(In Part I of this tale, your loyal blogger served up a tale of woe, of new-site sampling, lousy poker playing and untimely server problems. That tale ended as the blogger was about to start her third attempt at qualifying for the new Mansion Poker Poker Dome Challenge, an unusual but value-heavy promotion offered by Mansion Poker.)
Thanks for returning, friends. As mentioned, I returned from my beer-and-fireworks break last Saturday night just in time to launch Mansion Poker's client and notice that another Poker Dome qualifier was about to begin. "Why the hell not?" I thought. I wasn't expecting a long stay, based on my recent days' lousy play, so the fact that it was already 10:00 p.m. my time wasn't much in consideration.
I and 381 virtual others began play, each with a 1,500-chip stack. Want to hear a story about how I dominated the early tables, cruised to a nice lead, then played big-stack poker and leveraged myself to victory?
Sorry, wrong tale. I struggled. Despite the fact that I had two blanks (out of nine chairs) at my opening table, I couldn't go anywhere. After about 40 minutes of play I was down to something like 760 chips, with the leaders around 39,000. The blinds were at 100/200, too. Big trouble. Desperate. But when I needed it most, I found a hand. I doubled through, stole the blinds, then doubled through again, the second time with a suckout of epic proportions when I caught my 2-out 10 on the river.
I wasn't healthy, but I suddenly had myself up to about 4,000 chips and could at least breathe for a lap. I drifted back down to about 3,700 or so by the time the first break arrived, but an hour had passed and I was still in the hunt, if only on the fringes.
Hour two and the suddenly hot deck stayed that way, and I fattened my chipstack in fair share as the last of the ghosts bowed out, a hundred or two hundred chips at a time. I doubled through again against a big-stacked loose player intent on redistributing those chips to the others, my A-K holding up over A-9, and when I saw my chips just shy of 17,000 I had my first glimmer of hope. By this time the leaders were up in the 60,000-90,000 range, and I was still in the lower half of the remaining field. I was gaining on par, though, and the hot run was holding.
And it happened again, the me doubling through (this time winning a coin toss), and I had a second significant suckout for a smaller pot, filling a flush on the river with another suited Slick after being trapped by a set. It'd been a while since I'd been on one of these "can do no wrong" rushes, and this one took me from those few hundred chips to the north side of 40K.
Then I took my own bad beat and was down in the high teens again. We lost a player here and there, with perhaps 20 or 25 left trying to make that final nine. Fortunately, even when I'd had my suckout I'd been able to show big hands every time I needed to, so between stealing blinds now and then, picking off two short stacks, and the occasional aggressive post-flop bet, I inched back up... 20... 25... 29K. With about 16 left I found QQ and pushed, and was called by our table's dominant stack, who held A-J. The queens held, and I was suddenly at 60K... and in the hunt for real.
I didn't go anywhere for a lap or two as the last of the pre-final-table showdowns took place, but it wasn't long at all --- we were then nine. Here's what the final table of a Poker Dome qualifier looks like:
I was in the middle of the pack with my 62K, and the whole table was compressed, ranging between 35 and 89K. The two biggest chip stacks were to my immediate left (not good), but the two players I feared most were over to the right, chickendog and zrap. A couple of the others I had reasonably solid pegs on style --- at least as good as one can achieve in a few laps of play --- but let's face it; with blinds of 1,600/3,200 plus antes, this was going to be a crapshoot.
Oh, and one other thing. I was calm like I've never been before at a final table that's been of significant value to the stakes I play. Call it the zone, call it feel, call it whatever: Somehow, unexplainably, I knew I was going to win this thing.
I won the first hand at the final table when no one called my raise, then won another soon after in a minimal pot. I'd edged over 80K, and had nudged into the lead, by the thinnest of margins. That only lasted for a hand or two as the chip stack to my immediate left and one of the shorter stacks across the way crashed out on consecutive hands. All those chips went to teabag14 and chickendog on my right, and I found nothing playable for a couple of laps, drifting all the way back down to about 59K. teabag14 had been the most aggressive player throughout, and had been up and down more than the rest. Stealing, sure, but I never had the ammo for the real-steal I hoped to do.
Then came the hand of the tourney for me. Kings, two of them, red and red, in the cutoff. And sure enough, teabag14, now up around 145K, came in for a healthy opening raise of 18 or 20K. He'd been stealing throughout, or so it seemed, especially when chickendog, now at 120K, flat-called behind him. Was chickendog slow-playing a monster or did he have the same read that I did --- that teabag14 was on yet another steal, and that he'd try to pick off our aggro player after the flop? It didn't matter, really; with KK for a start and 40K and change already in the pot, it was an auto-push.
And a pair of auto-calls. Would my KK hold up? Damn right it did, and after the board presented one small paint card and a collection of (hopefully) harmelss rags, teabag14 showed nothing more than A-10, and chickendog, priced in twice, held a harmless, suited Q-J.
Strange territory, north of 180K and the sudden chip leader by a 2:1 margin, owning a third of all the chips in play. But I lost a pot on a bad beat soon after, doubling up a short stack, unsuccessfully tried some policing of my own, and teabag picked off another player to surge back to the front. I trailed by 30K or so when teabag pushed all-in pre-flop, a most aggressive play, and I was sitting behind with the sweetest pair of aces I've ever seen. His A-10 never got close, and he was on the ropes and I was over 200K with a big lead once again. And just moments later, that solid player zrap made an over-the-top push for about 100K, and I had the rockets again. I believe he had 10-10, but I flopped the third ace and that hand was done. Here's what the standings looked like after that hand:
Can you be nervous and inticipatory and still be calm? Don't ask me how or why, but I was. And the card rush just kept on coming, KK followed by AQ followed by another suited AK, and the chips just kept on coming, too. By the time 54husker and I reached heads-up play, I had 90% of the chips. Two hands in I found yet another ace, pushed, was called, and took it down.
The final leaderboard confirmed the unbelievable:
Four hours and forty minutes of play, and my penny has turned into a trip to Vegas and a 1-in-6 shot at a $25,000 payday and a chance at even greater riches.
Now that's value. Play at Mansion Poker
Coming Soon: Epilogue