I have spent most of the last week at the World Series Of Poker Circuit Event at Harrah's St. Louis, playing in both tournaments and cash games. It's a well-run event in its first year here, and it's good to see so many new faces from out of town taking on our crew of good hometown players, many of whom have dominated the events thus far.
I'm proud to say I made the final table of Saturday's $560 buy-in tournament in a field of 288 entrants. The 10 of us who made it were a mixture of ages from early 20s to early 70s. I had started Day 2 as the chip leader with 22 players remaining, but was now second to a young gun who had three times as many as I did. I hadn't played with him at all, but immediately guessed that he was going to be hyper-aggressive, using his big stack to push the table around.
I was right, but he was reckless, too. When a player with a medium stack came over the top of an early position raiser and moved all-in, the young gun called, forcing the original raiser to fold. The re-raiser showed two kings. The hotshot showed king-seven offsuit. I silently thanked Tom Dwan, the very talented young player whose reputation for aggression with any two cards has turned him into a role model for a generation of kids who don't understand the strategy behind his game -- they think all you have to do is make a big bet with any hand and you'll keep getting lucky.
Needless to say, the young gun lost that hand. Over the next hour, his remaining chips were disbursed to the rest of us as his aggressive style got him in trouble again and again until he was eliminated in 7th place.
We were down to five players with blinds at 8,000/16,000 with a 3,000 ante when this hand came up with me in the big blind.
It was folded around to the small blind, a good young player named Jesse who had a few more chips than I did. He looked at his cards, glanced to his right to make sure the button had folded, then checked his cards again, and bet 50,000. I'd been watching all of my opponents for hours, and I'd never seen him do this. It seemed like he was raising with a weak hand to just try to take it away from me, so I thought I could re-steal. Unfortunately, I looked down at the queen of clubs and eight of spades, so instead of making a move right now, I figured I'd just call and see what developed.
The flop came 10-5-3 and Jesse checked immediately. My read said he wasn't setting a trap and hoping I'd bet so he could check-raise me. It looked more like he was thinking, "I didn't like the fact that you called pre-flop and I'm scared that you might have some kind of hand behind me." So now I think that if that's the case, I can check here, let him try to bluff at the turn, and then I'll take it away from him. So I tapped the table. The turn was a 9 and he again quick-checked. Now I was 100% sure he had nothing and was done with this hand, so I bet 75,000 into the 139,000 pot and he immediately folded.
I didn't get involved in another pot for a few more hands, and when I did, it was also against Jesse. This time, the blinds were up to 10,000/20,000, so when it was folded around to him on the button, he raised to 60,000. He didn't look weak like last time, but when I looked down at a pair of tens, I shoved my entire stack of 250,000 into the pot. Unfortunately, he insta-called and turned over a pair of aces. I didn't catch a ten on the board and was eliminated in 5th place.
After I collected my prize of about $8,000, an acquaintance in the crowd came over and asked me why I moved all-in at that point. I pointed out that Jesse's range of hands on the button with only five players was fairly wide, and I was only afraid of the four over-pairs. Besides, when the flop came 8-high, the money was going in the middle anyway, so the only way I could avoid losing all my chips would have been to fold before the flop, which I'm certainly never doing with a pair of tens. The guy said, "Well, I would have just called before the flop and then folded when he bet the flop." I replied, "Then you should never play poker again."
Not only was this guy dead wrong about strategy, but he also picked the absolute wrong time to criticize my play -- just after I'd been eliminated from a tournament that I'd been playing for 20 hours over two days. But some poker players are like that. Instead of sympathizing, they want to show off their expertise or, worse, tell you their bad beat story.
I had that happen to me the previous day. I was the chip leader and got it all in pre-flop with aces against a guy with kings. The third player in the hand had folded ace-king, so my opponent had exactly one card left in the deck that he could hit to beat me. Because it was the last hand before a break, there was a large crowd gathered around and they let out a large "whoa!" when the last king came out on the turn to beat me. I was left with only 4,000 chips (half of the stack we had begun the entire tournament with) as I got up from my seat to walk off the defeat.
Bad beat stories are a dime a dozen in the poker world, and they all end pretty much the same way. I'm not telling you mine to gain your sympathy or because I think you care, but because of what happened afterwards.
As I walked through the surrounding players, a couple of them commented on what a bad beat it was, how they were sorry I'd lost, etc. Then a guy I'd never seen before came up and said, "Wow, that sucked, but you should have seen what happened to me yesterday." He then proceeded to tell me his bad beat story.
I stared at him without really paying attention to what he was telling me because I didn't care. Here I had just suffered a setback that nearly cost me all of my chips, and thus my tournament life, yet this guy thought this would be an appropriate occasion to regale me with the details of a hand he'd lost? That's not just bad timing, it's downright rude.
When he finished, I walked away, went to the bathroom, and walked some more to clear my head. I finally returned to the table about ten minutes into the next level. Lou, the player on my left, leaned over and said, "I hope you can make a comeback." I replied, "Lou, I'm going to win this tournament."
He smiled. I got back into the zone, and played well enough to outlast 283 other players. I didn't win it, but I was proud of the accomplishment, my deepest run in a circuit event so far (after a 15th-place finish in Biloxi and 14th in Tunica, both in January).
I'll give it another shot this Friday as the WSOPC continues. If you're in it, I look forward to playing with you.
But no, I don't want to hear your bad beat story.