Now I have six (or seven) wins: Further fuzzy tales of no-cash poker

July 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 9, 2014

I’ve written a few times about bad beats, and last week, I wrote about winning a local World Tavern Poker tournament. The odd truth is that it’s harder to write about the latter than the former.

There are a number of reasons why this is. One is that a bad beat tends to be a single, discrete event: You and your opponent acted, it didn’t work out for you, and — against all odds — it did work out for your foe. If you went all in and lost your stack, then you have plenty of time to stew over what went wrong and how cosmically unjust the entire affair was.

That’s not the case when you win a hand, of course. Unless you’ve just won a tournament, then there will be another hand to play — and, typically, another after that, and then another after that, and then another… One rarely has time to dwell on what just happened, and the continuing run of events crowds out even the details of many memorable hands.

Another factor here, I suspect, is a phenomenon that psychologists call loss aversion. In a nutshell, this means that loss, or the prospect of loss, makes more of a mental and emotional impact on people than do either gains or the preservation of resources. By extension, I think this often helps the memory of a loss remain stronger than the memory of a gain.

At any rate, this is all a roundabout way of bringing up the fact that I won another no-cash tournament on Tuesday evening, and that I barely remember any of the specifics of it. I had some early wins and I had some dry spells, and few of them really stood out.

At one point, with the tournament down to two tables, I was in the third seat I’d had since the commencement of play. I got down to 10 or so chips, and I began to get nervous…

Things started to turn around when I was in the big blind and the first four community cards were paint: a pair of queens and, I think, a jack and a king. When I checked my hole cards for the first time, I had two high cards, one of which paired with the board.

I went all in, and the small blind — the only other person in the hand — called me. “If you have a queen, you’re good,” I said before flipping my cards. He did not, and my two pairs served to double my stack.

“I thought you were making a move,” the fellow told me as I stacked my winnings.

When we got down to 10 or so players, we moved to a final table, my fourth of the tournament. And my stack started growing…

Ultimately, it was just me and an older fellow named Homer playing each other for the title. I started heads-up play with a huge advantage, but then I started chasing a hand that did not pan out. After the river came, without completing the hand that I’d hoped to get, I folded, and Homer collected a fat pot.

But I rebuilt my stack, and ultimately I won. What was the final hand? I couldn’t tell you anything, other than that I think I had a hand.

Few other details from the tournament remain in my memory. I do recall a number of times when I discarded decent or borderline hands because I was afraid they wouldn’t pan out; a surprising number of times, they actually turned out to be stronger than the hands that won the pot.

(I distinctly remember a time when my folded queen-seven off-suit would have given me a full house. The only reason I hadn’t thrown those two cards away immediately was that a few times running on previous hands, marginal hole cards would have earned me pots had I called.)

In other words, Tuesday night’s win was a (minor, admittedly) victory for disciplined play on my part.

I now have, officially, six wins on the World Tavern Poker season. (I should have seven; one tournament director seems to have lost his records of one of my early wins on the season.) Out of 167 tournaments that I’ve officially played, I’ve won six, making 57 final tables — that’s just over one-third — and finishing among the top 20 players 122 times, or a little shy of 75 percent. Those six cum seven wins in my third season, by the way, follow stretches in which I won no tournaments (my first season) and two tournaments (my second).

I’ve qualified for World Tavern Poker’s national championship quarterfinals, which will be held in Las Vegas in November, and I’m close to qualifying for the championship finals. It’s been an interesting ride.

Oh, and I almost forgot — the tournament that I won Tuesday? That was the early game. Typically, I go out early in the early game and have a deep run in the late game.

That wasn’t the case last night. I didn’t finish in the top 20 in the second game Tuesday.

The hand I went out on? Funny you should ask; I remember it distinctly.

A guy named Joe or Joseph, the big stack at the table, bet 5,000 after the flop, which contained two clubs. I was one of the blinds, and I held the ace and three of clubs, which meant that I was one club away from having a nut flush. (Blinds at the time, incidentally, were 300-600; Joe was continuing a pattern of making huge over bets.)

I went all in for about 7,000 chips. Joe called; it was just the two of us. I forget his hand, but he paired, and I never got the last club that I needed.

Bad beat, right? The funny thing, of course, is that I remember that losing play a lot more clearly than I remember the winning one that had gave me the tournament victory just 40 or so minutes prior to that.

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