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Winning the 'Stars Sunday Million

mlagoo Exposition and Early Levels

From the moment lakong approached me about making a post describing my PokerStars Sunday Million win, I tossed back and forth the two different ways of approaching the article. I could write a strategy-based article, describing a few key hands throughout the tournament and what my thought process was during those hands, discussing my opponent’s hand ranges and why I made the decisions I made. Or, I could basically write the story of my Sunday Million win. I finally decided that stories are a lot more fun to read, and I can always post strategy later, so here we go.

First, a little exposition. I’ve been playing MTTs recreationally on Stars since September 2005. From September 2005 until June 23, 2007, I had an ROI of 41% over 644 tourneys, with an average buyin of $25. I was your average low-stakes grinder. I supplemented by bankroll by playing cash games and sit-n-gos, but I had never had any real tournament success. My biggest cash at that point was for $3,300, which I believe came in a late-night 30 dollar freezeout. I believed I was a good player – and my results showed that I was certainly better than breakeven – but I never had a big result to show the rest of the world that I knew how to play this game.

Enter Sunday, June 24, 2007. The night before I had a brief conversation with my backer about whether I should play in the tournament. It went something like this:

mlagoo: Hey, do you want me to play the Million tomorrow? It’s a 1k.
backer: I dunno, do you want to play?
mlagoo: Yeah.
backer: Then play.

I had some reservations, because 1k was a lot of makeup to recover . . . but the gambler in me could not resist the allure of such a huge prizepool combined with such a soft field. So I registered, went to resident TwoRagger nath’s house, partied for a while, came home and went to sleep.

I basically woke up in time to play the tournament. And, in all honesty, despite not having the best table draw (colson10, one of the best MTT players in the world, was to my direct right), it started off rather easy. On the second hand I was dealt AA, 3-bet a raiser, and won a medium-sized pot after he flopped TPTK on a scary board. In that same orbit, I was dealt QQ and faced an LP raise in my BB. I decided to just call, hoping to trap a weaker hand on a low flop. The flop came T42, I checked, he bet, I checkraised, he called. Turn 4, I bet, he called. River 7, I shoved, he called – AT, no good sir.

Ah, an early doubleup is always nice. After that I splashed around for a bit, won a few smallish pots, until the following hand came up about 15 minutes into the tourney. At 25/50, a player who I have no read on makes it 200 UTG. I have JJ in the CO, and decide to just call – I think 3-betting here is, as a rule, pretty bad readless. BTN calls, and we go 3 to the flop.

The flop was ok for me – J63r. The PFR bets 550 into the ~700 pot, and I make a small raise to 1400. I want to make it look like I’m making an “information raise” so that he will 3-bet allin. Instead, BTN folds and UTG calls. The turn is a 7, he checks, I bet 2000, again, a small bet because I want to give him the illusion of fold equity and so I can set up a pot-size river shove. Well, he makes it easy on me, and crams; I call, and he has KK and does not get there. Sometimes all of your fancy lines are all a bit unnecessary, because your opponent was never planning to fold anyway.

At this point, I proceed to go card-dead for a WHILE. I’m not too upset about this, as I had already 3x’d my stack, so I was in a pretty good position to kind of “coast.” I played a few pots during the 50/100 and 100/200 levels, but nothing really to speak of – a couple floats, a couple whiffed CBs, all resulting in me entering the first break with about 31k, right where I was after the first 15 minutes. My post on 2p2 during the first break:

“31k at first break, ran kinda good for the first 15 minutes or so”

I didn’t do much during the 150/300, and entered the 200/400 level with about the same stack I’d entered the 50/100 level. The next meaningful pot I played was a very simple one – At the 200/400 level, it folded to colson in the HJ, who shoved for 11.5BBs. I had TT next to act and isolated, and lost the race to his KJo. After that hand I had about 27k, and was still in pretty good shape.

