A few days ago, Mike McDonald was one of five players getting drawn inexorably closer to the bubble of the $100,000 Super High Roller. McDonald, along with Paul Newey, Tony Gregg, and Ole Schemion, was involved in a delicate game of who would blink first. The winners would collect a minimum $217,320 payday, the loser would get nothing. That's a big bubble.
Schemion had earlier got his chips in and had managed to double up. His opponents did well to hide their chagrin. Schemion double fist pumped the air. The dance continued, but Newey wanted no part in it and continued to fold. In turn, McDonald, Gregg, Schemion and Glantz, who had been on a downward slide, found themselves having to muck to avoid committing an ICM disaster. The short stacks became shorter until eventually two players, Newey and McDonald, were left with less than one big blind each.
Newey, now with just two antes, moved all-in from under-the-gun. The action folded to McDonald on the button. He held less than one big blind. He also seemed to be completely flummoxed. McDonald is someone who rarely looks confused at the table. Apart from the fact that he's normally far too busy giving people the McDonald death stare, the guy really knows how to play the pokers. It was odd to see him so fraught. McDonald said, "Jesus. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do."
Tricky spot... for $217k
He held king-queen, but it didn't seem to be about the strength of his hand so much as some confusing ICM nonsense that could potentially cost him $100,000's. He eventually made the call. Yesterday, at the back end of the final break of the day, I got to ask him about it.
"It's just a difficult spot with the king-queen, because at this point whether I call or fold I'm not really playing to win the tournament," said MacDonald. "Obviously I still win the tournament, you know, one per cent, but it's not my main decision. My main decision is what's going to get me to cash more. Obviously calling rather than folding is going to get me busting out of the tournament more in that specific hand, but calling is going to get the short stack to bust out of the tournament more often. It's just weighing how often I bust out before him versus him busting out before me.
"Honestly, I don't know how strong a hand I need in that spot. A lot of people are saying you need kings-plus, a lot of people are saying you should cram one hundred per cent. I don't really know and it's not a spot that I'm that familiar with."
There had only been two minutes left on the clock of the when I spotted McDonald, even less when I stuck my iPhone in his face. There were now just seconds on the clock. I asked whether the fact that Newey had been a recreational player had affected his decision.
"I factored that into my decision zero," he replied. "It's irrelevant."
What I'd actually meant was whether Newey understandable reticence to get his chips in had been the reason they'd all got so shallow and created such a strange dynamic. Ahhh well, I guess that's what happens when you do an interview on the fly with no time left on the clock. Like McDonald's king-queen, it's not a spot that I'm that familiar with.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.