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Take Some Time To Recognize Your Run Good

by Nathan Gamble |  Published: Apr 21, 2021

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As is typical of most aspiring poker pros, I had an on-again off-again relationship with money at various points in my career. Some days it was spilling out of my pocket, and the next day I was scrounging for $5 to buy a red solo cup for entry into a college party. It was simple times though, and while money was important there wasn’t a mortgage to worry about, car payments to make, or debts to settle. It was just nice to usually have a bank account with a positive number attached to it.

Before leaving for college, I had bought myself a Walmart-special laptop, enough to write papers for class and play online. It wasn’t the fancy set ups you see in pictures from the old school online legends with multiple monitors stacked side by side, but it worked well enough for the heralded Sunday tournament grind. I had won a satellite into the now-defunct Full Tilt Poker $750,000 guarantee tournament at noon, and 15 hours later I was at the final table.

I was second in chips when I picked up pocket queens preflop against the only person at the table who had me covered. It was a classic coin flip against his A-K and I was left gripping the edge of my seat as I watched the board run out to give him a full house. Game. Set. Match.

The only thing that lessened the ICM blow was the freshly minted $17,500 sitting in my account. It was a minor salve to the pain of busting in seventh, but it helped shore up plans for my spring break.

I have a history of being impulsive when it comes to large purchases, and this time was no different. My bank account went from a meager three digits to a healthy five figures, and it was time to celebrate! Without seeing if anyone would join me, I decided on a trip from Colorado, through Arizona, to Honolulu.

While I was prepping for the trip my stroke of good fortune continued as an Ultimate Bet representative messaged me and said in exchange for a $15,000 deposit, they would give me a free seat into their $3,000 main event. I quickly withdrew the money from Full Tilt, booked my hotel in Hawaii, and deposited the remainder on UB. It once again left me with only three digits in the bank, but I was secure in the knowledge that I could withdraw whatever I needed after playing their event.

The days trickled by slowly, and then in a flash I was packing my bag and heading to the airport. I said, ‘adios’ to the cold and snow and jumped on a plane to Arizona. I was trying to be conscious of my small bank account and had booked a connecting flight with an overnight delay, so upon landing in Arizona I headed to a local hotel to grab some shut eye before my 9:30 am departure.

The next morning rolled around and it was a lazy start to the day before sauntering up to the airline counter for check in. Except I couldn’t check in. The plane had already announced last call and shut its doors! The time zone change between Denver and Arizona was only an hour, but it was just enough to throw me for a loop. After a few frantic phone calls to the gate, they informed me no matter how fast I ran they couldn’t let me on. Maybe it was the desperation on my face, maybe it was the look of stupidity plastered across my brow, or maybe she was just a kind agent, but she went out of her way to transfer my seat onto a flight leaving later in the day. I wish I knew her name because I’d love to give her a huge shoutout for her empathy. Thank you, mystery airline lady!

After taking care of the plane issue, I was left with a more immediate dilemma, what to do with my extra eight hours in the airport? I did what any young ‘professional’ poker player would do and saddled up to a California Pizza Kitchen for some breakfast, WIFI, and an all-day session online.

After playing UB’s main event a week prior and attempting to withdrawal the balance, they hit me with the fine print. Apparently, you had to generate a certain amount of rake in order to withdraw your money after participating in the bonus. I don’t remember what that number was, but it was enough to make me panic as I wouldn’t be able to generate it any time in the near future and 90% of my funds were locked up. As such, the all-day session online was geared towards getting as much play as quickly as possible. Instead of playing the $11-$55 sit-n-go’s I should have been in, I fired up four tables of $5-$10 and $10-$20 heads-up PLO.

I was just praying things went well, but I was well outside my normal depth. It should have been a lesson in seeing how fast I could blow my bankroll. It should have been a lesson in game selection. Maybe even a lesson on picking my opponent. (I stupidly chose to play top pro Jeff ‘yellowsub’ Williams).

Instead, the deck ran over me to the tune of $15,000 in profit over the course of eight hours. In fact, one of the hands still holds the record for me as the largest pot I’ve ever played. The blinds were $10-$20 and Jeff opened the button for $70, I looked at a marvelous A-A-6-7, and with stacks sitting at over $8,000 to start the hand, quickly pumped it up to $210.

That didn’t seem to faze him as he came right back over the top to $630. This was already more money than I usually played for, but I knew that the money had to go in. I nervously five-bet to $1,890, which he called after some consideration. The pot had grown to almost $4,000 and we still had $6,000 each!

The flopped rolled off an innocuous 5-4-4 rainbow, giving me a straight-draw and a stomach full of butterflies. Before I truly knew what happened, all of our remaining money had gone in and I was staring at a $16,000 pot and Jeff’s flopped trips. I looked up and said a silent prayer as the turn rolled off a beautiful eight to give me a straight and I managed to hold on through the river.

Apparently, he had had enough as shortly after that monster pot he quit me. In a moment of serendipity, a voice from above came over the loudspeaker announcing they had an upgrade available to first class. After the day I had, it only seemed right to arrive in Hawaii in style!

Sometimes in life everything you do is correct, all the decisions are perfect, and you still lose out. Conversely, sometimes you make every poor choice you can, can’t think fast enough, and yet the world conspires to reward your abysmal decisions. Next time you are sitting at the table cursing your luck, perhaps it’s the right time to realize all the times in life you have been far ‘luckier’ than your choices deserved. ♠

Nathan Gamble is a native of Texas where he learned to play the game of hold’em from his father. He is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, the first coming in the 2017 WSOP $1,500 PLO8/b Event, the second in the 2020 Online WSOP $600 PLO8/b event. A fixture of the mid-stakes mixed game community since moving to Las Vegas in 2019, he can often be found playing $80-$160 games at the Wynn. He is active on Twitter under the username Surfbum4life and streams mixed game content weekly on twitch under the same moniker.