Last week we ventured across the sea to battle a bit in Malta. We kind of survived, but we definitely didn’t come out of it as the champion. We came close to triumphing in a side battle, namely the “Siege of Malta” side event, in which we placed 12th. We also made day two of the main battle and even did some high roller battling. Unfortunately, only our 12th place finish provided us with any loot. It was indeed amazing being back in Malta though, as I used to call that place home (only a few months back). I got to meet up and reconnect with a bunch of the people I used to hang out with, as well as enjoy the Maltese climate, which appears to be quite different from the Estonian one. Who would have known? Anyways, as we did get to play quite a bit of the pokers during the trip, I’ll go through some interesting spots here!
Battle of Malta Main Event
Hand #1 – Flopping a boat and getting it all!
This hand plays out on the very first level of day 1. CO who has been very loose opens to 275 and btn calls on bb100. I squeeze ATo to 1,175 and only the opener calls. Flop comes down AATccs. Decent. I cbet 500 (I think going small here is best, with checking being second best since we have the board so crushed). He instantly makes it 2k. I think for a bit and make it 4,900. I think you could make a case for flatting here, but villain seemed so loose/spazzy that I thought a small 3-bet could potentially induce some spew from him. He takes about two microseconds before shoving his remaining 23k in the middle. I obv snap and he has AQo, drawing to a queen only. Board runs out blank blank and we are off to a very decent start.
Hand #2 – Flopping TPTK in a multiway pot
About an hour later, UTG+2 opens to 400 on bb150. HJ flats and I defend my BB with AThh. Dealer brings a flop of T53ccs, giving us top pair top kicker. Opener cbets for 775 and the HJ calls. I decide to take it easy and just call as well. In retrospect, I prefer raising here, as our hand needs a lot of protection. I used to always raise this spot but I have been trying to focus more on lowering variance in these spots in tournaments (aka I’m turning into a nit bitch). Turn is the Jh and the opener now checks. HJ bets 1850 into 3,600. I call and the opener folds. The river is the very safe 2h, not completing any draws except for A4ss/A4cc. I check and villain now bets 3950 for about half pot. I think it’s kind of an interesting spot. Game theory wise we have a fairly easy call I think, as there are many missed draws, with the missed club flush draws being the most obvious ones. I also think he could have 89ss/KQss/AQss and some other floats. However, I do think this is a spot where population underbluffs, making the decision quite a lot tougher. In the end, I make the call and villain has QJhc for the pure overcard and bdfd-float on the flop (a hand I did not expect villain to have in his preflop range OR his flop float range). Oh well.
Hand #3 – Rivering a boat and failing at logic
Now, this is a hand that I probably misplayed. We are playing bb1,200 with a 100 ante. UTG who is a competent player with an 80k stack opens to 2700. We have him covered and I look down at QQ in the CO. I think 3betting or flatting here are both fine plays. Being this deep stacked I am not looking to get in QQ preflop here, but there is definitely still value in 3betting to push equity vs his range. I decide to flat call this time and the flop comes AK5r. Not exactly what we were looking for. Villain checks and I check behind. A safe assumption to make when villain checks this board, is that he has either showdown value, or that he is slowplaying a hand like AA/KK/AK where he feels like he is crushing the board too much. My reasoning for assuming this is that on a board such as this, where villain has a massive range advantage, you’ll rarely see them check/give up. Turn brings another king and again we both check. At this point, I figure his range to be something like 66-QQ, Ax or some slow played boats like AA/KK/AK. The river brings a Q and he now bets 4,300. Instinctively it feels like we should raise. We have a full house and the pot was checked on both flop and turn. The only problem I see with raising here is that we are fairly capped to JTo/sometimes QQ. I don’t see myself ever checking AK on both flop/turn, and I think we would pretty much always 3bet AA/KK preflop. So in game, I felt that by reopening the betting by raising him on the river, we would open ourselves up to be pushed off our hand if our opponent went for it. In retrospect, this is probably pure bullshit, as this is 100 times more likely to happen on the NL800 streets, than vs some random guy who “I think is playing well so far” in a €550 live tournament. Definitely noted this as being one of my main leaks, where I “apply my own thought pattern to villain”, when in reality villain is probably not thinking along those lines at all. Note to self: Force yourself out of this thought pattern asap plz ty.
