May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 2, tournament 3

May 24, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 24, 2018

Author’s note: On June 11, I edited the fifth paragraph, which immediately follows the jump. Originally, the passage had wrongly indicated that the winner of a grinder tournament does not get to keep the chips in front of him or her. As usual, additions are marked with boldface text; deletions, with a strikethrough line. MEM

Misplaying my first pair of pocket aces early Sunday evening seemingly sealed my doom in that deep-stack tournament. My next chance at redemption came Monday afternoon in a fairly unusual style of tournament: A three-hour grinder.

I’m hardly a poker expert, but I first heard of this format two or three years back when World Tavern Poker first used it at one their national events. WTP now stages grinders at all of their opens, as the twice-annual league-wide gathering is called. In fact, this time around, the league scheduled a total of four grinders.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying two things: First, I don’t know if this is an established tournament style played at other poker events; and second, it’s very popular at WTP conclaves.

So what is a grinder? The way this league runs it, it’s a three-hour hybrid of a $1-$2 no-limit holdem cash game and a tournament with limited re-entries. Everyone starts with the same amount of chips, and everyone can re-enter as many times as they want over the first 90 minutes of the competition. The blinds are fixed — that is, they never rise, as they would in a regular tournament, because the point isn’t to winnow the field down until one person has all the chips.

Instead, the goal is to have the most chips at the end of the event. The individual who has the biggest stash receives a commemorative plaque; the winner, along with everyone else, while everyone else gets to keep whatever chips they have in front of them. Unlike the chips used in poker tournaments, these have actual cash value in the casino — you can bet them in most of the games there, or you can take them to a cashier and get bills in return.

There are a few other wrinkles to a grinder, but the only other detail that’s worth mentioning is that players who tip dealers during this event are given a small ticket. Five tickets are redeemable for a commemorative plastic token. At the end of the grinder, each ticket a player has counts as $1 and each token a player holds counts as $5 for purposes of determining which competitor has the most cash. The last thing I’ll say on the subject is that this system was instituted so players still have an incentive to tip dealers — a major source of income for the folks who distribute cards, mind the pot and otherwise run cash poker tables.

Bringing me full circle to what I wrote in the first paragraph: After Sunday’s minor debacles, my next chance at redemption came Monday afternoon in the grinder.

Until last year’s pokerpalooza, I’d literally never played an organized cash game. I pocketed maybe $50 over the course of a couple hours at a $1-$2 cash table. That lone experience made me mildly optimistic that I had a chance to do well in the grinder.

But as we all too often find, theory is one thing, while real life is something else entirely. And that’s what I learned anew Monday afternoon.

I’m only going to recount one hand from this event, because there’s only one that I recall with any specificity. Naturally, this hand involved a bad beat.

I think I was under the gun during this hand. I know that I was holding a jack and a 10, and I think that they were both diamonds, as was the case in a fateful hand Sunday afternoon.

Maybe six players out of the 10 at the table had called the $2 big blind. I think I made a small raise, let’s say to $6, and pretty much everyone called.

Then the flop came out — oh, and what a flop it was! The board showed a seven, an eight and a nine, instantly handing me a jack-high straight. I can’t remember the exact suits on offer, but at least two different ones showed, meaning that no one had flopped a flush.

Next… Well, the detail eludes me. Did I make a small bet, or did I check the flop and call someone else’s bet? I don’t know, but I do know what happened on the turn.

The dealer put out a jack, which wasn’t ideal for me. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

The player seated in the small blind, who was first to act, shoved all-in. He didn’t have a big stack — just $22. I called, and everyone else folded.

Then my rival showed his hand, and I knew that I was in trouble deep.

My opponent held queen-10. The turn card — that unwanted jack! — had given him a queen-high straight, one better than the jack-high sequence that I’d flopped. I needed a queen to come out, and I told the dealer as much.

He was, sadly, unable to oblige me, and my foe collected quite a healthy pot.

This dismal hand made a significant dent in my chip stack, and I never recovered. I lost all my chips after about 40 minutes, at which point I gathered my belongings, stood up and left the poker room. (In general, I disdain paying tournament re-entry fees, although I’ll make an exception for charity events.)

So I didn’t earn my redemption in my third tournament. Perhaps I’d do better Monday evening?

To be continued

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