Sunday, December 02, 2007

New Orleans: Day 3 - No Regrets

Event 8
Buy-in: $1000
Entrants: 260
Finished - 11th

The day began with low expectations and ended with no regrets.

As I made my way into the poker room yesterday morning I was shaky, tired and my brain was foggy. Knowing I would be playing in the toughest event I had ever faced, I planned to go to bed early the previous night. Instead I was out long past midnight watching idiots ride some mechanical bull. I was actually looking forward to punching out so I could return to the hotel for a nap.

This maelstrom of idiocy led to one of the stupidest incidents ever. I looked down at QQ and raised the standard. One older gentleman followed me into the pot. The flop came 10-10-10. About as good a flop as I could expect. I bet out anyway and the gentleman called. Uh-oh. I had already doped out he was a caller by habit so this could mean he had Ace high or he could have the case 10. The turn was a Q making my boat even better. I bet out again and he called again. At this point I knew I had him. I knew he had AK and was chasing broadway. The river was a J and then it happened.

He bet at me. Exactly as I knew he should but the the brain froze. I looked down at my chips and realized I would have very few left if I just called. So I moved all in. He instantly called and flipped over AK. As the dealer began pushing my full house cards forward, I was gathering my things together. That's when the players at the table all started saying, "no no no". I had become so fixated on him making the straight, I completely forgot I had him crushed.

Later I apologized to him telling him it was not intentional. He just laughed and said, "it happens to everyone".

The mistake woke me up. He doubled me to twice the starting stack. Over the next 5 hours I would work my stack up to twice the average stack and stayed there.

The most fun was the table just before the dinner break. One end of the table was like a library. I was not at that end of the table. At my end were two high limit Omaha players, a local and a gentleman from Mt. Hermon, La. named Travis. Travis was a dead ringer for a friend of mine back home even down to both working in the cattle industry. Travis is about as nice a fellow as you could meet and kept us in stitches the whole afternoon.

Unfortunately for us all, following the dinner break Travis and I clashed.

We were two of the larger stacks at the table. Travis had position on me and smooth called the blinds. I looked down once again at pocket Queens. I put in a substantial raise. Everyone but Travis folded. He immediately came over the top of me for another raise. A jolly gentleman who check raises is a great danger. I said, "If we tangle, it could get really ugly". Travis said, "I know" and was uncharacteristically quiet. With this change in manner I immediately knew he had either AA or KK. But I could not lay down my ladies. Even though a call in this situation is not the best play, I had enough chips to not hurt if I had to get away after the flop.

The flop came Q-9-3. Travis immediately moved all in. I immediately called. He flipped over the pocket Aces. I flipped over the pocket Queens. Travis muttered, "I knew it". My fourth Queen came on the turn dealing Travis the death blow. He actually had me covered so he wasn't eliminated until the next hand. But he left with grace and told me if he saw me later we'd have to have a beer. A man of his word, later that night as I was still playing, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and Travis was standing there, a grin on his face. He said "I just want to see how you are handling my money" and laughed.

The grind down to the money was taxing. I had enough chips to survive so I was not worried but this was easily the toughest field I ever faced. Most of the players were local or nearby ring game specialists with a few travelling pros mixed in. But at about midnight the bubble burst and everyone relaxed.

After two of the most stress filled hours I've ever played, what followed was two of the most fun hours I've ever played. Everyone was a good player and tactical play was rewarded. But unfortunately for me, the cards went dead. I limped along, grinding out a few pots here and there but the blinds and antes were slowly chewing my stack.

It happened just before 2:00am CST. We were down to 11. In New Orleans the final table is 10 so the next person out would miss.

I was the second short stack in the tournament. The big stack was to my left. I had played with him earlier and knew him to be aggressive and any move I made would probably result in a push.

I don't know if was frustration at not seeing cards for an hour or just a tired brain, but on the button with A-5, I raised to 10k (about one third of my stack). Big stack, who was from Tallahassee, immediately moved all in. I went into the tank. I looked over at man from Texas who was the short stack. If I folded we would have about the same. I knew I was behind but had the vague hope that the big stack would call with anything. Maybe he had K-J and it would be a race with me slightly ahead. Pulling everything together, despite my desire to make the final table, I realized my only play was to call and gamble.

Big stack turned over A-Q.

I was crushed. Completely dominated. Only a Five or two pair on the board would save me. Hope sprang as the flop came out with a pair of rags. But it was all dashed with two more unpaired rags on the turn and the river. He shook my hand and everyone else let out a huge sigh of relief. The last man had gone down.

Many who do not understand poker might not understand why I did what I did. All I can say to those people is poker is a test. Always a test. I faced my test on that last hand and instead of meekly walking away from the adversity, I looked it right in the face. This time the test was the better of me. Next time, it may be different.

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