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How Not to Win a Poker Tournament - Part 1

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Jan 28, '09


I've been gambling in Galway since I had my first ever bet at the races when I was seven years old. I know every pitfall there is there, but knowing and using that knowledge are two different things.

My first mistake was to arrive in Galway on the 30th of December, which is practically suicide if you want to play a tournament starting on the 2nd of January. I did have an excuse: my friends Mike Sexton and Kenna James were arriving that day from the States and I couldn't let them have a good time without me! Mad Marty and Katherine also came into town that day, so it wasn't long before things got out of hand.

Kenna had spent 11 hours in JFK airport on his way but that didn't stop the two heading over to the Eglinton Club when the more sane members of our group had gone to bed. I fluked a small win in the cash game but unfortunately it was at Kenna's expense. Things got worse when Kenna decided to take on the local champ at the heads-up machine.

The next morning I got Mike out of bed on the pretext of buying him breakfast. Instead, I took him for a walk in Salthill, assuring him that the sea air was good for clearing the head. Mike doesn't like walking, unless he's following a little white ball with a stick in his hand and tens of thousands are on the line; he moaned every inch of the way. Every third word he muttered was pneumonia, so I made the walk extra long, just for the craic. Ten days later, I still have the flu and Mike is fine.

We spent the afternoon listening to Kenna practicing his poker song "Dreams" for the TV. In no time at all, it was time for the annual New Year's Eve dinner in the Waterfront hotel in Salthill. This started off a few years ago with about eight runners, but has now got completely out of hand. This year, we were 35, including a healthy Boyle's representation. Not sure at what time it all finished up, but it was late. That was no problem as we had all of New Year's day to recover and prepare for the tournament. Yeah, right! The band in the Radisson was too good, so it was another 7 o'clock job. Paddy Higgins, the drummer who put the band together, which he calls "The Survivors" said "it was a reunion of a band that never played together in the first place", though all the musicians, except the Devilfish were 30 year men, who'd all gigged in New York in the 80's.

The next day, I found myself at a feature table with Mike, the Fish and a bunch of other faces. I tried to knock myself out, severely crippled Mike in the process (he hasn't forgiven me yet but he will) and knocked out the Fish. The Fish managed to turn his AK losing to my AA into a bad beat story on the grounds I could have had just about anything. For once he had a case. The highlight was when somebody asked French player Claude Cohen what the French for "calling station" was, he replied it was Devilfish.

When that table got busted, I got moved to a table where all the guys were playing pretty good, and to be honest I was too tired to do anything about it. The end of the night's play was a welcome relief and though not in a great position, I was probably in better shape than I deserved and went straight to bed to give myself every chance of moving through the field the next day. That was the plan anyway, but I dropped into the bar to watch the Fish in action with the band on my way and the craic was so good I accidentally stayed there till 7 again.

By next morning I'd developed bronchitis and laryngitis, which meant TV commentary was out of question, so I had to get on with playing short stack poker at a table that included Don O'Dea, Nicky Power, Mickey the Worm Wernick, sorry Mickey the Legend Wernick, and Spain's Maria Maceiras. I managed to dog Nicky to give myself half a chance and then made a mistake that has been haunting me ever since.

I had 12,000 in front of me and checked the river to the table loose cannon who bet 6,000 into a 12,000 pot. I only had 5 high but my first instincts were that he had absolutely nothing and that if I moved in I could get right back into this. I've been playing long enough to trust my instincts but while I thought about it before pulling the trigger, I got to thinking that maybe sleep deprivation was clouding my judgement and threw the hand away. I found out later I'd been right, so I may have paid a heavy penalty for having too much craic. Every party has its price.

I went out on a squeeze play that went wrong a little later, but not before Don came out with the line of the tournament: Action Jack arrived at the TV table with a relatively small stack. About three hands later, he bluffed off the lot, took it like a man and wished us all luck. Don couldn't help saying "Thanks for dropping by." I thought it a tad harsh.

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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