I always find it frustrating to miss the Championship Tournament due to games missed. If it were up to me I’d make it to every one. This season I missed 4 weeks out of (I think) 19. That’s more than 20%. That’s a big handicap to overcome.

Well after making my return after a couple of missed games, I found on the stat sheet that I was about 40 points out of the final spot on the Championship roster with 4 games to go. Extremely difficult, but doable.

I had three players between me and that 10th place spot that I would have to leapfrog as well in order to make it. Keeler, Dog Boy and Jonathan, if my memory serves correct. Or maybe it was 4 others with Rocky thrown in the mix. Whatever it was, we were all chasing Darlene.

So began my monumental task. I put in a solid effort that week, finishing just in the money (actually, it had been the bubble until we all agreed to take $20 out of the first place spot and give it to 4th). Keeler, one of the players I had been chasing had been just surviving with a micro-stack. He made a late comeback and knocked me out on a hand where I had a decent made hand and he had a good draw.

So a good showing at first was soured by one of the players I was chasing going on to win that tournament, distancing himself further. I put in a couple more good weeks, picking up points and making my late-season charge. At the end of the second to last week, I waited around for the updated stats.

Keeler was in 10th, 11 points ahead. Rocky was in 11th, only 2 points in front, and Jonathan and I were tied for 12th. One game to go, I knew I had to have a good night the final game. 11 points was a fair amount, but Tommy Keeler was the type of player who could crush the competition from start to finish, or go out first. I figured if I put in a good enough performance to pick up 11 points on Tommy, then passing Rocky and Jonathan would likely take care of itself. And if the cards fell so that I couldn’t catch Tommy, or Jonathan or Rocky did better than I, Darlene was sitting there in 9th place only 15 points ahead. But Darlene tends to hang around for a while week to week, picking up points, so that was a real long shot.

I was feeling good. I was confident, playing well, and proud of the fact I had moved up as much as I had in the three weeks prior. I showed up at Harry’s itching to make one final push. Then I saw the updated stats. Apparently Patty, in cleaning house, had waylaid or gotten rid of Harry’s poker stuff. After redoing the standings I wasn’t 11 points behind Keeler, I was 21 points out. There was almost no chance. And having KK against AA to be knocked out of that final tournament only sealed the deal. It was disheartening.

But alas, here came one of my ideas from the off-season: the end-of-year satellite tournaments for those who finished outside the top 10. What I thought would be 3 satellites I later learned would be 5. The first two I could make it to, but the third was out of bounds. We had company coming from out of town (Another missed game, argh!). I was informed the final satellite would also be a rebuy/add-on tourney with the rebuy period being 6 blind levels long! There’s no way I could afford that one, being out of work, so I was down to 3 shots to make it to the dance.

What I expected would be a hotly contested opportunity turned out to be scarcely attended! Harry was there to deal. Patty played in the satellite, as did the two Genes. Then there was me. Some calls were made to see if anyone else would play, and Josh Angotti said he’d be there, but late. So we played 5 handed poker (with only 4 players for the first 20 minutes).

Play proceeded quickly, and being hit with two blinds every five hands, Josh was at a bigger disadvantage than you’d think showing up 20 minutes late. It was very interesting poker. Usually when you get down to 4 or 5 handed the blinds are getting quite large, meaning it’s a lot of preflop and on the flop play. This was quite different.

I had a good run of cards early, though the starting hands I played were not powerhouses. The passive play of the game let me play a lot of hands, especially in position. I flopped one straight, turned the nut flush and got out to an early lead.

A good run of starting hands allowed me to grow my lead even further. A couple of AKs, an AQ, pocket Jacks and pocket tens. Though I did lose one of those AK hands to Gene III’s all-in reraise with 77. That proved to be a crucial hand for III.

Then there was Gotti, playing somewhat short-stacked and getting cold-decked. I figured once the blinds went up he’d have to shove with his small stack. So there I am, with Gene II calling on the button and Gotti completing from the small blind. I figured Josh didn’t have a pair or two big cards or he’d have pushed, so I looked down at my pocket 5’s and figured I was certainly better than Gotti.

But Gene in the pot was somewhat problematic. He didn’t raise, but he rarely did preflop, so it was still possible he had a hand that had me crushed, so I didn’t want to set Josh all-in right away in case Gene came along for the ride. So I made a raise large enough to commit Josh to the pot if he was going to play. Gene folded and Josh thought for a short time before shoving. I was almost certain it would be a race. Until Gotti turned over 33! I was wrong, he had a pair and didn’t shove, but it actually turned out to be a much better situation for me.

The deck was brutal to him though, as the 3 he caught on the turn to pull ahead gave me an open-ended straight draw and he lost to my straight when the 7 fell on the river. He was a huge dog in the pot from the beginning, but to have your hopes dashed like that was just cruel. Gotti took it… rather well.

I got lucky on a couple more hands, splitting pots where I was outkicked by 1 rank when higher cards hit the board. But the biggest game-changer for me was when Gene III reraised another of my preflop raises. I had laid down several times to his reraises, and was starting to believe he was pushing me around a fair amount of the time. I saw AJ suited and figured it was a good time to make a stand. I was dejected when he turned over AK off-suit. A miracle board of 555QQ led to a split pot where I never had much of a chance, and I was still alive.

Three handed, Gene II was micro stacked in the small blind with $525 total, I think it was with $200-$400 blinds and a $25 ante. He shoved all-in blind, Gene III folded on the button and I found QQ in the hole. You figure in that situation you have an overpair, but Gene actually had KJ. He flopped a J too, but didn’t improve further.

Heads up against Gene III it came down to one critical hand. AQ off-suit on the small blind/button, I put in a raise (didn’t do a ton of preflop raising heads up) and once again Gene III came over the top of me all-in. The two times during this satellite I had called him in the same spot he had 77 once and AK the other time. But heads up AQ was just way too good a hand, especially with the good pot odds. So in the final hand I called him down and his TJ suited fell short.

I was elated to win the game and nab my spot in the final tournament, and to also have a bit of a change in fortune, as this season was defined, for me, by running cold and suffering bad beats. But I was still a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be playing the other satellite tournaments. It was a lot of fun, and played very differently than our regular season matches.

But at least I won’t be missing any more games this season, after all.


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