Current Bankroll: $0 - 300K Play Chips

For low buy-in tournaments Full Tilt only has two options. Either the $2 + $0.25 180-Player multi-table tournaments or the nightly $1 Chris Ferguson Tournament. The latter sounds like the logical choice for someone trying to build up a small bankroll with the least amount of risk, but I decided to take a shot at the $2 tourney instead because I would be able to play 4 of them back-to-back as opposed to having to wait an entire day between tournaments with the Chris Ferguson even though it would have given me more than double the opportunities. In the past I've had trouble adjusting to the different styles of play at the different limits and especially when moving from the play money tables to the real money ones.

Thinking back on it now, I don't think the opportunity to play several tournaments back-to-back justified lowering my margin of error. In fact I think that playing several back-to-back actually hurt me because I found myself starting to fall back into the lack-of-patience that has been hurting me at the play chip tables lately.

I played really well in the first one before starting to bleed chips away as we neared the money, just not being able to hit anything. Then I lost my first double-up attempt and busted out in 30th of 180 (top 18 cashed). After that I found myself pushing way too soon and busted out in worse than 100th in the next three tourneys quickly zeroing out my bankroll once again.

From here on out I'm going to stick it out and only play one $1 Chris Ferguson tournament a day (as there is only one a day) whenever I get back in the money. While I'm going to have to focus on getting used to the style of play each time, I think that will actually play into my strategy of patience well as it will force me to be even more patient at the beginning of each tournament so that I can gauge the tables better. Hopefully by focusing on one tournament a day I will be able to take it more seriously as well and that will enable me to really focus on my game and my strategies.

Current Bankroll: $9 - 300k Play Chips

Woot! First multi-table freeroll cash-out ever! Definitely a well-played tournament, and that is what counts most of all.

The first hour was a bit tough as I missed every single flop when I had a good starting hand and despite making a bit back here and there on small bluffs I was soon missing a third of my starting stack and at the 10BB limit. Finally ATs more than doubled me up when I flopped a straight. Then some pocket queens and a set of 9s later and I was sitting in 17 of 817 of 2700 starters just as the hour finished. It's always nice when patience pays off so well.

10:20 (17 of 724) - QJs in middle position with one 3xBB raiser from under the gun so I call. Everyone else folds. Flop is T88 rainbow and he raises 3xBB again but I'm pretty sure he didn't hit that flop after raising pre-flop so I reraise him another 3xBB. He calls pretty quickly. Turn is a 2 and he checks it to me so I bet 9xBB and he calls again pretty quickly. At this point I'm not sure if he is sitting on a high pocket pair or in fact has a ten.

When the river is a 7 and he immediately checks it to me again. I'm a little worried that he is letting me push the pot when he has the nuts, but I just can't give him credit for slowplaying the ten so well and I can get him to lay down just about any other hand with a decent bet so I bet about 3/4 of the pot thinking that that will be just enough to get him to lay down anything but a ten. He indeed folds and I take down a decent pot although don't seem to move up at all in the rankings.

10:23 (17 of 700) - AQo from late position with one 3xBB raise from the same guy as before in front of me so I call. Flop is Q98 rainbow giving me top pair top kicker, he checks it to me and I put in a small raise hoping for a call and I get it. Turn is a 5, he checks, so I bet half the pot and he calls again.

A ten on the river puts out a one-card straight and he bets nearly the full pot. I was pretty sure I had him up until this point but even though I found it hard to believe he was in fact chasing that inside-straight draw I just couldn't bring myself to make that call. Tough fold, but I think it was probably best to avoid such a large risk at that point even though my stack could easily have absorbed it.

12:06 (14 of 77) - Nothing very interesting happened for nearly two hours and despite building my stack up very slowly, it wasn't fast enough to keep up with the speed of the tournament and I had soon dropped down to the bottom quarter in the standings. Finally a pair of queens showed up in the hole. One 3xBB raise and a call in front of me so I just call from late position thinking that the raise is already enough minimize the callers and that I might be able to disguise my hand and minimize my losses should an ace or queen come down on the flop. The BB also called so 4 to the flop.

Flop was a beautiful 752 rainbow and the original raiser puts in a half-pot raise. The next guy pushes over the top all-in for 2/3 my stack. There is no way I can put him on AA or KK since he didn't reraise pre-flop, so I figure he has a lower pocket pair, possibly a 7 or even that he is bluffing completely. The only thing I am really worried about is a set, but I have trouble giving him credit for calling that preflop raise with such a low pocket pair. I call, BB folds and the original raiser calls.

A king comes on the turn and the original raiser checks to me. I'm pretty worried about him holding a king since he was the original raiser both preflop and on the flop and his best move if he did in fact hold a king would definitely be to check since he will have a much better chance of getting the rest of my stack off of me on the river so I decide to check too.

A 9 on the river and he checks to me again. I'm pretty sure this means I'm ahead and there is no sense in risking the rest of my stack just to win a little more so I decide to check it down again. He flips over AJo and the all-in has pocket tens. I was quite happy with my reads on that hand and it was definitely a relief to finally pull down a slightly larger pot putting me back into the comfort zone.

