The Anatomy of a Sunday Grind

Sunday Grind: February 3, 2012

My Sundays remind me of the oft-quoted opening to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. A 12-hour session of over 150 PokerStars tournaments is often the best of times, but with higher buy-ins than the rest of the week, they occasionally feel like the worst of times, too. While not quite on the life and death scale of a Dickens' novel, my new monthly column will be full of the exhilarating highs and quirky frustrations of playing online poker tournaments.

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Adding to my already mind-boggling display of dorkiness in this column (and geez, I'm only on the second paragraph), I try to go to bed early on Saturday nights in order to best face the long day ahead of me. And by early, I mean trying to fall asleep at 2AM instead of 3:30AM. Every Saturday night, the anticipation I felt is like I was going to prom for the first time the next day. I had a cute dress and a nice date, but what if I ran below expectation and was the only girl at the dance without a corsage?

Fortunately though, my last Saturday night session ended well when I took sixth in the $55 nightly 30K Guaranteed. It was past midnight, so it was nice to feel that my day was off to a good start even before I fell asleep.

The first "villain" of my Sunday was not a poker player. Instead it was my cat, Mr. Ed. He fell asleep on my pillow, on top of all my hair, and began pawing at me when I tried to get out of bed. With a wistful glance at my sleeping husband snoring in our bed, I knew the clock was ticking. I had 15 minutes before my self-imposed 12 hours at the tables were slated to begin and a lot of tasks to squeeze in beforehand.

We'd just moved into our new place in Mexico, which has a gas range. I assumed it would cook scrambled eggs even faster than the electric range in our old place. My first misclick of the day came when I poured coffee, only to find out that the new coffeemaker didn't stop spewing coffee when I moved the carafe.

Two minutes and a fresh T-shirt later, I was cracking eggs like a Top Chef contestant wannabe -- but the eggs still weren't cooking fast enough! I went to late register the Sunday Storm, a few more tournaments that started at 11AM, and some MTT SNGs, figuring I could come back for the eggs in a couple minutes.

Suddenly, the tables popped up faster than I thought, which left me with precious seconds to grab the pot of eggs! I returned to my office to the angry sound of countless beeps, telling me I was about to time out of the half-dozen tables that had already loaded. Clicking with my right hand and holding the hot pot of eggs with my left, I realized that I had nothing in my office to set the hot pan on, which was the lesser crisis of my two egg issues. Lifting the lid off the eggs, I realized that the eggs were badly scorched. I pictured the Head Chef from my French culinary school making the "McKayla Maroney is not impressed" face.

Soon, my day began to taste as sweet as those eggs were bitter. One of my favorite things about playing on PokerStars is the ability to play for large amounts of money with a small buy-in, which is part of why I always play the Sunday Storm. Usually, I'm not a fan of late registering, but the structure of the tournament is so great that I think it's fine. I started out in the tournament by winning a few small pots, then my first all-in flip of the tournament:

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Then, at 11:30, some of my biggest tournaments of the day popped up, including my favorite tournament of the week, the $55 Women's Sunday, and the Sunday Million, along with a host of other tables.

Around 12:30, I was heads-up in one of the first tournaments I registered for -- a $15 45-man. Mr. Ed came and jumped on my lap, and we made amends over the aforementioned hair incident. I shipped it for $192, and while that was very far from the amount I needed to show a profit for the day, it was encouraging for me to book a win early in the grind. Playing heads-up is one of my favorite parts of being a tournament grinder and really helps get me into the zone.

As I accumulated more tourneys, my music shifted from "Florence and The Machine" to my ninja multi-tabling playlist that is dominated by Eminent and Rick Ross's "Hustlin," which I hit replay on more times than I care to admit. One thing about my music while I play rarely changes; it's always really loud!

Next up, I was at the final table of a $35 180-man. Only a handful of those fill during the hours I play every Sunday, and the prospect of booking a win (around $1,700) and guaranteeing to be up for the day was exciting, but instead I lost a pretty big flip to be out in sixth place.

After grabbing some cheese and almonds for a quick snack on my five-minute break, I was excited to be doing pretty well in the Women's Sunday $55. I final tabled this one a couple weeks ago and really want to win it. Even though I was playing a lot of tables, when I got this hand, I took a few extra seconds to shove in the hopes of inducing a light call:

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Soon after, we reached the final table, but I was the second shortest stack. Considering the size of the pot, the fact that I was the second shortest in chips, and the texture of the board, I decide to semi-bluff shove over a min-bet in a multi-way pot.

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It certainly would have been nice to hit, but I never feel awful about busting a tournament when I stand behind the hand that led to my demise. Hopefully, before long, I'll get to talk about winning this tournament in one of my future columns!

Then, I was left with a very short stack after this Sunday Million hand and couldn't recover:

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After I busted my biggest tournaments of the day, I tried to immediately refocus my energy on the positive. I had a semi-deep run in the Sunday Storm and an exciting sweat in the $16.50 Turbo with $20K guaranteed. With over 2,500 entrants, the prospect of taking down a field of that size and over $6K has me on the edge of my cheap Ikea office chair. The table dynamic helped me to chip up with frequent three-bet shoves:

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When I reached the final table of the $16.50 turbo, I was unfortunately not in a great position to play a loose-aggressive style, especially with the chipleader to my immediate left. At first, the action went slowly, and I won a few uncontested pots, and I switched my music to the Kronos Quartet performing Philip Glass. With the volume cranked, this "mathematical" music helped me to slow down and take all the time I needed at the table to make the best possible decisions. When we got down to five-handed, I made a standard shove, got a standard call, and was out. A bit of a bummer, for sure, but the $2,218 score meant that I was guaranteed a very profitable day!

Over the next few hours, I won a couple more 45-mans and have a few semi-deep runs, but the excitement clearly peaked earlier in the day. It can be tough in poker to maintain focus after the excitement of deep runs in large-field tournaments is over and there are mainly just MTT SNGs up on my screen. After a hotkey misclicks, where I accidentally folded top pair on the flop (Dickens would no doubt call that part of the day "the age of foolishness"), I fought back by hyper-focusing my concentration and reminding myself to treat every hand I played with the utmost respect and skill, even in my lowest buy-ins.

All-in-all, it was a very profitable day for me. Including the games that finished after midnight, I played 155 tournaments, with a 96% ROI and a profit of $3,192. Not too shabby, considering my average buy-in was only $13.50 and that my day started with a cat fight and horrific scrambled eggs.

So this week, I'm happy to say that my Sunday grind turned out to be the best of times. Here's hoping the good run continues!

Katie Dozier
@PokerStars in PS Women