Tuesday. What a day. At 9am I fired up the SCOOP badugi tournament, not really expecting much. I was sure I'd played significantly more badugi than most of the field, and I rated my chances of some kind of payout at just about even, but making the serious money was such a remote possibility I had hardly considered it.
I didn't start well. In the first hour I won just one pot. During the first break I brought my washing in and then got back to business. Or so I thought. Dammit, I've lost my internet connection. Unplug, plug, unplug, plug. Still no reading, captain. I ring Vodafone. I'm on hold for ages. Stop it with the dance music at this time of the morning, would you? I finally get through to a bloke who was nice enough but clearly not based in New Zealand. "Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?" "Yes, five times." I was told to type in various passwords and codes, then he noticed his switchboard was red hot. There was an Auckland-wide outage; he gave me a two-hour timeframe. Oh well. A quick back-of-an-envelope calculation told me I'd be blinded out of the tournament in almost exactly two hours.
I wasn't too disappointed. I hadn't invested much time or money in the tournament and I had plenty of other stuff to be getting on with. I left my computer on just in case; having worked in a large company I knew that "two hours" can be anywhere from a minute to some time next Tuesday.
When my connection miraculously sprung back to life - I was out for forty minutes - I still had nearly 80% of my initial 5000 chips. Things didn't improve much after that though, and I thought there can't be many tournaments where you can win just one pot in more than two hours of play and still show signs of life. In the third hour, with half my original stack left, I made a six badugi to virtually double up against a fellow short stack who I could tell had simply had enough of this badugi shit. I kept hanging in there but in the fourth hour, with half the 2408-player field remaining, I got involved with a couple of marginal hands and my stack was crippled. I was then dealt a one-card draw to a rough eight and had no real choice but to commit. I was three-bet by a monster draw and my tournament life hung by a thread. On the second draw I hit the two of diamonds to make 872A, my opponent missed, and I survived. I was about a 35/65 underdog on that hand. Two out of three times I would have exited right there.
I capitalised on my good fortune to build my stack up to 31,000 only to become one of the short stacks again as the money approached. When the bubble burst with 440 players left I was down to 11,000. Then something funny, but totally understandable when I think about it, happened. People started dropping like flies. You see, the payout structure was totally wack. Paying 440 is too many. Most of these people would only get their money back, plus a tiny bit more, and what's the point of that? And even as players were eliminated, the payouts hardly went up at all; 200th only paid slightly more than 400th, while even 100th was only enough to double your money. So it was hardly surprising that many of the short stacks said "sod this" and loosened up their play. Hence I decided to do the exact opposite. I haven't got a lot of chips here, but if I can just wait for a good hand and let everyone else knock each other out, who knows?
This strategy seemed to work. I played straightforwardly, betting aggressively with my good three-cards and staying out of the way with anything dodgy. With eighty or so left I hit the tournament lead and, almost in disbelief, took a screen shot of the lobby. At the ten-hour mark I realised I had a number of advantages over much of the field:
1. Yes I've been playing for ten hours and I'm getting a little tired, but think of all the poor sods in the States downing cans of Red Bull to avoid falling asleep at the wheel, or rather the screen. In contrast it's 7pm here and I'm still very much awake.
2. I've taken - and studied for - a lot of exams in my time, so concentrating on one thing for ten hours or more in a day is not a foreign concept to me.
3. I'm playing only this tournament. There were big Omaha tournaments going on at the same time. The very thought of playing simultaneous badugi and Omaha sounds like a nightmare. And of course people will be playing cash games and surfing the net and heaven knows what else.
I never thought seriously about the money until we were down to two tables, or to be more specific, eleven players. By this stage I was guaranteed a couple of hundred, but man were there eleven of us for a long time. And my stack was dwindling. Reaching the final eight would mean an extra hundred or so, while seventh paid over twice what eighth did! I wondered what was so special about seventh. As I said, the payouts were all wack. In fairly dire chip poo, I then won two big hands. On the first of these I committed with 43A while my opponent, who had tried to push me off my hand, had complete junk. I won the second as my six badugi went up against a seven.
As we hit the much-needed 15-minute break at the twelve-hour mark, I was chip leader with five players left. I glanced at those prizes again. What's fourth? Whoa. What's third? Oh man. I took a walk around the block in a bit of a daze. On my return we were soon down to three. Many more hands become playable three-handed, so I had to keep telling myself not to just click fold all the time. When we got heads-up I was at a slight chip disadvantage. Also I’d played very little heads-up badugi so I was flying by the seat of my pants. What should I three-bet with pre-draw? Three-card sixes? Smooth sevens? Nine badugis are monsters now, right? My opponent then wanted to make a deal. He was talking chip equity numbers and I had no real idea if I was being screwed over or not. In hindsight perhaps I was (at the time I was behind in chips by nearly two to one) but some PokerStars guru was on hand and everything seemed above board. I felt I had very little bargaining power as I’d never been anywhere near that situation before, and heck, win or lose the resulting payout would be beyond my wildest dreams (I later found out that my foe had taken home four figures a few times before). I took over the chip lead and on a couple of occasions I was a massive favourite to win, but after going head-to-head for more than an hour I’d had my chips. Second place for a whopping payout of US$4758. I was stunned.
Despite the previous day winning more than enough to pay for my next car (and the insurance for it!), yesterday was just a normal day, though I was very tired from Tuesday’s 14-hour-plus marathon. I talked at length with my counsellor about my relationship with Mum. Last night I attended the men’s depression group for the first time in ages (and also the last time in ages). I’d thought about buying drinks for everyone as a gesture, or perhaps going across the road to Hell Pizza (which, as the player who beat me was called Hellhound, would have been appropriate). In the end, as Andy suggested, I just got a few nibbles. We chatted about life, one of the blokes read out part of a play he had written, and I even talked about my gambling exploits with a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer.
Yesterday I spent some time just sitting out in the garden; it was a glorious autumn day. I realised one thing: whatever my next job is, I don’t want it to involve staring at a screen for 14 hours a day. I want to see some sunshine, some people, some life. I haven’t done enough of that lately. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing the careers advisor again.
The results of Britain’s general election will come in tomorrow. It will be a very tight race. If I was still in my old job I’d follow it on the internet at work, but I’m not sure if I will tomorrow. I’m hoping for a hung parliament and the Lib Dems to gain some influence, though I’m not sure it will really make much difference whatever happens.
It’s not long till I’ll be on the plane and I’ve still got so much to do before then. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write a quick post giving some idea of my itinerary over the next six or seven weeks. One thing’s for sure: poker will be off the radar.