Monday, 19 March 2012

MTTs are bad for your health

Yesterday, I confirmed my suspicions that MTTs (=Multi Table Tournaments) are bad for your health. And if we cannot accept it as a general rule, I assure you that they are bad for me in particular. I played one yesterday and I'm still paying the price. Huge mistake.

Now, you're probably wondering why I found myself playing an MTT since I'm only playing the hyper-turbos... Well, let's not forget (like I did yesterday) that the hypers I'm playing are actually satellites to other tournaments. Which basically means - and no, I'm not kidding- that if you register at a satellite at 17:25 that feeds a tournament that starts at 17.30 and you win (which should be your objective anyway), then as soon as the satellite window closes, another one will open taking you directly to your seat in the main event. No chance to unregister or anything like that. Welcome to the MicroMillions event #32. The buy-in was $11, which I would prefer to not have paid considering that the event gathered a bit more than 40k people, but only paid to the top 5.300. Chances of getting my money back: slim.

So there I was at 17.30, starting an MTT tournament with 8 more people in my table (which seemed strangely crowded if you are used to play with 6 people total), and 5.000 chips which I had no idea how to use that deep. The blinds were 10/20 on the first level, which comparing to the hyper-turbos seems like another universe! Wondering what on earth to do and how to play, I opened my old notebook from a year ago, from when I was giving a try to the 9max turbos. It must have been funny to see me trying to play well at the hyper-turbos that I had opened (I wouldn't give up an afternoon's work for an MTT), trying to pay attention to what's happening at the MTT , while at the same time going through the pages of my old notebook and trying to quickly remember how to play poker and flops (as if there's such a thing as quickly remembering how to play!). 

My strategy was to focus on the hyper-turbos, and only play premium hands in the MicroMillions main event. And that's what I did. However, I found myself getting quite a lot of playable hands, and so I started playing more and more. I didn't get involved into any really big pots, and kept getting chips from here and there. Mostly, I would raise preflop and my opponents would fold so nothing too exciting. However, I saw my stack growing and growing, at some point I had more chips than anyone else at my table and things were going well. I might be able to make it into the money after all, I thought. Even when the blinds got significantly higher and I was no longer the "richest" person at the table, I still maintained a respectable stack. When we reached the bubble, my stack still allowed me to play comfortably and walk away from any complicated situations. I was far from blinding out, so I mostly had to fold to make it into the money. Which did happen eventually, and I was at least guaranteed to finish with around $20, not bad considering I got there through a $4 satellite. 

But the tournament was still running and I was among the top 1.000 players out of the 5.000 that were still alive. The blinds were 1500/3000. And around 21.00 o'clock (after 3 and a half hours of playing the MTT), I got aces on the button. Wow, I thought, this has potential. And I see the person under the gun shoving. He was kind of short, so nothing too exciting, but a good thing anyway when you are sitting there comfortably with your aces and you're just waiting for the action to get to you. Suddenly, I see the player on my left shoving a stack of 100k chips!!! WOW, I mean, WOW, what more can a player ask when holding such a hand, right? I'll tell you what they hope for: to win. When all the cards were revealed, the first player showed JJ and the second (with the juicy stack) showed TT. Do I need to analyze how bad it felt when the flop came K-T-3? It was the worst case scenario, cause even if I somehow lost to the Jacks, there would be still a huge sidepot for me to collect. But no, the guy had to get his Ten, leaving me with less than 3BB and practically eliminating me from the tournament. 

I finished 4232th in a field of 40k+ players, which sounds pretty good, right? Yet at that point, I didn't care about the $24,46 I received (which in a normal situation I would be happy for). I could only see my opponent sitting on the 15th place of the tournament with a 202K that was almost mine. True that it doesn't mean much, and even if I had that stack I could just as well lose it later either by losing another all-in or by seeing it slowly go away with my rather ignorant way of playing. But it just felt awful and unfair.

Had it been a sit-n-go, I would "take it like a man" (or in this case like a woman) that I lost with AA and I'd go open another sit-n-go. But there's something about the fact that I dedicated 3,5 hours to one specific tournament just to see all my efforts disappear in one second that gets to me. I know that it is an MTT and that their very nature is like that. That's probably why I don't like them and why I will probably never grind them. I spent some time thinking about it afterwards, and I think that so many people are drawn by MTTs because of that rush of adrenaline whenever you know that you may double up or lose everything. To me, their behavior is similar to that of people playing the lottery. They know that the chances of them winning something big are next to none, yet they play over and over again. That's how I can explain the fact that the Sunday Million gets thousands and thousands of players every week despite the $215 buy-in. I bet that the vast majority among them does not have the bankroll to play that kind of tournament. 

Apart from the rush of adrenaline that may motivate some, I believe it's also because both lotteries and MTTs give you the opportunity to dream. No matter how thin, you do have a chance to win the first prize. And you start to think about what you would do with all that money. Even though it's far away when you are starting the tournament, the more you play the closer it gets. That's why it's so devastating when you lose. That's why yesterday I felt like I lost $40k when I lost that hand, instead of winning $24,46 which is what actually happened. And yeah, I know that there was no chance I'd win the tournament unless the gods gave me aces and kings every single time. I started this post saying that I had no idea how to play. Yet the MTTs have a way of messing with your emotions in a way that sit-n-gos don't. And that's exactly my point.

As for the rest of the day, I was running pretty bad at the hyper-turbos (I think I was like -$150 at some point), then I recovered it all and was more or less break even, but André had not finished his tournaments and asked me to stay another half hour. In that half hour, I managed to lose quite a bit, finishing the day negative. It's all in the graphic below:

On the positive side, I increased the number of tables to five and sometimes I even played six (although that was not for long cause it gave me a headache). Not only that, but I was playing ok and got an upswing during that 5-6 tabling period.

I went back home feeling exhausted and disappointed. I was so tense, that even though I was tired and should be sleepy, I couldn't relax enough to sleep. I ended up going around the house long after André was asleep, checking random stuff on the internet and watching comedies on our Blu-Ray. When André woke up at 5.00 am to host the final table of the Sunday Million, I was still awake and full of energy. We watched the sun go up, and after the Sunday-Million was over we played a couple games of Magic: The Gathering. We had some new decks to try, and it seemed appropriate to do so at 6.00 a.m. in the morning. After that, tiredness started to kick in and I finally fell asleep.

I woke up at 14.00 today, too tired to do anything. The combination of an MTT and a bad run at the hypers is the recipe for disaster, that much I guarantee! Not being able to do much, I limited myself to study and write this post. I'll resume playing tomorrow, after a good night's sleep. See you then at the tables!

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