Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 12

June 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 8, 2019

Remember when I busted out of the national Tournament of Champions finals? Yeah, me too. Well, long story… er, long… after that happened, I circuited the main casino floor and got a quick meal at Johnny Rockets.

A choice among three options lay before me. I could leave the casino and drive to Virginia in plenty of time to have dinner with my hosts and friends; I could play in one of the last two non-invitational tournaments remaining on the event schedule and depart after that; or I could sit down in the poker room and play at a cash table for a while.

Well, I didn’t just want to leave. I typically visit a casino exactly once a year, and I still felt a competitive urge.

However, the penultimate tournament was slated to begin at 3:30, and the last at 6 p.m.; the entry fees were $65 and $50, respectively. Since it was just approaching noon, I’d need to kill more than three hours. And unless I busted early, which of course I didn’t want to do, I wouldn’t be able to reach my friends in Northern Virginia until well after dinnertime. Worst of all, I suppose, was the possibility that, as on the previous evening, I could play for four hours and not come away with any money.

Playing at a cash table seemed like the perfect compromise. I could play for around two hours, cash out whatever chips I had left and get on the road in time to reach my hosts around the time dinner would be served.

So I moseyed on over to the poker room, converted $220 in cash to casino chips and waited a short time before being seated at the $1–$2 table nearest the floor manager’s station.

My first two hands were 10-7 off-suit, which made me chuckle. The first hand I remember playing was ace-jack, which I raised with; unfortunately, a guy at the other end of the table made a significant re-raise, so I folded preflop. I also have a vague memory of losing a bundle with pocket 10s, which I believe was the sole pocket pair I got in my stint at the table.

I lost a bundle in a showdown with a white-haired player named Alice. (That may have come on my aforementioned pocket pair.) By that point, I’d been playing for at least an hour and had burned off $170 in chips from my starting total.

As this occurred, I surveyed my shrinking stack with a glum feeling. Well, this certainly wasn’t how I wanted to go out.

A fellow called Leo was sitting next to me when I finally, finally, finally got another good hand. (I cannot for the life of me tell you with any certainty what it was: king-queen? King-jack? I dunno.)

As the hand progressed, the fellow sitting to my immediate left, Leo, turned to me and asked, “You haven’t won a hand yet, have you?”

This was true, although I’d have preferred not to run the risk of jinxing the possible victory that was developing. I tried to play things off cool by rotating my head toward him, holding my fingers to my lips and shushing him loudly.

And miracle of miracles: I won the pot! That virtually doubled me up, pumping my war chest back up to around $100.

What’s more, I won a few additional pots. With some fits and starts, I worked my way back up to $150 or so. I began wondering whether I might possibly get back to my starting amount.

Not, it seemed, within the two-hour time limit that I’d initially set for myself. The hour passed 2 p.m. and I stayed at the table, except for the occasional bathroom break.

I kept going. I got close to my starting amount of $220 once or twice, but then I’d lose a pot or two and find myself holding $175 or so.

10-7 kept on coming back to me. I think I got it six times during my time at the table.

Another hour passed, and most of another. I felt like I was trapped in the mediocre zone, bouncing between approximately $150 and $200.

And then lightning struck.

I think I was in the small blind. A bunch of people limped into the hand. When I peeked at my hole cards, I found queen-jack unsuited. I raised to $13.

I instantly regretted the move for two reasons. First, my hand was not particularly strong, and second, multiple players called my bet. In general, it’s preferable to face fewer opponents, so this wasn’t shaping up too great.

The flop included, I think, eight, nine and a three; two of them were diamonds, one was a spade. This was not a terrible board for me: It left me with a gut shot, meaning I required just one specific card — a ten — to make a queen-high straight.

As mentioned, we were four- or five-handed. I felt very strongly that I could not afford to be passive and check, especially because the board featured a potential flush draw.

I plunked down another $13. I think the big blind folded, but Carl, the older guy two seats to my left, called. So did two younger players sitting on my right, whose names I believe were Gene and Elena; that left four of us vying for the pot.

The dealer moved the chips to the middle, burned a card and revealed the turn. It was a ten, exactly the card I needed to complete the 8-9-10-jack-queen straight. Unfortunately, it was a spade, which meant there were now two flush draws on the board.

I had three rivals. The chance that at least one of them was pursuing either a spade or diamond flush seemed fairly high. To increase my odds of winning the hand, I needed to make a wager that would elicit a fold from at least one of my foes.

My war chest was limited. I had about $150 in front of me, and there was already roughly $117 in the pot. How large a bet would it take to deter at least one of the other competitors?

I decided to bring as much pressure to bear as I could muster. I pushed my chips all in and stacked my $5 and $1 chips in columns of 10. The total came to $152.

Carl snap-called for a little less than I had — somewhere around $134.

Garrett, who had about as much as I did, considered his options for about two minutes and then reluctantly folded.

I tried to appear calm and confident as we waited. I checked my phone: It was right around 4 o’clock, way past when I’d originally wanted to vacate the premises. One way or another, this was going to be my last hand of the day.

Elena had a little more than I did, it turned out. Her decision took even longer than Garrett’s — perhaps five minutes, maybe even a bit longer. In the end, she let it go with even more reluctance than Garrett.

We were nearly at the moment of truth. I revealed my hand, showing the queen-high straight. Carl rolled over his hole cards, two spades — I think the five and seven. He was one of the flush chasers I’d been attempting to discourage.

A few moments later, the dealer burned the last card…

I put in a request. “Red card, dealer!”

And the dealer flipped up…

…a diamond. It didn’t help Carl. I’d won. I’d won! 

Elena let out a groan of frustration. The dealer began pushing chips my way.

I stood up. “That’s it,” I declared. “I’m out.” I looked around for a rack; not seeing any, I asked if someone could hand me one. The player to my left passed me the one he’d brought to the table.

I offered a red $5 chip. “Thank you, dealer,” I said.

My legs were shaky. So were my arms. I sat down to rack up my winnings.

Carl handed some money to the dealer, who replenished his supply of chips.

As that happened, Garrett, Elena and I talked over the hand. I asked if she’d had diamonds; she confirmed that she had indeed had them. “Good fold,” I told her.

Garrett asked her if she would have called if he’d done so. She said that she would have done so instantly because the pot odds would have been so favorable for her. “Good fold,” I told Garrett.

My chips were racked, and the next hand had begun. I gathered my rack and my coat and relocated to a quiet spot where I could count my winnings. It came to $363, excluding the $5 I’d given the dealer and other tips that I’d doled out over the course of the afternoon.

I went to the cashier’s window and got a trio of hundred-dollar bills, a triumvirate of twenties and three singles.

I put them in my pocket and made my way out of the casino and to my car. I felt as though I were walking on air.

To be concluded (probably)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: