Across an ocean for one hand
I'm writing during what is basically a month off for me between the end of the World Series of Poker and the start of the new season of the European Poker Tour. I'm definitely enjoying the down time, but am also looking forward to the EPT and especially Barcelona, where Season 10 will be kicking off soon.
I've only been to EPT Barcelona once before. In fact, that previous time I played exactly one hand! I'd never busted on the first hand I played in a major tournament before -- or since -- so I can say without hesitation my previous trip to Barcelona was a very memorable experience.
I had flown all of the way to Spain, then registered about 20 minutes late. I typically do that to avoid the crowd, although I don't like to be super late and miss a lot of blinds. I sat down and folded three or four hands, I think, then I picked up one and decided to play it and... I busted!
It was still Level 1. I raised with T♣9♣ and got a caller, the flop came T♥T♦9♦, and that's when we got it all in. My opponent had A♠T♠ and ended up spiking the A♣ on the river, and that was all she wrote!
I would have never played that hand the way my opponent did, choosing to get it all in after flopping trips with ace-ten. Unless I have the nuts -- as I did -- I'm never putting my whole stack in the middle in the first level. I might have lost, say, a third of my stack with his hand, but there's no point in getting super crazy and risking my tournament life that early not knowing I have the best hand.
It was pretty amazing. To be honest, by the time we got up to seven bets or whatever it was on the flop, I was starting to get disoriented a little. What could he think I had?!? By then I thought he had to have pocket nines and thus be drawing stone dead, or perhaps there was a tiny chance he had same hand as me. But I never imagined in my wildest dreams he had ace-ten.
The truth is, you have to be able to fold or at least slow down with a hand like that. It's hard to fold big hands, and it usually isn't fun. But it can be done, and especially early in a tournament you have to find a way to do so.
For instance, I've folded pocket kings before the flop on two occasions, once in a cash game and once in a tournament. Fortunately my opponents showed me aces both times so I knew I was correct. With my playing style I like to three-bet a lot and can get myself in some traps with people four-betting me, but it just so happens on those two hands I hadn't been overly active and so it was easier for me to figure out my opponents were holding aces when they played back at me.
Anyway, once he did show me ace-ten it was clear he wasn't really thinking about what I had, but just his own hand. At the time, though, it was kind of surreal.
And then to lose the hand and be out... that was also kind of head-spinning. In the EPTs you start with 30,000 chips and 50/100 blinds, so you thoroughly expect to be sitting there at least until the dinner break, and if you play pretty well perhaps at least a couple of days. You never expect to fly halfway across the world, sit down for five minutes or so, and then suddenly be left with nothing else to do for the day.
So I head back to Barcelona obviously hoping for things to go differently. I can't really say I hope to play better, because getting all of your chips in and having your opponent crushed is really about all you can ask for. But that's one of the reasons why poker is so exciting -- you really don't know what to expect on a day-to-day basis.
I hung around after and did a few things, although didn't play a lot of poker because I had little bit of a sour taste after that hand. Really that kind of hand doesn't bother me much at all. What bothers me more are hands where I make a bad play, which will happen periodically. But with a hand like my last one at EPT Barcelona, well, there's not much you can do.
Now I'm looking forward to playing my next hand in Barcelona. Here's hoping I get to play a few more this time, too!
Chris Moneymaker is a member of Team PokerStars Pro