(Distributed April 17, 2007)
ARMY BASE HOLD’EM TOURNAMENT GETS A BIG SALUTE
Can a poker tournament be fun for players even when there’s no cash to be won? The answer, I learned Saturday, is a resounding “YES!”
A field of 101 players gathered at the Rock Island Arsenal, a U.S. Army installation on a Mississippi River island in the Quad-Cities Area of Illinois and Iowa, to compete in one of 50 qualifying events worldwide. The eventual goal is to crown the first-ever Ultimate Army Texas Hold’em Champion.
Although I’ve played in many tournaments, this time I was invited to be the tournament director. I knew three things up front: The military operates on rules, many first-time tournament players would come, and we would be using volunteer dealers. The potential for chaos was Level Orange or higher.
The night before, longtime friend Peggy Van Zandt and I held a training session for the dealers. Everything went well, but learning how to deal tournament poker can’t be mastered in two hours. There was plenty of nervousness heading into Saturday, but the dealers came through in grand style during the event.
My instructions to the field before play began were textbook items:
(SET ITAL) * Act in turn. (END ITAL) Pay attention to what’s happening during a hand and be ready to act when it’s your turn. Never act out of sequence.
(SET ITAL) * Don’t splash the pot. (END ITAL) Always place your bets in front of you. Never toss chips directly into the pot.
(SET ITAL) * Protect your hand. (END ITAL) Peek at your hole cards carefully so that no one else can see them. Put a chip or some other small object atop your cards to prevent the dealer from accidentally dragging them into the discard pile.
(SET ITAL) * Announce raises. (END ITAL) If you intend to raise, say “raise” before moving any chips forward. If, for example, you toss a single $500 chip into the pot intending to raise the bet from $100 to $500, but don’t say “raise” before releasing the chip, it is considered just a call and no raise is allowed.
(SET ITAL) * One player per hand. (END ITAL) You cannot give advice to, nor solicit advice from, anyone else on how to play a hand. When heads-up, however, talking to your lone opponent to glean information is part of the game. You can lie about your hand, but it is improper to tell the truth about what cards you hold.
All of those rules were broken a few times Saturday, but the low number of violations was remarkable considering that many players were competing in their first real tournament. The players mainly just wanted to have fun and play poker.
And what a batch of gamblers they turned out to be! Despite a slow blind structure, we lost 20 percent of the field before lunch. Fast bust-outs continued into the afternoon. We were down to the final five by dinner, and they wanted to keep playing! Onlookers grabbed a quick plate and came back to watch the conclusion.
At the end, a heads-up battle between Michael Robinson, 46, of Davenport, and Randl Besse, 24, of Bettendorf, lasted just four hands before Robinson prevailed. He collected a tall trophy and a gift certificate for his efforts. All eight final-table finishers received engraved trophies and prizes ranging from commemorative poker chip sets to hand-held hold’em games.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to play,” Robinson said after his victory. His mother and brother, who are civilian employees at the base, talked him into it. “I was short-stacked three hours into the tournament, but my strategy was to survive and I caught good cards at the right time,” said the creative services director for KWQC-TV6 in Davenport.
In about two months, he’ll compete against 49 other qualifying-event winners from around the world in an online tournament to determine the Army’s champion.
Event coordinator Jeff McMahon and his staff at the Arsenal Club did an awesome set-up and decorating job for the tournament, conducted through the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation Command. “We’re thrilled at how everything turned out. I never heard a single serious complaint the whole day,” McMahon said.
Now those are words every tournament director loves to hear, especially a novice!
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com 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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