I didn’t do much at all during the rest of the 200/400 level and the 300/600 level. It’s important to note that the antes don’t start in this tournament until the second 400/800 level – so there really is no incentive to go too crazy, other than the general incentive of trying to get the chips of the bad players before someone else does. However, when I’m card dead in the early stages of a tournament like the Sunday Million, I generally don’t try to force it. My post during the second break:

“25.8k at second break... lost a flip to colson and basically didnt play any other big pots.”

Early after the second break, at 400/800/0, I had about 27k UTG, and was dealt T8. In hindsight, I think this hand is a fold – there just is no reason to be splashing around in a 9-handed game with 30BBs and T8 in early position. However, I decided to make it 2200. It folded around to the BB, who called.

Flop: T94 (I have T8ss). BB checks, I bet 3300, he minraises to 6600 leaving himself 10k behind. I don’t think calling is terrible here, but there are so many ugly turn cards that I just wanted to get it in, and if top pair wasn’t good, then it just wasn’t my Sunday. So I crammed, he snapcalled with A4o and my hand held. GG, sir. This hand put me up to 47k and I felt like it was a real mental turning point in the tourney for me.

I proceeded to fold a lot for the next several orbits, when at 400/800/50, I found ATo UTG+1, starting the hand with 41k. I made it 2200, and was called by the SB who started the hand with 39k.

Flop T82 (I had no clubs). TPTK, the nuts! SB checked, I bet 3800, he called. Turn 4, SB checked. Now, a lot of players will check it through here for pot control or showdown value or whatever, but I think that’s a pretty big mistake and you’re usually missing a lot of value by doing so. In these soft fields, people will call you down with worse, and people will check-raise with worse. So, I bet 8500, and he called. The river is a somewhat bittersweet A. So I have two pair now, but in reality, my hand didn’t improve on that river. If he had a smaller two pair, I would have heard from him already, and if he had a flush draw, he got there. So when he bets out 9000 into me, I decide to just call. Unfortunately for him, 77 was not good, and I won a 48k pot, taking my stack to 65k.

The next big pot I play would be just a few hands later, against the player who had A4o above. At 500/1000/75, he makes it 3000 in MP, starting the hand with 16k. BTN, who starts the hand with 28k, calls, and I make it 12500 from the SB with AKo. MP shoves, BTN folds, and I call and win a 31k race against his TT. This took my stack to 80k, and the chiplead at my table (the player directly to my left had 72k, everyone else had 35k or less). I was feeling good. My post on 2p2 during the third break:

“like 79k at break, gonna try to win or something

i've had some funny hands though. basically the theme of them is that top pair = nuts”

At this point I was feeling pretty good. But I still had a lot of work to do. So, on to the Middle Stage and the Bubble.

Middle Stage and the Bubble

After the third break (blinds at this point were 600/1200/100), I played a couple pots in here where I got 3-bet or missed CBs and lost a few chips, until I won a big pot where I called someone’s 15BB CO shove with KQs in the BB, and won against their KTo. This put me at 100k. Now, it’s worth mentioning that in this time, I had been playing a lot of pots with the player to my left, and we had been in quite an epic struggle for the “captaincy” of the table. He of course had the advantage because he had position, but I overcame that through some good old fashioned aggression.

Still during the 600/1200/100 level, it folded to me in the SB with T5. I really am raising with basically any two cards here, because there’s just too much money in the pot, and most people won’t want to battle with the table chipleader – they don’t want to risk their tournament life! So, I make it 3600, and my above-mentioned friend calls in the BB.

Flop: Q43. So we have… T-high. But a couple backdoor draws! I lead for 5500, and BB calls. I pretty much don’t think he would float here, so I think he has a pair or a draw most of the time. However, he did hesitate a good bit before calling, which made me think he rarely had a Q here. Turn A, which is a pretty good card to bluff at I think. If he has a 3 or a 4, he’s usually going to give up on it. Sometimes, if he has a Q, he will give up as well. Regardless, I think I can get him to give up almost all of those hands with one more barrel on the river, if he calls – the only concern being if he had some draw that contained an ace. So, I fire 11500, and after dipping into his time-bank, he calls. The river comes the 3, which I actually really hate. It’s just such a brick, that in reality I’m going to check-call most of my range here, because there are so many whiffed draws he can bluff. However, I think he never got to the river with a naked 3. And I still think I can take him of a 4 or a Q. It’s just a matter of whether he had a draw that connected with the ace on the turn. So I swallow hard and fire one more barrel of 27000 at the river, and he instafolds. Ship it! That pot took me to 120k and really made me feel comfortable with my situation.

