Saturday, there were three area festivals to choose from. Just over the Georgia border was Mule Day. This is a huge festival with lots of vendors and food which I’ve attended at least once but not recently.
Down the road in Apalachicola, it was the Florida Seafood Festival. After 48 years, it’s become way too big for the small fishing village. The food is overpriced, parking is a mess and the crowds too huge for my liking. So I’ve not attended this one in years.
And locally, there was the Greek Festival. Hosted by the local Greek Orthodox Church, there’s plenty of Greek food.
On any other Saturday, I’d probably have gone to Mule Day and perhaps gone to the Greek Festival on Sunday for some souvlaki. But this was not just another Saturday.
For one thing, it was way too brisk for me to be outdoors. But even if the weather had been nicer, there was another consideration: I had a poker tournament to play in. And it didn’t cost me a penny to play.
An organization based in Tampa hosts free Texas Hold “Em tournaments throughout the state and locally at three pool rooms / bars. There’s no cost to play, although if you buy food or a drink you get some extra chips. Presumably, the bars get some extra business and they’re willing to throw some of that extra money into a quarterly tournament with a $300 prize pool split between the top three finishers.
Normally, I don’t like to play poker if there’s no cash buy-in. If they have no money to lose, then lots of folks will play…strangely. And that changes the whole nature of the game. If enough folks come into a hand because they have no money to lose, even a pair of Aces has a poor probability of winning.
But… The Feds had shut down the online site I was playing at, (I have $200 frozen there, $100 of it winnings), and so I needed something to satiate my poker appetite. Playing for free online is faux poker. And boring… The possibility of playing in a tournament for money was…interesting.
To get into the quarterly tournament, you only need to be one of the top two in the weekly tournaments. That gets you in the quarterly tournament with 10,000 chips. Each additional finish in the top two gets you another 1,000 chips for the tournament.
Even though the weekly tournaments are on week nights and I can only play one tournament a week, I figured I should be able to finish in the top two at least once. Especially if there were many “sloppy” players. I finished in the top two twice, and so went to the tournament with 11,000 chips.
That wasn’t a lot of chips since there were folks there with 20,000 chips and more. (Each venue holds tournaments for as long as there are enough players or the venue closes, so there may be five tournaments each night since each tournament lasts about an hour.) But 10,000 chips is a deep enough stack for me to play the “solid” game I play.
And there was a “special” prize for the final nine. Each would win a free entry into a $100 buy-in tournament with a guaranteed minimum prize pool of $10,000. This tournament is being held December 23 at a new poker room opening up in the next county. That’s what I wanted to win.
The tournament began at two. When I play in Vegas, a 5,000 chip tournament will go three to four hours. I wasn’t sure what would happen in this tournament since no one had paid to enter. But I figured the free entry to the $10,000 tournament would make the play more “serious.” And it did.
As one of the shorter stacks, I had to play conservatively. Except for when I was a blind, I played few hands early on and watched to see the other players’ styles.
My big hand came after about an hour when I was big blind and had pocket 7s. Only one other player beside the small blind had come in. So he probably had two over cards and I could not allow him to see a cheap flop. I went all in hoping for a fold; he called and showed A-J.
This scenario is often called a “race” because the pair has about a 55% probability of winning against two higher cards. But it is the perfect opportunity for a short stack because the other guy has to hit something. My pair held and I doubled up to 20,000.
My other bid hand came when blinds were 1,000 and 2,000. I was big blind with J-6 and two others came into the hand. The flop brings K-6-6, so I’ve got trip sixes. (I love to hit a big hand in the big blind because most folks will not “believe” me.) It’s checked to me and I bet what’s in the pot – 6,000.
One player folds and the other calls. The turn is trash and so I put out a “continuation” bet of another 6,000. He calls. River card is a King, so now I have a boat (full house). But I need to think about what the other player has been calling with. If he has a King, then he’s got me beat.
The smart bet is another 6,000 because it does “double duty” as both a value bet looking for a call for more chips if my hand is a winner and also a feeler bet looking for a raise from a stronger hand. If he has the King, he’s raising me; if he doesn’t have a King then he may call since I’m not being very aggressive.
He effectively shows me his hand by expressing hesitation about what to do because there’s 30,000 in the pot and it’s just 6,000 to call. He makes the call and mucks his hand when I show him the trip threes. He probably had the second highest two pair, was worried that I might have the King but was blind to trip threes.
I went into the final table with about 65,000 chips. Another player and I went out in 6th and 7th place when we called an all in after the flop from the player with the second largest stack. The board was 8,9,10 and I had a J for an open-ended straight. The first player to call went all in and was called by the other player. The pot odds were only about 3 to 1 (75,000 in the pot that I could win and 25,000 for me to call if I went all in with my remaining chips) and it was 1 in 4 for me to hit the straight. But since I was one of the shorter stacks, I needed a big win so I did call.
The first player to go all in showed pocket Jacks, so if the straight showed we would split the pot up to what I had put in. The third player only had A-6. He was hoping for an Ace or a 7 for an inside straight, both of which are about 1 in 10. That was a bad decision on his part…real “gambling” since he did not have anywhere near pot odds. And if he’d not called, I’d have folded because without his chips in the pot my pot odds would only be 2-1 and I won’t make that call unless I’m about to be blinded out.
So I left with a certificate worth $100 and an opportunity for a big win on December 23. It may be a very Merry Christmas! And if not, I didn’t put a dollar in to play.