Poker is a game (like most others) where you can literally derive pleasure from the plight of others, specifically by taking their chips away from them. It has the capacity to bring about gleefully vicious comments even by people not involved in the current action In part that’s because any large stack that gets broken down or even a small stack that busts out tends to benefit the rest of the players by making a big stack less dangerous or simply moving people up the ladder to money.

Late last night I experienced a rather large dose of schadenfreude myself in a 6-max $2K guarantee tournament. I entered late, in Level V at 30/60 and was somewhat startlingly seated next to a player using the name of a company I’d once run. By my 19th hand that player was gone and replaced. The guy two seats behind me in action—who’d been raising everyone off  with a pot-sized bet practically—was up to 19K, and I was down to 1,000 chips, a third of my starting stack. The other four players at the table were between 1,600 and 2,000 chips.

I picked up QJ in the cutoff position as action folded around to me. There wasn’t much time left before I didn’t have any breathing space at all so I put out a 400 chip bet into a pot of only 120. The button called, as did the big stack who was in the small blind. Three players to a flop of 2JK. The big stack checked and I shoved my remaining 633 chips into the pot. Both the other players folded and I was back up to 1,913.

That seemed to be a turning point for the big stack in everyone’s mind, though. He still had nine time more chips than anyone else at the table but our inevitable demise was now evitable. Everyone played the next hand but me. The flop of 72T was checked around to the big stack on the button who remained true to form and bet 320. The UTG player went all-in for 1,520 and got called by the big stack. T8 for UTG game him top pair and 7Q gave the big stack middle pair with an over card. The T showed up on the river to make trip tens and the big stack was down for the second hand in a row.

The next hand played out in a similar fashion. Big stack made a big bet pre-flop from the cutoff. There were a couple of callers (big blind and UTG+1, on either side of me). Flop is an innocuous 84T, big blind bets 880 after a check, UTG+1 calls. On the river UTG+1 goes all-in and gets a call. It’s A[a7] (big stack) against A4 but the small stack has taken another chunk out of the monster, who’s now down to a little over 15K. Still a lot more than any of the rest of us but blood is in the water.

My turn in the big blind with T9. The big stack’s holding back a little bit this time, only betting 240 but I call him and get a beautiful straight completion on the flop KJQ. I coyly check, he bets 1,120, and I’m all-in for 1,673, which gets a call. He’s got 8Q and about a 4% chance of winning if he makes a full house or four queens but the 5 on the turn seals that off. He’s down to 13.4K.

He must have been getting frustrated because in UTG position on the next hand (blinds now at 50/100/10) he launches his whole stack on to the table for an all-in. But he gets a call from the button and when the cards flip the button’s holding AJ against the big stack’s Q6. There’s a bit of tension on the Q88 flop, but an A on the turn gives the win to the small stack. Since the button already doubled up against the big stack once, the pot’s over 6K. In four hands, the giant has been reduced from more than 18K to a bit over 10K.

Rather than reassess, he tries it again. The most recent receiver of the big stack’s largesse and I both limp into the pot. The not-so-big stack blasts everything in as the big blind. The player to my right calls by going all-in and I drop out. Big stack has A8, the caller has JK. K rolls out on the flop with a J following on the turn and the two pair take it. It leaves the “big” stack with 3,926 chips, which is exactly 230 chips more than I have.

Yet another player halves him on the next hand. Then, with everyone limping in ahead of him, he shoves yet again, though it’s with an anaemic 1,976 chips. Three of us (me and the two players on either side of me) call. I’ve got 66 but the flop is J4A. Not much for me there. The first player to act bets 1,700, more than I have left. I call all-in, hoping for a six to show. The other caller in the cutoff is all-in as well.

When the other cards flip it’s QQ for the former big stack, A8 for the new big stack, and QJ for the cutoff. The all-ins are hoping for trip completions, but 2 7 on the turn and river don’t do it and nobody has even a diamond, much less a flush draw.

So, I went out on the same round as the buy who went from 18.5K to out in seven hands, despite having 69% of the chips at the table and a 9:1 lead over an of his opponents. But I suspect I was laughing more.

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