Poker postseason stories, winter 2019: Part 2

February 21, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 21, 2019

Every six months, World Tavern Poker concludes a regular season and transitions into two weeks of tavern-level championship events. The first postseason week is dedicated to tavern championships; the second, to so-called tournaments of champions.

Each week has a slightly different format and eligibility criteria. But the goal every game is always the same: To win the tournament and collect some hardware, at minimum a medallion. Unfortunately for me this year, I started out with a number of frustrating near-misses.

I ended my first tavern championship, on a Monday night in late January, with a sixth-place finish. The next evening I finished in fourth place. On Wednesday, I didn’t even make it to the top 20. On Thursday, I barely cracked the final table, going out in seventh place. I got up to fourth place on Friday night and sat out the next two nights.

I picked up play at a tournament of champions on a Monday night, where I didn’t make the top 20. After losing some hands early, I called preflop with king-jack of diamonds in early position. I then shoved all-in when the flop — king, queen, 10 — gave me top pair plus an up-and-down straight draw. Unfortunately, I was called by someone holding king-10; his two pairs improved to a boat when another 10 came on the turn.

The following night I finished in 10th place. At the first hand at the final table, wielding a very short stack of three chips with the blinds at one chip–two chips, I was sitting in the big blind with a lousy hand, queen-three. The flop had a queen, so I wagered my final chip. The button called me: He held queen-seven, and the flop had given him two pairs.

On Wednesday night, I battled my way to the final table. While I was sitting in the blinds, a player to my right shoved all in. I found myself holding pocket kings and put all my chips into the pot; the two of us got a caller. Unfortunately, the player to my right had pocket aces, and that was all for that tournament run.

On Thursday evening, I made it not just to the final table but to the top three.

One thing about playing three-handed is that you’re in the blinds two out of every three hands. Sitting in the big blind, with the button having folded and the small blind having called, I looked at my hole cards and found a very uninspiring queen-four off-suit. I checked.

The flop came five-six-seven. The small blind, Troy, checked. Since I had an open-ended straight draw — either a three or an eight would give me a five-card sequence — I shoved all in. Troy wasn’t sure at first what to do. But since I hadn’t represented a big hand preflop, and because he’d hit top pair on the board, he called me. My draw didn’t complete, and I was out in third place. Troy and the other player, Corey, battled for a few minutes, with Troy going on to claim the title.

On Friday evening, I made a big bet with a high pair, either queens or kings, and lost to pocket aces. Soon thereafter, I was out with three tables of players remaining.

Since we were coming to the end of the postseason, I did something I rarely do: Played poker on Saturday afternoon. I lost another big hand with pocket queens when the player to my left hit a higher pair with his ace-king. But I continued fighting and once again made my way into the top three.

However, on the button I found myself with pocket sixes and shoved all in… only to be called by Debra, the big blind, who not was the tournament chip leader but also had pocket aces. That once again put me out in third place, and once again the person who knocked me out won the event.

I played a little pinball before continuing on to one of my last opportunities to win some poker hardware — which I’ll get to in my next post.

To be continued

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