Tough tournament spot, redux: Further notes

July 30, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 30, 2018

Sunday was the final day of World Tavern Poker’s regular season at the venue where I serve as tournament director. That evening, I got caught in a surprisingly similar situation to the one I was in last week.

As on Tuesday, I started the day in the No. 2 position. In this case, the average of my top 15 scores at the pub was 60 points lower than that of the person who held the top rank. The lowest of my 15 scores was 9,450, so I’d need to record a score of more than 10,000 to catch up.

Around the two-hour mark of the early tournament, our blinds moved to 5,000–10,000. I had four chips (nominal value: 20,000), and nine players remained. As the big blind approached, I anxiously waited for a good chance to win a pot. Unfortunately, it never seemed to come.

When the big blind reached me, just as on Tuesday, I had half my chips committed to the pot. Jonathan, a player at the far end of the table, went all in. I forget what he had, but it was at least twice my entire stash. Everyone folded to his bet until the action reached me.

I checked my hand: queen-four off-suit, a far weaker hand than the ace-10 that I had on Tuesday.

Now I was in a pickle. My hand was weak, but if I called and won, I’d have a sort of decent stack. On the other hand, just like on Tuesday, if I folded, I’d only have two chips left — and I’d have to commit one of them as the small blind.

I decided to take a chance. Jonathan’s two hole cards included an ace, and the flop included two aces. I picked up my marker and walked away from the table, once again out in ninth.

Unlike Tuesday, I had one more game remaining.

I had a very promising hand early on in that tournament: Ace-six, both diamonds. What’s more, the flop contained two diamonds. I bet heavily, attempting to scare off the numerous other participants in the hand and/or to buy the pot. However, I was called by Courtney, the woman to my left, and I never got a fifth diamond for my flush.

She went all-in on the river. Since I was stuck with a pair of queens (on the board) backed by an ace-high kicker, I folded.

That was the only halfway respectable hand I got in the event. Right as we were going into the first break, I shoved all-in with garbage, hoping that my (paltry) 8,200 would persuade other potential participants to fold. But Courtney and Bill both called me, and I went down in flames. I wouldn’t be able to improve my season points average, and once more, I would not claim the season title at a venue where I’d held the No. 1 ranking for much of the past six months.

In thinking over the hand that I lost to Jonathan, I came to a realization. If I’d had five chips rather than four, I would have folded to him. Similarly, if I’d had five chips rather than four on Tuesday, I probably would have folded to Joe. (That’s a bit harder to say definitively, as ace-10 off-suit is noticeably stronger than queen-four off.)

But in mulling the dual situations further, I decided that I’d taken the entire wrong approach. My calls were arguably correct if I were playing to win; however, I didn’t need a tournament victory to achieve my goal of taking down the season points title. Instead, I needed to stick around until I went out, say, in fifth position.

Meaning that it would have been wiser for me to fold my big blind, fold my small blind and hang on to life — and hope — with a single chip. The potential benefit in having a solitary chip comes if some of my opponents get eliminated, thereby bumping up my final finish.

On Tuesday, there were two low stacks (Linda and another player, Ginger), and they’d face the big blind before I would. As it happened, Linda went out in seventh place and Ginger in sixth, meaning that I could theoretically have made fifth place just by doing nothing. I’m not positive that such a result would have delivered the season title to me, but it certainly would have gotten me closer than going out in ninth, as actually happened.

Incidentally, the leader at my Sunday pub went out in fifth place in the late game, which bumped up her average by 100 points. I’m unsure whether, given that result, I could have passed her without finishing at least third in the early game — an unlikely outcome, given my relative poverty.

Hopefully, I’ll get some vital knowledge from this season’s disappointments. Fingers crossed…


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