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The World Series of Poker

Our Gambling Expert's Trip to the Big Leagues Ends With a Lesson in Hardball
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98

(continued from page 5)

"I guess I should have just folded after the first bet," I say ruefully to Blair, at the other end of the table.

"I smelled a set of trips," he says. I nod disconsolately. Larry, busy stacking up what used to be mine, has no comment.

I've lost $10,400 on one hand, my entire profit after nearly seven and a half hours of tournament poker. I'm back down to $10,000. And I'm officially on tilt.

It does not take me long to blow off what remains of my bankroll. I run two horribly unsuccessful bluffs against the only two players at the table on whom a bluff isn't going to work. In other words, I try to get fancy with a couple of donkeys.

That costs me another $5,000 or so.

And then, 20 minutes later, I pick up a moderately good hand, ace-queen of diamonds, in early position and, not thinking about lasting until the second day, not thinking about collecting myself and re-recouping the chips I've given away, not thinking about much of anything, I raise all-in.

This is a terrifically stupid play, since the only hands that will call me are hands that can beat me. Sure enough, a quiet fellow who hasn't played anything all day calls me with aces. Thirty seconds later, I'm out of the 1998 World Series of Poker.

I spend the next few hours--OK, the next few days--filled with self-loathing and regret. Failing to win, to place in the money, to even make the second day, wouldn't bother me so much if I had merely gotten unlucky. That happens; it's a cruel part of poker. What hurts is knowing I played so well, so beautifully, and then managed to play so rottenly. I, not fate or Lady Luck or any other euphemistic apparition, am the reason I was eliminated from the World Series of Poker. And for that I am profoundly disappointed.

For weeks, I have nightmares about my big hand with Larry. I literally wake up in the middle of the night, reliving the pot as if it were a fiery plane crash. Almost every day I torture myself (and my friends) recounting the ominous events. I talk about the hand endlessly with my poker pals, and I always come to the same conclusion: I played the hand badly, really badly.

It starts to consume me. I even suggest to my girlfriend that I might get Larry's telephone number from the Horseshoe and give him a call, tell him I'm writing a story, and, you know, would he mind telling me, for the sake of journalism, what he had?

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