I had a fantastic, though expensive, time tonight. A friend, Turner, invited me to his friend's poker night. It's a very well run event. There were 15 people there. $60 bought $5000 in chips to play with and food ($10 for every $1000 in chips, plus a $10 contribution towards sandwiches, wings, nuts, and drinks). Numbers were drawn from a hat to determine seating at the two game tables. Blinds increased every 30 minutes. At 8:30 p.m., players could use a "buy back in" card to buy an additional $2000 in chips for $20. All very efficient, well run, and fun.
I played well. Extremely well. Probably the best poker I've played. I built my stack up a couple of different time to the chip lead and used my chip power to bully the smaller stacks. I folded some hands I might have played in the past, playing nice and tight, but occasionally bluffed to mix things up. (I was able to bluff successfully because I was building a reputation for only playing when I have hands.) Twice I went "all in" and sucked out an ace on the river to win. The first time, I went "all in" with an ace-ten in the hole after I flopped another ace and ten. I got called. My opponent had a flush. The ace on the river gave me a full house and the win. The second time I went "all in" I had pocket aces and pushed all my chips in after a re-raise pre-flop. Two players called me, figuring I was just going "all in" because I was short-stacked. One of the players flopped a queen to pair up with the queen in his hand, but the ace on the river ended the threat, allowing me to triple-up.
But, oh! How quickly the mighty fall! I thought I was assured a spot at the final table. I had a huge chip lead and just bought an additional $2000 in chips so that I wouldn't dilute my chip advantage over my opponents. When I got a straight on the turn, I bet an additional $3000 to scare the flush draw out of the hand. No go. He decided he was pot-committed and stayed in, getting a heart on the river to give him the flush. The very next hand I was dealt an ace-king in the hole. I was the big blind (blinds were $400 and $800 at that point) and already in for a good amount. I was thinking to myself, "What would Phil Gordon do?" The answer was clear: in this situation, the correct move is to bet three times the big blind. Everyone called the blinds, limping into the hand and indicating weakness, so I pounced. "I raise twenty-four hundred," I said as I plunked a stack of chips on the velvet in front of me. It had the desired effect as everyone folded...all but one. The guy to my right hesitated. I should have been able to steal the blinds with that bet, but finally he decided that, since he was short-stacked, he would go "all in" and take his chances on this one hand. He had a pair of sixes. A pair of sixes. He had no business calling the big blind with a pair of sixes! That's just bad poker! I had no choice: I was pot committed, so really, another $1500 to call was nothing. But the ace or king I needed never came up, so his pair of sixes took me down. The very next hand I was dealt pocket twos. It's a bad hand, but now I was short-stacked, and I was already in the hand $400 as the small blind. The blinds would be increasing to $500 and $1000 very soon, so I wouldn't last long. In this siatuation, the right move is to pick a hand and go with it. So I played it correctly; I called the $400 to match the big blind and then moved "all in" with my remaining $1070. One by one the others folded...except, again, the guy to my right. He took forever to decide, but finally called. He turned over an ace and a jack. The odds were in his favor. Until the dealer showed the flop, that is. The very first card he turned over was a two, giving me a set of twos and an almost insurmountable lead. My opponent was resigned to defeat at this point as I let out a relieved whoop, having pulled out another win. The turn and the river came out quickly. My opponent walked away in frustration and I started to gather the chips when someone asked, "Hey, isn't that a straight?" I couldn't believe my eyes. Sure enough, the four on the river had given my opponent an A-2-3-4-5-6 straight, which topped my three twos. In a mere three hands, all correctly played, I went from chip leader to out of the game!
The odds of my winning it all were slim. I just wanted to play good poker and make the final table. I figured that if I made the final table my odds of finishing in the top 3 and coming away with something were good. I played great poker and was the last player eliminated before the final table. I'm disappointed, especially since my last two losses were on what my opponent acknowledged were bullshit calls. Hey, that's the nature of the game! You win some and you lose some; but if you play correctly, bet intelligently and study your opponents and make the correct calls, raises, and lay-downs, you'll come ahead more often than not. Most importantly, I had a great time. There's a great rush of adrenaline knowing that you have about $3000-$4000 committed and "all-in," a do-or-die situation, with a pot worth $12,000-$15,000 -- okay, so it's not really that much, since I only invested $80, not $7000, but $80 and the adrenaline rush are still very real!
I'm looking forward to next month's game. I figure $80 once a month is not too much to ask for a potential return of $1100 or more. It's as much as I might spend on a couple of dates, for which the potential return is usually nil. <grin> And, I really cannot overstate how much fun this was!