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How a Poker Coach Helped me to Win a Live Poker Tournament

Overview

I am Nilda Cerna, a Chilean living in London, I started playing home games in Chile a long time ago and continued playing cash at the casino in Barcelona. When I landed in London I played a couple of live tournaments; getting some good results, but basically playing very tight-aggressive and watching other players get into trouble until HU.

Last year, after getting a payout in an online MTT I decided to invest that money in online materials, which was good. I learned a lot, but I wanted to take my game to the next level, so I decided to find a coach and I came to John Bradley from UltimatePokerCoaching.com, who has a large experience in both, cash game and MTTs.

Being Coached

John and I have been working together on a bespoke plan; we’ve reviewed basic strategy concepts, such as bet sizings, Cbetting, turn and river play, barreling, etc to more advanced concepts.  With the hand review, he spotted the main leaks that were draining my win rate and he also advised me on which ones are the advantageous, such as stealings blinds and pots.  We started with cash games, as it was more suitable for my job schedule and then moved to MTTs over the summer (WSOP period).  

As I played as a rec for a long time, I had lots of areas that I needed to improve. Most of them were very ingrained, so it’s more difficult to apply the change, however, I am determined to master the game no matter how long it takes!

Having John with experience in, both cash and MTT, has allowed me to understand both dynamics and how to play in both, deep and short stack and how to extract the max value in every spot.

PokerStars Mega Series London

poker-stars-mega-series-london

I qualified for the Main Event within the PS Mega Series in London from a £110 online sat. I played the day 1C turbo (30 min) passing to Day 2 with 38K (around 25bb) from a 30K initial stack, so, was more or less the same as getting into day 2. I was of the mindset to double up as soon as possible, and I did it with K9s for a flush draw which I hit, beating AA, and keeping me alive.

However, I didn’t slow down, the blinds were 60 min this time, not 30 as in Day 1, but I love turbos. I didn’t adapt properly and, very quickly, I went all-in with AJs, again chasing the flush draw and overpair, but didn’t get it. So went home with 53rd place out of 256 players, and 31 ITM.


Then on Sunday, there were three tournaments at a low buy-in: The Women’s event £150, a Knockout £330 and a £220 re-entry, all of them turbos or hyper (20min, 15 and 15 respectively). I was dying to play the Knockout, I love these types of tournaments because you can always get bounties even if you are not in the money, but the idea of getting a trophy within a small field (the ladies) crossed my mind.

Having money is nice, this is why we play poker, but the trophy gives you the glory.  So I asked John, what was his point of view and what he would suggest me to play. He came with a very pro reply “small field means less variance and it starts early (12pm) so more chance you can get in another if you bust, plus it’s cheaper, so you’ll feel more ok about rebuying” which made a lot of sense to me, especially the part about the “less variance” as the Knockout has a lot. So I decided to join the Women’s event.

How I Won the Women’s Event

Nilda Cerna winning the Poker Stars London Mega Series Women’s Event

I went very intent on getting the trophy. My idea was to play aggressive but not crazy. Luckily, I doubled up very early on in the tournament with KK. UTG raised, I 3bet, UTG shoved and I called and of course, she showed AA. My first thought was “John was right, I am going to re-enter as it’s cheap”  but then I hit a flush, so doubled up. 

Since the beginning I took John’s advice of stealing pots. I attacked the blinds a lot, the more I got to know the other player’s styles, the more pots I stole. Such as 3 betting preflop players who showed weaker hands before. At one time the lady on my left said “how come you are getting hands all the time” as I was stealing all her the BB and  just that moment I had Ax so I showed the A… the next few blinds she kept folding her blinds quickly.  

I was building my stack little by little due to winning small pots until a Korean-American lady joined our table. She was aggressive like me, so I slowed down a bit and tried to not get into trouble hands with her and she did the same with me. When we entered HU, we checked a lot, but then also a lot of 3-betting and jamming. At some point, the croupier said: “I haven’t seen a table so agro recently.

This nice lady and I were taking all the pots until a third strong player joined. She was Suzie Williamson, one of the Fantastic Ladies in Poker – FLIP’s community ambassadors, who won the WPT Montreal $162 6-Max PKO Turbo. She played a bit tight, but when in the pot, she played aggressively. At some point, at the final table, I took a big part of her stack with AA, against her KK

The field was small 30 entries, including re-entries, so only five places were ITM. When we reached the final table there were three players with most of the chips and the rest were short/medium stack, who were basically shoving as soon as they can, and the three of us were kicking them out. I lost a lot of chips during this period but still managed to be in the final three. 

At this point, I decided to continue with the aggression and stole most of the blinds I could. I raised with almost every single card on the Button and SB and they either folded or called me and if the flop was favourable for me to bluff I did it. So I was back with a decent stack to keep pushing. It wasn’t long till we were HU and my opponent went all-in with A8 and A6 if I remember well, the nice Korean-American lady took 3rd place

Poker Stars - Mega Series in London
Poker Stars Mega Series London 2021 Women’s Event Trophy

The croupier announced the HU to the floor and came with the trophy and put it on the table… Suzie said “oh, there is a trophy?!” to which I replied “this is why I joined this tournament!”

The trophy on the table put on a bit of pressure; now she also wants the trophy!  As she eliminated the other lady, we had more or less the same stack at this point, and both with an aggressive style, except that I was more able to steal blinds than her, but in HU a lot of things can happen, a small mistake from either of us will leave us with a very low stack or in second place.

We didn’t play many hands until I was dealt JJ in the SB. I really hate them, I’ve lost so many hands with them, that every time that I see them I think: “oh, no, I am going to get in trouble”. So this time I was telling myself, ”this is only a pair, I need to be able to fold them!”. So I raised pre-flop, she called. The Flop came something like 37T, I did my continuation bet, and she shoved. Here she could definitely have a set, however, I think she will want me to be in the hand if that is the case. We were 200K deep, so no need to raise that amount of chips with a set. So, she wants me out, and I guess she hit a pair, because there was no flush or straight draw, so I called. She showed K3, the flop and turn did not improve her hand and I won the tournament and the trophy!

Conclusion

Now in perspective, I can say winning this tournament was a summary of all the concepts studied and hands reviewed in the poker coaching sessions, I was able to get the maximum value from strong hands, to fold the ones that didn’t have enough equity to call, get death chips and also was stealing a lot of blinds. Getting this knowledge and experience didn’t happen overnight and was part of the long-term personalised coaching program set with John Bradley.

Follow Nilda

You can follow Nilda’s journey of becoming a poker pro on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NildaCernaPoker

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nildacerna/

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