12:34 (7 of 49) JJ on the button, two callers ahead of me so I raise 4xBB. Two callers. Flop is 56T with two clubs and the guy in front of me raises half the pot. I figure I've got him beat so I reraise. Other player folds and the raiser calls my raise. Turn is an 8 of spades and he checks so I raise half the pot (which was also half my stack) and he comes over the top pushing me all-in. I'm a little afraid of a set, but I'm hoping he would have pushed me all in on the flop if he had hit the set there and there is no way he would have called my reraise with pocket 8s so he couldn't have hit a set on the turn. I'm a bit more worried about aces, kings or queens but I can't fold on this huge pot with less than 10BB left in my stack for fear of one of those hands so I call. He flips over A8 of clubs and I survive the river to take down a monster pot throwing me from 28th to 7th and nearly a shoe-in for the money if I can avoid any bad situations over the next hour or so.

1:12 (14 of 27) In the money for the first time ever in one of these crazy freerolls. That's $2 in the bank for now :) Next payout increase is at 9th place going up to $3.

1:55 (2 of 10) Doubled up big time against the chip leader when my Q8o in the BB completed a straight on the turn despite an 8 dropping on the river. When the 8 fell I decided to check it to him giving him a chance to bluff since there was no way he was calling any bet without the queen and it worked perfectly as he put me all in, doubling me up to second place!

1:56 (2 of 9) Final table and up to $3! Payout structure from here on out is: 1st - $15, 2nd - $12, 3rd - $9, 4th - $7, 5th - $6, 6th - $5, 7th - $4.

2:08 (2 of 7) Seeing a lot of aggressive action with mediocre hands as the number of players drops. I pick up QJo in late position and raise it up 1xBB and get a call from big stack who has me outchipped nearly 3 to 1. Flop is 48A with two hearts and he raises 1xBB. I don't think he would have just called with a strong ace, so I figure I can definitely take him off this pot. Rather than do it now, which would be a bit obvious I decided to make it look like I am milking him so I simply reraise another 1xBB.

He quickly calls and with a 3 of spades on the turn raises another 2xBB. I again reraise another 2xBB and he calls. King of hearts comes on the turn putting out a possible flush but he checks to me and I just can't imagine he would have done that had he hit the flush so I put out a half-pot sized bet hoping it is just enough to make him fold and it works perfectly picking me up a nice sized pot.

2:19 (5 of 5) Took a big hit after raising with preflop with K9s and getting reraised all-in from the small stack for about half my stack and I decided to call. He flipped over AKo shutting me out pretty bad and dropping me to last place.

2:23 (3 of 3) Other two players dropped like flies and I'm stuck going into the final 3 with about a third of the stack of the guy in second place. Big stack folds to me in the SS and with K7o I decide to raise it up. BB calls. 335 rainbow on the flop looks safe enough for a bluff so I bet 2xBB. He raises me up to about half my stack and thinking that there is a good chance he is trying to steal my bluff and that I can't really afford to fold here I decide to push all in hoping my king high is actually good enough even if he calls. He flips over pockets 7s though and I'm out in third with a cash-out of $9.

Maybe I could have waited a bit longer in the final 3 to make a move since I was still at about the 10xBB limit, but I think I grabbed at a good opportunity and it just didn't pay off. I was so far behind at that point anyway that I couldn't really afford to wait for a better opportunity so I think it was a good decision.

Despite a tough start, after surviving my first all-in and doubling up I only had to survive one more all in before reaching the top 3 and busting out in third. That means I was able to build my stack slowly and methodically without risking too much in any one hand. That is definitely the only way to survive one of these huge tournaments, and I am really happy about my discipline tonight that kept me focused and patient enough to make that possible.

I didn't really take any nasty hits but I think that was due more to avoiding bad situations rather than blind luck. But more importantly I was able to stay away from the point where a bad beat would have crippled me anyway so that is definitely the lesson of the night.

While that may be a bit of an obvious lesson it is definitely something that I will try to keep as underlying goal in future tournaments. As it is a bit general though I'm going to focus one key aspect of my game tonight that I think made it possible, something that I think may be lacking in my current cash game play which may be the reason I am suffering so much at the cash tables. That aspect is the discipline to keep pots small and not try to buy out pots with huge bets. It doesn't take much to bluff somebody when they are in fact bluffable and in most cases a smaller bet is more disguised as a bluff than a large one which can practically scream your real intentions. But more importantly, getting yourself involved in pots that are large enough to cripple your stack too frequently is a recipe for disaster because it leaves little room for error. Especially given that I am far from a pro poker player I need to give myself as much room for error as possible.

Patience pays off in the long run even if it makes for really tough poker when things aren't going your way, and while it is one of the toughest things to stay consistent with, if you focus on it, it is one of the easiest ways to bring your game out of a slump.

Anyway, I am really excited about this awesome finish! Having never cashed in one of these huge, multi-table freerolls and to suddenly hit 3rd place is fantastic. While $9 isn't my biggest tournament cash-out yet, it is the highest in any freeroll and second overall, nearly doubling my previous second-best cash-out of $5 in Full Tilt's 400k Play Chip $40 Freeroll.

Hopefully I'll be able to put these $9 to good use if I can continue to play as well as I did tonight. Especially given my sudden awful cash-game play at the play chip tables and my teetering play chip bankroll it will definitely be a relief not to have to address that problem and to finally move over to the real money tables for good. Here's to a successful 2008!