Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 4

May 23, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 23, 2019

After about three hours of play in flight one of the national championship on Monday, May 20, my first table was broken up. I went to seek my fortune at seat eight at table 151. Nancy A— sat to my immediate left. We were both seated between the button and the small blind, which meant we had to sit out a hand.

The very first one that we saw, but did not participate in, turned out to be dramatic. The man in seat four pushed all in. The man in seat 10, name of Shaun I believe, contemplated what to do and then called. “Good call,” the aggressor said before displaying king-ten off-suit.

Shaun rolled over the queen and ten of spades, and the flop contained two spades. The river was a king… of spades. Seat four initially thought he’d won; he was extremely irate when it was explained to him that Shaun’s flush was in fact the best hand. He shoved his chips toward Shaun and then angrily flung his commemorative marker in the same direction.

Shaun tried to tell the man that he was entitled to hold on to the commemorative chip as a souvenir, but he was busy storming off. I’m not sure if he heard us, but he flipped the bird back at the table over his shoulder. People at the table were appalled by his behavior. Nancy said she’d played with Mr. Angrily-Storm-Away before and had found him to be a big jerk.

On an early hand at this table, I found myself with pocket threes with a number of people yet to act behind me. With a groan, I folded: After all, I told myself, discretion is the better part of valor. I didn’t follow the runout closely — I’d started creating this document on my phone — but I did notice that the flop contained a three. I’m pretty sure I could have made bank on that hand…

With the blinds 4,000–8,000, I limped under the gun with ace-seven, both diamonds, and called an all-in for 14,000; alas, I never connected with the board, and my foe scooped the pot.

Time passed; Nancy was eliminated, and Shaun was moved from our seat 10 to another table. (Evidently we were nine-handed and the other group had just six.) And then a casino manager approached us with racks; soon, it would be our turn to be broken up.

Once again, the last hand at the table proved to be dramatic — and thanks to the luck of the draw, it had a big impact on the end of my day. While I sat in the small blind, a player three seats to my right pushed all in for 46,000. After some hesitation, I called with pocket fives. The woman in the big blind, occupying seat one, shoved all in for less.

Seat one had a king and another high card. I think he had an unsuited ace and a five, thereby removing one of the cards that could help me. The flop and turn bricked out, meaning that my modest pair was winning. And the river was… a king, thereby awarding the larger main pot to the big blind.

I assessed my winnings and announced, “I bet 46,000 to win 40,000.” Shrugging, I added something along the lines of, “Well, I could’ve done worse.” And I later calculated that, since the small blind for that hand was 8,000, my wager reduced my net loss from 8,000 to 6,000. Again, that’s not a terrible result…

We racked our chips and dispersed. My destination was table 155, seat eight. Seated to my immediate right was the woman whose king-whatever had just bested my fives.

She and I got to talking. Frankly but amiably, I said something like, “No offense, but I’m disappointed that your king won that pot.” She confessed that she’d been trying to lose, adding, “I can’t play tomorrow.”

It turns out that my newfound friend was a resident of and school teacher in Westchester County, not far from where I grow up; she’d called in sick on Monday, but she felt too guilty about skipping a second day. But as I noted, her all-in move was justifiable no matter her intention: She was in the big blind, and her hole cards were not hopelessly weak. (They were live, in poker parlance.)

We were rapidly approaching the end of the day — and once again, the final hand proved to be incredibly dramatic.

In early position, my new teacher buddy in seat seven shoved all in. I peeked at my cards: king of clubs, jack of clubs. This was not going to be an easy decision.

As I pondered my move, the dealer counted the teacher’s shove. It was something like 85,000. Jimmy B—, a New York player with a healthy stack, was clearly interested in dancing; he may have asked how much the teacher had shipped, and he was handling his own chips with an eye toward determining how much he would he needed to put in harm’s way to make the call. Jeff H—, a North Carolina player, was seating a few spots to Jimmy’s left; he had a lot of chips, and he also seemed to be potentially interested in joining the mayhem.

I had roughly 100,000 in chips sitting before me. If I called the teacher and lost, odds were that I’d be crippled entering the championship’s conclusion on Tuesday. (That’s not necessarily the case, however — if there were callers other than me, it would be possible for the teacher to win the main pot while I collected a potentially substantial side pot.)

Something kept running through my mind. My pal had told me that she wouldn’t play the next day. Therefore, it was possible that she’d shoved light, meaning that her hole cards didn’t exactly comprise a formidable duo.

I took a deep breath and called. The action folded around to Jimmy, who ended up passing. So did Jeff and everyone else at the table.

We put the cards on their backs. The teacher had a queen with a low unsuited kicker, I think a five. “You’re live,” I muttered.

Not for long, it turned out. The flop included a king and a jack. And then a second king came out. So did a second jack.

One of the players at the table exclaimed that I had four of a kind. I peered at the board, but I’d read it the right way; the other player, it emerged, had mistaken my hand for pocket kings, thereby prompting rumors of quads.

“No I don’t,” I announced. “I have a boat both ways.” And I did: three kings and three jacks. The dealer pushed the pot toward me.

People congratulated me on my call. I congratulated the teacher on a good game; she congratulated me on winning the hand. I asked her name (for the record, T—) and said that I’d look for her next time I was able to swing by the Friday night game in New York that I’ve played in once and she seems to be a regular or semi-regular at.

A casino manager had sat down at the table and begun the process of bagging chips. I was nowhere near ready for his attentions; a huge pile of yellow and blue chips was sprawled in front of me in no order whatsoever. My hands shaking, I started stacking: blues with blues, yellows with yellows and a pair of oranges. I counted 241,000 in total.

The casino manager counted 241,000. Then he counted with the dealer verifying… and they only came up with 196,000. “Wait a minute,” I exclaimed. They did it over again and found 241,000. “Yeah, that’s what we just said!” the dealer joked. I smiled; my chips were bagged, my name and players card number and chip count were written on the bag; my driver’s license and my casino players card were returned to me; I shakily made my way out of the ballroom.

I was exhausted, so I decided to return to my hotel for a little bit to regain my composure. I wound up relaxing in bed for more than three hours, reading on my phone and lying with my eyes closed but not falling asleep. Eventually I pulled myself together, got dressed again and went to a pharmacy to buy a few necessities. Then I went to an excellent local pizzeria — Nello’s, which I highly recommend — where I gobbled two slices and guzzled a bit of cherry soda.

And then — at about 8:45 p.m. — I went to a nearby chain coffee shop and spent the next 75 minutes preparing a blog post!

To be continued

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