Man, was I looking forward to playing in a World Poker Tour (WPT) event, any WPT event. I had not played in a history-making event with a huge prize pool since November, and the Commerce Casino's $10,000 buy-in L.A. Poker Classic proved to have an especially huge prize pool, including $2.4 million for first place. After skipping five major events in January, and watching my contemporaries like Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen and Michael Mizrachi win, I was raring to go!
After all, I'm a proud guy, and seeing all of these other guys win had stirred me up a bit. Yes, I did win a $700,000 condo at the W Hotel, Casino and Residences, Las Vegas tournament held in January, but I doubt that anyone in the poker world respects that win - against a bunch of movie stars - very much. So off I went, for a 6:30 p.m. start, and I was actually on time for the first time in years. (In retrospect, I wish I'd come 70 minutes late.)
About 65 minutes into the tournament, with the blinds still only at $25-$50, Josh Arieh raised it up to $175 to go, I called with Ah-Jh, and a player behind me also called. The flop was Js-7s-4c, Arieh bet out $800, and I called again. At this point, with top pair and top kicker, I loved my hand, and I probably should have raised it up (usually the right move here is to raise it up), but something told me just to call. The turn card was the 2s (making a flush possible), and Arieh just checked.
I bet out $1,000, and Arieh called me. The last card was the 10s, and Arieh bet out $800. Of course, with four spades on the board, any spade he may have had in his hand would beat my hand, but I know that Arieh is more than capable of attempting to bluff me. Besides, $800 wasn't much to call. So I did call, and Arieh showed me Qs-Qc, which had me beat all the way. OK, it could have been much worse; I could have raised him on the flop, and really stubbed my toe.
Three hands later, in the small blind, I looked down at 4-4 as Mike McClain made it $150 to go. I suddenly had a very bad feeling that I was going to go broke if I played this hand. But sometimes when I have this feeling and fold, it turns out that I would have won a huge pot. So I told myself, "If you flop trips here, then move all-in, and go broke, so be it." Everyone else folded, I called, and the flop was Jh-4h-6s. Terrific, I had flopped my set! I checked, McClain bet $300, and I raised it up to $900 to go. McClain now reraised it to $2,500 to go, and I briefly thought about just calling him here. The fact that there was a flush draw on the board means that McClain could have had a flush draw with a hand like Ah-Qh, or perhaps any big pair like A-A, K-K, or Q-Q, or even A-J. Calling didn't seem right to me (I haven't played many big pots with my big hands and I'm trying to change that), so I moved all-in for $15,000 or so.
McClain studied for about 30 seconds, and I was relieved. There was no way he would study that long if he had three sixes or three jacks.
Finally, he called, I flipped up my hand, and he showed me ... three sixes! In poker parlance, we call that set-over-set. Hands don't get any unluckier than set-over-set; I had just one win left in the deck, the fourth four.
Even if I had just called the $2,500 on the flop, I would be finding nothing ominous about the remaining board cards: the turn card was the 10c, and the last card was the 3s.
So I was never seeing a reason to fold the hand. There was basically nothing I could have done to save my chips, and I have no regrets. Some of you may say that I should have trusted that bad feeling and folded my hand before the flop, but I've won some huge pots in the past when I had that same feeling.
Just like that, it was over. I had waited three months to play in a tournament of significance, and I didn't even make it past the first break! Oh well, that's poker.
A) aces over kings
B) trips over trips
C) a flush over a straight
D) A-K over A-Q