Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 2

May 22, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 22, 2019

Shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday, May 20, flight one of the World Tavern Poker national championship finals got under way. For this, my second event of Open 26, I was assigned seat six at table 124, which was located in the back of the ballroom, near one of the large video screens. I would keep that seat for the better part of three hours.

I got into trouble during an early level when I woke up on the button with the ace and seven of hearts. I raised, deterring perhaps two limpers but leaving us four-handed going to the flop.

The flop featured two hearts, which left me this close to securing an ace-high flush. Of course, a third heart never found its way to the board, although an ace appeared on fifth street, giving me top pair with a weak kicker; the community cards also included a pair of deuces. My rival, a guy sporting a Boston Red Sox T-shirt and baseball cap, made some sizable bets on the turn and river — 3,500 each time, I think — and I called. Ultimately, he turned over ace-nine; unfortunately, his kicker played, leaving me roughly 10,000 chips poorer than when the hand had begun.

My comeback began with my holding about 15,000 and sitting in the big blind, which committed me to paying 4,000. The man to my left was wearing a 1976-style Pittsburgh Steelers complete with a United States bicentennial patch, shoved under the gun for less than what I had. Four or five players folded; then Penny Z—, a North Carolina player I know well, went over the top with 25,000.

Then everyone else folded to me, leaving me with a tough decision. My hand was… mediocre, to put it generously: a red ace and a black 10.

I pondered for a while, eventually saying something like, “I don’t really love this hand, but I’ve already got so much committed to this pot.” I stacked up my chips and put them in harm’s way.

The pots were sorted and the cards were flipped. The man to my left had a black jack and a red eight. Penny had ace-queen, unsuited I believe.

The dealer, a slender fellow named Brian, put out the community cards. I couldn’t tell you what exactly came out, but I think they were all red, and four of them were hearts. On the turn, the dealer gestured to the man on my left and said, “You’ve got a flush.”

I looked. He did have a flush, thanks to his eight of hearts. But I had the ace of hearts, giving me an even better flush! I announced this excitedly, and seconds later, I scooped up a very healthy pot. (I vaguely recall poor Penny saying that she’d hit two pairs, not realizing that the surfeit of hearts had undermined her hand.)

My comeback continued in part thanks to pocket sixes; I believe I limped in from late position and saw participants check the flop and turn, which sported a number of high cards.

When a woman two spots to my left bet big on the river, I considered carefully. I didn’t think she’d connected with the board, and I didn’t think she had a higher pair than mine, so I called.

To my relief, she revealed pocket fives. “I’ve got you,” I announced, displaying my pair. All of a sudden, my chip stack seemed to be thriving.

I won another pot soon afterward with ace-king off-suit. I think I raised and got a single caller — a man a few positions to my left, who I think was one of the blinds. Don’t quiz me on the precise order the community cards came out, but I distinctly remember there being a pair of sevens, an ace, a queen and a brick.

My rival made a sizable river bet, which prompted me to cogitate for a while. But I had two pairs, including top pair and top kicker. I called and revealed my hand.

My foe made a noise of disappointment, because his hand was heartbreakingly similar to mine: ace-jack off-suit. We both had the same two pairs, but my king kicker was better than either his jack or the queen on the board.

I backed away from some preflop raises that I made at that table. Once, I raised ace-queen or ace-jack off-suit but folded when someone went over the top. And, with blinds at 1,500–3,000 or thereabouts, I raised to 7,500 or so with king-queen, both hearts. But a player moved all in with many more chips than I had, and in the end, I felt it wiser to let the hand go.

To be continued

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