(Distributed Jan. 23, 2007)
“THAT’S POKER” — THE PHRASE YOU LIKE TO HEAR BUT NOT SAY
In a poker tournament you can play your heart out, make no major mistakes, have a dominating hand in a key situation — and still get knocked out short of the money. When that happens, many players stand up, shrug, and say those famous last words: “That’s poker.”
I said those two parting words after getting deep in a $200 buy-in no-limit hold’em event this month at the World Poker Open near Tunica, Miss. It was a “second-chance” tournament that attracted 329 players and paid a healthy $20,423 for first place.
With 60 players remaining and the final 27 making the money, my chip stack was $5,500, exactly half of the $11,000 average stack. I was looking for a big hand that would put me in a position to make the final table, where anything can happen.
Several solid players were at my table, and I decided not to tangle with them yet unless I held a monster hand. But there also were a couple of loose, aggressive players with tall stacks. My plan was to catch one of those guys overplaying their cards and take down a big pot.
That magic hand came halfway through Level 8, playing $300-$600 blinds with a $75 ante. I was in the big blind, so I had $675 in the pot before the cards were dealt. Although playing from the big blind usually is a disadvantage, one benefit is that you get to act last on the pre-flop betting round. You know everyone’s action before deciding what to do.
I like to wait until it’s my turn to act before looking at my two hole cards, so I was gently sliding them back and forth on the felt as the betting round began.
Boom! Right out of the chute, the under-the-gun player on my left raised to $1,800. At three times the big blind, the raise was a standard size. Coming from the first player to act, such a raise usually means a big pocket pair, although some players also will raise from early position with A-K, A-Q or a medium pair.
This particular opponent hadn’t been too aggressive previously, so I gave him credit for a decent hand and watched to see what the rest of the table would do. Somewhat surprisingly, two players in middle position called the raise, probably with drawing hands such as suited connectors. This was shaping up to be a big pot.
Then, from out of the blue, the young guy in the cutoff position — one before the button — re-raised to $6,500! He was one of the wild-card players at the table with a tall stack. I immediately sensed he was making a power play at the pot with a good, but not awesome, hand.
The button and small blind players folded, so now it was time to look at my cards. Yikes! I had the two black kings! I knew if the young player had anything other than pocket aces and no one else called his raise, I’d be a substantial favorite (by more than 70 percent) to win the hand.
I quickly put my remaining $4,825 chips into the pot. The under-the-gun player had just enough chips to call the full raise and go all-in, creating a side pot of about $3,000. The other two players in middle position folded, so just three of us remained.
Although I couldn’t win the side pot, that was OK. I had my eyes on the main pot of about $20,000, which would be enough to make a serious run at the final table if I won the hand.
It was time to expose our cards. The player on my left turned up 7-7 and the young re-raiser somewhat sheepishly revealed A-Q. When he saw my K-K, he said, “Oh well, I was just making a move at the pot.” He knew his hand was in trouble.
At that point, my hand was a 56 percent favorite to win, the A-Q had a 24 percent chance and the 7-7 rated at 20 percent. I felt good, especially since pocket kings had held up all five times previously at that table during the tournament.
Ugh! The flop came 5-6-A, defying the odds and breaking the pocket-kings victory streak. A deuce and an eight on the turn and river sent all of the chips over to the young player, who eventually finished in the top 10.
While there were lots of colorful words I wanted to say as I eased out of my chair, totally disappointed, I could only muster a rather weak: “That’s poker.”
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
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