The Legends of Poker tournament recently concluded, and not without
some success for me. Unfortunately, I can't go into the specifics of my
success. You see, several years ago when I first started writing columns
for Card Player, my wife, who does the first editing on all of my work,
continually deleted any mention I made of any successes I might have
Debbie, my lovely wife, would make it perfectly clear to me that there
would be no bragging, no self-adulation. Always be humble was her
motto for me. I always tell her it's a good thing she never married
anyone like Muhammad Ali or Phil Hellmuth.
Anyway, knowing how limited I am in that vein, I thought I might go in
the opposite direction and talk a little about how badly I can play poker
on certain occasions.
Without going into detail, due to the restriction of my "wife-editor," I
was having a pretty good Legends tournament and was feeling like I
was on a roll. I was looking forward to the main event, $5,000 buy-in no-
limit hold'em. I have always been fond of The Bicycle Casino's $5,000
main event because if I could, I would mention that I won it in 1994.
So, with great anticipation, I entered the "big one." The structure was
good and there were lots of players — 667. There was, as they say, a
great overlay. Many of the players had won their way into the
tournament via a satellite, and some from the Internet.
I started the tournament well. Within a couple of hours, I had built my
stack from $10,000 to more than $15,000. It is a terrific advantage to
start a big tournament like this by getting ahold of chips early. It is great
to look around and realize that no one at the table can bust you, with
the exception of maybe one other player.
So, after a great start, I went into one of those streaks in which I
started slowly falling backward. I found myself back where I started, at
I hoped I could make a move before the break, because I knew I didn't
want to come back the next day with a short stack. When we took the
last break of the evening, we were left with only one more 90-minute
limit before we broke for the day. About half the players were gone by
Halfway into the round, with about 50 minutes left, I still had not been
able to make a move. I had about $9,500. I still had enough chips, but I
was willing to gamble in order to make some kind of move before the
end of the day.
The blinds were $150-$300 with a $50 ante, and I was in the big blind.
The first player on my left raised the pot to $600. I did not know this
particular player, but I did know that he had raised two or three pots
from early position since he had moved to our table, and his raises had
always been three or three and half times the big blind.
That's when a little bell went off in my mind; it is what I call an
"indicator." I thought there was a good chance that he had a "big
hand." Two other people called the $600 bet. This, I liked. It would cost
me only $300 to call and I would be getting great pot odds.
As the third player entered the pot, a thought (or, more accurately, a
wish) went through my mind. I prayed, "Let me see something like A-K."
You remember the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." Well,
guess what I looked down and found? A-K suited.
"Indicator" No. 1 — the small raise up front — had disappeared from my
mind. This was the first hand I had seen in an hour. I finally had a hand,
so I raised $3,700. The player who originally opened studied for a while,
looked everyone over, and then raised the pot about $10,000. The next
two players did what I suspected they would do, and passed.
Now, I had "indicator" No. 2. First, a player limps in or underbets the pot
up front, and then reraises for lots of chips.
I thought there was a 95 percent chance that this guy had aces or
kings. But, wait a minute. I looked down at my stack; I had about
$5,400 left. That in and of itself was not significant, but what was
significant was that I had one $5,000 chip on the bottom of the stack
with 13 or 14 $25 chips on top of it. Maybe, I thought, the player who
had raised hadn't seen the $5,000 chip on the bottom. The chip colors
were not that different. Maybe he just wanted to shut the other players
out and deal with a player who was almost all in.
Nah, I thought. I had gotten two good indicators, so the player had to
have either aces or kings. Once again, wishful thinking crept back into
my mind. I wondered whether this player would make the same play
with queens. If so, I would be a small underdog and would be getting
great pot odds.
Nah, he had to have aces or kings. Besides, I would still have more than
$5,000 left if I threw my hand away. That little voice that guides me
through tournaments told me the correct play was, "Find the muck."
A few minutes later while driving home, I felt like a guy who thinks about
taking a shortcut through an alley. He sees that it's a dark alley with a
couple of shady-looking characters at the other end of it. He completely
ignores these two "indicators" and decides to take a chance and go that
way anyway. I think you know how both stories end.
For what it's worth …
Ignoring the Indicators
By Vince Burgio