Hello all. So I was in Las Vegas for the summer and I ended it with a bang. I played a Venetian $600 event that was a 2-day event.  The plan was to just drive home whenever I busted Sunday, but I ran pretty well and made Day 2 of the damn thing. I ended up finishing 4th place for $13,505, though I sold half my action, so I walked away with $7,050.

I wanted to write up a full recap of this tournament, breaking down my big hands throughout the two days.  I want to do this for two reasons. 1: I want my friends who don’t know much about poker or want to learn more about it to get an insight on my thought process and to give you guys some thoughts on plays that are on a higher level of thinking but that I now find standard after hours and hours of play. And 2: For my friends who do play poker, I wanted to get your thoughts. I believe that a great way to get better is to talk with other people about strategies, and learning new things. I want to get better, so I am absolutely open to criticism. If you think I made a mistake on a specific hand, tell me why and I will listen and hopefully improve as a result. You can either comment at the bottom, or send me an email at kevinjtay@gmail.com. I’d love to hear some feedback.

Lastly, this is a long article, so I apologize in advance for talking alot, but I hope you guys enjoy it.

Ok so I do have an something to admit: I should have been out in the first level. I had to get lucky. I never like to suckout I always feel dirty about it. I was knocked down early to 8,000 after picking a couple spots to bluff in that didn’t work, and then I got it in with AJ on a J32 flop against QQ and I rivered an ace. That got me back up to 16,000 from starting stack of 15,000.

About 20 minutes later, I have about 18,000, and raise in middle position with Q9 suited at 100/200 25 ante. The button calls, as does the big blind, and the flop comes KJ10. Yahtzee! There were two clubs as well, so I bet out 800 or so, and was called by the button. This was a dangerous flop, even for a straight, so I was ready to keep firing. The turn brought another 10. Not the best card. I bet again for 1,700 and he shoves for about 6,500. It’s really hard for me to fold here. If he has K10 or J10 then nice hand to him, but it seems more likely that he has Q10 or A10. So I call, he shows Q10, and I hold to get up to 26,000. I make a royal flush the next hand, but didn’t get paid much.

Ok so now there’s a new guy at the table. He registered in level 3, and based on his bet sizing and demeanor, he seemed like a solid young pro. When Joseph Cheong came over to talk to him, that was confirmed. I then found out it was Corey Burbick, who is a WSOP grinder, so I knew he would be tough. At 150/300, he raised it to 700, and I look down at AK. I have position on him, and three bet it to 2,100. He folds, and I show so that he doesn’t think I’m messing with him.  Very next hand, he raises to 700 again, and a calling station type player between us calls. I look down at 77, and decide to three bet again, this time to 2,500. It folds back to Burbick, and he thinks for about 10 seconds before going all in for 9,000. The other guy folds, and it’s time to think.  I have 18,000, so it’s half my stack. I think with JJ-AA, he’s four betting, but not his whole stack. Seems more likely he has 88-1010, or AK, AQ, etc. With the additional caller, it seems likely that some high cards are folded, so I call. He shows AK, and he flops an ace, but I flop a 7. Now I have 37,000 at 150/300, and am feeling great.

I work it up to 47,000 at 200/400 when I look down at KK and raise it up to 950. The small blind is the lone caller, and the flop comes 57J with two spades. I lead out for 1,100ish  and he calls. The turn comes an ace, and I slow down and check. He checks as well, so at this point it’s safe to say he has a jack or spades. River is a jack. Not a good card. I check, and he fired out 2,000 into the pot that has about 4,000 in it. It was a coin flip in my head, but I thought if he had a good jack on the flop, he would play back at me, especially since I’ve been active preflop.  I call, and he says good call. I show Kings, and he mucks, saying after “you weren’t scared with that hand.” Nope!

