Thursday, 14 January 2010

One for the Poker Players

Here's a short story I published on PokerSoc forums last April, but may as well post it here for posterity.

Through the window you can see the faint glimmer of moonlight, but as you desperately reach out to grasp it in your palms, you find you can not reach it, and your fingers tremble eeriely as the shadows encase them once more. Like an autumn leave, your hand withers down to the ground. for this is your autumn. This is the winter of your life. But, wait, what's this?
A sudden surge of ambition and excitement emerges from the pitiful, stale atmosphere of your room as you remember that the tournament you qualified for is starting in fifteen minutes. Like a volcano reawakened, your parts slowly begin to shift and before you know it you are up. Laden in dust, perhaps, dizzy, no doubt, but you are up! As if born again you run downstairs to the nearest bowl of cocopops and eat, eat, eat, feeling something of the excitement of a new day ahead. It is dark outside, for the sun has already fallen upon this day, but for you, the day has only just begun. There you see it, before your very eyes. $750,000 Guaranteed. Tonight, you play with the pros. Tonight, you are the pro. Your housemates are fast asleep, dreaming about whatever it is they dream about. The truth is, this, what you are doing, is the stuff of dreams. It’s not often you get to gamble $216. No longer are you going to be reduced to penny-stakes, no longer will you have to break even at sit and goes. This is your glory, this is your moment, this is your chance.
First hand dealt, Jack Jack, both black, under the gun. A tricky hand, but you can afford to splash around a bit with one-fifty big blinds. You raise… not too big, not too small... 70 total. Hi-jack, Cut-off and Button all call. The blinds fold.
Pot: 310
Flop: J ♦ 2 ♥ 7 ♠
Great! First to act, you check with the intention of check raising. “Poker is easy!” you laugh to yourself, but to your horror no one bets out.
Pot: 310
Turn: Q ♥
"200", you announce, though no one can hear you. Hi-jack and Cut-off instafold, Button thinks for a while, then calls.
Pot: 710
River: T ♦

"My set is good." you tell yourself, no one can have this beat. I’d better value bet and hope he had hit the queen, then I will get paid off. So you bet, 370. A tricky bet. Could be a value bet, could be a bluff. You know, of course, that you're sittin' here with a set, but he doesn't.
To your great surprise, button raises to 1100. Shocked, but in no mood to hesitate, you insta-call.
He turns over: A ♥K ♥
He had the flush draw on the turn and rivered the nut straight. He drags in the pot leaving you the table shortstack, at half your starting stack.

You slam your fist against the table, but avoid slamming it a second time, fearing that you might awaken your housemates. Suddenly you feel very envious of them, "smug bitches, sleepin'. I'm a true grinder not like those dicks."
It being just after two am in the morning, you realise there is nobody to listen to your complaints. Pacing up and down the room for the next ten minutes, thinking through that hand again and again, you console yourself, occasionally returning to the computer to fold a marginal hand. Having vented out a little, you now feel calm, proud and good, promising to "pro it" from now on.
For the next few hours you grind, grind, grind... playing the perfect tight-aggressive tournament poker strategy you normally play. It works at the $5 MTTs you normally play in; surely it will work in this big one too?

You are vindicated. It is now 7:23am in the morning, and the sky is turning lighter. You feel faint, exhausted and guilty, glumly wondering why you ever tried to qualify for this tournament in the first place. The blinds are now 200-800-1600 and you're sitting on 14,000... not in desperate shape, but you realise you won't be able to fold to the money. It's 360 paid, and your current position is 378th out of 411 remaining.
It is folded round to you on the button, you have King Ten offsuit. You snap up some 'M' calculations in your brain. "My M is 3.5. My M is 3.5." You keep repeating this in your brain until it has lost all meaning. "But I have a bad feeling about this hand!"

You eventually shove, only for the small blind to snap call and roll over KQ suited.
You're done for.
"For fuck's sake.. he shouldn't have made that call" you say, standing up from your computer, just waiting for your elimination; permission for you to collapse back into the miserable heap of clothes on the floor from where you awoke five and a half hours earlier.
Flop comes three irrelevant low cards, turn is an ace. River is A TEN! WOWOOWWW! OMG I'M SO PRO WOW!!!
And so from one moment to another, on a 27% shot, your life suddenly becomes worth living again. Your stack, now comfortably nesting over 30K, is no longer a dwindling barricade, but, as the Full Tilt advertisment boasts, a fortress, to bully the weak and shame the greedy. You feel so 'cool' that you almost sense as through you were the living personification of that advert. "I'm basically the next Chris Ferguson" you say to yourself, out loud.
Time passes, you finally reach the bubble. Like some famous landmark on the horizon you have lead your army of chips towards, the cash is in sight. The only thing that stands between you and the money is 360 other players. Not even 360 players in fact, just ONE. ONE person is going to go home with nothing. It won't be you, it can't be you! It's your destiny to make it deep in this tournament.
You already 'felt' as though something big were to happen, and sure enough, with the shortstack pot commited on the big blind, you look down at Ace-King in clubs, (A ♣K ♣) your third favourite suit. You minraise, just enough to put the shortstack all in. Hoping to adminster a knockout, the bigstack smallblind calls. Sure enough, the shortstack bigblind puts the rest of his chips in. Already the word "FREEEROLLLLL!" is swimming in your mind.
Flop: A ♠ K ♦ 3 ♣
Wait, what's this... top two? Surely this is the NUTS! The smallblind insta shoves all in, but you aren't worried - you figure you've probably got him dominated; there's no way he has AA KK or 33 here. Plus you have a backdoor flush draw.
You call.
Sure enough he rolls over 7 ♥7 ♣. He was bluffing with two sevens in the hole. You laugh to yourself, anticipating the victory. The bloated pot, now just under 100k, will soon be yours. You pat yourself on the back. For a moment you forget how miserable your year has been. All the alienation, all the mediocrity, all the boredom... it has all been for this moment, the moment that shall define your life! The moment you make poker history!
The big blind shows 8 ♦ 5 ♦. Well, he's drawing pretty thin.

The turn brings a 4 ♦
The big blind now has a flush draw. Not that it makes much difference; if he hits you still win a massive side pot.
You realise another seven would give the small blind a set and send you packing. Sure, you would make the money, but it would be annoying to lose your tournament life in such a way, so early into the money levels. Afterall, you didn't have eyes for the $376 minumum payout... you want the six-figure top pirze!
The river is 7 ♦
The big blind wins the main pot with a flush, king high.
The small blind wins the side pot with three of a kind, sevens.
You are eliminated in 361st place.

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