Calling the event “The Tournament of Champions” just feels wrong. The nine of us are more like survivors, rather than anything remotely close to Champions. For this season long battle was held in the court of hard knocks, where Free Bar Poker at its ultimate height can mean, “All-in” with A-A, every bit as much as with 2-7 sooooooted. This is the wrong kind of Bar Poker and I know what you’re thinking, ‘what can be wrong with Poker AND a bar?’ Nothing I guess, if it's done right like The Riverchasers folks do it!
Every week the local Pub, (well, as local as it gets here in Bedrock!) opens its doors and makes a little space for about 50 ~ 60 folks to grab a seat, and get their Poker jones on for the evening. The problem is that besides Peb’s, myself and the only other couple we know that show up every week, no one else is doing anything to support the Pub. To the players that continue to show up it’s “free” all the way. Why there’s more water at any given event for one of these things, than there is created by melting glaciers and global warming. For the life of them, not one can understand why the “free” Poker, will be coming to an end after this game.
Based on my results from the previous 16 weeks of play, a points system that is highly favorable for a final table appearance and a few good hands along the way, this kid somehow managed to squeak into the final table of the year with a little chip lead. I was starting The Tournament of Champions table of 9 players, holding nearly 17% of the total chips in play. Add that to my familiarity with the other 8 players sitting down in the game and honestly, I have to admit that I really liked my chances.
I drew the 7 seat and all down my right side were stacks and stacks of chippies begging me to keep them warmer than they were right now. If I was going to get a juicier spot to play the game, I couldn’t think of 3 individuals I’d rather have sitting to my right in a row. Immediately on my left however, was quite possibly the best NLHE player in the crowd. Bub finished 2nd. in the points standings, had one less win than I did and surprisingly enough to some, (not me) missed two weeks of play along the way. Bub had busted me out once, been busted by me once and over the entire season of play, those two heads up confrontations for the win, were our only real encounters with each other. We’d sat at the same table repeatedly over the weeks but somehow, we’d managed to avoid making too many really big mistakes against each other.
“I’ll race you to’em Bammer” Bub said, as he glanced past me and focused on the chips to my right.
A few commiserating announcements for the end of the season and the end of Poker at the Pub were made, with the anticipated groans of disappointment and disbelief from the water Camels. Yet they joined in the toast and held their water glasses high, making an annoyingly loud clank as they saluted the efforts of the staff and ownership of the pub.
As I held my Scotch up and made my now customary wink towards Sue the owner, I suddenly found myself on extreme tilt without a card being thrown in the air. Despite smiling for that one moment and winking back, her look said nothing but that she just couldn’t wait to get these losers, the hell out of her bar.
“Let’s shuffle up and deal”
As is fairly common on a weekly basis with these folks there was an UTG raise the first hand of play, a call and then quite naturally, another call. All standard fair for what quite simply, had become the worst Poker I think I’d ever been a part of.
I look down at pocket Astins and to make it even better for my comfort level, they were Two Black Aces.
Ad ~ 4c ~ 7h came the flop for myself and the initial raiser, who was the only one to have made the call.
“I’m all in” he said.
As I was stacking the fresh chips that the dealer had just pushed my way after the first hand, UTG player muttered something about a “cooler,” as he shook hands with everyone and took his water off the table. His unimproved pocket 8’s still lying next to the five cards missing them completely.
“Nice start” said Bub.
It was two complete rotations before I played another hand, holding nothing but garbage in all hands previous. Holding 10-10 and seeing an 8 high rainbow flop, I lead out for around half the pot. This got one player to fold but the other; well he made a quick and rather excitable call. The Ace on the turn was of concern to me, since the notes I have on this guy read ‘will play any Ace to the end.’
The river was a meaningless card to the board but still, neither of us put another chip into the pot.
“Ace – eight?” I asked inquisitively.
“Chop” was his reply. “That’s what I have too.”
My tens went into the muck.
The eighth player left the table at around the first hour or so. Having her K-K snapped off by 5 ~ 7 off suit but “hey, it was only a 4x raise pre!”
Peb’s and Sue the owner were about two thirds of the way through the carafe of wine I’d bought them, both giggling like two school girls who’d just seen the cutest boy. It was really nice to see Sue laughing and smiling during a Poker event. Those moments had been rather rare over the season of play and typically when Peb’s and I head out for a drink or some grub, Sue’s the one that just can’t stop doing either. As I made my way out for a smoke, I asked Chris behind the bar to top off their carafe and grab them a little something to nibble on. She just smiled that way she does and then as always, just made it happen.
Everyone always seems to forget everything they know about Poker and the game or table that they are sitting at it seems, as the result of a 10-minute break.
“All in” and all out, went the next two players in the first four hands back. All pre-flop action, one three way pot and the best of the best that was in play, two big slicks chopping up another players stack, after his A-10 managed to whiff on all three of his outs in the deck.
Being down to five-handed, Bub and I made a little more room for one another, now that we had the space to do so.
I’d just folded a suited Bammer after some betting in the spots ahead of me, Bub just tossed a bunch of chips in front of him and made a rather large three bet. The first fold came immediately but the other player, in a hoody with shades on by the way, tanked and tanked and tanked.
“If I fold and show you, will you show?”
Bub did what he always does, just sat there stoically and said nothing.
Hoody looked back at his cards and then despite the appearance of being whomped by a good solid player, he announced all in.
Bub’s pocket Astins survived the 7s ~ 8s they were up against somehow.
