Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Poker Diaries: A Chip, A Chair, A Cliche

We've All Been Here
Last night at the home game, we're playing a mixed game. No limit hold'em, then no limit Omaha high only. The latter is kind of fascinating, since Omaha is so often a hi-lo and pot limit game, but since tournaments are inherent limit games, it actually works out well. In my opinion, at least.

I got up a bit early, but succumbed to the temptation to go for a triple up on a draw in the last hand before rebuys ended. A reasonable gamble, but it still made the event twice as expensive, and put me at a relatively short stack. Through all of this, I was pretty card dead and not catching much, but able to use position and a bluff or two to stay near the starting stack, and survive to the final table. But with some poor luck and tentative play, that survival wasn't pretty. I probably had the second or third shortest stack, and less than what you start with on a table of survivors who had also fed off five rebuys.

And well, that's when things got new.

As I continued to bleed out chips, a stack of just under my size went all-in on my big blind in Omaha. I had a pair and a suited ace, and when two others called, the decision more or less made itself; the chance to quad up and get deep was too much to pass up, even though I doubted I was ahead pre-flop. I wound up catching two pair, which was good enough for the side pot... but not the main, which went to the slightly shorter stack. So with the blinds at $1,500 and  $3,000, my stack was... $1,500. Woo.

Now, we've all heard about Chip And A Chair, the idea that any player in a tournament isn't really out of it, since all you need is a quick run to get back to parity... but the thing about that level of chips is that, well, you are usually mentally ready to check out at that point. Either you've been disciplined and card-dead and beaten down by life, or you've gotten caught in the cookie jar or outdrawn; the last little bit is more coup de grace than brutality. It's hard to look at the game at that point with anything approaching humor. But none of that described my situation. Hell, I was joking about 3-way eliminations on the hand I folded, so that I could suck out into the first money payout. I had been relatively disciplined, played reasonably well, and just was bunching all of my bad draws and flops early. So the Poker Gods changed things up, and just in time.

K-7 suited right away; well, sure, ship. I catch a king, everyone else misses, and we're up to 2 big blinds. A pair of queens; well, sure, ship. One caller and everyone else, even the blinds, stay out. The caller flips over 5-9 suited, because he's kind of like that, and was expecting three other caller behind him. He catches one nine but nothing else, and we're back to near the starting stack. A pair of 7s get called by 3s, and wow, poker is fun again. The run falters and I lose a hand, but I'm still at $20K in the big blind with 2-5 off suit, and no one raises... so I'm looking at bottom two pair after a 2-spade flop. The small shoves for less, I call, and so do two others. No one has trips, the straight and flushes stay unmade, and in 10 magical minutes, I go from DOA to borderline chip leader. Chip and a chair, folks, chip and a chair.

From there, the game goes more traditionally. I play well in the small table, catch a little more, and hit the fantastic moment of taking down a big pot by betting first with a marginal hand, then watching the opponent fold the identical hand. At heads up, it's me against the other deep odds survivor, and after five minutes of fighting, I misread an out of position shove as a bluff and shove first with overs and a nut flush draw. Top pair calls and is ahead, turn and river misses, and that's that -- but a tidy little payday even after the rebuy, and better yet, something new to file in my brain for the next time I'm holding a super light stack. Chip and a chair, chip and a chair...

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