 2,000/4,000, meaning I could have survived at least a couple more trips around the table without getting blinded out of the game.

Thinking back on it, I could really kick myself for what happened next. I was dealt JT suited (spades) in late position, which is a great drawing hand, actually the best draw hand in the deck, because it makes four different nut straights plus a pretty good flush, and if you wind up with top pair you probably have the best hand.

Trouble is, when you only have 14,000 in chips with the blinds at 2,000/4,000, you simply cannot afford to play any draw hands. You basically are sitting and waiting for some huge pair, or at the very least an AK or something that has some shot at holding up without hitting on the flop.

Instead, I stubbornly chose to call with JT, and when the small blind raised behind me I compounded the error by calling again. What came down was Ac 9c 5d, leaving me with no straight draw, no flush draw, and beaten by anybody holding an ace.

So I had to fold, and suddenly I was in danger of getting blinded out quickly because I only had 6,000 in chips.

Eventually I finished 57th. It was a tough way to learn the lesson that whatever you have to do to win within the rules is the right strategy. Don't get caught up trying to play some kind of honorable style to the detriment of your chances to take home the prize.

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