PCA Memories: Double Bubble

If I haven't mentioned it before (and that's a joke, because I have probably written about it in every one of my countless tournament reports), I simply love the bubble of a poker tournament. No matter whether it lasts two minutes or two hours, the bubble is the time when a player's true personality and style will present itself. As the prospect of making ten grand or nothing hangs in the balance, it's easy to spot the turtles among the warriors. What's more, if you're only railing with no particular horse in the race, it's easy to root for the folks who are in the event on a freeroll or playing for their first-ever cash. There is simply no other point in a poker tournament that is like the money bubble. It is unique in its tension and opportunity. I just love it.

The 2006 PCA bubble reflected in one of the Atlantis mirrors

One of my favorite PCA bubbles came in 2006 during the main event. It was a bubble where one stack was on the verge of melting into the felt. Blinds and antes would eat it up before the next orbit was finished. It was the kind of stack that served as an antonym for the term "fold equity." For the unfortunate player behind the stack, there was not so much pressure as an inevitability.

He didn't have one Grim Reaper standing over his shoulder. He had a dozen members of the media and more than a few other shortstacks peering down and waiting for the moment his 600 chips would disappear. In fact, there were 131 other people who were all hoping the bubble would pass and they could get on with winning the tournament. By and by, this player's final two black chips were in the middle. With the benefit of recorded history, we can actually step inside this player's head for a second. We now know that he got his final two chips in with...a wired pair of kings. We know that he very likely felt like he might have a chance at hanging around for a little longer. We know that he probably wanted to kiss the guy on the button when he came in for a raise. A little protection is never a bad thing.

And then something odd happened. Whether it was a desire to end the bubble silliness or decent holdings, both blinds called. The man behind the kings couldn't have felt any joy in this development. Furthermore, when the flop came Q88, the blinds checked, but the button was not content to check it down. Instead, he bet out. The small blind gave up the quest to bust the shortie, but the big blind was not going away. The turn was a seven.

Now, we all assumed the two remaining players would check it down. Not so. From the big blind, Jordan Berkowitz put out a bet. More than a few people muttered, "What the hell?" Then, everyone shut up when the button pushed all-in. With the action back to Berkowitz, the crowd pushed in. Finally, he called all-in. Unless the button was just an imbecile, it was fairly clear the bubble was about to break. But how? Well, just like this.

With the board reading Q887, two players were all-in and the button had a lot of chips in the middle. We know the original shortstack had kings-up. Berkowitz? He had turned exceptionally lucky. He held pocket sevens and now held sevens full. In hindsight, he wasn't so much lucky as very, very unlucky. The button held pocket queens, known in some circles as the second nuts.

Berkowitz realizing he is second-best

No king or seven appeared on the river, and on a breeze of relief-sighs, the bubble of the 2006 PCA main event evaporated in the air.

Stay tuned for the 2008 bubble...coming about nine days from today.


2008 PCA Primer

PCA Memories: Behind the Scenes

PCA Memories: Gentleman John Gale

The Great Button Mystery of 2006

Setting Sail

Curse of the Caribbean Adventure