The first level of the MSPT at Potawatomi bore a striking resemblance to the first few levels of the MSPT a couple months prior at Ho-Chunk in the Dells. I had shockingly good preflop starting hands, with big pairs starting to feel like the norm. Unfortunately, coolers and bad beats abounded, and I struggled to get away from spots where I was beaten by so few combinations or such unlikely holdings.
The epitome was when I iso’d with K8ss in position, and got cold-called by the big blind and one other player. The flop bailed me out with top two and a rainbow board on K84. The big blind led out, and it folded to me. I raised, shocked at my good fortune that the big blind likely had a decent top pair type hand. The big blind called fairly quickly. The turn brought the unwelcome queen of spades, and the big blind immediately led into me again.
I retched inwardly, knowing it was incredibly likely he’d just turned a better top two than my now top and third pairs. I called reluctantly, not willing to let go of such a strong hand and now flush draw to just one bet. The river brought an inconsequential offsuit deuce, and the big blind confidently shoved all his chips in – somewhere around three-quarters of the pot. I disgustedly threw my hand face up toward the muck.
The big blind proudly turned over QQ, as if to reassure me that he “had the goods,” but seeing that hand was the exact opposite of what I wanted. He had just played the flop, not to mention preflop, horrifically badly, only to get bailed out by one of only two cards in the deck that could help him. On top of that, I hadn’t been disciplined enough to fold the turn even when I was pretty sure I was behind, and probably didn’t have the proper odds to call.
By the end of level 1, I was sitting on a pathetic 10% of the starting stack. I kept my head down though, and decided to fight hard until the end. With such a small stack, I was unable to find any good spots until I picked up 88 and 3-bet shoved my ~15bb stack in the middle. The raiser had AK and flopped an ace to take the lead and bust me out of the tournament just partway into level 2.
I was frustrated, but realistically with the way the cards had been dealt, it was unlikely I would have gotten through level 1 with more than 20% of my starting chips, so I could only be so mad. I went to go check on Dozo, a friend who was also playing the MSPT that weekend. He was still in, but didn’t have a great stack. I left his seat and paced the hallway near the ballroom, debating whether to fire the one extra allowed bullet at the tournament.
$1,100 was a lot to spend on this tournament, and I’d been backed for 30% on my first bullet. I shot quick texts to the three guys who had each forked up $110 and mentioned I was considering re-entering. I hadn’t thought I was going to re-enter, so I hadn’t discussed it with any of my backers before. I felt it was in poor taste to give them nothing after not discussing it, so I decided to give each of them 5% of my next bullet. All that was left was grabbing the cash needed to re-enter.
I headed toward the nearest ATM and tried to withdraw $700 to augment the $430 or so that I had left in my wallet. I was met with “maximum withdrawal limit” messages, and saw no more cash – I’d forgotten that I needed to stop by the ATM earlier that day and wasn’t able to pull anymore. I was left with one last option. I texted Dozo, mentioning my current predicament.
He said he had plenty of cash on him and could spot me the $700. Unfortunately, he busted soon after that and we met up. I thanked him profusely, somewhat embarrassed at my need – I don’t think of myself as someone who borrows cash in virtually any situation. But I wanted to re-enter, thought I was in a good state of mind, and felt I still had a big edge against the field.
As I purchased my new seat and headed toward it in the regular poker room where all the overflow tournament tables were, I couldn’t help but feel that all eyes were on me. Did everyone know that I had busted out in under an hour and a half? Even before the first break? I felt they must have felt my shame radiating off of me. I shook the darker of my emotions off and headed in the direction of my new seat.
Let’s try that again.
The tournament was already much more full than the casino had expected, so we weren’t getting randomly added to tables at this point, we had to wait for enough players to open up a new table. After maybe 15 minutes, we were ready to go.
It was quickly apparent that almost everyone at the table already knew each other in some capacity. Six of the guys at my table were Asian and had either come as a group or otherwise knew each other well and had bought in at the same time for that reason. Two of the others also were familiar with each other – maybe friends, or maybe just regs at the same casino. Then there was one older gentleman two seats to my left, and me.
It didn’t take much longer to figure out that this was currently one of the toughest tables in the tournament. Virtually every hand was raised or re-raised preflop, and most hands did not see showdown. There was online poker-related jargon being tossed around and receiving chuckles from the whole group aside from the older gentleman. I couldn’t wait to get off the table.
I survived, mostly by folding, and was moved back to the ballroom, where I continued to maintain a level of card-deadness that I thought was only possible during extremely juicy cash games. Finally, after folding 3 orbits in a row, an older man in middle position opened, and got one caller.
I looked down and was surprised to see a very welcome pair of red aces. I thought for a while, trying to decide if I could do anything but shove my relatively small stack into the middle. With only 18 big blinds, it was hard for me to imagine a better move. I shoved all in, and was called pretty quickly by the overly-skeptical original raiser. The other player folded and I found myself heads up against a pair of eights. A flop full of garbage brought no danger, and the ace of clubs on the turn secured my double up. I was still in.
The tournament seemed to progress quickly after that. I wasn’t nearly as card dead as before, and I got by just by playing straightforward, ABC poker. Before I knew it, Day 1 was drawing to a close. It had taken me two bullets, but I had made it.
I slept fitfully at best that night, but I wasn’t exactly nervous. I was excited. We had finished play at around 2am Sunday morning, and were scheduled to have cards in the air again at 10:30am. At 9am I was ready to leave the hotel room Dozo had comped for us. He’d re-entered but busted pretty early, around level 5, and got over it by punting around some money at the blackjack tables. At $150 a pop, his bets had won us a free room, and a couple grand back to his name.
We discussed the tournament for a while in the morning. The number of players still in, how many left until the money bubble, and the payout structure were the main topics, but we touched briefly on strategy and hands we’d played the day before. At 9:30am, I was too antsy to stay in the room any longer. Dozo wished me luck as I headed back upstairs to grab some breakfast and find my seat.
I couldn’t know it, but I was in for a very long day.