We busted the main event pretty early on day 2, where I reshoved 20 bigs with KQs from the SB vs a CO open. Standard stuff. On to the next one!
Siege of Malta
The “Siege of Malta” was a side event at BoM which attracted 560 runners with its €245 buyin and €30,000 for the winner. The hands below are all from the late stages in the tournament, all with 15-30 people left.
Hand #4 – Flopping a gutter and failing to pull the trigger
I open KJo from CO to 33k on 16k, and the BB defends. Flop comes Q94ssx, I have the Js. I cbet 25k to fold out ace highs, small pairs, and just to deny equity. Villain check-raises to 62k with like 200k behind, and I have ish the same. I know literally nothing about the guy as he just arrived at our table. First instinct is to jam, as I think our average villain in this spot will polarize his value-x/r to two pairs or better, meaning his value range is fairly narrow. We are blocking some of his bluffs, which is kind of problematic, and I don’t expect him to really x/r his flush draws, as it would suck for him if I jammed. The exception being if he has the nut flush draw or some combo draw like 45ss/KTss. With the price he is laying us though, there is no folding so I make the call. Turn is a 7 and he bets 85k leaving himself 115k. I fold my hand and he shows 56ss for flushdraw+oesd on the turn. Turns out I was wrong about him x/r small flush draws.
Hand #5 – Exploitative fold vs potential timing tell
I make it 66k from UTG+2 with AQo at 30kbb with 560k to start the hand. Italian BB defends and he’s got about 800k. Flop KQ8sdc and he tank-checks. In game I perceived this tank-check as a draw he was considering leading, like JT. I check behind. Turn is the 9s and he bets 100k. Easy call I think, although he does seem confident. The river is an offsuit king, which would appear to be a good card for me. Villain quickly bets 200k. I ended up going with my read and made the “hero fold”.
Towards the end the tournament was a total shove-fest, as the average stack got to around 15bbs. I basically lost my entire stack in two hands. First hand I am in the SB with 16bbs, BB has like 12. I shove K2o and he calls A5o. I lose. Next hand I get A4o otb and I jam my last 4 bbs. Both blinds call and I lose to SB’s K7s. GG wp ul ty 12th.
Back to Tallinn to play the Cash Game Festival
I am now back in Tallinn, where it’s currently 1° Celcius and rain. This means I have no excuse to not stay inside and grind/study, which is exactly what I need now. FeelsGoodMan! Today the “Cash Game Festival” begins, and it’s being hosted at Olympic Casino, which is only a 5-minute walk from our apartment. I will probably be playing those games every day, and I have even been booked to play a couple of TV-table sessions, which means you can follow along from home. I will be playing some €5/€10 on Saturday at 8:30 pm and some €5/€5 on Sunday at 5:30 pm (these times are Eastern European Time Zone so UTC+2).
So the Rising Star has been kind of AFK from the blogging sphere for a while, as he was trying to figure out where he would focus his energy. Should he be streaming, vlogging, blogging or just simply basking in his own rising starlight? He came to the conclusion that hand history stuff works better in written form, especially if he was to go in some detail. Therefore, the Rising Star thought he would make his way back into the blogging sphere by discussing some hands from a tournament he recently played, namely the Unibet UK Poker Tour Brighton. It was a very well run tournament, and it was awesome to see a lot of familiar faces. There is for sure a strong and growing community in these events, which makes traveling to them even more enjoyable!
The Rising Star took his seat in the tournament, recognized by nobody, and played the first four hours without winning one single hand. And I don’t mean like “not winning any substantial pots”… I mean, he did not manage to steal 1 round of blinds even. Anyways, he had a few tricky spots, which are worthy of some discussion.
