Kevin and I, probably at the final break on Day 2
10:50 PM: At the next break, my parents reappeared. Fatigue should have been setting in by now, but I was still very alert. With only two hours left to play, about 650 players left in the tournament, sitting on a mountain of chips, I made a conscious decision to take my foot off the accelerator. We were getting very close to the money positions, which began at spot number 560. I knew there were players in the room with stacks approaching half a million, but I would worry about them later. If I were to tread water for the final two hours, I’d be in great shape.
11:10 PM: With my parents on the rail again, play resumed and I executed my plan. My starting hand requirements reverted to ABC-poker type hands, pairs and big cards only. The minutes (and the number of players remaining) melted away, with my stack also shrinking to about 130k. Then, at around 12:15 AM, the most important hand of my tournament transpired:
I was three in front of the button. Snaggletooth, in second position, the only other player with a stack comparable to mine, brought it in for a raise of 4200. I looked down at my hole cards. Pocket 10s. Snaggletooth, who won a massive pot just prior to dinner, had not played a hand since, in literally 3 hours. Now he has raised in early position. I had three options with my tens.
a) Just fold. No way, too pussy.
b) Reraise and try to blow him off his hand. He hadn’t played a hand in so long that he had to be very strong. This seemed like courting trouble.
c) Treat the 10’s like a smaller pair and just call, hoping to flop a set.
I went with option C. Everyone else at the table folded, and the flop was Ace of spades, Queen of hearts, 10 of hearts. Wow. I had flopped a set of 10s. Snaggletooth checked. There were way too many draws on the table for me to give this guy a free card. I came out firing: 8500 into a pot of 12,600. Snaggletooth pondered my bet for a long while. Then he checked his hole cards. Then he called. Hmmmm. What could he be holding?
First, I ran through the 3 hands that I was trailing.
KJ (nut straight): no way. He raised in early position after sitting there for three hours.
AA (top set): maybe. But wouldn’t he be scared of the draws?
QQ (middle set): maybe. Same concerns with the draws.
Next, I thought of some other hands he might have.
AK of hearts: certainly possible. Top pair/top kicker was a draw to the nuts, and a possible royal flush.
AQ: Top two pair. But he should be concerned about the draws. Why not checkraise?
AJ, KK, JJ: After this flop, these holdings are still solid. He might look at another card with these.
The turn was the 8 of clubs, which could not have improved either of our hands. Snaggletooth checked again. Now I wanted him to go away, or make him really pay if he was on a draw. I bet 20,000 into the 29,600 pot. Get out of my pot. Snaggletooth considered this bet for awhile, then very methodically counted out a massive raise. With a pained expression he said “I raise,” and slid forward two stacks consisting of six $5000 chips each. There were two or three audible gasps across the table. The two boss stacks going at it. Just after the dealer separated Snaggletooth’s 20k call from his 40k raise, I was distracted. Out of nowhere, my father appeared over my right shoulder, between myself and the man who had just raised me one-half of my stack. Throughout the day, I had been running to the rail to give my folks updates on my chip count. Since the last break, I had given no such updates, and my father was obviously anxious for one. Spectators are not permitted on the poker room floor, and this was the first and only time in the entire tournament that he tried this stunt. Impeccable timing, Dad. “How’s it going?” he asked with a smile, patting me on the back, completely oblivious. Without even turning my head, I frantically waved him off, and he scampered back behind the rail. “How much is that raise?” I asked the dealer, returning my attention to the table. “Forty thousand.” Mother fucker, what am I going to do?
