Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 5

May 28, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 28, 2019

I thought I’d fall into bed around midnight on Monday, if not before then. But I was extremely excited about the conclusion to the national championship and how it would play out the next morning. I think it wasn’t until around 2 a.m. that the sandman visited me.

I woke up a few hours later and had trouble returning to sleep. I decided to skip that day’s 9 a.m. meeting for World Tavern Poker tournament directors and just show up around 10:30 to check in for the finale of the finals. I ran a little late, getting in line around 10:45, but I was in my seat several minutes before cards started flying.

There were 50 players still competing for the championship. The most prosperous of us by far was Gerald F—, a gentleman I did not know who possessed more than 518,000 in chips. Shaun, the victor in Monday’s infamous “man storms off and flips the bird over his shoulder” hand, was in fourth place with 300,000, while Jeff H— was two spots behind him with 274,000. Thirteen of our number had 49,000 or fewer chips — not a favorable situation with blinds at 10,000–20,000 with a 2,000 ante.

A few words about antes. World Tavern Poker does not have antes in its regular tournaments, or even in its postseason or regional championship events. They’re in effect in the twice-yearly championship events because these tournaments’ prizes fund buy-ins at professional poker events, where antes are quite common.

When you’re short stack, antes really affects players’ preflop decisions about whether to fold, call or raise. A player must pay the big and little blinds once every orbit around the table — that is, once every six to 10 hands until an event is down to the final table. But each player must pay an ante every single hand. Five players had fewer than 20,000 in their bags; the shortest stack contained just 5,000. Whether he wanted to or not, that player would be obligated to go all-in in no more than three hands — and he’d have zero ability to force anyone else at the table to fold cards.

As for my stack? Why, I’m glad you asked. As mentioned in my previous post, I started the day with 241,000; that left me tied with one other player for the eighth-largest war chest. Those chips, my cards and my wits were the tools I’d attempt to use in my quest for the crown.

On the second hand of the morning, I called a 2x raise in the big blind with ace-six off-suit. (A 2x raise, also called a minimum raise or min raise, is exactly what it sounds like: He bet 40,000, exactly twice what I’d already moved across the line as big blind.) We checked the flop and turn; my foe bet 75K on the river, which prompted me to fold.

The very next hand went a little better for me. The player in the cutoff, an elderly veteran, pushed all in for 31,000. The man on the button shoved for just 6,000.

I had ace-queen off-suit. I pondered raising but instead flatted, or simply called the bet. So did Adam T—, the New York/New Jersey player who was sitting to my immediate left in the big blind.

Adam and I checked the runout. “I have quads,” announced the man at the button, turning over a pair of eights that matched the twin eights on the board.

The remaining trio each revealed an ace kicker. Adam had a four; I a queen; the veteran, a ten. After some confusion over who had won which pot and whether the aces were chopping — they were not, because my kicker played — I collected about half the pot.

Some time down the line, I pushed all in with ace-king off-suit. I was actually the second player to push — a fellow a seat or two to my right had fewer chips than me. (I can’t remember if this player was before me in the action or if he called from one of the blinds.) This episode was memorable less for what happened on the felt but for some byplay at the table during the preflop betting.

I was nervous, and I could tell that there was a lot of interest in calling. One of the potential vultures was Jeff, the aforementioned big stack out of North Carolina. His fascination wasn’t hard to judge, because he asked the dealer, “How much is it?”

The dealer started to count, but I objected almost instantly. We called over the floor, and I stammered out my protest that Jeff wasn’t allowed to ask for an amount when it was not his turn to act. The casino managers upheld my interpretation of the rules.

Ultimately, I didn’t get a caller and was able to pull back some money. I don’t remember the runout, or what my opponent had (ace-nine?), but my hand prevailed and I collected the chips from the middle, so I suppose all’s well that ends well.

Later, Adam bet 50,000 under the gun and got an immediate call. Everyone folded to me in the big blind. I announced that I liked my hand, the nine and eight spades, but didn’t want to play it out of position. Adam’s bet induced a fold prior to showdown, and he revealed pocket kings. If I’d stayed, I would have won — the flop included a pair of nines.

Later, I called a shove for 73,000. He had ace-queen and hit, beating my pocket fours.

Still later, I shoved with ace-queen at under-the-gun plus two. Debra S—, the last possible caller, said, “I’m folding my favorite hand,” and turned up king-ten off.

“I was ahead,” I said with a frog in my throat as I collect the pot. “I have no doubt that you were,” she replied.

On the very next hand, I folded ace-jack off. Seat two shoved and was called. I would have made two pairs — but ace-queen in seat two still would have collected the pot.

I was moved to seat two at table 151 a little before noon. We were in blind level 17, with antes of 3,000 and blinds of 20,000–40,000. I went all in with ace-king unsuited and got no callers.

But I was, it would emerge, not long for this table.

To be continued

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