Poker Tournament, The Follow Up

On Thursday, I posted about going to my big poker tournament. Instead of responding to the comments on that post, I wanted to write an aftermath post, which is this one.

I didn’t sleep well the night before, though I went to bed early, for me. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I wanted to do well; heck, I wanted to cash. But I had no real idea what I was in for.

I got to the casino 45 minutes early, hoping to walk around the room and get acclimated to it. No such luck; they didn’t open the door to the poker room until 15 minutes before play started. I actually felt like I had to go to the bathroom, you know, #2, and went to a place I know is kind of a secret hideout (yes, I know the casino pretty well), and I realized it was just my stomach kicking my behind literally. This was a big deal, it seems.

Play started right at 11AM, and at my table, there were only 3 of us. I asked the dealer what would happen, and he said some players are always late, and that the table would eventually fill up. I won the first three hands, mainly because the other two players didn’t want to play the first two hands, and I actually won something on the third hand. So, a nice start, but only three players. A fourth player joined the game, and in a few minutes he asked me if I was wearing my shirt inside out for good luck. I looked at myself and indeed, my shirt was on backwards; groan! I got up, went to the bathroom, and flipped it around; what a start to the day, right?

Eventually the table was full, and now it was grind time. It was ugly. I started with $15,000 in chips, got up to $15,750, and then dropped. I mean, I only had a few good hands in the first two hours, as blinds increased 3 times, and on my good hands it was as if they knew I was holding aces, which I was. I let one guy beat me out of a hand I probably had, but couldn’t take a chance at; that irritated me. I eventually got him back twice, though.

At the end of the first two hours, we got our first break. I was tired and tense. I just couldn’t relax, and I had position #1 at the table, which meant I was sitting right next to the dealer. I don’t like that position because I always feel like I’m not really playing the game with anyone else from that spot. I had just over $10,000, which meant I was still in it, but only 12 people had been busted out at that point. That was surprising to me; usually, poker education tells people to play somewhat aggressively early on to take advantage of low blinds and build up their stash. I got the feeling that most of the people in the room were just grinding it out; no breakaway stars. I called my wife, then I got something to eat. I didn’t eat much, because my stomach was yelling at me, even though I’d only had water while sitting at the table, and I’d eaten breakfast, though it was 5 hours earlier.

When we went back in after the break, I saw that the average in the room was around $16,200, so I wasn’t really all that far out of it. We all sat down and started playing again. I still couldn’t relax, and I didn’t feel like I was breathing all that well either. The room was cool enough, yet I felt it was stuffy for some reason; I think it was just anxiety. And my stack kept getting smaller and smaller, and that was without my playing all that many hands. I actually lost almost half of my chips on one hand, when I decided not to challenge this guy for the rest of my chips, even though I had a pair of aces, but the other card in my hand wasn’t all that good. That might have been the worst play of the day for me, but so be it. I made it to the second break, barely hanging on, and knowing that the blinds were going to really start escalating after the break.

When we came back in, that’s when I learned that because we only ended up with 175 people, they were cutting the prizes off at 20th place. I knew there was almost no way I was going to get there without taking some risks, but I didn’t have the money to take any risks. That is, until I got into this hand with the same guy who dealt me my early beat. I went all in with a pair of 5’s, he called with ace-king, and I won, which doubled my money and gave me new life. He lost the very next hand with another ace-king and was gone, just like that. That meant two people from my table had gone before me; two others would end up going before me also. Finally, nearly six hours of play in, just before another break, I was going to be gone in two hands, rather have it taken out of my control, so I went all in with ten-jack of clubs, against a queen-seven caller. The flop gave me a pair of jacks; the turn gave him his queen, and the river gave him another queen, and I was done.

I ended up finishing in 109th place, and it was around 6PM. The way it was going, the people who were left were going to be playing until 2AM, then leaving and coming back early Friday morning. As I thought about that I realized that my busting out when I did probably did me a favor.

I say that because, overall, I didn’t enjoy myself. I was tense throughout, and not breathing well. I was able to be cool when I was in a hand, but when I wasn’t, I felt like I was grasping at better air. I was staying hydrated, but I hadn’t remembered to take all of my medication before I left, though I did take my shot. I was also really tired, even though I mainly drank water and only a couple of diet sodas. Driving home, I was depressed, tense, and exhausted; I never saw any of those feelings coming on from a tournament where someone else’s money got me in.

What did I do? I put on Donna Summer music, a couple of songs I think are great driving songs, and played them over and over; that did the trick eventually. “Walk Away” then “Dim All The Lights”; you know how some songs just seem to fit the road well? Man, did I need that!

So, were there some lessons learned? Well, maybe. First, I really do hate sitting next to the dealer; nothing I could do about that. Second, sometimes it’s hard to relax in unfamiliar territory; at least I got a newsletter out of it. Third, once I was tight, I forgot some of the rules of the game I know, while remembering others; that didn’t bode well for me long term. One has to remember them all if one is going to play with the big boys.

On the other hand, I learned that I could hang with the big boys. Two players who actually made the trek to Las Vegas to take their shot at the World Series of Poker, and paid the $750 entry fee into this tournament, busted out before I did. Both of them probably had way more fun than I did, because they remembered one of the things I forgot; you never think of chips as money, just as an ends to the means. The money was already paid; ugh!

Anyway, that’s my tale. I did the best I could, and I guess that’s something to be proud of. I just feel I could have done better, but I also don’t think I could have handled another 8 hours of that kind of pressure. One of my Twitter poker friends said I’d do better next time; not if I have to pay for it! lol

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