The queen-nine villain
I've told this story to a lot of my friends and a few of them refused to believe it was true. They couldn't comprehend why anyone in their right mind would make this play, but I'm telling you--it happened.
I was at the Commerce Casino, playing a $1,000 mega-satellite to the L.A. Poker Classic main event. For every ten players, a $10,000 seat was awarded. I decided to buy in late because it was a re-entry tournament and I didn't want to burn a lot of buy-ins. We started with 7,500 in chips and I won the blinds in the first pot I played. Just as that hand finished, a new player sat down at the table and seemed a bit flustered. He didn't know what the chip denominations were yet, so when he decided to raise, he accidentally made it 1,200 to go instead of the typical 200 or 250. I looked down at two queens and decided to capitalize on his mistake. I moved all-in; he gave a "what the hell" shrug and called with ace-rag. An ace hit the flop and he doubled up, leaving me with only 1.5 big blinds. While asking the tournament director if he thought I should re-enter or just wait for the next satellite, I tossed in the last of my chips and ended up tripling my paltry stack. I still had only six big blinds though, and in a live tournament with 15-minute levels that's nothing.
Cut to: eight hours later. Somehow I'm still in. 16 seats are up for grabs and 17 players are left. I'm the second-shortest stack (3 BB) and on the eight-handed table while the shortest stack (2 BB) was on the nine-handed table. It's a race to see which one of us goes out first. Blinds were 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante and we got to a position where the short stack was under the gun and wouldn't make it through the blinds if he folded. If somehow he did make it through, I would have to make it through my blinds or I'd be out on the bubble.
The short stack moved all-in for 5,500 and our entire table stood up to watch. In this particular situation, the optimal strategy is for the entire table to call and force him to beat eight hands. Every player at the table had at least 40,000 so they could certainly afford a call, not to mention the fact that knocking him out was in their own best interest because they'd be guaranteed a $10K seat. So you would think they'd all call and check it down.
What the hell is happening? Why are they folding? I am freaking out inside, but out of fairness to everyone, I shut up and pray they do the right thing. However, only two more players call and the short stack ends up with three opponents rather than eight. Please, please, please let one of these guys take him out.
Right before the flop came, the short stack turned over his hand. Two red tens. Then the guy to his left exposed his hand, a black ace-queen. The other two were about to table their hands when the floor stopped them and reminded them there was still action on the side! They left their hands face down, but now everyone knew two of the four hands in play.
The flop fell K-7-3 with two clubs and a spade. Everyone checked around like they're supposed to. But then the turn came the nine of clubs, and the black ace-queen picked up a queen-high flush draw. He checked and all of a sudden, the middle guy bet 10,000. For someone to bet at this juncture, he had to have the tens drawing dead. He had to have a flush. Or at least a set of kings. I was jumping up and down thinking there's no possible way the tens would win. The action was on the third caller, a friend of mine. He gave the middle guy a "Why did you bet?" look and folded. Now, the action was back on the guy with the black ace-queen. He was kind of an east coast tough guy who said "bro" a lot. He popped out of his chair and started rambling, Hey bro? What's up bro? Why'd you bet bro? before somewhat reluctantly tossing in the 10,000.
The river was the ace of clubs for a final board of K-7-3-9-A with four clubs. At this point, I was positive I won a seat because the guy with the black ace-queen made a flush. He checked and the middle guy who made the mysterious turn bet slammed the table in angst.
"Bah! I check! I knew I let you get there!" he spat, revealing a red queen-nine.
Cue the record scratch.
This guy bet into a dry side pot on the turn with a pair of nines, KNOWING he was already up against tens! Luckily the black ace-queen called and improved enough to beat the tens and bust the short stack. Later, I asked him why he decided to call the 10,000 on the turn because he had to assume he was already beat.
"I don't want to be rude," he said, "But I thought the guy was a moron, so I called just in case."
But that's not the end of the story. There's one last, cruel twist.
I made it to the end of Day 1 of the main event with a good stack, survived Day 2, and came back on Day 3. The Q-9 villain from the satellite was at my table all day. He was bluffing everybody and anytime someone looked him up, he tapped the table and said, "You got it, you got it." We got pretty close to the bubble and I ended up short-stacked after losing a couple of big pots. With six to go before we hit the money, the queen-nine villain raised my blind and I looked down at the ace-jack of diamonds. I knew if I moved in he'd fold most hands and I wanted a shot at doubling up. I also felt like he would set me in on almost any flop. So I flat-called the raise. The flop came K-J-X, the rest of my chips went in, and he turned over K-J to bust me just short of the money.
Later on, one of my friends still in the tournament told me I was the only person that day who got it in against him when he actually had a hand.
"He did that thing when he tapped the table after bluffing like, five more times after you busted. He never had it. He had it once this entire game, and it was you!" he said.
David Williams is a member of Team PokerStars Pro