At this point I win and lose a few small pots. I get down to about 108k before my next big pot at 750/1500/150, where I lose a 40k race with ATo against 88, which leaves me with about 90k. I’ve blinded down to about 87k when I play my next big hand against the player to my direct right. This player had been extremely aggressive, and he opens again in MP to 6k, starting the hand with 39k. I have QJo next to act and make it 20k, pot-committing myself if he shoves, but trying to make my hand look as strong as possible. Unfortunately, he shoves, and I lose an 81k “race” to AKo. This puts me back down to 48k and I start having thoughts of “sigh, just another Sunday Million.” These thoughts are compounded when a few hands later, I get dealt KK in the BB, and get a walk. Argh! I proceeded to make what is, in hindsight, a pretty funny post on 2p2:

“lost a 40k race then lost an 80k race. down to 42k. why can’t i win one of those one time.... ugh. i seriously wonder what its like to win flips deep in these tournaments.”

A few hands after that, the player who I doubled up with QJ raises again, and I shove with AJo, and he folds. A few hands later, I get moved to a new table, which I’m happy about. Shortly after arriving I “steal” the blinds with AK, then resteal from an LP raiser with A7o, and he folds. Back up to 93k, the hard way. That’s one thing about these tournaments – you’re going to have to win your fair share of races, sure, and you’re going to need your big hands to hold – but you also, particularly in the middle stages, are going to need to earn some pots. You can’t wait forever. You just have to make sure you are playing good situational poker. You can’t just decide “Ok, this hand I’m going to resteal.” You have to say, “Ok, this guy has been loose opening, I think this is a good spot to 3-bet light.” Or, “Ok, this guy keeps folding his BB, I need to steal with any two here.” It’s not always going to work out (See the QJ hand above), but if it’s a +EV spot, that’s how you’re going to be making yourself money in the long run. Here is my post going into the fourth break:

“80k at this break. one time yo.”

I head back in and immediately start going to work. Somewhere around the end of the first level back from break, 1250/2500/250, we make the money. In retrospect, I didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy at the bubble. Sometimes it just turns out that every time the situation was good to open light, someone opened in front of you, and every time you did open, your opponents picked up a hand, etc. Anyway, I make the money! This means there are something like 150 players left. During this and the next level, I do pretty well. A few steals and resteals and all the sudden I’m sitting at 117k at 1500/3000/300. Not too bad. This is where I’m at when it folds around to the CO who crams for 22k, and I isolate in the SB with ATo, and lose a 50k race to his 99. One time dealer! This leaves me with 96k, so I’m still in decent shape, and not too worried. However, I proceeded to go completely card-dead during the 2000/4000/400 level, and go to the fifth break running on fumes. My post during that break:

“blehh.... give me cards. 71k at break. like half average.”

Next level is 2500/5000/500. BTW, props to Stars on an amazing structure. Anyway, this level goes ok =)…I steal a couple pots, until I resteal for 77k over an LP raiser with 55. He covers and calls with AJ. Flop AJx… gg. Turn 5! DingDingDing! River blank and I’m up to 166k. I <3 poker.

I win and lose a few small pots until at the 4000/8000/800 level, where I shove from the BB over an EP raise with 99. He calls with AJ, and I fade what seemed like a million outs after the board comes KKTx to win a 280k flip, putting me up to 311k. I win the blinds one more time and make this post during the sixth break:

“320k at break, one time baby”

Next level is 5000/10000/1000. I win the blinds a few times and am at 344k when I raise with KJo, get shoved over for 9BBs, call, and win a race against A9o. This puts me at 447k, a great stack at this point in the tournament. I’m still around there at 6000/12000/1200, when I raise from the CO with KQo, and get a 16BB shove from the BB. I was pretty sure this was a +EV call against his range, so I made it, but unfortunately lost a 400k race to his A3s. This leaves me with 250k, so about 20BBs. I’m very comfortable with this stack size, so I’m annoyed but not particularly worried. I proceed to steal and resteal my way all the way back to 420k going into the seventh break, when I made this post:

