Playing the EPT London PokerStars Women Live tournament

ept-thumb-promo.jpgThe Victoria Casino in London, site of the latest European Poker Tour PokerStars Women Live Event, served up piping hot curry as well as a wide array of cash games to console the eliminated. Entrants to the £550 women's event ranged from Team PokerStars Pros who had recently busted from the Main Event to online qualifiers playing in their largest buy-in ever. I got into the groove of my table quickly and had a solid read on the woman to my left, who had just coolered me with A-A vs. K-K all-in pre flop. She was rather short before the hand so I still had about a starting stack in chips.

As I was adjusting to my new situation, the floorman told our dealer: "Give me your big blind." Uh oh, that was me. He took me over to my new table, with Team Pro Vanessa Selbst on my left and to my right, Team Pro Liv Boeree. Not only that, it seemed lots of other players at my table were solid! Although this was the K-K vs. A-A of seat changes, I stuck to my philosophy not to dwell too much on tough seat draws. Except in very deep structures, the luck of the dealer will often be more relevant than the luck of the perfect seat.

However, I do have a few tips for moving to difficult tables. It's wise to cut down on table chatter as you adjust to the new playing styles and stack sizes. Despite being pretty extroverted, I chat a lot less overall when playing with strong pros. First of all, I feel they'll be better at extrapolating any information I give them than amateurs will be. I also like to focus as much as possible; a smart pro told me that he purposefully tries to engage opponents at the table in conversation so "they have less time to think about poker."

In the first couple of orbits, I frittered chips and felt self-conscious about it, probably because Vanessa is one of my favorite players and I was thinking a lot about what she was thinking (normally a good thing in poker insofar as it affects your decisions, not your emotions!). On the hand before break it was folded to me (I had about 40 big blinds), with two black jacks on the button. I was very excited about this, not only because I had two jacks in my hand, but also because raising right before the break might induce some light three-bets. Vanessa folded instantly but focused intently for the rest of the hand, after all the other players left for break. The big blind called. The flop was T♠ 8♠ 3♠ and I got check raised. Pretty annoying. Even though I had the jack of spades, there are not too many hands I smash here. I figured she had hands like sets, two pair, some flushes or hands with a lot of equity with the ace of spades, and a smaller number with the king or queen of spades. From the short time I played with her she seemed pretty aggressive, so I thought she might think I'm on a pre-break steal and have more air in her range than usual. I decided to call her small raise. The turn was the ace of diamonds, which is a very bad card because now I'm behind an even larger chunk of the aforementioned hands. So I just folded when she bet and she, Vanessa and I got up to enjoy our remaining ten minutes.


Still with chips

Later, I thought about why Vanessa stuck around during the precious 15-minute break. Firstly, the hand deals with players to her direct right and left, which are two players who she's very likely to get involved in critical decisions with. Secondly, her control of the table is firmer when people feel like she's watching over it at all times. Finally, it made me think of something the online tournament legend, Paresh Jain aka Dana Gordon told me. Known for his hyper-precise bet sizing, Paresh died unexpectedly in September. I was lucky to meet him at this year's World Series of Poker. Paresh told me he liked to come back to the table before break and count the stacks down exactly, so that he would know how much each player had without having to ask or visibly size up a stack. While I don't think that using your break to do such things is essential (caffeine, fresh air and Twitter are my personal top three), it's a great metaphor for the seemingly excessive things great players do to gain edges.

A few hands after the break, the woman to my right limped at 200-400 with 50 antes. It was the first time I noticed her limp. I isolated on the button with ace-jack offsuit. Vanessa, in the small blind, thought for an awfully long time--I was hoping she'd shove her remaining 6,500 chips (I had her covered). She finally folded, and my hand went to showdown so she asked me: "What were you planning to do if I shoved?" I mumbled a lie "I don't know," and asked a question of my own I knew the answer to: "How much do you have behind?"

In the end, I eliminated Vanessa in a cooler in which she was pretty short and three-bet ace-ten vs. my queens. The roller coaster continued as I lost a huge pot with A-K to queens and beat Vicky Coren's own A-K with eight-seven suited. I lost most of my chips all in pre-flop with pocket tens to ace-five and the rest of them with queen-nine suited to four-deuce (yes, she had the pot-odds).

I was really impressed with the level of play and decorum at the tournament--players were respectful even when they lost tough hands or got sucked out on. However, there was one moment that tilted me. I shoved ace-queen offsuit under the gun. I easily could have raised smaller but wasn't in the mood to get shoved on. A woman in late position then said "all in", without realizing I had already moved in. Her chips were already in the middle and she turned over king-jack. She won the hand, and while I don't usually get upset at losing races or in this case, a 60-40, I was irritated that she was rewarded for not paying attention! Hence my angry poker stare in the funny photo above by Mickey May!

I was happy to see the friendly Jan Combes aka jamjars take the tournament down. Months ago I played her heads-up for a Madrid Women's Event package and I had some fortune on my way to the win. It was adorable to see Jan pose with her son Charlie , who taught her the game. More young poker lads (and gals!) should teach their moms poker. It may just double your chances of posing in a classic winner's photo.

Jennifer Shahade
@PokerStars in PokerStars news