We were now four-handed and the only player I was really worried about in the game, had a fresh new pile of chips to play back at me with.
Nothing eventful happened all the way up to break after that. The stacks were all large enough in comparison to the blinds that almost any pre-flop aggression or re-aggression, was usually met with the cards being tossed into the muck.
Very few flops were seen, most play had ended by the turn and honestly, I don’t recall actually seeing any river cards now that I think of it.
Owner Sue and Peb’s were a little on the ‘woo-hoo’ side, when I managed to find them back in the corner. That was a lot of wine for two little girls to take in for certain and, in just the couple hours they’d been at it. But they were both semi-pro I’d thought, having experience and the wisdom of hundreds of bars and pubs along the way. Then Chris told me that she’d been asked to top the carafe up one additional time by Sue, not to mention the Slippery Nipple and Cum-In-The-Hot-Tub shots they’d had because as Peb’s slurred out in my direction, “Sue had never tried either of them honey.”
The return from break this time was far better than the previous one. Meaning of course, that I got a walk in my big blind. I try to never look at my cards when that happens but as I flipped them into the center of the table, both the Ac and Ah revealed themselves. I probably would have gotten into trouble with them anyhow. I fold my small blind crap cards to a raise but Bub, well Bub makes his now standard re-raise of the action. With what seemed like very little thought but lots and lots of chip counting, about half of the newly counted stack made its way in front of the original raiser as a re-re-raise.
Online I think this stuff manages to elude my attention span or something. Sitting there live however, I take in every single nuance of the action at hand. I could tell exactly what kind of storm was brewing in front of me and one thing was definite, we were about to see a little hand on hand violence at the table.
“The actions to you Bub.”
“I’m going to raise………. all in”
I had no doubt at that point what cards Bub had sitting in front of him so I wondered to myself if the kid was good enough to get away from it, or were his cards good enough to make the call.
Before cards were flipped up there were “good lucks” and handshakes, all the while I think I was the only one that had come to the realization that sitting right in the center of the table, was about 40% of the chips in play. One of these two players, was about to become a monster.
“Bub shows Ad ~ As and The Kid shows Kd ~ Ks” announced the tournament director.
It just sat there! Peeking out between the dealers fingers for what seemed like forever to me. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for Bub. The door card was clearly the other red King but as the cards were slowly and almost agonizingly spread out across the felt however, the middle spot was just as easily obvious as the Ace of clubs.
Bub had skill.
Bub had some luck.
Bub had position on me.
Bub had cards when he played and now more important to yours truly, Bub had a shitload of chips.
The third player remaining was the shorty. She had played solid when she won a hand but obviously, she wasn’t getting much in the way of cards to play.
All three of us remaining also just happened to be the smokers and drinkers of this final table. We asked for and were graciously given by the tournament director, our smoke and washroom breaks.
“Irony’s a real bitch huh?” said Owner Sue in unison with Peb’s, both hoisting a glass of something alcoholic but not wine, as we all headed out for our smokes.
“It is indeed,” said Bub, as he opened the door for me and the third player left in the game, his Wife.
Remember the other couple I’d mentioned earlier on that also supported the pub like Peb’s and I tried to do? Bub and Lisa are them.
As we returned back to the table for the conclusion of the game, Owner Sue was elated like no time ever before. Normally I would’ve chalked this up to the booze but honestly, it was clear that she appreciated all we’d done to try and support her for her efforts, by hosting our silly little weekly game of chance.
She had Chris bring us each our drink of choice on the house, mine being a double for a reason unknown to me at the time.
“Your Packers just beat Sue’s 49’ers.” Chris told me. Clearly in response to the look I must have had on my face, at the size of the Scotch being set in front of me.
Five hands in upon our return; I’m dealt the two red Queens. I make a big enough raise to put Lisa to the test, hoping all the while that Bub wouldn’t have anything playable to stay in the hand with. Bub folds and after taking a good look at her cards and her remaining stack, Lisa puts her card cap on the hand and announces that she will be going all in.
Lisa’s Asian-Jew does not improve and Bub and I are about to hold our own personal tie breaker of sorts.
The tournament director said it was 64 hands, I don’t know. It was all a focused blur, if that makes any sense at all. There was small ball pot control poker and never once did either of us ever mention, ‘all in.’ Chips were swapped back and forth, as made hands toppled to hands that got there. The Blinds and Antes were frequently traded between us, as hot and cold pre-flop runs hit us both along the way also.
Somehow however though, through it all, I must have managed to take the chip lead.
On hand #64:
I remember that the pre-flop raise I’d made was called by Bub.
I remember that my C-bet on the flop was called by Bub.
I remember that my bet on the turn was called by Bub.
I remember that despite having a pretty damn fine Scotch in front of me, my mouth was incredibly dry.
I do not remember what the turn card was.
I remember that the river card was the two of hearts.
I remember betting on that two of hearts and having Bub say, “all-in.”
I remember staring at the board and trying to make sense of the play.
Now I remember the turn card!
3d ~ 10h ~ 8c ~ 4c ~ 2h
“Damn,” said Bub. “I didn’t figure you for the A-5 type Bammer! I flopped trips. I’ve got a set of 8’s.”
I remember feeling really warm all of a sudden.
“Pocket 10’s for the flopped set myself Bub.”
“Damn good game! Can I buy you a drink Bub?”
And there I sat, a survivor.
My sincerest thanks for dropping by....