Confidence builds for first-timer at WSOP |

Confidence builds for first-timer at WSOP

Now that it’s over, I’ll admit it.

The first of Harveys World Series of Poker Lake Tahoe Circuit Event this month, a $340 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament last Friday, was my introduction to anything I’d consider a serious poker tournament.

Granted, I’ve played a fair amount of hold’em in the past five years, but those games tended to be on the friendly side and typically had more beer on the table than money.

Walking into Harveys tournament area full of 483 money-hungry strangers, it’s easy for a first-time tournament player to feel a bit nervous, if not woefully outmatched.

Is that Amarillo Slim over there?

No, but I found out rather quickly that seasoned players do make appearances at low buy-in tournaments. Two of those players managed to take a third of my $3,000 in chips in the first three hands.

“Well, this is going to be an embarrassing story,” I thought, trying to hang on to my short stack long enough to see the first 15-minute break and regain my composure.

The first few hands seemed like I was swimming with sharks, but as more hands passed and players began to drop out on seemingly terrible plays, it soon became clear that there are, indeed, plenty of fish in the sea.

Folding the majority of my hands and taking a few small pots got me to the break, where I was able to reassess the state of the nation and shake off any remaining opening-night jitters.

Returning to the table, I was in the big blind and was presented with a pre-flop all-in from a player in front of me.

With an ace-jack in the hole, I didn’t have much hope of anything better than 50-50 odds, but I answered the nagging call to not let anyone take my big blind without a monster hand.

My stubbornness was rewarded when my opponent turned over ace-seven.

Realizing that bad bets are an inescapable part of the game, I held my breath and was gladly spared the sight of another seven, taking the pot down with a lowly ace-high.

Shortly thereafter, my original table was broken up and the players spread out throughout the room. Just getting to that point was a bit surprising after my horrendous start, but it gave me a whole new set of players to read and a whole new set of chip stacks to battle against.

I was able to push around the player to my left with a couple well-sized bets and I was anxious to keep ahead of the curve, but if there’s one lesson I would eventually learn, it’s that patience is key in tournament poker play.

While it’s impossible to sit back and not make moves when your chips are regularly being devalued, as long as you can stay ahead of the blinds with reasonable plays, you’ve got a chance to come up big.

Blame it on a poor choice in the face of the rapidly increasing blinds, a terrible read on the player I had previously pushed around or a lack of blood flowing to my brain after the dinner break, but it was hurried play that ultimately caused my unceremonious exit from the first real poker tournament I’ve ever entered.

With $10,000 in tournament chips remaining, I called an all-in bet in front with ace-queen. My hand, though, was greeted by pocket kings and no help from flop to river.

One hundred and sixty-second place isn’t worthy of a bracelet, a ring or even a small amount of acclaim. But realizing you can make moves at an event dubbed the “World Series” is enough to make the casual player take No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em a little more seriously.

– Adam Jensen is an environmental writer for the Tribune. He can be reached at (530) 542-8045.

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