Hand #1 – The Rising Star flops top pair in a multiway pot
So UTG+2 opens to 900 on 400bb pre ante. HJ makes the call and so does the BTN. The Rising Star looks down at 6c8d and defends his BB with 19 bigs to start the hand. Flop comes 246ddx and the opener cbets 1,800 into a pot of 3,800. HJ calls and now the Rising Star has a decision to make. It’s was kind of a weird spot, as he only started the hand with 7,600, and had put in 900 preflop. He now had 6,700 chips left, and the bet was 1,800, meaning there was not much room for just calling. He figured that his two options were to shove or fold. The Rising Star ended up making the fold, as he figured the UTG+2 player would not be c-betting very light against three opponents on this texture. He also figured that the guy who made the call from the HJ with two people left to act also should be fairly strong. Anyways, he made the fold and the UTG+2 player fired 3 bullets on 246ddx 9d Kx and the HJ player called him down. UTG+2 flipped over 67dd for a turned flush, and the HJ player mucked his hand.
Hand #2 – Can the Rising Star fold AQo with 17 bigs?
The next somewhat interesting spot occurred when a straightforward player UTG+1 opens to 900 on 400bb pre ante. MP who was also tight and straightforward made a 3-bet to 3,000 and the Rising Star looked down at AQo in the SB with a stack of 6,900. He felt kind of grossed out folding AQo here in a re-entry tournament with such a short stack, but he realized that it’s important to recognize the type of players he was facing in this hand. Given their tendencies he imagined the 3-better would not really have much of a bluffing range, and that AQo didn’t dominate any of the hands in his value range (meaning he would not 3b AJ for value here). So the Rising Star made the fold, and so did the UTG+1 player.
Hand #3 – The Rising Star busts his first bullet
The hand in question is by all means very standard, but it highlights something important: many (especially newer) players will choose their bet sizing according to their hand, and not according to the situation. A Spanish woman, sitting on the Rising Star’s right side had been limping a lot of hands, and had rarely been seen raising. On the two occasions she had been seen raising, she had come in for a minimum raise. In this particular hand, she was all of a sudden raising almost 4x the big blind, making it 1,500 from MP. The Rising Star was next to act, as he looked down at pocket jacks with merely 6,500 to start the hand. He felt like she was raising a pretty strong range, but he found it hard to pinpoint what type of hands she would be raising this size with. It’s probably fair to say that people often do this with difficult and vulnerable hands like 99-QQ, or even with hands as strong as KK/AA cause they really don’t want them to get cracked. However, with 16 biebers and JJ here, the Rising Star did not see much room for folding. He moved his entire betting disc pile over the marked line, while announcing that he was “all-in”. The Spanish woman declared call, and as the Rising Star feared, she had indeed been dealt the pocket aces. The Rising Star could not dodge bullets. He congratulated the Spanish woman on winning his €100 bounty and left the table, heading for the cashier to re-enter.
The second bullet did not really provide many interesting spots either. However, the Rising Star took the opportunity to ask some of the more well-versed tournament players in the Unibet crew about their opinions on his bust out hand. Their answers were mixed, where some people said fold, some people said limp and some people said all-in. The Rising Star had of course just asked for their opinions to portray humbleness, as he already knew the correct play. The hand went down as follows: The blinds and antes were 400/800/100 and the Rising Star was seated in the CO with a stack of 16,000. Everyone folded to him, and he glanced down at pocket deuces. He instinctively felt that this was a profitable shove, but he was not sure exactly how profitable it was. His thought process went something like this: Pocket deuces might provide some profit by shoving here, but in a soft field like this one the Rising Star thought it might be correct giving up a slight +EV shove to wait for a more profitable spot. He realized he had three fairly loose players behind him, and therefore the hand was not a great candidate for open-raising. He did also not find limping as an attractive option, as the hand flops very poorly. He ended up announcing that he was once again “all-in”, and after the BTN and SB had folded, the BB quickly called with AQ. The flop brought along an ace, and there was no deuce to be found on neither the turn nor the river. The Rising Star decided to run the hand in Hold’em Resources Calculator (HRC) when he got home, and in a nash chip EV simulation, he found that these were the EV’s of shoving:
This chart, however, assumes that the BB is gonna call as light as 44+, KJo, KTs, A5s etc, which many of these the average BB might fold here. So if some more realistic calling ranges for the players behind us are entered into HRC, these are the EV’s of shoving:
These numbers assume these calling ranges, which obviously involves quite a lot of guessing:
Take notice of how much the shoving range changes here, when the opponents re-shove/call too tight from BTN, SB, and BB. The CO can then shove ridiculously wide, and even hands like K2o, 63s 68o etc. become marginally profitable. (One factor that David Lappin reminded the Rising Star while he was writing this blog, is that as a Unibet ambassador, the Rising Star had a €100 bounty on his head. This should definitely influence his opponents calling ranges, and reduce his fold equity probably even to the extent where this becomes a fold.) Thank you David Lappin, you are a very bright young lad (but no Rising Star).
The next day, the Rising Star re-entered for his third bullet, desperately trying to make day two in a live tournament. He found himself seated at a very fun looking table, including Unibet ambassador Daiva “Baltic Blonde” Byrne, as well as Unibet community regs Adrian “NMPfan” Nica and Mark “Chap In A Chair” Tearney.
Hand #4 – Taking Tearney out for dinner in value town
The hand in question takes place at blinds 150/300 without antes, and the player UTG had made a raise to 700. Tearney made the call from the HJ, SB called and the Rising Star defended his BB with the grim looking A7o. They went four ways to the flop 378ccx, which was checked around. The turn brought an offsuit 3 and the Rising Star made a bet for 900 into the pot of 2,800, a bet which only Tearney called. At this point, the Rising Star figured Tearney most likely had some kind of weak showdown value hand, like 7x, 44, 55, 66 or maybe even a hand like AJ/AQ. He expected him to bet most of his 8+ hands as well as most of his draws on the flop, given that he was closing the action. The river brought an offsuit four and hero made a bet of 700, trying to squeeze out some thin value. Tearney pondered for a while, before making the call and promptly mucking his hand.
Hand #5 – Going for thin value with a rivered pair
An older gentleman who had been playing fairly straightforward opened to 700 at 300bb from UTG+2 and the Rising Star found himself in the BB with KJs. He defended his blind and the flop came down 346r. He checked and villain checked behind. At this point, the Rising Star figured that villain usually has some marginal showdown value hand like A3s, A4s, A6s or a hand like AK/AQ/AJ. The turn brought a 7, and he figured it was a decent spot to take a stab to fold out villains ace high hands. He bet 700 into 1,550 and villain called fairly quickly. The dealer turned over the river card, which was a jack, giving the Rising Star top pair. He figured that he probably had the best hand at this point, but that it was gonna be hard getting calls from worse hands if he was to bet big. He decided to go really small and bet 650 into the pot of now 2,950. Villain thought about it for a long time before making the call with AJo, stating that he was considering raising for value.
Hand #6 – Time to exploit
This hand was pretty interesting, as the Rising Star decided to use some previous dynamics to his favor. The hand begins with the MP opening to 750 at 300bb, without any antes in play. The Rising Star made the call with 55 from the LJ, and both HJ and BTN (the older gentleman from hand #5) came along as well. The flop was 456r, a pretty good flop for the Rising Star. The opener checked and the Rising Star made a bet of 2,100 into the pot of now 3,450. Only the button made the call. At this point, the Rising Star figured the buttons range to still be fairly wide. He thought that this player would slow play many of his made hands and that he would also call with many draws. His range could, therefore, look something like sets, two pairs, straights, naked straight draws and pair+straight draws like 67s, 68s etc. The turn brought the 6s bringing a flush draw along. Two options presented themselves: either to keep firing to get value from villains marginal hands like 77, 88, 99 etc, or to check/raise, attempting to get max value from hands like 78s, 67s or A7s. The Rising Star decided to check and villain checked behind to the Rising Star’s dismay. The river brought an offsuit 9, a card that does not change much. Given that last time they had played together, the Rising Star had made a really small bet with a really marginal hand, he decided to try the same again, only this time with a really strong hand. He figured that this would work well for a few reasons: If villain had a hand like 77-88, he would call a small bet but not a big one. If he had a good but not amazing hand (like 6x or a straight) he would potentially raise for value. If he had a hand like A3s/A7s he would be tempted to raise as a bluff given how weak the Rising Star was last time he made a bet this size. The chosen bet size was 1,100 into the pot of 7,650. After some deliberation, villain non-surprisingly made a raise to 3,100. They were playing pretty deep, as both players had like 20k behind. It felt like the plan had worked, but at the same time, the Rising Star was not 100% sure his hand was best. Villain could definitely have a hand like 64s or 99, giving him a superior full house, but he could also, of course, have a hand like 67 or even 78. After some consideration, the Rising Star decided to take the lower variance route of just calling, and villain turned over K7s for a missed straight draw.
