The first time I ever played a poker tournament I was the first one out. But the second time I had much more success.
Back in 2001 the Oaks Club ran a limit tournament with a $60 buy-in and a $50 rebuy. It ran every Wednesday night at 6:30 and usually drew about 50 players which is a microscopic field by today's standards. I strolled into the Oaks around 3 p.m. ignoring the fact that I had a 4 o’clock class and saw that the tournament would be running later that night. I decided to play $6-$12 and if I could win more than $110 I would use it to get into the tournament.
After a nice, straight forward 3 hour session picked up almost two racks of grey $2 chips and headed to the cage. I’d won about $180 and even though my plan was play the tournament with my winnings I started to have second thoughts. $180 was a solid win for me and I knew it would sour the day for me if I blew back almost half my profits in the tournament. I headed to the Oaks restaurant to have a burger and think things through. In the end I decided I probably wouldn’t have too many chances to play the tournament and still leave a solid winner for the day even if I didn’t cash. I paid my entry fee and hesitantly awaited the start of the tournament.
I ran good the entire way through and even though I had plenty of chips and we were playing limit, I was terrified as we approached the money bubble. To say I was nervous at the final table would be an insane understatement. First place was a little over $2,000 and my biggest win to date was $350. I was still at the stage where winning a hundred bucks felt like a strong win and even hitting $500 seemed like so much money that I wouldn't know what to do with myself.
I ended up playing 3 handed with a guy named Simon who was a regular and a young Filipino guy I knew from the $3/$6 game. Even though I’d decided Simon sucked based on how he'd been playing and didn’t think much of my other opponent, I was instantly smitten with the idea of a deal when Simon mentioned it. I was terrified of making a mistake that would cost me many hundreds of dollars and this gave me a chance to lock up my profits.
I had about a quarter of the chips, the other player had slightly less than I did and Simon had a little more than half of the chips in play. His opening proposal was to take $100 off of the $2,100 first place and give it to us which we would then split along with the rest of the prize money.
Although this was only my second tournament and my first deal negotiation I was not born yesterday. I knew this was a shitty deal and when I told him that in so many words he said “but I have twice as many chips as you.” To which I immediately replied “yeah, but I’m twice as good as you.” It’s not like me to razz anyone like that and to me it looked like his head was going to explode.
We played a few more hands and found ourselves in the same chips positions when I proposed that I take second place money [$1,060] (If I had exactly 25% of the chips and we did a deal based on chip count I should have gotten $1,127 so I screwed myself a little if I remember the prizes correctly), Simon take 1st place money less $300 [$1,800] and the other fellow take third place money plus $300 [$975]. After a bunch of hemming and hawing where everyone says “I’ll play if you want, but I guess the deal is ok, what do you guys want to do?” several times, we finally all agreed.
After Simon agreed and our other opponent said “ok let’s do it,” I pounded my fist against the table and said “Yes, Alright!” It wasn’t as thrilling as wining the last hand to claim outright victory, but god damn it I was fired up. I instantly felt bad that I’d told Simon I was twice as good as him, apologized and shook his hand.
I drove home on cloud nine. When I saw my friends I said "guess how much I won today?" Someone said "Five hundred!" and then they all laughed at the absurdity of the suggestion. "More!" I said. "Seven?!?!?" They said. "NO!, $1,130!!!" "Holy shit!"
That was really an amazing day. I'm not sure how much money I'd have to win to be that excited today, but it's a lot. It's very nice new car kind of money.
I was thinking of that day because today was the 6th straight day that I've won over $1,000. I'm sure I've never done that before, and while it doesn't feel mind blowing it still feels pretty good. I hope I can keep the streak alive tomorrow.