By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 20, 2015
World Tavern Poker divides each year into two 26-week-long halves. The first 24 weeks of each half constitute the regular season; the final two weeks are when venues stage their championship events. First comes the tavern championship, open to players who have played at least 15 games that season at a specific venue, which I wrote about previously.
The final week is the tournament of champions (or TOCs) championship, open to anyone who has placed first, second or third at any game at that venue in the season that is coming to an end. Everyone gets the same starting stack in the tavern championship games, but TOCs starting chip amounts are based on the player’s number of top-three finishes: The more you have, the more chips you get.
I qualified for TOCs at a number of venues, but gosh — it was kind of ugly, especially at first.
Wednesday was an up and down night for me. I started off hot, getting good hands and having them hit time and time again. Then the cards turned, and my stack began shrinking.
At one point, a player named Bonnie went all in on the big blind. She had just a single black chip, with a nominal value of 1,000 units. The player to her left, K—, raised to 7,000.
I raised my eyebrows, thinking back to Saturday’s events and the nonsense surrounding attempts to knock out short-stack players.
“Really?” I asked in a sharp tone. I was angry, unreasonably so, because I thought K— had made a silly move.
No one had called K— when the action came to me. I checked my hand and found two spades: the ace and the seven. I rashly declared all in.
Bonnie was committed; she was all in and couldn’t change anything. K— considered his position and then called me.
K— showed aces. Bonnie had something and a seven.
I forget what the flop was, but it brought me most of the way to a straight.
“I need an eight,” I said before the turn.
It wasn’t an eight.
“I need an eight,” I said again before the final card, the river, was placed on the board.
It was an eight! Bonnie and I won; K—, who had started with by far the best hand, lost. Because of the dealer’s position — to my right, I believe; I’d been in the small blind — I got two chips out of the main pot: My own 1,000 and K—’s. (Bonnie got her sole black chip back.) I collected 15,000 from K—.
Play continued. I went up and I went down. We broke down to two tables and then we consolidated to our usual final table, a round table where the cards slide easily and imaginary non-fortunes are made and lost.
The big stack at the final table was Ashley. But when an older player named Barbara C— went all in, with a significant stack, Ashley decided to call her. Barbara showed pocket jacks; Ashley showed ace-queen. (I think they were suited, perhaps spades, but I’m not sure.) Ashley didn’t get the card she needed, so Barbara collected a huge pot.
Barbara is a quiet player, but she’s a pretty good one. I’d played a few hands against her at my first table and never done better than a split against her. “She’s not saying anything, but she’s collecting all the chips,” I’d said* at one point.
She and I tangled two or three times at the final table. One time was another chop — a tie or a push, where we each took our own chips back and divided what, if anything, was left. One time was a so-called “battle of the blinds,” where she and I (respectively, the small blind and the big blind) were the only players. Neither of us bet anything, and I collected the pot — four white chips with a nominal value of 20,000 units.
“You finally beat me,” Barbara said. I declined to state that I had collected only the minimum.
When we were down to seven players, I checked my hand and found pocket queens. I went all in. Barbara called me with perhaps a third of her stack — maybe even less.
She had ace-seven, both of which were diamonds, so I was ahead… until the flop came out containing a pair of sevens. If the board had included a queen, that would have given me a winning boat — but alas, ’twas not to be.
Barbara raked in another huge pot and went on to win the game, which (after my elimination) I’d predicted she was going to do.
* Standard disclaimer: Since I wasn’t taking notes or making recordings at the time of these events, all dialogue and thought bubbles are guaranteed to be only kind of, sort of accurate. Fortunately for you, the valued reader, this free blog comes with a money-back guarantee!