May 2018 pokerpalooza: Day 2, tournament 4

May 29, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 29, 2018

I have a bit of a checkered history with tag-team tournaments, which was the format on tap for Monday evening.

The tag team is unlike every other event played at World Tavern Poker’s national gatherings in that it involves teams. Normally, poker players are lone wolves, battling every other person in the field. The tag team involves pairs of contestants, each of whom starts with a stack of chips.

Every so often, the master of ceremonies will instruct players to take their partner’s seat if, say, they’re married, or if their dealer is male, or if they’re wearing World Tavern gear. A switch can be announced between hands, during deals or while players are placing and reacting to bets. The exchange introduces a certain element of chaos — if you’re switched during a hand and you don‘t know your partner’s strategy, or the tendencies of your opponents, you can find yourself in quite a pickle.

A player who’s lost her or his stack must sit on the sidelines and wait to swap into play. Of course, when both players lose all their chips, their tournament run is over.

This year, switches were announced roughly every 20 minutes. Every third exchange was an “all-switch,” meaning that teammates automatically traded seats. The all-switch was instituted so no one would have to be sidelined for more than an hour or so, which had been the case in past events when a pair was reduced to a single chip stack and neither partner met the criteria over the course of multiple consecutive swaps.

Two years ago, my partner and I had a marathon seven-hour run that saw us fall just short of getting paid. I think I skipped last year’s tag-team. This time around, however, a terrific player asked to be my partner, so I agreed.

Things got off to a rocky start, alas. In perhaps the very first hand I found myself holding high cards that never quite connected with the board. The woman to my right collected a healthy pot, and I was playing from behind for a while.

The first time my partner and I switched, I sat down at her table to find that she‘d done rather nicely. I remember playing just two hands there. In one, I collected the blinds when I raised modestly with pocket queens in early position and everyone folded.

The other hand didn’t go as smoothly. I think I had some middle cards in the blind — maybe 10-eight or nine-seven — and turned a 10-high straight. Unfortunately, the river gave everyone a 10-high straight — six-seven-eight-nine-10. One of the other players in the hand held a jack, giving him a better hand than me and the other participants. Just as in the previous day’s grinder, a helpful board had suddenly became quite hostile.

When I returned to my original seat, I found that my partner had bolstered my starting stack. Sadly, I didn’t find another good situation, and I watched my partner’s gains slowly dribble away.

Things weren’t going so well for my partner, either. Just after 9 p.m., roughly two hours into the event, she sent me a message saying that she was out.

I showed the phone to a mutual friend — let’s call him Trout — who took it from me and wrote, “You are the worst poker player ever!!! But you are better than Trout.” He handed the device back to me with a chortle.

I violated the spirit of the jest a few moments later by texting, “Ironically, Trout wrote that.” Because of my poker struggles, nothing struck me as being particularly humorous.

Our slow, painful decline continued after my partner substituted in for me. I kept half an eye on her efforts — she was seated about 15 yards from my vantage point — but I couldn’t really tell what was going on.

When I returned to action, I found that the blinds had nibbled at my already-modest stash of chips. I bided my time, trying to find a good spot to make a move.

My best opportunity seemed to come when, sitting under the gun, I discovered that my hole cards were queen-10 off-suit. I made a significant raise and found just one caller — the big blind sitting immediately to my right, who had gotten a chunk of my stack very early on in the contest. She was holding king-10, I believe, and she prevailed.

That left me, if memory serves, with less than the big blind, which I was immediately required to pay thanks to the rotation of play.

Once again, it came down to me and the woman to my right. Thankfully, I had a decent hand: king-queen, I believe. Unfortunately, yet again, she had a slightly better hand: ace-queen. Her ace held up, thereby sealing yet another disappointingly early tournament exit.

I commiserated with my partner and her husband for a bit and then headed out, still hoping that my card luck would turn around.

To be continued

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