Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 10

June 4, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 4, 2019

I reached my seat for the National Tournament of Champions finals on Thursday morning a little after 9. I think the first hand was under way when I arrived. My cards had been mucked, but this was the only hand I missed.

Unlike the national championship finals, which had been staged over three segments spanning Monday and Tuesday, this set of finals would take place in one marathon event.

In the first blind level, 100–200, a woman out of Ann Arbor, Mich., raised to 800 in early position from seat six and got at least one caller. My hole cards were jacks. I raised to 2,600 or 2,800. I was called by Cedric, a.k.a. C.J., in seat one and maybe someone else. The flop went 10-6-3 or something like that; it was a rainbow. I put in a 5,000 chip and got a fold.

I subsequently took a pot off of Debra S—. I don’t remember the details, but I think a river bet combined with bets on some earlier streets induced her to fold. She told the table that she knew I wouldn’t make a big bet without a good hand. “Stop telling lies about me,” I announced in an attempt to be witty, “even if you’re saying good things.”

“I’m just worried about you taking all my chips,” she joked.

Later, I found myself with the jack and nine of clubs under the gun; feeling confident, I decided to raise. Again, I don’t remember the details, but the runout was almost enough to give me a straight, and it was almost enough to give me a flush. I placed bets on the flop and turn, and Debra S— called each time.

There were at least three players going to the flop, but by the time the river was dealt, it was just Debra and me. I suspected she had a stronger hand than me, but…

Remember that hand I played against Cliff the previous night, when I’d been moved to a new table — and into my second straight big blind — in the Dream Team tournament? Well, so did I. And something happened that made me think history might repeat itself.

That something, of course, was Debra checking the river out of turn, when I was supposed to act first. When she did that, I still thought I was behind, but I also thought she was weak enough that I might be able to bluff her out of the pot.

So I bet 3,100 or so. (Blinds at this point must have been no more than 300–600, by way of reference.) Debra considered how to respond. After a minute or so, she called, turning over ace-queen, which combined with the community cards to give her a pair of queens. She collected the pot.

“Now who’s worried about who taking all of whose chips?” I asked, trying to put a brave face after losing a significant part of my stack.

This hand marked the beginning of the end for me. Not long afterward, I called an all-in shove by Jackie with pocket jacks.

I was good on the flop, which didn’t supply her ace-jack or ace-queen with a card she needed to go ahead of me.

I was good on the turn, which also failed to strengthen her hand.

I’d need a brick to collect this score. “Give me a two,” I implored the dealer.

I was good until the river, when a high card helped Jackie’s cause and sunk mine. My rival, who had stood up, sat down and started stacking chips.

Now I was down to less than 5,000 chips. What’s worse, around this time our first ante kicked in. This meant that I was hemorrhaging at least one chip per turn, even when I wasn’t in the blind. I grimaced; my situation had quickly deteriorated from bad to really really bad.

“I asked her for a two,” I mumbled to myself, looking at Jackie as she continued attending to her now-healthy treasury.

She looked my way, and I could tell from her expression that she hadn’t heard me. I amplified my volume and expanded on my remark: “I tried to ask the dealer to give me a two.” She grinned at me with the relieved smile of someone who had just resuscitated her tournament life.

I tried to pick a good spot to go all in. I thought I found it when I turned up the ace and ten of spades from, I think, the cutoff or hijack position. I shoved.

At least three or four of us went to the flop. The aforementioned C.J. made some post-flop bets that strongly suggested to me that my hand was not going to hold up, even though an ace came on to the board.

Reader, my hand was not good: C.J. had a superior ace to mine, and that concluded my tournament run. I stood up, wished everyone good luck, collected my things and exited the ballroom.

To be concluded

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