So close… and yet so far

Yesterday, I went up to Islington in London for a “fun” poker tournament. The entry fee was paid for by my wife as a surprise birthday present, and was my first experience of playing poker against people I didn’t know, or for more than £5 stake!

The game was no-limits Texas Hold’em – with about eight people to each table to start with, and the top three players from each game moving on to the next table.

Amazingly, I did quite well – winning on my first table quite convincingly, and making it through to the last two players on the last table. Where I got pressured into going all-in before I was really ready. Shame.

Still, my personal goal was not to be the first out, so coming second overall was fantastic. No prize for me, as it was winner-takes-all. 🙁

My wife did offer an incentive before we went – saying she would take me out for a meal after. The deal was it’d be McDonalds if I was first out, Burger King if I was the second one out, Pizza Hut if I was third out, Pizza Express if I was the fourth person out, and so on. She obviously didn’t expect me to stay in for quite so long… I figure that by those rules, I was entitled to eat in a fairly posh Michellin-star restaurant, but settled for a nice Italian in South Bank in the end. 🙂

I’m not claiming to be a pro now, but I did pick up a few tips. For example, we only got 30 (surprisingly thick and heavy!) chips to start each game with. This was unusual… when I play with friends, we normally have a couple of (large!) sets worth of chips to play with, so starting with only thirty chips felt like nothing.

It made me a lot more cautious. In the past I’ve virtually always paid to see the flop, but with a big blind starting at two chips and going up from there, I couldn’t pay to see every flop or I could have been out after a couple of rounds! Talking to some of the people there, apparently poker pro’s typically fold at least half of their hands before the flop, so it seems to be a better approach.

I also picked up some pointers from the dealer – like putting the pot to one side every time the bets are even before another card is dealt. With friends, we’ve always just built up a bigger pile of chips in front of each of us and brought it together at the end. Not only can it sometimes get confusing on how much you owe for a hand, but it affect how you play. You think “well, I’ve bet this much, so I may as well add a bit more…” and end up chasing hands that never come off. By taking it away and putting it in “the pot”, it stops being yours as soon as you bet it. You bet on the cards available at the time, worrying less about what you’ve already spent to get there. Again, it made me more cautious than I’ve played in the past.

I’ll have to arrange a game soon so I can try out my new skills! 😉

2 Responses to “So close… and yet so far”

  1. Roo Reynolds says:

    That same feeling of starting with too-few chips is the biggest thing I took away from my first (and last) experience of a real world holdem tournament. It made me start playing with friends using far fewer starting chips for a while, but I’ve never (yet) been back for more.

    Like you, I went out on the bubble (though in mine it was 10th rather than 2nd.. well done you!). Annoying, but all good experience.

    I’d be up for a game at some point. Do you know Neil?

  2. Nick O'Leary says:

    I seem to remember I had the honour of being the first one out of the very same real world tournament that Roo mentions. On the very first hand. What an experience 🙂

    Count me in a game sometime.