Poker tournaments can be as exciting as the scariest roller-coaster ride or, when you find yourself card dead and at a table full of marble-mouthed players wearing sunglasses and ball caps, all doing little nifty tricks with their chips to stave off nervousness or ennui, they can be absolutely deadly and frustrating. Believe me, unless you get lucky, and everyone agrees you have to get lucky, it’s no way to make a living.
Nevertheless I’ve entered the arena, playing in several satellites and so forth in an effort to secure a seat in bigger tournaments, and I’m here to report I’ve had mixed results. My naturally nervous and jittery constitution, compounded by a diagnosed and untreatable neurological disorder I prefer not to discuss, handicap my best efforts in longer tournaments. While in a cash game you can get up and take a break at your whim, in a tournament you can’t afford to sacrifice or squander any hands. You might get dealt pocket aces only once the entire tournament and if you aren’t at your seat when they come to whom will you lodge your complaint? The poker gods never respond to complaints, or didn’t you know that? And if they do, we do not comprehend their answers. They are mysterious.
So in this one tournament Lady Luck sat on my lap for a change and I won several races. My stack grew and grew and then I found myself bullying the table at will, stealing blinds, stealing raises, raising with junk, semi-bluffing with runner runner type hands. My stack just kept growing. At one point I was the chip leader by a 2-1 margin. My nervousness, needless to say, abated and I played with a fluid rhythm, raking and pecking away at my opponents like a giant bird of prey, snatching away their chips piecemeal, for no one had the cojones to take a stand.
And as we reached a bubble situation, the chips just kept flying my way. I kept my foot on the gas pedal and cruised to the final table with a massive chip lead. The winner of this satellite was assured a place in a top-notch tournament with generous cash prizes, and the runner-up would get to try another satellite. I’d already busted out in about five of these satellites but I felt confident that I would win this one. How could I lose? At my table sat a bunch of dunderheads, a bunch of people that if you looked up the word “dunderhead” would have a drawing of them at that poker table, all wearing their damn sunglasses and ball caps and stooped over the felt like they were watching a flea circus.
So I had the massive chip stack and I believed that I had to be as aggressive as possible and overwhelm the others, I mean just take a knight’s shiny morning star to them and keep whacking until they were pemmican. Well, I guess I got careless. I guess, I thought it was my night, my satellite to win and a brighter future on the horizon. But when pocket aces hit me under the gun and I made the mistake of limping in and seven people called with no raises, I knew I was in trouble. I hit trips but someone hit a shitty little straight and took exactly one third of my stack. I mean, boom, a third. Of course, now my nervousness started acting up and that neurological disorder I alluded to earlier, so I lost my bravado. A few hands later pocket kings arrived but I had such a bad feeling I almost folded them. Instead I called a giant raise, hit another king on the turn, only to see my second consecutive set get destroyed by a dirty river card which gave my opponent a flush. Another half of my chips were gone.
And you know, it’s like the Titanic running into that iceberg. The whole thing cracks in half and goes down in a horrifying whirlpool, and that was me, swirling round and round like a stronz in a toilet bowl, with no one and nothing able to rescue me. The rest of the chips evaporated and I finished in exactly ninth place. I went home and scolded my dog for peeing on my bed again.
Emile Frendo of the Honeymoon City is a semi-professional poker player and winner of the 2006 Pirate Poker Open Championship.