“420k at this break. made a bad play and got berated by everyone at my house

guess ill try to play better from here on out”

The “bad play” refers to a spot where I had been very active in the past couple orbits, and I shoved 390k or so over a 40k open at 7500/15000/1500 with AA. My thinking was that making a smaller raise showed too much strength. In hindsight, however, the better play was probably to just call the raise, and get it in on any flop. It lets him go broke with lesser hands, and it also allows someone to make a squeeze play behind me. We’re all allowed a couple mistakes I suppose =).

Despite that, I was feeling great. By now, I thought I had a legitimate shot at the final table, and I was just excited about it. But, at this point in the tournament, there is always a nagging voice in the back of your head telling you, “It isn’t even close to over.”

Late Tourney and Beginning of Final Table

The blinds entering the next level were 10000/20000/2000. I coasted for an orbit or so, until I raised with KQo from MP, was shoved over for 10BBs, and called and won a 420k race against ATo. This put my stack at about 650k, and I was feeling good.

I had blinded down to about 577k, still at 10k/20k/2k, when it folded to me in the SB with T8o. The BB had about 240k to start the hand, and from my SNG background I was 100% sure this was a +EV shove against any reasonable calling range. So I shoved, he snapcalled, and I won against his AKo with an 8ball on the turn. This took me to 850k. I then won two smallish pot with TPMK to get to 1.2m. Shortly after those pots, at 12500/25000/2500, I won a 1.1m race with AK v TT, to take my stack to 1.7m. At this point we were nearing the final table, and I was top 3 in chips in the tournament, and obviously feeling great. However, the final two tables of the tournament would last FOREVER.

A little later, I played a pretty big pot against mrrain. He was to my direct left (I hated this BTW – he was an incredibly aggressive player, and having him to my direct left really hampered my ability to open). It folded to me in the HJ with QQ, and I made it 65k at 12.5k/25k, starting the hand with about 1.8m. mrrain made it 200k next to act with almost identical stacks. I decided to just call – I wanted to play a bit of smallball against him, as well as disguise the strength of my hand.

Flop: T62r. If there’s ever a flop to play your hand somewhat slow, this is it. So I check, he bets 275k, and I call. The turn comes the 5, and I check, planning to checkraise allin. Unfortunately, he checks behind. The river is a 6, and I valuebet 550k, and he folds. I think checking this river has some merit against a player as aggressive as he is, but in all honesty it really isn’t a great card for him to bluff at, so I thought I’d try to get some value out of my hand. This pot took me to 2.3m, and either 1st or 2nd in chips in the tournament.

I then lost a pot where I raised with AJo in LP, was shoved over, called, got shown AK, and did not get there. This was about a 1m pot and took me down to about 1.7m. I then won a smallish pot from mrrain where I check-called down with TPMK and was good, taking my stack back to about 1.9m.

The blinds went up to 15k/30k/3k, and I lost another 1.1m allin when I shoved over an LP raise with T9o, he called with KQo, and I did not get there. This took me down to 1.4m. I proceeded to win another smallpot with TPNK against mrrain to take my stack back up to 1.7m. I went to the… what are we at now, the eighth break? With 1.67m, in decent shape, with 12 or 13 players left in the tournament. I didn’t make a post on 2p2 during this break as I was totally focused on playing the tournament and trying to win.

When we came back, the blinds were 20k/40k/4k. I didn’t play too many pots during this level, and was at 1.6m when I called a shove for 9BBs with KQo, and won a 750k race against A7o by flopping a king. This burst the final table bubble, and took me to the final table of the 1k Sunday Million.

