'How I took my chance in 100 billion'

PokerStars is celebrating 100 million players this month. Today, we hear from one who took part in our 100 billionth hand.

The odds were huge. As PokerStars geared up to deal its historic 100 billionth hand, nearly 390,000 players were online trying to hit it. Many of those were multi-tabling, and so the chances of being dealt into the big one, and a shot at the $100,000 on offer for winning it, were remote in the extreme.

But Clayton Tomkulak, 28, already felt lucky. See, for three years straight he was called into work each day, and therefore assumed his chances of playing in the 100 billionth hand promotion climax, predicted to hit on a weekday afternoon, were gone. Then, out of the blue, his boss rang at 6.30am as he prepared to leave home, telling him things were slow and he could take the day off.

"It was the first time I had got a call like this in three years of working at the place," the Canadian said. And he didn't waste the golden and unexpected opportunity. He fired up 26 tables of microstakes no-limit and began to grind.

"I played 28,000 hands that day, which was a record for me by far, in the hope hitting one of the smaller million hand milestones leading up to the 100 billionth hand. Then, as the big one got nearer, I closed some of my $0.02/$0.05 tables and opened up a $0.05/$0.10, a $0.15/$0.25 and a $0.25/$0.50 table because PokerStars would pay a bonus to any player playing the same stakes as the 100 billionth hand when it hit."

clayton-tomkulak.jpgClayton Tomkulak

The million hands came and went with no success. Then the 100 billionth hand, which was one of the milestones in PokerStars history that we are revisiting as part of our 100 Million player celebration, came around.

"I wanted to sit out on my 26 tables so I could watch the 100 billionth hand unfold. I clicked the table ID in the lobby, and the table popped up on my screen but then instantly got pushed somewhere into my stack of tables so I didn't at that point see what was happening.

"Then my girlfriend, who was watching on her laptop, yelled, 'You won!' I totally thought she meant I had won a stake share prize for playing on the same level as the 100 billionth (a $0.02/$0.05 table). But she said, 'No, it's you! Look!' and she showed me her screen and I saw myself sitting at the paused 100 billion hand table!"

The action had been stopped to allow tens of thousands of players the opportunity to watch the huge milestone hand play out.

Clayton, who plays with the screen name HeyitsClay, and who lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, explained: "At this point I was in a huge panic because I didn't know how long the table would be paused for, and I had lost it on my screen! I had 26 tables open and needed to find that one. I was scared the hand would start, and that I might be auto folded because my time bank had been used up during the day!

"Thankfully I found it in time, and then I started getting messages on Skype, Twitter and Facebook, asking, 'Dude, is that really you?' Eventually the hand was played out, and I knew it was a snap all-in for everyone at the six-handed table.

"I was dealt K♥6♣, which I wasn't thrilled about but I knew it could have been a lot worse. Once everyone duly moved all in, all the hands were shown, and I liked my spot even more. The flop came A♣2♣J♣ and someone had paired their jack. At first I was like damn! No king! Then I thought I had one over card and a flush draw as outs until I saw someone had the 7♣ so my 6♣ was useless. So after that flop I was hoping for a miracle."

Clayton never caught up. The hand ran out with a 9♦ turn and T♥ river, meaning microulis69 won with the paired jack, taking the $103,800 prize. Just for being on the table, however, still meant a $13,440 purse for Clayton. The hand, and all the milestones leading up to it were captured in a special live blog run by this writer and colleague Rick "Corporate" Dacey.

100_billionth_hand.JPGThe 100 billionth hand in all it's glory

"It was a crazy mix of emotions, that's for sure," he said. "It's hard to say how much was shock, poker discipline, or sadness at missing out on the added $85,000 - then happiness at winning $13,440.

"I realise how lucky I was to be in the hand. It felt like I had used my life one-time on this, so it's too bad I didn't bink that 100k. But a 14k one-time is solid use, I think!"

Of course, his luck was multiplied by being turned away from work that day for the first time in three years. The money was put to good use. As well as leaving extra cash in the bank for everyday provisions, Clayton splashed out on a luxury festival and camping trip. "It made the trip 100 times easier and more fun. It paid for our tickets, rental car, and nice camping equipment. I had the best time of my life there, and winning that money really helped make that happen."

Ready to sign up for PokerStars? Click here to get an account.

Clayton may think he has already used his "one time" - but he plans to be around when PokerStars celebrates its 200 billionth hand. "I'll be there going for two in a row," he joked.

But he was quite serious when asked what it was he liked about PokerStars. "When Stars does something it always does it right, with high quality. If there were any issues, you knew it would get sorted.

"A huge part would be PokerStars' interaction with the community. At times it seems like it is building something together as a team rather than a pure customer/client relationship - and that builds loyal players, I think."

PokerStars is celebrating 100 million players this month. See how you can join in the celebration and win some big money here.

Other stories from this series:

PokerStars has the need for speed
Meet PokerStars' longest-serving player of all time
The ghosts of WCOOP
The Moneymaker Boom that almost wasn't
Alexander Stevic and the start of a new era in poker
The PokerStars Sunday Million Two-Timer Club
Smile! You're on Kid Poker Camera!
Biggest poker tournament ever? Check!
So who was that first winner on PokerStars mobile?

Ready to sign up for PokerStars? Click here to get an account.

Simon Young is Editor-in-Chief at PokerStars.

Simon Young
@MrSimonYoung in PokerStars news