By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 6, 2016
We pick up the action late in the afternoon of World Tavern Poker’s North Carolina Central East Regional Championships on Aug. 27, 2016. You can also read my accounts of the first part and the second part of this event.
After I raked in my big pot, there were at least five tables left in the tournament, meaning that 45 or so players remained. That was good — we’d started with 26 overall, I believe — but there was plenty of work to be done before I could claim to have accomplished anything…
Most poker tournaments have an ebb and flow: You win a hand, or maybe a few hands, and then you go through a dead period in which either you lose a few chips or nothing much happens. I went through a dry spell, watching other people win and lose massive amounts of chips, while I waited for a hand worth playing. I entered a few pots, but nothing big, and none of them worked out in my favor.
Finally, not long after blinds went up to something intimidating — either 4,000–8,000 or 5,000–10,000 — I found myself sitting in the small blind with king-two off-suit, which is a lousy hand. (The website Holdem Tight ranks it 135th out of 169 possible starting hands.) Because blinds were so big, I considered sitting out. Instead, I decided to call.
One of the reasons I did was that my participation would make the hand three-handed; that is, there would be three players — myself, the big blind and a gentleman three or so seats to my right who had called.
My decision to play would be amply rewarded. The flop included a pair of twos, giving me three of a kind right off the bat.
I placed a big bet. Big blind folded, and the man to my right stayed in the pot, albeit not without some contemplation.
I felt great about my situation. My foe’s reluctance to call strongly suggested to me that he was worried about having inferior cards. In other words, I believed that my trips put me ahead of him.
So on the turn — I don’t recall what card came out — I pushed all in.
The other player thought about his decision for quite a while. “Do you really have a two?” he asked. He was skeptical. I tried to appear anxious and untrustworthy — that is, to send subtle and misleading signals that I was “attempting to buy the pot” with a big bet — rather than confident — which would have indicated that I had trips and was ahead of my opponent.
After a bunch of hemming and hawing, my foe called. He had a high pair — it may have been pocket kings, or it may have been a face card that paired with the board; my memory is already a little foggy. But he was behind, and he stayed behind when the last of the cards came out.
I now was prospering, and I felt pretty good about my situation as the number of players continued to fall. I tried to keep my head down and wait for good cards, or even playable ones, but they didn’t come for a good long while.
Eventually, we got down to 24 players, at which point we were given cards and seated the final three tables — “the Pit.”
This was my second time reaching such an advanced stage in a big tournament. On the previous occasion, at a national event, I’d finished 21st out of 122 players. (There’d been some play-in tournaments, but 122 was the number of people who started the journey that day.)
This regional championship event had begun with 227 players. This was farther than I’d ever gone before in a regional, bettering my finish of 34th out of 285 competitors. Needless to say, I was happy about this.
My playing card, for purposes of reseating, was the ace of clubs. This meant that I could choose my seat at my table in the pit (the one marked with a club, that is) and that I would start with the deal, which is a positional advantage. I picked a spot with my back to the wall but away from one of the loudspeakers and settled in for the end game.
Now I’d done well in getting to this point, despite some spotty play on my part. But some of the other survivors had much bigger stacks than mine. For instance, this was true of Eddie, the player to my right. I was happy to find Chris, a player whom I hadn’t seen since one of my favorite venues dropped World Tavern Poker, sitting to my left; we chatted a bit about books.
I chased some hands and lost a non-trivial amount of chips. But I took a risk by calling someone with a straight draw, and I wound up taking a bunch of chips from the same guy who had lost a bundle to me on my king-two at the previous table. When we went to a 20-minute dinner break, the second-floor refreshment station was about to close, so I dashed to the bathroom and then stocked up on a can of soda, a bottle of water and a hot dog and french fries.
Unfortunately, everything was downhill from there. I lost a lot of chips on pocket nines (I think they were taken by the eventual champion, who may have had pocket aces on the hand). Other hands also went poorly. My last gasp came with king-jack off-suit, I think as I was sitting in first position. The board was all low cards — no help for me, in other words.
I was eliminated in 15th place out of 227 people. On the one hand, that’s not great, and it fell far short of my final table/championship aspirations. On the other hand, it’s not too shabby, either!