The final table started off pretty scary! The second hand at the FT, I raised AA UTG. I then was 3-bet by another big stack on the button. As I considered whether to 4bet or call, I suddenly lost my connection to PokerStars. Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!! Fortunately, in their infinite wisdom, PokerStars gives extended timebanks to disconnects at the FT, and I was able to restart my router and reconnect just in time to go allin with my AA. He folded, but at least I didn’t lose the pot, and it was a nice start to the final table.

I then played a small pot against THAY3R where I flopped TPTK after calling his PFR, checked the flop, he checked behind, and he folded when I tried to valuebet the turn. Oh well. My general strategy at the final table was to do everything I could to try to play small-ball. I had a ton of chips (after the AA hand, I was 2nd in chips, with a bunch of shortstacks), and I didn’t want to get in a confrontation with another huge stack and race for hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity. So I was trying to steal the blinds a fair bit, but I was not 3-betting light, or calling 3-bets light, or making big post-flop bluffs. Pros often tease amateurs for “playing scared” and “trying to move up the pay ladder,” when in reality those players are often making +$EV decisions by avoiding huge confrontations early at a final table, where each elimination earns them a significant amount of money.

So, I played smallball for a while, until at 30k/60k/6k, I raised to 160k from LP with KJo, thenut21 shoved for 680k total, I called, and lost the race to his A9s. However, I had chipped up enough that even after this pot, I was still 2nd in chips in the tournament and in a good spot.

The thought process I described above came into play shortly after this. With 2.4m to start the hand, I raised to 160k UTG+1 with 66. The BB in this hand was faithless, who I understand is a very good player, but who was playing INCREDIBLY tight at this final table. So it was almost a situation where the BB was sitting out, which would of course make my openraising range that much lighter. It folded to THAY3R in LP, who made it 475k total with about 1.9m to start the hand. In a non-final table situation, I might 4-bet shove here, because he knows I will be raising light, which means he will be 3-betting light, which means a 4-bet shove will take this pot down a large % of the time (and even when it doesn’t, will occasionally result in being on the good side of a flip). However, I decided to fold, based on the idea of avoiding marginally +cEV spots where taking them will be -$EV. I later spoke to Thayer about the hand, and he told me he had AA. Phew!

A hand came up a bit later where we are 8-handed, and I had 2.2m in the BB, and thenut21 had 1.6m UTG+2. thenut21 makes it 180k, and I decide to call in the BB with 22. I think 3-betting has its merits here, and would almost certainly be good against an aggressive player if his raise were from a later position. And, were I not in the BB and already had 60k invested, I may have folded the hand. In this case, I decided to call.

Flop: K83. I check, planning to fold to a bet, but he checks behind. Turn: 3. I check, he bets 200k, and I call. I felt like his range here was made up of a) air, and b) pocket pair hands like 99-QQ trying to get some thin value. There is a strong case to be made for raising this turn outside of the FT, but again, I wanted to avoid the high-variance play and elected to call. River 7. I check, planning to call most bets. I think most people valuebet that river with 99-QQ very rarely, so if he bets the river, he has air more often than not. However, he checked behind, and my hand was good against his QJ. This took me to 2.7m and was a nice confidence boost.

I then played another smallish pot against mrrain where I called his PFR with KT, flopped a flush draw and check/called, turned top pair and checked. HE checked behind, and when the river bricked, I thought checking against a player like him was better than betting, because he was so aggressive that he might fire that river a great deal of the time (and may also be capable of raising a blocking bet, which would make it very difficult for me to call). He had a hand with showdown value though, and checked his QJ behind, so I missed some value on that river. It was nice a pot though, and took me to 3.2m and the chiplead at the table.

Final Table End; Postscript

A couple hands after the hand I ended with last time, I played a hand where I made my biggest mistake of the tournament. It folded to jeffbeesdat on the HJ. We had some history at the final table – I had 3-bet him twice before this (I had hands both times, but he didn’t know this), so he probably thought I was targeting him. He made it 150k, and I elected to just call with TT next to act. He started the hand with 2.5m to my 3.2m. I really wanted to avoid a situation where I 3-bet him and be forced to call a 4-bet shove because of all of my prior 3-bets, and as a result, racing for a huge amount of chips at the final table. I actually am happy with my pre-flop call. I mess up later in the hand. It folds around, and we are HU to the flop.

