One tournament, three hands

August 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 24, 2015

Author’s note: This will be my last poker post for a while, honest! MEM

The story of a tournament in three hands.


The tournament began with three tables before expanding to four as a few late-comers trickled in. We’ve shrunk down to three.

I started the tournament at this table, took what I considered to be a bad beat, and moved to the expanded table. That was full of some wild action, and I initially cursed myself for letting myself be seated with some unpredictable players.

Still, I survived. When Scooty, the tournament director, broke up the fourth table, I quickly claimed my original seat at the table where I’d begun.

Shortly after retaking that seat, I was dealt ace-jack off-suit, I believe while I was in the big blind. The flop came out with an ace, a jack and another card. Two of the items on the board were diamonds.

When the action came to me, I took a moment to think things through. If I didn’t bet, and bet big, a third diamond might come out, in which case my two pairs would be subordinate to a flush. I went all in with about 16,200 — not much different from my starting amount in the tournament.

The person seated two spots to my left was an excellent player named Penny. She had a single massive stack of chips that reached from the table to her chin. She was clearly very tempted to call my all-in bet, and she took some time to think about it.

“Are you looking for some sort of reaction?” I asked her at some point*. “Don’t call me, don’t call me!” I joked.

She took some more time to think things through before finally announcing her decision: “I call.”

Everyone else in the hand folded, so we revealed our cards. My ace-jack gave me two pairs; she had an ace and a queen. I was in good shape, as long as she didn’t get a queen or the two cards (king and 10) that would give her a straight.

She didn’t get them, and I more than doubled my stack. (More than doubled because at least one player had called the blind pre-flop.)

As play proceeded, Penny asked me if I would have called her had our positions been reversed.

“I don’t know,” I replied. She had top pair and a very strong kicker, and she had no way to know that I’d hit a second pair. It would have been a tough decision to make had the positions been reversed.


I’m at the final table. I’m in the top three, in fact. My chip stack has been up and it’s been down. Right now, I’m in the middle, relatively speaking.

Big stack at the moment is Homer, the man to my right, a steady older player. The low stack at the moment is Peter, the man to my left, a savvy younger player (and relatively new lawyer) who has, I believe, been playing in this free recreational league since it began in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, about 10 years ago.

Peter loses a big hand (to Homer, I think) while I was in the big blind. The deal then rotated to Homer, making me the small blind — for three gray chips, with a nominal value of 5,000 units apiece — and Peter the big blind for six chips. Six gray chips are worth 30,000 units, but since we’re only using chips of one denomination at this point in the game, we say “three” and “six” and so forth.

At any rate, Peter had seven chips total, so he sensibly announced that he was going to go all-in.

Homer, as the dealer, was first to act. He folded his cards.

I quizzed Peter about whether his intended all-in was for the exact amount of the big blind or not. He showed me that he had seven chips, not six.

Then I made the mistake of looking at my hand. It was seven-deuce off-suit, which is widely considered to be the worst starting hand in poker.

Yeah, calling an all-in by Peter would only have required four additional chips. But those chips were almost certainly going to be going to Peter. I decided to conserve my nominal treasure for what I expected would be a battle to the finish against Homer.

“I fold,” I said, and showed my hand.

Peter chuckled. “I’m only one better than you,” he said, and revealed his cards — seven-three off-suit. I smacked my forehead and cried out.

Scooty, who was shuffling and dealing for us, was distracted momentarily by a conversation with someone, so I reached for the deck of cards and started running the rabbit — revealing the community cards that would have come out had the hand been playing through to the river.

This activity, which is also called rabbit-hunting, turned out to be a mistake. I would have hit a two and then made a boat. (I forget if it would have been triple sevens over a pair of twos or trip twos over sevens; it’s moot either way.) In other words, I would have eliminated Peter and gone heads-up with Homer.


As it turns out, Homer got knocked out in third place, leaving Peter and I to duke it out for the tournament victory. We traded the blinds several times: The small blind would fold, or someone would raise and the other player would fold. The blinds kept on rising ever higher, from three-six to five-10…

Finally, Peter, playing the small blind, raised to 25 chips. I examined my cards: ace-eight off-suit.

“All in,” I said.

We stacked our chips. I had 42 of them; Peter, 46. “You’ll have four left over,” I said.

He eventually elected to call my bet. I showed my hand; Peter flipped over king-two.

This was good news. I was ahead, and I stayed ahead…

Until the river, when Scooty dealt a king.

“Argh!” I cried, pounding the table in (mostly) mock anguish. “Scooty! I trusted you!”

Then I reached out to shake Peter’s hand. “Congratulations,” I said, much more calmly than I’d been a second before, annoyed but smiling.

“Thank you,” he said. “Good game. Great reaction, by the way!”

And so it goes…


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! 

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