I began my Saturday in Vegas like I begin most Saturdays in the city. I was tired, mildly hungover, and stuck. Had it not been for winning a dime playing Pai Gow and sucking out on a fellow blogger in a poker game, the roll in my pocket would've been a lot smaller. Regardless, my stomach and eyelids had met somewhere in the middle. As a result, I had a lump in my throat and had a hard time putting down the cheesesteak at the Venetian food court.
The only thing that felt right was my sense of optimism, and even that was odd. Normally, as my poker game is concerned, I'm wearing Charlie Brown's storm cloud. That particular morning, though, I was talking as I felt.
The night before, after a big meal, Iggy had asked me if I was going to take the tournament seriously. He knew me, my tendency to stay up too late, to drink too much, to look upon things with less importance than they deserve.
"Oddly," I said, "I'm going to play to win."
He looked at me with a small amount of surprise. "So, you're going to bring your A-game." He nodded and left it at that.
That morning, as I laid in bed, I told my roommates, "I'm going to try to win this thing." They, too, nodded but didn't say anything to encourage or discourage me. After all, they were my friends, but there would also be a last longer.
Finally, in the waning moments before the tournament began, I called home to tell my wife and kid I loved them. I also told them something I normally don't. "Wish me luck. I'm going to try to win."
Why this tournament was any different, I don't know. My record in blogger tournaments is not the best. I won some of the first few blogger events online and won a Mondays at the Hoy earlier this year, but I've never even cashed in a live blogger tournament. Still, at least to people who know me well enough to know I was not being cocky, I was getting as close to calling my shot as I could.
I was going to play to win.
I walked around the room for a few minutes and compared seat numbers with people I knew. I couldn't make a match. Nobody was sitting at my table? Really?
It was then the size of the event started to become clear. Remarkably, I would end up at a starting table at which I knew a lot of the players.
2) Friend of Blogger #1
3) The Bracelet
5) Friend of Blogger #2
7) Austin April
8) Jim E.
9) Jen Newell
10) Friend of Blogger #3
It was an interesting and fun table. Change100, a laid back and sweet girl off the table, turned into a frigid, mute bitch (in the nicest possible way, of course). The Bracelet was only playing hands in even-numbered levels. B.W.O.P was celebrating any hand with a jack in it. April was looking to go get food. Jim E. was pushing the action. Jen was playing a lot of hands.
Despite all of this, I managed to finish the first three levels with 7,400. I only had one big hand (QQ) during the allotted time, and that one didn't earn me much. I stayed ahead of the game stealing and strong-arming obvious weakness. It was fairly routine, ABC poker with a little bit of bullying thrown in for good measure.
The next three levels would prove to be the point at which I stalled. I stayed alive stealing blinds and pushing people around. I picked up a few chips when I had to call Robert's short-stacked all-in. He was short enough that he had to push with just about anything. I had to call 500 to win more than 3,000. It was pretty simple, but I felt bad when I saw his KK. I felt worse when my AT connected on the flop and sent Robert out.
Still, at the end of level 6, I only had 7,625. While I'd been rather comfortable with my play in the first three levels, I couldn't help but realize that I had tucked my tail between my legs during the next three levels. In fact, when our table broke and I got moved to the first table of death (featuring Iggy, Schecky, and Miami Don), I felt like my tourney was about to end. At one point, I picked up pocket eights under the gun. These weeks later, I can't remember if I just wussed out or I actually picked up something on Don. Regardless, I folded, Don raised, and I remember feeling as though I had wussed my way into staying alive.
And so, how does this sissy-boy manage to end level 9 with 33,200 in chips? Well, he starts by sucking out on Byron. I had reached a push or fold point. I spent a few months in a cave in the Troublecat Tutelage program and put his sage advance to use. That's how I ended up with Td2d all-in against Byron's JJ. The flop was 235 with two diamonds. I knew at that point I was going to win. The turn gave me my fourth diamond...it also happened to be a jack. I dodged Byron's outs and accepted my role as Suck Out King.
It was not too long before I was moved to my fourth table of the day...and immediately to The Rooster's right. That's when things started getting very interesting. I won't go through all the hands we played and didn't play. Here's the only one that mattered at that point.
Fifteen thousand chips was not going to last forever in the ninth level. Furthermore, The Rooster had been playing lots of pots. He had been winning and losing massive amounts and had just settled back into a comfortable stack. He had also started floating the idea of a 20-player chop. So, when I picked up A5 in the small blind and it was folded to me, I put it all in. I figured he could lay down most marginal hands and I could pick up the blinds.
The timing could not have been worse. The Rooster had pocket tens and made the easy call. When the flop brough QJx, I started wondering where I'd be drinking that night. When the turn gave The Rooser his set, though, something in my head clicked. I suddenly had one more out than I had before. I heard myself muttering, "Give me a king, give me a king, give me a king..."
And there it was.
And I heard myself again, "Give me a kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnngggg!"
I really don't like myself very much and I think I've made that abundantly clear in the past. However, one thing upon which I pride myself is my table demeanor and etiquette. I am a good winner and a good loser.
So, there I sat, raking more than 30,000 in chips and wondering who the hell had just called for the suckout, hit it, and screamed like a 15-year-old kid who just got laid for the first time. I was embarassed, sat down, and collected myself. As soon as I found The Rooster at the break, I apologized. He didn't seem to have noticed and absolved me of my guilt.
A Rooster's Absolution. It could be a self-help book.
And, in a way, it was. But not in the way I thought it would be.