Normally, 986th place is not the greatest finish in an MTT, but when you’re talking about the biggest live tournament of the year, it’s quite a feat. Red Chip Poker PRO member Keith Christopher drops by this week to discuss his deep run in the 2017 WSOP Colossus. What did he study and how did he apply it to outlast 17,000 other players and cash in this mammoth field? He shares his insight on another episode exploring the deep tournament runs of our most dedicated members.
Zac: Keith Christopher, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.
Keith: Hey, Zac, thanks. I appreciate you having me.
Zac: And I’m really looking forward to talking to you about your deep run. Now normally, 986th place is not a deep run. However, there is one tournament every year that draws a larger field than all others, and we’re talking about the Colossus and so that was actually a deep run in a field of 18,054 people. Tell me about the experience of running that deep in the biggest tournament of the year.
Keith: You know, it was actually really amazing. It was my first bracelet event, I had done a lot of the circuit events. I banked cash in the ring event. And so a friend and I decided to go out and when we were out there, we were gonna play the tag team and I saw the Colossus and I thought, “That would be pretty interesting.” So kind of a little bit of a background: We were scheduled to take off and land in Las Vegas about two and a half, three hours before the tournament started. Just as our plane pulled up to the gang way, they announced over the mic they were giving our plane to some people going to Houston and we were delayed by two hours, so I quite literally got on the plane, landed in Vegas, got to the hotel, to the Rio, checked in, walked right down and sat down and started playing. It was the flight of the Colossus.
Pretty big room, lots of tables, it was really great. Lots of excitement. The thing that was really great is sitting down with the people there, if anybody’s never done it before, there’s people from all around the world. And just some of the stories you could hear while you’re sitting there playing and talking. It’s an intense room, there’s a lot of play going on. It was a pretty good time.
Zac: Wow, so you just made it. Close call. You get into the tournament room. There’s thousands of players in there. How are you feeling going into the first few levels and describe the experience of starting to get into the zone and just play your game.
Keith: Well, it was really, it was a little bit intimidating because you know, it’s a bracelet event, I’m just showing up, I don’t want to knock out in the first, nobody wants to knock out in like the first 10 minutes and debate rebuying. But I’d done a lot of background. I had actually taken the Red Chip Poker at the MTT Crash Course, so I had played a lot of tournaments coming up. I started off doing that and that was hit or miss and since I joined Red Chip, I had started doing a lot more cash and I was really becoming more and more successful there, which was amazing. So I thought, well, before I go out here, about three weeks, I went through the crash course. I watched the videos two or three times.
So when I got down there it took about maybe two rounds to really kind of realize, okay, I’m here. I can play this field. The skills that I’ve picked up from the videos have really begun to kick in and I started thinking about spots and doing a pre flop strategy and seeing where my three betting range was, watching the other players, getting a feel for what they were doing, and it really, about two rounds in, it really started to gel. I really started to fly. I started accumulating some chips and I started having a good outlook on it, actually, which was pretty great.
Zac: And what did you think, what was your impression of the level of play of your opponents? Were you surprised that they were more challenging than you thought or did you feel like you were way more prepared and knowledgeable than most of the people you ran into?
Keith: Probably about 40% of the table I felt better prepared than. The others, there was a couple I felt on the same level. There was one individual that he had flown all the way from Germany and he was actually a pretty tough component. I actually ended up knocking him out. It just happened to be luck of the draw, I picked up pocket aces when he had pocket jacks and he never got better and so I took him out of the tournament completely after the rebuys were closed.
But after the second break in that evening, was really when I noticed that it winnowed out a lot of the chaff, if you will. It really became more of a, I got to really pay attention. I got to think about all these things as I’m going through. I got to make sure that I’m playing the right spots and moving at the right time in order just to stay alive. So it was really interesting how the dynamic, I had to really switch gears and once I got the aggression and I really felt comfortable with that aggression, I said, let me start focusing on hand ranges. Let me look at all this stuff because SplitSuit was putting a lot of stuff out there about it. And I said, let me really focus on this. So I started getting hand reading down and it was pretty amazing that I actually had a guy at the table complain to the dealer that his last action was on me to call their all in, and I started calling hands out that this guy would have. And as soon as I said, “You know, you probably have pocket queens.” He looks at the dealer and he goes, “Can he not talk?” And I’m like, “This is the last action.” Because I nailed his hand spot on. And I ended up calling him and I took all of his money off of him, so it was just kind of interesting.
