2007 World Series:The Wheel of Misfortune
by Simon Young
When you work as a poker writer you grow a hard skin. While covering major tournaments, bad beats, suck outs and outrageous ill-luck happen all around you, and before long you can all to easily become indifferent to the feelings of the victims. After all, that's poker.
Jack Han: Nasty beat ends his tournament
But today was different. I feel really bad for PokerStars qualifier Jack Han from New York. He had battled through four days, and yesterday masterminded a great comeback, building to 900,000 from a lowly 75,000 just three hours earlier. It was the sort of Day Four run that adds confidence to a player and makes him believe that maybe this could be The One.
Then something happens to slap him in the face so hard it might as well be the end of the world.
Jack, who plays for a living on PokerStars, faced a raise of 75,000 before him. He re-popped another 175,000 with his 8-8. Out of the blue, the small blind pushes all in for about 500,000, causing the initial raiser to fold. Jack called and was well-chuffed to find he was up against A-3 of hearts. Only an ace or some horrible board could prevent him from soaring above one million chips for the first time.
But he had to wait, as the official film crews were summonsed to witness what looked like another elimination. The dealer, on cue from the director, put out the flop - 5-7-7 - no hearts. Great start for Jack, who was now standing with the excitement of a kid waiting to open his Christmas presents. The turn was a 2, again a great card for our man. The film director seemed to wait age before allowing the river to be dealt. The pressure was high, and the small blind began to collect his things, ready to head for the payout desk. The river came...
It was a four... completing his runner, runner Wheel (A-5 straight) and crippling Jack's stack. An awful piece of luck, and he shrieked in shock, turning away with his hands on his head.
He watched his chips, the result of four days' hard work, being pushed over to his opponent, Jerry Yang from California, and sat down to count out what was left in his armoury. Only about 180,000, not enough to scare anyone, and his only move was push or fold.
Like a vulture, I hung around for the inevitable end. I had to wait only two hands. Jack put in his stack with 7-9 clubs, called by Philip Yeh - a Swedish PokerStars player - in seat one, holding A-J diamonds. While the flop of 5-A-8 with one club put Yeh a mile ahead, the turn of 5 clubs gave Jack hope of pulling off a monumental runner, runner of his own.
But the river was not a club for the flush, but another five, filling up Yeh's full house. He now moves on to 2.3 million chips.
As for Jack, all that was left was to be led to the cash desk to pick up $53,570 for his 105th place.
Such is the cruelty of this game that, for next few days at least, he will be bitterly disappointed despite playing so well to outlast more than 6,000 others.
Nicolas Atlan: with lucky coat
As I turn away I chance upon Nicolas Atlan, the French PokerStars qualifier who wears a "lucky" Italian jacket. It's worked very well this week, and he started today on 1.8 million. But he did not look pleased right now as he paced up and down near his table.
Had he, too been crippled? "No, I've just lost a few hundred thousand to Kenny Tran," he said. Nicolas, a floor manager at the famous Aviation Club de France in Paris, still has 1.5 million or so, but as the pressure builds up here, even the smallest of losses feel like a sledgehammer to the head.