So close to a poker championship

So once again I try for an NCPT poker victory.

Photos by flipchip /

Doyle Brunson is laughing at my poker skills. But hey, I’m getting better.

And this month was the closest I have ever gotten, plus I pull off the greatest comeback in NCPT history. But did I pull out the victory? Read on.

Hand #1

I was a bit late, but show up just as the first hand is winding down. Someone had put Chris all-in, and he eventually called, showing AA. His opponent hit a straight, and Chris had to rebuy in after one hand.

I had noticed that I wasn’t playing that great, and Paul suggested I try playing more hands. So that was my goal. My first hand was J8 suited, and I figure that’s good enough to call.

I hit two pair on the flop. I bet, everyone except for Chris folds. The turn gives me another eight. I can’t remember if there is betting here or not. I think the river brought an ace. I put in a fair-sized bet. Chris thinks about it for a while, and eventually calls. He shows the other eight for a set. I take home a nice-size pot.

At this point, I stayed out of a lot of hands. Not on purpose, but because there was some loose play going on. Jason was calling everything and pretty much sucking out. He ended up with a huge chip stack. But to give you an idea of his play: At one point, someone went all in and Jason and another guy called. The flop comes, and Jason bets. The other guy folds. Jason shows nothing. He didn’t even have a pair. Why bet when someone could have the opportunity to knock out a player. So the guy ended up tripling up.

Another hand was when someone went all-in preflop, and Jason called with something like Q6 offsuit. So that guy ended up doubling up.

Despite this type of play, a lot of times he was hitting with these hands. He would call anything, and hit most of the time. So I wanted to stay out of his way for a while. He was easily the chip leader a few hands into the game and stayed there most of the night.

However, when I did get cards, there wasn’t a lot of action. I did win some small pots, but nothing major. Sp I’m going to skip to the final table.

I wasn’t getting much, and when I did (I had AA and QQ at two points), no one would call.

After starting out with 20 people, we eventually got down to the final five (top four pay). The guy on my right and myself each had $35 in chips (blinds were $10-$20), so we both knew one of us would be out soon. The other ended up going all-in with Jason calling and getting lucky, again.

I figure at this point, I’m in the money. Things are good. In the big blind, I look down at something like 8-2 offsuit, and I’ve been raised all-in. Only another $15 left total, but I fold.

This brings me to my most pivotal hand:

Hand #2

I’m in the small blind. I have $10 in the pot, and a $5 chip left. Jason calls, and I look down at a J6 offsuit. I sigh. It just wasn’t my night. I figure I may as well call. Matt calls as well.

There was no betting, but I ended up getting a runner-runner to hit a straight. So I triple up. Not a lot, still only $45. But it’s better than where I was.

I started moving in some more. Picking up some pots, especially against Jason, whose luck seemed to be running out. After a few more hands, I was up to $100 in chips. And I kept climbing.

Jason was actually getting frustrated with me, because he wasn’t able to suck out. Eventually, Matt was eliminated.

Hand #3

Jason kept losing chips, and at one point raised to $100 (five times the blinds). You could tell he was frustrated, as he kept making comments about how big cards weren’t catching anything every time he lost a pot. I looked down at pocket sevens, and re-raised him all-in.

He called, holding AQ offsuit. I’m a slight favourite, and my luck holds out, and I win the pot. About 20 minutes before, I didn’t even have enough chips to cover a big blind, and here I am in the final two and the chip leader (about $700 in chips, I estimate).

It was me and Giovanni. I start whittling away at his chips. But because there’s so many chips at the table (I figure $1,200 in chips), that even with a chip lead, it would take a while. I did flop trip kings at one point, but couldn’t get him to call.

There were three key hands heads up that I’ll talk about quickly.

Hand #4

I had J of spades (not sure of my other card). There was just a call. The flop came K of spades, Q of spades and a four. No bets. The turn brought a nine of spades. Maybe a small bet. Then the turn brought a six of spades. So I have the second nut flush.

I bet, and Giovanni announces a raise. While he’s deciding what to raise it to, I figure he has either the ace or a 10. It’s a 50-50 chance, so when he announces all-in, I call. He had the ace for the nut flush.

So he doubles up, and we actually go back and forth for a little bit for the next little bit.

Hand #5

Out of all my hands, this was the key one. Giovanni was ahead in chips by a little bit. He raised pre-flop, and I look down at a AJ offsuit. I’m thinking he might have a pair, so I go all-in. Giovanni thinks for a second, and then calls. He has an AT offsuit.

I’m favoured to win this hand about 70 per cent of the time. And because Giovanni and I are so close in chips, a loss here would cripple him, I think.

But of the five cards that get turned over, two of them are fours, and two of them are eights. So we split the pot. Argh.

My luck starts to change here, but for the worse. I can’t catch a good pre-flop raising hand. When I do raise (usually with nothing), I get re-raised. If we do see a flop, I miss completely.

Hand #6

With the blinds at $20-$40, I have $200 left in chips. I need to double up soon. I see a T9 of spades. I was thinking of raising three times the blinds, but since that only leaves me with $80 in chips, I decide to move all-in. Giovanni calls with A6 offsuit.

Odds are about even. But not even one spade shows up on the flop. I don’t hit on the turn or the river, and I’m out.

And with that, my poker tournament was over. Second place, which is pretty good considering where I was with about an hour left in the tournament.

My more aggressive play paid off somewhat, until my cards went cold during heads-up. Although I did have to play passive for a while with the way things were going.

Hopefully, that’s the key thing. Being able to change my strategy on the fly.

I’ve never been able to finish higher than fourth before, so coming second was great. Next month, I’ll have to improve on that.


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