New player at the table (mid age guy looks like a pro) sits down with about 20,000 at 300/600. I have about 50,000, and he raised it in late position to 1,300. I look down at AQ, and three bet it to 3,000ish. He calls, and the flop comes 843. He checks, and I continuation bet to 3,500 or so, a pretty standard play. He instantly moves all in, and in my mind, I can’t really call. I fold, he shows Q10, and says “don’t mess with me man I’ve played with you before I know how you play”. I didn’t recognize him, and I have a pretty good memory, so maybe he’s confusing me with someone else. Looking back on it, AQ can be a call there. I don’t know much about his game, but most players reraise with JJ-AA, and I don’t know that he makes that kind of shove with 99 or 1010. I should have thought about it more, but even then, still not sure if it’s a profitable call in the long run.

Next notable hand has a new player on my right an older player with about 18,000 at 500-1000. It folds to him, and he grabs a 1,000 chip, and almost tosses it in to call. Last second, he brings it back, and raises to 3,000. Weird play there. Clearly he doesn’t seem confident in his hand, so when I look down at A8, I think it’s a good spot to three bet, so I made it 7,500 to go. It folds back to him, and he thinks for 15 seconds before going all in! No clue what he has, but for only 11,000 to win a pot of over 30,000, I have to call. He shows A5 of all hands, and I hold to get up to 66,000.

I get up to 100k when an older player raises in early position at 600-1200 and gets one caller. I look down at the good old pocket aces in  late position, and I raise it up, I think to about 7,000. He moves all in for 25,000 with 1010. I snap call and hold. Pretty standard hand there.

I work it up to 133,500 after dinner blinds at 1,000-2,000.  The pro who played back at me with Q10 limps in from late position not the first time he’s done it but it’s been rare. I look down at Kings on the button, and I make it 3,500 to go. Young player on my left who was short but had worked it up to 70,000 reraises me to I think 10,500, and the other guy folds. Back to me. I could just call, but he seems to really like his hand.  I thought he was ready to commit it preflop, so I move all in. He tanks for two minutes before eventually calling with AK and I hold. This is a time where my preflop image is great. I’ve been raising alot pre, but I haven’t three bet much at all. Whenever I have, I’ve had a good hand, but he was still unsure. This is an example why table image is important.

Ok going to fast forward to almost the money bubble. I’m at a new table with Miami John Cernuto on my left, and a few solid players as well. I have 231,000 at 2000-4000, and one of the chip leaders. I look down at J9dd in middle position, and made a standard raise to 9,500.  The big blind, who is a competent player who has 180,000(2nd at the table) calls, and the flop comes  7d Ah 6d. He checks, and I lead out for 12,000. I’m ready to take the pot there and then, but if he calls, I obviously have draw outs. He calls. Turn is my gin card 8d. I have the jack high flush with a redraw for the straight flush. He checks again, and it’s time to think. I could check behind, but I think it’s very likely he has like a mid ace with the ace of diamonds. I bet out 28,000ish, and he tanks for about 60 seconds and calls. Feeling good when the 5h hits the river, but he reaches for 25,000 and puts it in quickly. I can’t raise at this point. While I have a flush, it’s only the 4th best one, so I just quickly call, and he shows A4dd for the nut flush. Now I’m really glad I didn’t check the turn. If I did, and he made the same bet on the river, then I would have raised for value, and when he three bets or shoves, then I have to fold, and as the kids like to say “turn the jack high flush into a bluff.” So I lost the min I think, and am down to 145,000.

We have 40 players left, with 36 paid  at 2000-4000 I believe, when I look down at aces in early position. I make a standard raise to 9,500, and get called by the button and big blind. Flop is beautiful 884 two spades. Big blind checks I continuation bet to 18,000, and the button folds. The big blind raised to 40,000ish and it’s back to me. At this point, there’s very little chance I’m behind. If he has 44 or A8 gg to me, but it’s much more likely he has 99-JJ. I shove for 120,000 more and he tank calls with jacks and I hold to get up to 330,000 for one of the chip leaders again.

