Saturday, February 26

Luck sucks.

So today was The Big Deal.

It turned out to be The Not-Quite-So-Big-As-I-Had-Expected Deal. Top prize wasn't a buy-in to the WSOP main event, but a satellite tournament thereto. But the trip to Vegas was still in it, and a top prize of better than $5,000 worth of merch is pretty good for a tournament that cost nothing to get in.

I've been wondering all week how they were going to hold an 800-person poker tournament in one afternoon. I got my answer as I was waiting to sign in. Instead of an 800-person tournament, it was like an 80-table satellite. Those winners would be taken to the next round and assigned ten to a table again. The eight winners from there would be in the Finals. To speed the process, a steep blind structure was implemented and a strict time limit was imposed per round. After an hour and 20 minutes, a "Last Three Hands" rule would be enforced. At the end of the third hand, the chip leader — regardless if he had completely vanquished the rest of his table opponents or not — would advance.

This caused quite a commotion amongst the players, unused to playing tournament poker under a deadline. The consensus of many was that the smart play was basically a very loose "megalomaniacal" style, pushing all-in with almost anything and hoping that it either stuck or improved to the best hand.

My idea was slightly different. Unless at the "last three hands" cutoff one player had amassed more than half the chips on the table and could, a la Ken Jennings in many of his "Jeopardy!" wins, sit on his lead and cruise to the next round, victory could be achieved by anyone still sitting at the table. Until then, why risk your entire tournament on one crummy hand and the blessings of Lady Luck? I resolved not to enter any hand unless I was holding premium hole cards.

My theory was put to the test almost immediately. On the fourth hand I was dealt A§/A©. Bullets. It was only the third time I've ever been dealt aces in a live game, so I practically had to glue my butt to my chair. I was in the big blind (100/200, with all bankrolls starting at 10,000), and the players in the first two positions called. This was not unusual; the consensus strategy at our table seemed to be to limp in to see the flop in the hopes of making the nuts and doubling or tripling up, or better. I, in fact, did it myself on an earlier hand, limping in with A¨/4¨ and bailing when the flush didn't come so I could save my chips.

So I was really hoping nearly everyone at the table would call so I could raise and extract more (to tell you how faithful we were to this early strategy, I was the first person to raise pre-flop. It hadn't been done at all in the first three hands). But after the first two players, everyone else folded, including the small blind. I knew I had to raise, since I couldn't let them see the flop cheaply. On the other hand, I didn't want to drive them completely out since I didn't figure on seeing A/A or a hand anything close to it before the "last three hands" panic time and needed to maximize my win. I settled on 1000, which I thought was enough to drive out awful hands but just enough for someone holding a decent hand to call — or better yet, reraise. The first position player folded and the man in second position, whom I will hereafter refer to as "Idiot," called.

The flop came 3§/J¨/6ª. An ideal flop for my hand; no flush draw or legitimate straight draws, and I didn't fear trips because Idiot probably would have raised at least some amount if he had any pocket pair in the hole, even threes. I checked my aces to trap him; Idiot bet 1000 and I called.

The turn was 6©. This sealed out any decent straight and all possible flush draws but paired the board. I checked again, figuring Idiot would tell me the strength of his hand: if he had a 6 he'd go all-in. He bet 1000, again, and I called.

The river was J§. Ouch. I had a bad feeling; just about the only thing Idiot could possibly have been betting on was a J since there were no draws and he would've acted a lot more strongly on the turn with a 6. I checked and he bet 1000 again. In a normal tournament I might have folded, but in this format I couldn't afford to simply throw away the 3200 chips I'd already dedicated to the pot. Plus I was getting better than 7½-to-1 on my money to call; maybe he was holding just a 3 and was weakly attempting to shove me off my hand all the way down. Maybe he had a lone ace and figured he could play the board and his A would outkick whatever I had.

For a second I contemplated going all-in, but decided just to call. Idiot was holding Jª/5ª. He was roughly a 6-to-1 underdog and cracked my aces, my beautiful aces, for a full house with Jª/5ª.

As Idiot dragged the chips (my! chips) to his stack, grinning a toothy idiot grin, one of my regular poker buddies (who happened to be seated at that same table) remarked about how he called a pre-flop bet of 1000 (one-tenth the size of his bankroll) with hole cards that awful. His defense: "I was suited!"

I wanted to punch him. I should have punched him. A small consolation was that he busted out before me, losing all his chips to an even bigger idiot, and yes, believe it or not, Idiot was the second-biggest idiot at the table: Bigger Idiot was clueless even about when it was his turn to bet.

With a depleted stack, I was in serious trouble. The blinds soon went up to 300/600, followed in twenty minutes' time by 500/1000 and eventually 1000/2000. (The "last three hands" level was played at 2000/4000 blinds.) Just before the last two blind increases, I went all-in in a desperate attempt to double up and accumulate chips to protect my dwindling bankroll. The first time I had Q¨/10¨ and Bigger Idiot called me with Qª/10ª, resulting in a split pot; the other time I had A/7 and ran into A/8. Thus endeth my night.

Sometimes I think I've screwed up in the way I've learned about Texas Hold'em; I'm nowhere near as knowledgable as the pros, but maybe if I stayed completely ignorant I could have won this thing.


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

marchandchronicles -at-

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August 8, 2005: High Gas Prices
August 1, 2005: Judge Roberts' Hearings
June 20, 2005: Senator Durbin's Comments
May 23, 2005: Newsweek & Pepsi
May 2, 2005: Al Gore's MoveOn Speech
April 25, 2005: Lebanon
April 18, 2005: The Nuclear Option
April 11, 2005: Pope John Paul II
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January 31, 2005: Iraqi Elections
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marchand chronicles has such massive readership and influence that it makes me weep.
—Glenn Reynolds


Damn right.


What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson, Power Line
Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

Dean Barnett, Soxblog
Psst, it's "Mike."

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Okay, so I don't really have a copyright. But I still don't want you ripping me off. Reprint it all over the Internet if you like, but give me proper credit and link back to me. Besides, if you're going to plagiarize, steal from someone with some talent.

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