I was playing okay but I think I was running better than I was playing. And now I think I’m playing better than I’m running, which is, I think a good thing.
Zac: And it sounds like, I mean tracking your results is key to seeing, okay, my hourly is going up. That is a challenge in poker is knowing where you’re at and how well you’re actually doing because of the strong luck element. What do you look for in your game in terms of deciding where you need to focus on improvements, what you need to study, how do you work on plugging your leaks and learning new skills?
Keith: Well, one of the interesting things and it’s, like I said, it’s the most recent one I’ve posted to the forum. You know, when I’m taking these hand histories and I’m going through and seeing how I played them and there’s been times where I’ve said, “Well, man. If I had bet this differently on the turn, I could’ve potentially made more money off of this because I was farther ahead than I thought I was.”
And when you go back and you review your hand histories, they are so important and you start looking and you say, “Okay, well this was a really good hand. I made $110 on this round.” And then you start looking back and you go, “Wow. What if I had only, this person called me here but I got the other guy to fold. What if I would have bet $10 less or what if I had checked them and then I could’ve check raised them maybe got them to commit more chips.” So you really start trying to define in your play, what are ways you can make more money off of your moves or allow your opponent to make a mistake, really. And then you just say, “I got you.”
You know, call it a trap. I call it capitalizing on the mistake.
Zac: And you know, in terms of mental game, it’s something we talk a lot about on this podcast because really, when you’re talking about studying, that is almost built into an approach to the game that is mentally sound. You’re thinking, okay, well I have to study to win. And you have to have the diligence and the attention and the focus to actually do that study. What can you say to players who really want to get better at this game in terms of how they need to get their mental game together?
Keith: Oh, your mental game is absolutely so important. You know, it’s funny, after the podcast with Jared, I actually downloaded his book, The Mental Game of Poker and would listen to it on my drive to work. I have kind of a long drive to work. And just some of the things you hear in there about you know, identifying different types of tilt, like how does this affect your game when this event occurs. When you make a mistake, are you able to overcome that? DO you need to get up and walk around? Do you need to take a break because you find yourself getting frustrated with the cards you’re getting?
That will kill you inevitably. But when I was playing, I was running horrible. I had ran into just variance had killed me and it really got into my head and I just had this cloud over my head. And I just thought, you know what, I need to get up and just go do something because I am not mentally right now able to be in this game. I could look at cards, but at this point, I’m just betting my hands. I’m not looking at opponents, making mistakes, I’m not raising, I’m not three betting properly, I’m not four betting properly. I’m just gonna end up losing more money at this table if I keep playing.
And so, recognizing that and the mental game and how it really impacts the way you play because you end up playing this very ABC poker when you mentally shut down from the strategies and the things you develop, and you bring into your repertoire, you know, these tools in your toolbox. When your mental game is gone, you’re clutching at straws.
Zac: And in terms of patterns that I’m picking up when I talk to my guests here, I always try and do that because that’s what poker is about and you know, you’ve already told me about one of those things I see in a lot of pros and people who have made deep runs and that is, they have their own notes, they take detailed study notes. They’re not just studying passively, but funny enough, the other thing I just picked up, you know you talked about your long drives to work, and it’s funny but this is something that has come up time and time again, it seems like a lot of poker players who really excel, particularly in the mental game have these long periods where they’re able to reflect on certain things that are happening in the game and come to a new state of awareness and then that builds resilience because they have the confidence to continue on instead of giving up or just repeating a same losing pattern.
Do you find yourself spending long periods of time reflecting on those challenges that you face in the game?
Keith: Oh, absolutely. I’m glad I drive by myself for my drive to work because I end up taking to myself and I’m thinking out loud through these different things that I’ve done. It might be a hand I did four sessions ago and I thought to myself and there’s something about it that’s bugging me and I keep saying, I did this, I did that. And you know, I just start working through this process of how did I get to either A, this positive situation. Could I have made it better? Or B, how did I give up so many chips on this particular call?
