Austrian Masters 2007

‘Fresh’ from the mixed results at the GBPT festival in Bournemouth of a final table appearance followed by a frustrating exit in the main event, I found a hotel room near Heathrow airport, shut the curtains and slept all day and night, flying to Vienna the next day for my first ever visit to the famed Concord Card Casino, host of the Austrian Masters.

Unlike a conventional casino, the Concord is devoted almost exclusively to poker and, given the obvious attractions of the culturally rich and tourist-friendly Vienna, I would recommend poker fans add a visit to the Austrian capital to their ‘to do’ list. Open non-stop, the room is large enough to keep cash games of various levels going even during a poker festival – I counted 40 or so tables, with plenty of room – and, importantly, couldn’t be better organised.

I started with the 111-player 750 Euro tournament, which – at least in the early stages – had a good blind structure, albeit a seemingly quick 35 minutes per level. My decentish form had taken the trip with me from Bournemouth and I was comfortably above average in chips, but it took some time to get to grips with the ‘Concord’ style adopted by the numerous Eastern Europeans for whom the journey to Vienna is a short one. There was lots of calling hefty sized raises pre-flop, so that it was not unusual – with a 5000 starting stack and blinds at 25-50 – for someone to raise to 250 and have five players call, only for them to subsequently slip into ‘limp & fold’ passivity when the flop came. Consequently, when I got QQ, for example, I over-raised with a bet of eight times the big blind and still got three callers. The flop came TTK and I bet out but everyone called again, after which I folded to a massive bet when the turn brought a king.

Ironically, when my turn came to be dealt aces I was in the big blind and eagerly anticipating proceedings when, for the very first time at my table, it was folded round to me. I got kings once, which I had to lay down to a big bet on an ace-high flop. And it more or less went downhill from there. I went out when I got involved with a loose player who’d been raising pretty biggish pre-flop with any ace (he had shown rag aces three times after betting out and being given the pot). He did so – I assumed – again and I was the sole caller with AQ. The flop came AJ2 and I decided to go with (and bet) the hand, which saw another jack on the turn and a three on the river. This time, unfortunately, he had AK.

On to the Main Event. With just short of 120 players, only two tables paid, but there was a long way to go before I could think about the prize structure. I started well, took a big hit that left me trailing even the chasing pack, and then had another good run to again get into contention. Not long after moving tables I made the mistake (before at least becoming acquainted with the players and the table tempo and so on) of throwing my weight around in a big pot with a not big enough hand. After much agonising I had to let go, and was left with a short stack, being punished when I had finally put the effort in to properly observe the table by being moved again. But this turned out to be a fortuitous change, as I was able over the next couple of hours to go from being the shortest stack on the table to chip leader. With the money fast approaching, another table move saw my stack suffer considerably after a bit of over-aggressive play on my part. In my defence, I wasn’t aiming for the minor places, and even 10th wasn’t much more at around 3500 euros; 1st prize was 70000 and 6th around 10000. With this in mind, after ten hours or so I went out a few places short when I could probably have drifted into the money (the downside to this ‘scraping through’ strategy is the almost inevitable prospect of being left practically incapable of fighting for the top places).

In my final hand I was reasonably short-stacked when, in the big blind, I had Ac6c and it was folded round to the button. He had a big stack, which he had helped build by exploiting others’ bubble fear and stealing pots pre-flop with slightly high raises. He did so again and, mindful not to let my exit in the previous tournament have a negative influence on my decision making, I went with my initial thoughts on the situation. These were that the blinds, antes and the size of his ‘steal’ bet were well worth making a stand for with my hand (the small blind had folded), as well as the fact that opportunities like this are hard to come by, while I still had a stack big enough to avoid messing with, assuming he didn’t have a big hand. Easy game, poker… No prizes for guessing that he held, in fact, AK and was quite happy to call and, alas, take my chips.

Oh Vienna.

Nice place, nice venue and good tournaments. No prizes this time but, in the words of a famous Austrian, I’ll be back…

Good luck at the tables!