On Thursday night: Act II, Act III

September 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 27, 2015

And now, back to our story

Act II.

When the second tournament got under way, I took a spot at the third table, a pool table that had been covered up. I like starting at that table, and I particularly like starting at a spot in the farthest corner from the entrance. But since that had already been taken, I chose a spot on the short side of the table near the entrance. If I turned my head to the right, I’d have a good view of a television that was showing the National Football League’s Thursday night Giants–Washington game.

I was slightly peeved about not being able to sit in my favorite spot, but I was more bothered by the fact that the person to my left was a formidable player named Chris. And as it turned out, an equally good player, Doc, was seated to my right a hand or two after the tournament began, meaning that I was sandwiched between two of the region’s top competitors.

Doc wouldn’t be there for long. Two hands after he started, he was dealing, I was in the small blind and Chris was in the big blind. Some people got in the hand. Doc, I think, raised. I had ace-eight and considered calling; instead, I folded.

The flop turned out to be quite tasty, however: ace-ace-jack. I raised my eyebrows slightly. Damn, I thought*. Maybe I should have played.

I immediately second-guessed myself. Trips — three of a kind; in this case, triple aces — are nice to have, but eight is a weak kicker. When Chris and Doc bet heavily on the flop, I knew that one of them had a boat — a full house, a hand that consists of three of a kind plus a pair. I shrugged to myself: It’s better that I’m not involved in this hand.

The betting quickly escalated to all-in. Chris revealed ace-jack, meaning that he’d flopped one of the highest possible boats. (The only two superior full houses are aces full of queens and aces full of kings.)

Doc nodded sadly and showed his pocket jacks. “It’s hard to let go of a hand like this,” he said.

Just two hands can beat a boat: Four of a kind or a straight flush. (A straight flush is the best hand in poker; the royal flush is the ultimate example of a straight flush: an ace-king-queen-jack-ten straight in which all of the cards share the same suit.) Doc needed two jacks to best Chris, but it was not to be.

So on one of the first hands of the tournament, Chris had basically doubled up his holdings. And he was sitting to my left, in prime trouble-making position. Great, I thought to myself exasperatedly.

Act III.

But actually, the next several minutes kind of went my way. I didn’t make any big scores, but I collected a few modest pots thanks to good cards and some strategic bets. Chris repeatedly got in on pots with me but then folded to my bets when the boards weren’t to his liking.

Chris clearly wasn’t happy about these developments, even though he still had far more chips than me. “My goal for the night is to take a pot off of you,” he told me. I chuckled.

When the tournament field, which had started with 26 players, was reduced to 20, we broke the pool table. I moved to the table closest to the entrance and took a seat at the end. I didn’t normally sit there, but it seemed like a good spot. That was partly because Lee, the player two spots to my left, had a short stack and might soon be out. (The seat immediately to my left was empty.)

It was not a good spot. I spent what seemed like an hour — or maybe it was an eternity — folding 10-three, 10-two, nine-six, seven-three and other atrocious hands.

There were perhaps three exceptions to this streak of awfulness. I folded both king-three and jack-two. Once I tried to play ace-queen, but when some other players went over the top, I decided to fold and get out of the way. I think that latter hand was won by a player named Nadine with nine-four or something unlikely that happened to hit a boat.

A player from the pool table, Jen, took the empty spot to my left. She got in on a pot with some heavy betting with another unlikely hand, eight-six or something similar. She hit a straight on the river to cripple what had been a huge stack owned by Jeffrey, the player directly opposite me at the table. Jeffrey was, perhaps rightly, appalled that Jen had been playing junk like her pocket cards, especially given his substantial wagers.

I was of two minds. I myself never would have played those cards in the face of such big bets. But the fact that Jen was willing to do so, that she was willing to be unpredictable, happened to make her extremely dangerous — both to herself and, in this case, to others.

So once again, I had a player with a huge stack to my left. There was nothing to do but buckle down and be as patient and as disciplined as possible.

I hung on as Nadine’s stack continued to grow and as other players were eliminated. And I kept on folding. Each hand, I hoped to get something special, pocket cards that would enable me to make a move and strike it rich. Each hand, with the exception of those listed above, I had garbage that was impossible to play.

Junk. Junk. Junk. Junk. Junk… As the blinds orbited around and around the table, my stack slowly dwindled. I wasn’t going to last long if my rotten streak didn’t change.

To be continued…


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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