And like I said, the most recent one is where I had these pocket sevens, I had flopped a set, the board had connected to a straight but it also laid down two clubs. I was playing in a $2/$5 game and at this point, I had bet the flop, which was I think a pretty good bet. Most of the people on the forum who were being brutally honest with me agreed that was a good flop bet. The turn however put, the flop was 5 6 7 and the turn had put a 9 out there that was two clubs and two spades. And I had bet pretty big on the turn $300 into a pot of $240. And my opponent who was a fairly competent player, kind of tight, not overly aggressive but had played very few hands had jammed on me for $850 over total, which I had him covered, but now I put myself in a really bad spot.
So I ended up folding to him and laying it down. He revealed he had AT so he had a flush and a straight draw, but he had two clubs, ATc. And the feedback on the forum was really good but it was interesting because it was stuff that I already told myself. I had got myself into a bad spot so when I would drive down the road and I was driving, I was thinking about this like, “What should I have done here?”
And before I even posted I kind of had come with an answer in my head of what I needed to do. So yeah, I take full opportunity of those times when I’m alone to either, you know, I’m either listening to a podcast, I’ll be listening to one of the Audible books, which is pretty cool. I had Sweeney’s Unfolding Poker as well, which is kind of interesting. And I’ll just listen to it and then I’ll think about hands I played because I’ll review my hand history and my notes and something will stick out in my mind and it’s invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.
Zac: So, what does the future hold for you going into next year? You gonna hit the WSOP again? Are you gonna play more tournaments? Have you caught that bug again? What’s the plan?
Keith: Well, my plan is to go back out in June for the WSOP Tournament. I don’t know if I’m gonna do the main event yet. I will play, if the Colossus happens again I’ll definitely play that. I love that. I’m gonna try to get my friend Tim back out to do the tag team. We did pretty alright in that one. I played in four events total while I was out there. So we’ll probably do that one again, but yeah, I’ve been trying to split my time 50/50, but there’s a lot more cash going on in my area here. So I find myself playing a lot of cash, but I will be, especially as the circuit season starts, I will definitely probably hit events in Atlantic City as well as when it comes to the Horseshoe in Baltimore. I’ll play in a few of the events there.
I want to get to the WPT Winter Open in January up at the Borgata, they usually run that in the winter open. I want to play in that one this year. I played in it event one three years ago, made day two, ended up knocking out pretty bad, but it was a good event so I’ll probably hit that one again too.
I like doing the WSOP circuit. I’m still chasing my ring. I’ve come close, 13th place, but I need to get that ring.
Zac: Great, well it sounds like you’re on the right track and you know finally, I wanted to mention, you did mention in the forums, if people want to find you on the forums, what’s your username?
Zac: And would you say that’s another critical part of your strategy is to be talking about this with other poker players?
Keith: It is because one of the things, and I will tell you for those listening if they decide to post on the forum, you’ll get honest feedback. And it might not always be what you want to hear, but 90% of the time, it’s very accurate and it’s well worth the post because you’ll either realize, wow, my thinking was flawed. Or okay, my thinking was right on and it was confirmed by three or four people and you know, they’re backing it up with numbers showing your EV. And it’s just, it’s a great interaction tool. I read a lot more of them than I post to because a lot of times some of the answers on there are just spot on and there’s really nothing more for me to say. With my opinion, I’m certainly not up there with some of those individuals, but I’m working there. I’ll get there.
Zac: Well, you don’t get to place ahead of 17,000 other poker players if you’re not doing something right and I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story and all of the resources from Red Chip that you used. And we’ll post links to those in the show notes. Keith Christopher, thanks again for coming on and we wish you the best of luck going into next year’s Colossus.
Keith: Thanks Zac. I appreciate you having me and I look forward to meeting you guys again hopefully at the next meetup.
Zac: Excellent. See you there.
Keith: Maybe we’ll play in the Sugar House one day.
Zac: I look forward to it, I think. Take care.
Keith: Thanks you too.