Flop: 955. He bets 300k, a large ¾ pot bet, and I call. Standard, I think, although a case can be made for raising (and calling a shove). Turn: 4. He checks, and I bet 500k, and he crams for 1.5m more. Now, here is the thing about this hand. If I bet the turn, it is because I want him to do exactly what he did, and I should be snapcalling. If I’m not comfortable calling a checkraise on the turn, I need to check it through. I made a really big error here in making a decision in the middle of a hand without having a plan for what I would do for all of my opponent’s possible actions. I decided to fold after he raised, because honestly, I didn’t expect him to raise – I thought he would just check/fold. But it doesn’t matter what I expect. When you take an action during a hand, you need to have planned ahead and be ready for anything your opponent might do. I didn’t do that, and because of my lack of foresight, lost a bunch of chips when I folded to his raise. jeffbeesdat did not show his cards during the replay, so I still don’t know whether I made a good fold, but whether I did or not, my bet was bad.

That hand left me with about 2.2m, so not in terrible shape, but now 4th in chips and a little discouraged at my own play. In the meantime, we lost another player to get down to 7-handed when thenut21 got there with AJ against SvZff’s AQ. We then got down to 6-handed when loooser17 won with A8o against Spinvis’s 99. During this whole time, I was VERY card dead, and I just sort of sat around and watched. Finally, at 50k/100k/10k, it folded to me in the SB with AJs, and I made it 300k. loooser17 jammed, and I snapcalled and won against his A4, to put me at 3.2m and back in contention.

We lost yet another player when jeffbeesdat raised UTG with 75o, was called by mrrain with 87s, and they got it allin on a 77xx board. At this point there was still no talk of a deal, and we were all still focused on winning the whole thing. During this time 4-handed, I basically kept my stack alive by restealing from mrrain. He was playing incredibly aggressively and giving me numerous opportunities to add chips to my stack when he open-raised.

After a won a small pot with KK on an A-high board against mrrain, we lost another player when Thayer’s AA failed to hold up against mrrain’s K5 on a 432dd board.

We finally had our first talks of a deal 3-handed. With stacks just about even, we proposed a chip-chop, where thenut21, who was the slight chipleader, would get something like 180k, mrrain would get 178k, and I would get 176k, and we’d play for 50k for first. Those numbers are a bit fuzzy, but it was something to that effect. thenut21 asked for something like 4k more, mrrain and I declined, and we played on.

I lost a small pot to mrrain immediately after dealmaking fell through, and then, with about 3.3m left at 80k/160k/16k, raised KQo on the BTN. thenut21 folded, and mrrain, starting the hand with about 5.3m, shoved from the BB.

Many people have told me since the tournament that this hand was a fold. It’s really just a matter of ranges, and they think his range is tighter than I did. I perceived mrrain as a very loose aggressive player, who was making moves liberally and really wanted to press the issue. So, I saw his range as something like any pair, almost any two broadway, and any ace. Against that range, my equity is 43.5%, and with the overlay in the pot, it is a +EV call, particularly as the shortstack in the tournament (there was no more consideration to avoiding marginal spots at this point). In this case, he happened to have JJ, but I won the HUGE flip, propelling my stack to 6.8m and the tournament chiplead.

The very next hand, I had Q9o in the BB, and it folded to mrrain who had 1.9m left after his last hand, who completed from the SB. I checked my option, and we saw a flop of AQJ. He checked, and I checked behind. The turn came the 6, and he bet 320k. I think mrrain is almost always raising an ace here pre-flop (in fact he’s probably just shoving with it), so I thought his range was polarized to air, KQ, or monsters. And there are more possible combinations of air than the other two. So I call. The river is a blank, the 6, and he bets 640k. I think for a while, but I just can’t put him on a hand that makes sense other than, again, air, or a monster, so I call, and he had T8o, and my hand was good. This hand took me to 8.0m, and left mrrain with just 800k at 80k/160k/16k.