Hand #7 – Flopping a straight flush draw and getting action
At this point, the Rising Star had just been moved to a new table, and he had only been dealt one hand at his new table previous to the following hand. He had built a healthy stack of 38,000, with the blinds and antes being at 400/800/100. One player limped MP with a stack of around 60,000. The Rising Star was next to act, and he peaked down at the very sexy Js9s. Assuming that the limper might have been a weaker player with a wide range, he decided to make a raise trying to isolate the “assumed weaker player”. He made it 3,000 and the limper made the call. The flop fell down AcTs7s for a gutshot straight flush draw, also known as too many outs. Villain tapped the table, and the Rising Star made a cbet of 2,600. There is probably an argument to be made for going bigger here since the board is really coordinated, but our hero figured that by betting small, he could fire a lot of turns and rivers and hopefully make villain fold a hand like Ax/Tx. Villain had other plans, however, and check-raised to 7,600. The Rising Star had approximately 32,000 left in his stack and now a decision to make. Flat calling would let him preserve his tournament life, and maneuver turns and rivers in position. Jamming would let him realize all his equity, while potentially denying his opponent his by folding out all his bluffs (KQ, KJ, J9, 89 etc). His opponent was naturally unknown since the Rising Star had just sat down. However, assuming he was somewhat average, his assumed value range was determined to be 77, A7s and AT. Villain could even be raising a hand like AJ or A9 trying to “figure out where he is at”, whereby the Rising Star would “tell him” where he was at by shoving, and thereby making him fold a superior hand. It was decided that the best play was shoving, and villain quickly made the call, tabling A7s for two pairs. Turn and river naturally bricked out, as the Rising Star had way too many outs. He yet again congratulated villain on his €100 bounty and wandered out of the tournament area, still without making a day two in a UK Poker Tour event.
Three ambassadors managed to cash the main event, David Lappin, David Vanderheyden, and the Rising Star’s roomie Rauno “Estonian Jesus” Rahvonen (who even final tabled it, finishing in 7th place). Expect to see great things from this shoeless long-haired man in 2018, you heard it here first! (So in this scenario the Rising Star is Fedor Holz and Estonian Jesus is Steffen Sontheimer. Just play along.) A big thank you to Unibet who brought the UK Poker Tour back to Brighton, which is my favorite UK city! I for sure hope they bring it back there next year!
There was also a ladies event at the stop, hosted by Unibet ambassador Daiva “Baltic Blonde” Byrne. The event impressively drew 28 runners, while still being in its infancy. Amazing effort by Daiva, and word on the street is that she is in discussions with Unibet to make this a regular feature from 2018 (and that there will also be a trophy up for grabs going forward)! If there are any female readers out there, you should definitely join Daiva’s facebook group: Ladies at Unibet Poker!
Battle of Malta & Rising Star award
The Rising Star now finds himself in Malta, where he over the past few days have been catching up with friends, enjoying the weather and consuming some grown-up beverages. A couple of nights ago he attended a welcome party at the Quarterdeck Hilton, where he also received his Rising Star award.
Big thank you to PokerListings for having me over, and for the award. I was truly humbled to even be nominated! The Rising Star had to secretly purchase a majority share of Pokerlistings over the past couple of years to secure the award, but it was totally worth it as he can now refer to himself in the third person as ‘The Rising Star’.
Hope you enjoyed my comeback blog post, and please feel free to reach out on social media if you have suggestions for improvements, compliments or if you want to discuss some of the hands! You can find/reach the Rising Star on the following social media: