I’ve been playing and studying poker seriously since I joined SIG almost 11 years ago. I’d describe my playing style as tight-aggressive (sometimes a bit too aggressive!), but I can adapt to the table. I’m currently a Software Configuration and Build Engineer at SIG’s Bala office. In my free time, I enjoy playing card and puzzle games, outdoor grilling, working out, and spending time with my daughter.

I look forward to the SIG Poker Tournament every year. Shortly after I joined SIG in 2005, I started playing cash games with co-workers. Before 2014, I never advanced past Round 1of the tournament. Once I realized that I had been playing the tournament too much like a cash game, I adjusted my play and finally started having success. In the last 3 years, I’ve advanced to the 2nd round every year and made it to the Final Round twice. Every year I learn something new that helps improve my play. This year was no different, as I experienced two firsts in my poker career: I advanced to the Final Table and I became chip leader.

The final round was very exciting for me. I started in the dead center of the finalists with $49K in chips. At my first table of the day, I had two big hands that increased my stack to $147K for the Final Table. The latter of those 2 hands was very interesting. I had roughly $100K in chips and a player in late position pushed his $34K all-in. I called in the big blind with 9c9d. He turned over As7s. The flop came out with an Ac5s8s, giving him top pair plus a flush draw. It was certainly looking like he was going to double up. The turn was a 9s, giving me three of a kind, but giving him a flush. The river was the Ad, giving me a full house to win the hand.

At the Final Table, the chip leader was immediately to my left with about $220K in chips. I had $147K. On one of my first hands, I was dealt JJ and flopped three of a kind. I was able to extract about $80K from the chip leader before he finally folded to my all-in bet on the river. At that point, I was the chip leader for the first time. With my pre-flop aggression, my stack rose to just over $300K and I remained the chip leader for a long time. I understand how to play as a chip leader, but this was the first time I had to actually execute it. I was happy with my play, but a big problem was that I was mostly just stealing blinds or winning small pots. The other players mostly avoided getting into most pots with me. They preferred to take on each other and it didn’t take long for there to be 3 or 4 similarly sized chip stacks.

When we got down to 5 players, I played one particular hand poorly, but got very lucky. The player to my right and under the gun raised the pot to 24K. I re-raised him to $74K with 8c8d. He then pushed all-in for $125K. I called him and the board went 2s6cQc2h9d so my pair held up and I jumped back into the chip lead. While my re-raise was questionable, calling his all-in was a bad decision. When a player raises for the 3rd time (known as a 4-bet), they generally have a premium hand like KK or AA. I could have reasonably figured that he would have made that move with AA, KK, QQ or AK. My 88 is a huge underdog to 3 of those hands and only a very slight favorite against AK. Even his range could have included hands like TT, JJ and AQ, my 88 would still only have a slight edge against 2 of those hands. Luckily for me, he had AK and my 88 held up to win the hand. That made me the chip leader once again, but I could have easily been eliminated in 5th place. Looking back at that hand, I don’t believe I realized his bet was a 4-bet. I probably mistakenly thought I was the initial raiser.

Once we were down to heads up play, I made a risky play and was eliminated on the very first hand. I made a preflop raise with 8h9h and my opponent called. The flop came KJ5 rainbow. We both checked. The turn was a 9. He made a decent sized bet. Now, since he checked the flop, I figured that he either missed the flop or hit it weakly. Since I had made a pair of 9s and I was fairly confident that he had a weak hand, I pushed all-in. Had I been correct, he would have had a very tough time calling my bet even with middle pair. He quickly called with K7 and his top pair held on to win the hand and the tournament. Obviously, I was surprised by his call. I give him a lot of credit for his move. He also took a risk by checking his top pair and giving me a free card on the turn. It paid off for him and he won the tournament.

While I’m certainly happy that I won 2nd place, I think my final play was a bad one. One question I did not ask myself was “Is there a better situation where I can make a move against his bigger chip stack?” Pushing all-in on the turn was risky because he had more complete information at that point in the hand. Any random non-paired hand only has a maximum edge of 2 to 1 against any other non-paired hand. Had I folded that hand and simply push all-in preflop with my first 2 or 3 hands, that probably would have been a much better play. Still, I am fairly happy with my play and the end result. I now have bragging rights over my wife, who won 5th place in SIG’s 2007 poker tournament. It was certainly an exciting final round for me and I look forward to reviewing my play to make further adjustments in the future. I’m confident that you will see me again at the Final Table!

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