Monday, December 13, 2010

Stopped Short of the Goal Line

Hi, loser!Was kind of a comical afternoon, really. My Carolina Panthers were getting thrashed once more. Fumbling on the first play. Falling down 14-0 within first five minutes. Ending the first quarter with fewer total yards than the Falcons had points. On their way to making it 1-12 on the season, the NFL’s worst.

How they even won one game this year is baffling, to be honest.

Bored, I idly registered for a $1 “Twitter” no-limit hold’em tourney on PokerStars. As did 1,220 others. A couple of hours later we were in the “money” (as it were). And a couple of hours after that I was one of 19 players still with chips. I joked on Twitter that first prize -- a little over $200 -- was “afternoon-changing” money.

Of course, by that point -- sitting with about twice the average stack and feeling fairly confident about my abilities relative to those of my opponents -- I had started to believe I had a genuine chance at claiming that modest little score.

The tourney had gotten stuck on 19 left for some time. The blinds were 2,000/4,000, which meant the average stack was around 15 big blinds or so, if I remember correctly. Everyone’s stacks had been fluctuating, with the shorties having survived a number of all-in shoves. I think I was as high as third place at one point.

Then came more comedy.

At our six-handed table, I raised with pocket jacks and it folded to the big blind who reshoved his stack of 30,000 or so. I called, he showed K-K, and I lost about a quarter of my stack, slipping to about 90K.

Two orbits later another short stack open-raised his stack of 30,000 and I took up the challenge with pocket eights. He turned over As5c, and when the flop came QsTc8d things were looking fairly grim for my opponent. But a king on the turn and a jack on the river gave him the runner-runner straight, and he and I were both sitting on stacks of about 60K.

I fought back, though, and in fact managed to build back up over 130K, mostly without having to show hands, although there was one showdown in there when after flopping an ace my A-Q proved best.

Then came another preflop all-in battle, with the same player who’d previously hit that Broadway straight, as it happened. He’d shoved about 60K (15 big blinds) with A-K, and I’d called with pocket tens. Board JsQh6c7s... Ts. Another Broadway straight, again on the river, and we’d swapped stacks, with him now enjoying having about 120K, while I had slipped to 60K.

By now the table was having some fun in the chatbox marveling at my repeated misfortunes. I didn’t mind, and was giving my nemesis some good-natured grief over it all. Even though I’d become short-stacked, I still had chips and felt reasonably fine about my chances, especially when I picked up AsQs on the very next hand.

My chips went in the middle, and my nemesis -- the same fellow -- called me with KhJs. The community cards brought two jacks, and that was that. Out in 19th, with not even five bucks as a parting prize.

I hardly ever play tourneys. I usually enjoy ’em, and probably overall do okay -- maybe better than okay -- when I do. There are a couple of reasons why I often don’t find myself choosing tourneys when I sit down to play, though.

One is the time commitment. I much prefer hopping in and out of cash games for short sessions than being stuck for hours in a tourney.

Secondly, tourney regulars have to be especially well-suited to handling a lot of losing. After all, even the best players only cash once every five to ten times they play, and actually win the suckers very, very rarely. It’s part of becoming a skilled tourney player, really -- not just learning and improving on one’s strategy, but being able to learn how to deal with coming up short again and again. And again.

And even though I might get a perverse pleasure out of seeing my miserable Panthers find new ways to disappoint each week, I have to admit I can’t quite get used to the losing.

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