I had committed 33k of my 130k to this pot already. Now Snaggletooth was asking for 40k more. It was similar to the situation I encountered two days earlier with Maciek. I was obliged to call a bet on the river, and I had enough chips to make this guy fold something like AK or AQ with a reraise, so my options were two: all-in or fold. Was a set of 10’s good here? Snaggletooth had watched me run over this table for hours. Was he trying to put me in my place now, or did he have the goods? I looked at him. He appeared very uncomfortable. I sighed, truly having no idea what to do. I looked at his stacks he appeared to have me covered. One of the great proverbs about no limit hold ’em tournaments is that they are “hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.” This was the most terrified I could remember feeling at a card table. I knew that I could do all the math I wanted in my head and it would be no use. This decision had to be made mostly on instinct. Nevertheless, I retraced the hand in my head. One more look at Snaggletooth: he still looked constipated.
Did this fuckwad have me beat? My honest assessment was that the chances were exactly 50/50 that his hand was better than mine. Combine this evaluation with the fact that I had already invested 30k, and you arrive at my decision: “I’m all in.” Before I could even move my chips forward, Snaggletooth said “I call.” Cocksucker.
He turned over KJ of diamonds. What the fuck?! I was beat, but I had redraws. I got to my feet and put my hands on my head, awaiting the turn of the most important card I’d ever seen. An ace, queen, eight, or the case ten would give me a full house, propelling me into the stratosphere of one of the biggest stacks in the entire tournament. Any other card and I was done. The dealer burned and turned a black four. I stayed on my feet and put my head in my hands. It felt like a thousand shots to the gut, and not just figuratively. I was actually doubled over in pain. I glanced over at my parents, who, based on their experience raising me, and on common sense, understood what had just happened. I managed to retain some semblance of humor, making a “flush the toilet” gesture in my father’s direction, then buried my head in my hands again.
The dealer was counting Snaggletooth’s chips to find out whether he had me covered. I was at his mercy, in complete agony and totally helpless. After probably a minute and a half, the verdict was in: I had him covered by 18k, which was what would remain in front of me. I sat back down, crimping (involuntarily sweating for purely emotional reasons) my ass off. I could not believe he had raised in early position with king-jack. “Nice hand,” I muttered, trying to be as cordial as possible. “Thanks,” he said. “Kojack’s my favorite hand.” “Wish you had told me that earlier.” Ugh.
I’ve spent at least twelve hours analyzing my play on this hand. I’m not going to bother continuing in this space.
Obviously, my status in the tournament had come crashing down. I was suddenly very interested in knowing how close to the money we were (answer: about 50 people away). Gone was my ability to impose my will on the other players. I was a fucking weakling.
My mood completely soured. The idiot kid to my left, whose act (berating the dealers, demanding deck changes and washes every ten minutes, constantly bitching about his hole cards) had been bearable until now, was now grating on my nerves. A stack of 18k with the pot starting out at 4.2k put me squarely in all-in or fold territory. It was miserable. Just as I was getting mentally ready for my new role, No Waiting finally went bust and was replaced with Kevin. He was all smiles as he unloaded his 100k+ stack onto his new table and he said hello. I was both happy for him and envious. Before he could engage me in any small talk, I made it clear that I was in no mood for it. “I just got buried,” I said, not waiting for a response before going back to my furrowed-browed silence. Sorry, dude.
I don’t really remember much of the last 45 minutes of Day 2 except the total despair I felt inside. I know I moved all in with A6 and didn’t get called, pulling my stack up to 23k. Then, with the table getting insanely tight as the money spots crept closer, I stole the blinds two more times. When time expired, I had 30,300 in chips. There were 569 players left–only nine more to the money. It was already clear that my obvious Day 3 strategy would be to hobble into the money if possible, and then see if I could pick up some lucky cards. Exactly where I had started Day 2. Friends at home, following on the internet, would later presume that I was short stacked for the entire tournament. Now you know otherwise.
1:15 AM: On the way back to the Paris, I tried to cheer up. My mother attributed my crash to the expiration of her birthday. My father thought it was either the fact that I had removed the sweatshirt, or the fact that he had changed his t-shirt after dinner, or some combination thereof. Both commented on how well I had played regardless of my chip count. Whatever. Day 3 started at noon the next day. By the time I got in bed I was in better sprits and looking forward to it.