Out of the field of 4260 in the World Series of Poker’s $1000 no limit hold’em tournament, there were 95 of us left. And I was the shortest stack of all. Only 16,000 chips. And the big blind was coming to me the next hand — that meant I’d have to post 6000 chips from my dwindling stack.
I was toast.
Despite my imminent elimination, despite the extraordinary fatigue of the late/early hour and having spent over 20 mind-numbing hours watching grown men (and a few women) play cards, I was beaming. Not only was I checking off my longtime bucket list moment of playing in the World Series of Poker; not only had I fulfilled the goal I set of playing to Day 2; not only had I passed my revised goal of making a little money; not only had I cracked the top 100 players left; I felt the unique zen of playing a perfect game — for me, of course — I had not make a single stupid decision; I hadn’t lost my cool and gone on “tilt”; I hadn’t lost my attention and failed to assess the circumstances correctly; I had done my best.
And now, as the Poker Gods had demanded, it was time to go home.
I looked down at my two cards and smiled. A Jack and a five. Known among in poker parlance as “Jackson Five,” it’s a pretty lousy starting hand. 99% of the time, I would have folded.
But I had no choice — if I folded now, I’d have such a small stack that I’d be leaving soon anyway. I went all-in. The player on the button called. He turned over an eight and a four.
Pretty cool. Odds were that I’d win this hand. And when the board changed nothing, I was handed a small twig of hope. 35,000 chips. But still the shortest stack at my table. By far.
The next hand was dealt, and I looked down to see a pair of sevems. Not a monster hand, but any pair is pretty good. I went all-in. The guy in the big blind called me; either thinking that I was desperate again, or mathematically it was the right decision to make.
I won again. 75,000 chips. Getting there.
The next hand was dealt, and I looked down and saw the two cowboys — kings — the second best hand in the game. I was still furiously restacking all of my new chips, trying to figure out the best way to maximize the hand through guile and theatrics, when the guy to my right went all-in. I called. He had a small pair. When the board was laid out, I had won.
155,000 chips. I was back in the game.
Over the final hour, I didn’t get many more good hands, and my stack slowly dwindled to 123,000 chips.
But when the tournament was paused for the night/morning at 2:00 AM, only 51 of the original 4,260 of us remained. I had the 41st largest stack. But I was still in it. And even if I go out on the next hand, I will have earned $10,811. And who knows? Maybe the Poker Gods will dictate that I reach the final table of 9, where the top prize is $654,797.
(If you want to follow today’s action, click here for updates, chip counts and a running blog commentary.)
The odds are against me. My stack is short, and pretty much every one of my opponents in this United Nations-esque remaining lot is a professional, meaning that they have played literally millions more hands than I have; they know the “right” decision to make it each case.
But who knows? Being Kentucky’s State Treasurer has equipped me with some pretty good money management skills. And being in state and national politics for two decades has empowered me to cope with tables filled of liars and posers. So I will take my chances. It’s as easy as 1,2.3…