A few hands later, it folded to mrrain in the SB, and he crammed with J8o, and I woke up to KJo in the BB and called, and held. This took us to heads up, which I started with about a 1.5:1 chip advantage. I once again asked thenut21 if he would like to chop, and we paused for discussions.

Because I had the chiplead, the chipchop broke down to 220k for me, 200k for thenut21, and playing for 50k for first. I agreed to this chop. After thinking for a bit, thenut21 asked for an even chop. I told him I thought that was ridiculous, and we agreed to play on. In hindsight, I have no real hard feelings. He no doubt saw my pokerdb, saw that I was a low-stakes tournament grinder, and thought he could bully me into a bad deal because I would be scared of playing for those stakes. What he didn’t take into account was that I was really happy with 150k (the 2nd place prize), so I was ready to play. So play we did.

He won a couple pots early in HU, where he either 3-bet me pre-flop or won the pot post-flop. I then won a couple back, and we even chopped one just to keep things balanced. Then, with about 8m to his 6.9m, I raised the button to 400k with ATs. The flop came T82r, he checked, I bet 550k, he called. The turn came the 5, he checked, I bet 1.2m, and he called. The river came the K, he checked, and I considered checking behind, but ultimately decided that there was too much value from a hero call and the added value of not showing down, so I bet 2m, and he folded. This put me at 10m and him at 4.7m. I was down to 9.6m when the final hand took place.

It’s funny looking back on it. During the hand I was thinking all of these things like, what’s the best way to get value from AT-AQ, and how do I get him to stack off light here, or should I disguise my hand – all of these complex thoughts. When in reality I could have open-shoved and he would have called because, as it turns out, the final hand was very simple. I raised with AA, he 3-bet, I 4-bet, he crammed, and I called, and he had KK. Sometimes it’s a very simple game.

So, that’s the (somewhat long-winded) story of how I won the ‘Stars Sunday Million. I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope this serves as something of an inspiration to all of you guys out there who were in the same spot as me – winning players who are still waiting on that one big score to really push them over the top. This is a game that can be beaten. You just have to work at it. You can’t win by simply firing up your PokerStars lobby. I lost for most of April and May, and during that time, I took time almost every night to pore over my hand histories, look for mistakes that I made, and constantly try to make my game better. You can never be complacent. People are getting better at this game every single day, and you have to stay ahead of the curve. If you can do that, your big win will come – it’s only a matter of time. Good luck, and thanks for reading.


P.S. Oh yeah, the best thing about winning the biggest Stars Sunday Million ever is the very SICK email that shows up. Ship it!

click to enlarge the image


StrayBullet says

Holy Shit!!! This is amazing. Congrats. Hey, what do you do with so much money in your account? do you just spend it or try to take it out?


mlagoo says

Hi Straybullet,

I actually took it out as soon as I could. I was so freaked out! I spent the next week (before the wire transfer went through) checking my Stars account like 3 times a day to make sure all the money was still there, and I hadn't been hacked or something. Plus it's just fun to look at your cashier when it has 300k in it 8)


lakeoffire says

What can i say, an amazing feat! Thanks for the post and the hope to take one of these down one day. Congrats!


Anonymous says



Landlord79 says

Nice post, congrats on the win!!! I was happy to see my acct reach $1k, I can't imagine $300k!!!


Anonymous says

vn read, gratz on the win and glgl with the blog


Anonymous says

What a great story. Another blogger here posted that you were 2nd in chips at the final table in the $1k TS event. I was busted fairly early on. Had a big stack and my 77 was clobbered when a 99 hit a flop of 997 against me. He was the only one at the table who had me covered. We both slowplayed all the way to the river. I was very calm and polite on my exit.

So tell us how you did at the final table. I'm now home.


Anonymous says

What a great story. Great playing. You got really lucky on the one suck-out hitting your trips, but that's a must in these things. Really great playing and great writing. I can't wait to har more.


mlagoo says


I ended up taking second in that TS 1k for $36k. It was an interesting tourney -- maybe I'll write a trip report about it.

Thanks a lot for the comments guys. Glad you enjoyed it.


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