Now we have the biggest hand of Day 1, and one that I’d really like to get some feedback on. Blinds are still 2000-4000, going up to 3000-6000 very shortly. New guy at the table makes it 12,000 to go. I played with him earlier in the tournament. He’s the kind of player who is overly aggressive when he thinks he’s good. He’s shown no problems with shoving 60,000 into a pot of 12,000 for example, so I’ll know if he has a big hand. The next player to act(the one who I double through with aces vs jacks) makes the call. He’s been calling alot of preflop raises, and doesn’t seem like the kind of player who flat calls with QQ-AA preflop. Based on that, I think it’s a good spot to three bet squeeze in, so when I look down at QJ in late position, I go with my read, and raise to 36,500. I really want to take it down right here obviously, and it gets back to first raiser. He thinks for 20 seconds, and moves all in for about 100,000 total.  His tank makes me think he’s not THAT strong. As I said, he was acting quick with big hands. Next guy tanks for about 30 seconds, and now he moves all in for about 120,000 total!

Ok it’s time to think here. I have the dealer pull in the 36,500. There’s 115,000 in the middle, and I’m up against remaining stacks of 70,000 and 95,000. So here’s the situation: I have to call 95,000 more for a pot that would have 375,000 in it.  I’m getting almsot 4 to 1 on a call, but I only have QJ. I cut the chips out for the call, and see that I have 175,000 leftover. I look at the clock, and see average stack is 174,000. So if I fold, I have 250,000 but leave a huge pot out there. If I call and lose, I’m exactly average. If I call and win, I have 600,000, and am chip leader by 100,000. That did it for me. I played it to win, and tossed it in the middle. The first player shows AJ. Ugh I was right that he wasn’t that strong, but he had me dominated. The other guy had AK, which is exactly what I wanted him to have. A queen would win it for me, but the flop came king high. Turn left me drawing dead, and as a needle, the river was a queen. I’ve thought alot about this hand, and outside of simply folding preflop, I’m not sure I could have done much differently.

One more hand I want to talk about is a bluff I pulled on Miami John Cernuto at 3000-6000. He’s a well known pro and has been playing for years, so it was cool to play with him, but I was ready to play with him if need be. It folded around to me in the small blind, and I limped in with 94hh. He was in the big blind, and checked his option. The last time it folded to me in the sb, I raised light and he shoved, so I wanted to change it up this time. Flop came Ks 10s 8c. I check, ready to give up on the hand if he bets, and he checks. Turn is the 5h, and I decide to bet out about 10,000 into the pot of 15,000, and he called after about 30 seconds. The river was another king, which was a great card for multiple reasons. By checking the flop, and betting the turn, it’s very likely I have a ten or eight in my hand. I likely don’t have a king, but neither does he, as he checked flop and called turn. So I bet out 26,500, and he tanked forever. After three minutes or so, he started to slide his hand forward, past the betting line, and I THINK he let his hand go. However, as that is happening, someone calls the clock. He says “oh ok yeah bring the floor over if you want the clock.” Another player at the table says his hand is dead, and they go back and forth a bit. I decide to keep my mouth shut to not give anything away, and after another 30 seconds or so, he folds. Felt really good to pull that bluff off, and gave me my confidence back after that big loss.

I ended up being down to 121,000 at 3000-6000 when the floor announced seven hands left. My stragety at this point was to play tight, and try to find a spot to three bet all in, or find a couple small raises preflop. On the third hand, after a standard open, I move all in with 66 in late position, and he folds. That did it for me for the night.

I ended the night with 137,000.  The average stack was 200,000 with 27 players left coming back for Day 2. I had guarenteed myself $1,650, with $47,000 up top for first. I’ve posted a recap of my Day 2, and you can check that out here!

Thanks if you read through it all. Again, I’d love any feedback, positive or negative. I want to get better, and I think talking with my peers about the game is a great way to do it. I welcome comments down below, or emails at kevinjtay@gmail.com. Thanks for reading again, and stay tuned for my Day 2 recap!