The Big Play

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee (10,000 chips)

Time was running out. If there was any chance of getting to EPT Prague for my 50th birthday, last weekend was pretty much make-or-break time. The second starting day kicks off at noon on December 6 (St. Nicholas’s Day); I’d have to catch a flight on the 4th to get there in time, which meant having the money and arrangements made the week after Thanksgiving at the latest. To do that, I needed to to get to an event (or series) with a potential prize large enough to cover the €5,300 ($7,125) entry fee and expenses for a nice little Yuletide vacation for Ms. Poker Mutant and myself (which only got higher as the date got closer). Not that I hadn’t been trying before.

I suppose I should have kept notes on what turned out to be the biggest win of my poker career so far, but I’m back in the mode of not being obsessive about it (plus my iPhone was low on charge). And after the whirl of the past couple of days, I’m not sure how much or how accurate my recollections of the event are.

I started off the night at red table 2 in seat 7; we were ten-handed, as usual in Encore’s $10K games (the same table was used for the final). My stack made its usual ups and downs, the first thing I can remember of any significance was when I’d managed to chip up to about 35,000 and a player in seat 1 pushed all-in from BB for the third or fourth time after raises in front of her. I stood to lose about a quarter of my stack calling her with kh6h and she flipped over 9x9x, but got knocked out.

The older guy to my immediate left reacted with indignity with the usual cant about how it was a stupid call. I didn’t point him to my calculator. In a nine-handed game, a pair of nines is the best hand 17% of the time. K6s is good 13%. My “relative par” rating—comparing each hand’s win/tie percentage to that of a pair of aces—for K6s is 19.19%; it’s 26.87% for nines (for nine-handed play).

Before I knew that the player I’d knocked out was related to my neighbor, I tried to explain why I’d called: that she’d made the same move several times from the blinds, that I had her stack covered substantially, etc. but he actually flipped his hand at me and said something like “Stop talking. Phffft, phfft, phfft.” I had a hard time suppressing outright laughter at the performance.

My own feeling is that I had at least a 33% chance of taking out a player without losing more than a quarter of my stack. Not good odds in a cash game, but tournaments aren’t cash games. I think people forget that sometimes. Every player knocked out gets you closer to the money in a tournament. UPDATE: Essentially, this is the same situation described in this Card Player hand matchup between Pius Heinz and Phil Collins at the WSOP Main Event final table earlier this month, right down to the pocket nines, with the difference being that the player with the draw—Collins—was the one at risk. Maybe Mr. PhfftPhfft would like to take his point up with Collins.

I don’t remember exactly where the tipping point in the game came. Unlike some other games, I never seemed to be significantly stacked higher than anyone else; but somehow as the night progressed people kept leaving and we eventually ended up at the final table with more or less even distribution of chips. Play was exceedingly friendly, although one of the players to my right said almost nothing throughout the night.

Then, once we got to the final table, something kicked in. I think I play my best short-handed (naturally it helps if I’ve started to pick up chips). Action got down to me and the quiet guy, with us trading blinds back and forth without flops for quite a while until he was all-in with two high over cards (kxqx if I remember correctly) against my 2x2x. A pair of sixes hit the board but I wasn’t counterfeited and there was no chop.

I thought there might be trouble when quiet guy dropped a $20 on the table and asked where he got paid. He took the payout and headed for the door, leaving the volunteer dealers grumbling. I spread the love, gave something to the security guard for walking me to my car, and headed home to figure out how to try to capitalize on the win.

And the one time I forget to take a picture of the tournament screen…here’s one from earlier in the night that Encore posted on their Facebook page.

Eight-and-a-half hours. +568% ROI (including entry, door, add-on, tips). 1st of 75 players.

4 thoughts on “The Big Play

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