By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 2, 2016
About two years ago, I wrote about my victory in a satellite tournament at a regional championship. I finished 34th out of 285 players in the actual main event, which was the best I’d finished in the regionals…
Until last weekend.
After yet another unremarkable performance in the satellite games (I placed in the top 20 once, at 13th, which yielded a thoroughly pedestrian 9,000 points), I arrived at the second-floor hotel ballroom a little after 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. They organizers opened up a new table, No. 25, in what they call “the Pit” — the final three tables that would be used as the event approached its conclusion. I ended up sitting among several players I didn’t recognize and three I did. One of these familiar faces belonged to a fairly wild player, and I started salivating over the prospect of engaging this person in a one-on-one hand.
’Twas not to be. But I doubled up very early on in the tournament when the man in the big blind checked despite more than half of the players being in the hand. He did so without even looking at his pocket cards.
When the flop came, I was pleased: It included a jack and a 10, matching my hole cards and giving me two pairs — in fact, the top two pairs — right off the bat.
The big blind bet 200, still without having looked at his cards, and got a few callers. When the action got to me, I raised to 1,300. One or two people called me, while one or two folded.
“You’re going to make me look at my cards,” the man in the big blind said, shaking his head. When he did, he announced a re-raise and put out a 5,000 chip.
No one called until the action came to me. I briefly considered whether the man in the big blind might have stumbled upon trips — three of a kind. This, I decided, was unlikely. But I had to knock out anyone who was hoping to get lucky on the turn or river, including the big blind, so I went all in.
Onlookers who remained in the hand folded. The man in the big blind showed his cards to the player next to him and called my bet.
He had pocket aces.
That’s the best starting hand, but it’s inferior to two pairs. Fortunately for me, the turn and river failed to bring an ace, which would have elevated my foe to a superior hand, three of a kind, and also failed to pair with one of the cards already on the board, which might have given him a higher two pairs than mine. (I said might because another jack or 10 coming onto the board would have given me a full house, three of a kind over a pair, which would have beaten any two pairs.)
We pulled back our post-flop bets (200, 1,300, 5,000 and all in) and determined that I had 14,900 prior to the second round of betting. The man in the big blind had about 900 chips left after paying me off. He was out of the tournament in an orbit or two.
I’ve noticed an unfortunate tendency that’s plagued my play for the past several months: I can’t stand prosperity. If I score a big pot, especially early in the game, chances are that I’ll start chasing hands, which usually results in me squandering a lot of chips. I dare say this is a big part of why I only won eight regular-season games over the past six-month-long season.
Alas, one of the players at the table was well acquainted with me and proceeded to exploit my flaw. When I found myself with ace-queen, I got into a pot. My cards paired with a queen on the flop, and I ended up losing maybe half of my stack on a single hand when it turned out this fellow’s pocket fives had flopped a set. (That’s a term for a particular kind of trips, a.k.a. three of a kind.)
Thereafter, I seemed to be snakebitten. I chased a few pots, none of which paid off.
My stack had dwindled to about 5,800 when, feeling desperate, I pushed all-in with pocket 10s. I got a call from Nadine, one of the familiar players, who had two over cards — I think perhaps her hole cards were ace-jack. She didn’t hit, and I survived to see another hand.
I kept my head down for quite a while, waiting for a good opportunity to come by. It wasn’t too long after my all-in hand against Nadine that our table was “broken down,” meaning our surviving players were redistributed to other tables that had also seen their company diminished.
One of the tournament directors sent me to table 19, where I sat next to a woman I hadn’t played with in quite a while. She had a very nice stack, and I had a very modest one. After one or two small stacks were eliminated from this table, I was definitely the player with the fewest chips.
I forced myself to be patient and won a few small hands, rebuilding my stack. I began to feel a bit more optimistic about my prospects of surviving.
To be continued…