By Matthew E. Milliken
June 12, 2016
National championship finals, Tuesday morning, June 7, 2016. When I got back to the motel early Tuesday after that night’s epic near-miss, I asked the front desk clerk for some paper, a pen and some tape. wrote a note to my roommates: “Please wake me up at 8:30 but not before.” I attended to some matters in the lobby bathroom before retiring for the night in room 173.
All three of my roommates were asleep. I taped the note on the wall above my cot. I blacked out just after 4 a.m. and awoke about five hours later. (As it turned out, nobody saw the note that I’d taped to the wall above my cot.)
The motel served a complimentary breakfast until 9:30, so I put on pants and shoes and a baseball hat and dashed over to the dining room to grab some yogurt, some muffins and a small glass of water. When I finished this extremely modest feast, I went back to my room and closed my eyes for a little longer. About an hour after I’d first awoken, I got up and prepared to shower, only to find that there were no longer any dry bath towels. I asked two of my roommates to get some more from the front desk as they headed over to the casino for the ultimate national championship session, which would get under way at 11 a.m.
As I climbed out of the shower, I heard someone in the room. “Hello?” I called out.
“Did you need a towel?” someone asked. It was one of the motel managers.
“Apparently so,” I said and awkwardly reached out for the towel while trying not to expose my genitalia to the man.
I hurriedly dried, dressed and drove over to the casino. I would start the morning off with 61,000 in chips, a modest amount that was slightly above average. One hundred eighty-eight players remained. I knew that if I got good cards and made smart plays, I could go a long way.
When I found my seat, I discovered two very familiar faces to my right. By some coincidence, B.B. was sitting beside me and M.G. was seated beside her. Given that World Tavern Poker draws players from all over the country, it was odd to find three folks with New York connections arranged in a row like that.
For the first hand of the morning, the button was on M.G.’s seat. I paid a big blind and faced off against B.B. right off the bat. She collected that hand, but I won a modest pot soon afterward.
Much to my annoyance, my table was broken up after a short time, and I was sent to one in the pit — the area where the last three tables of competitors in all the big tournaments would play. But I was nowhere near close making the finals…
I had a modest stack when I moved, but I didn’t feel comfortable at my new table. Unfortunately, when short stack at the table went all-in for less than my stack, I was sitting in the big blind, and I held king-jack unsuited. It cost only a little more than big blind to call, so I called. My foe had queens and nothing came out to give me a superior hand. Now I was the short stack, and I had to worry about bleeding out due to the blinds…
As the blinds neared me, I found myself holding ace-queen unsuited. I shoved. I got called by a player with a pocket pair — he held either jacks or tens — and didn’t hit. My run at the championship had come to a conclusion.