Another poker dream gone sour
The plan seemed simple enough: Win a $200 buy-in, second-chance tournament at Harveys and parlay my winnings into a seat at the World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in, No-Limit Hold’Em main event.
I enjoyed the thought of being grouped in a field that included some of poker’s biggest stars, including 2002 world champion Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, 1995 world champion Dan Harrington, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Seidel. I’ve always felt I could check-raise those guys and take down a pot – assuming I ever had the scratch to play in their universe.
Perhaps I’d even beat them and collect the main event’s first-place check for $372,240, quit writing about my losses in poker tournaments and retire on the beaches of Brazil. But some dreams die hard, and this one was no different.
So there I was last Wednesday, with 62 other chumps, outside the Hard Rock Cafe. Like everyone else, I had $1,500 in tournament chips and a chair. When the cards were dealt, there were eight players at my table, all of which were guppies.
In seat No. 2 was a woman wearing a salmon-colored shirt and was more suited to be my mother than the future owner of my chips. The No. 3 and 4 seats were occupied by men with gray hair and the No. 5 set was filled by a 7-foot giant wearing an athletic jersey.
I was in seat No. 6. To my left was another gray-haired fellow, but this guy already had one foot in the morgue. After the dinosaur was a woman with an afro, which I’m sure was hip in the 1970s.
I was confident about my chances. Then the cards were dealt.
The blinds started at $25-50, and my tournament strategy has always been to take advantage of people’s tight play early on. With 63 players registered for this tournament, nobody wants to finish 63rd.
I bluffed at pots when uninspiring cards fell on the board. Even though players in early position had raised pre-flop, I smooth-called with marginal cards and then made sizable bets after the flop that threatened to dent people’s stacks. Everyone folded.
Their actions increased my chip count to $1,950, and while it doesn’t sound like much, stealing other people’s blinds and their small, pre-flop bets is beneficial. Because when I have premium cards and make identical bets, other players will call to keep me honest, thus putting me in position to win big pots.
But strategies are like armpits … everybody has one.
My downfall began when the 7-footer to my right twice re-raised me. I had top pair – weak kicker – on the flop in two different hands, check-raised him both times, only to see him re-raise me. At first I figured he was on a draw, but to re-raise somebody who just check-raised usually means that person is very confident in their hand.
In short, I twice got caught with my hand in the cookie jar and saw my chip stack dwindle to $800. Without chips, it becomes increasingly difficult to bluff because it doesn’t cost others much of their stack to call. I had to be patient and wait for a monster.
So I waited and waited and waited. The monster never came. One hand, I had a pair of 5s on the button and moved all-in after only two players called and six players folded in front of me.
One of the callers folded, but the other called and turned over pocket aces. Peace out.
I finished 31st out of 63 players, way out of the money and not even close to realizing my dream. I heard Brazil isn’t that nice anyway.
Jeremy Evans is a sportswriter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at (530) 542-8008 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.