The Poker Novice - Undercover - Part Two
As I approached table two to meet my opponents my brain was swimming with hundreds of words and phrases, trying to recall what I’d been taught. There was no chance it had all sunk in, so when I tentatively took my seat next to the friendly dealer my anxiety started to creep back in. After probably two or three brief hands my confidence grew. I watched the other players dwell on decisions and analysed what they were doing, quickly realising that I didn’t need to know all the terms I’d been taught off by heart, I could just play my own game.
A couple of key pointers did stick with me from my earlier whistle stop tour of poker though:
1. Never call–I understood that this implied weakness in my hand, but the players around me were regularly calling or checking which means they can only win the hand through showdown. I was also struggling to get any kind of decent hand so when a good hand arrived; I went for it and raised it up.
2. You’ll probably fold 90% of hands – I’d never realised that players would fold so much pre-flop (reveal of the first three face up community cards) but with a limited stack and a full table, this soon made sense.
You wouldn’t know it from my poker face, but the exhilaration I felt when I won my first hand was a real buzz. It was the fifth hand and I’d only lost the big blind once thus far (folding straight away on previous deals), but with AJ (an ace and a jack in hand) I was going for it. I raised it up but not too big as to scare the other players off. A couple of challengers called and the flop was laid. Straight away my eyes were drawn to an ace on the table, I had a high pair and there looked to be little else on offer for other’s to compete. I bet perhaps a little too much, as my competitors quickly dropped out of the hand. Regardless, I had won my first hand in a poker tournament. Result!
‘Could I be on my way to a share of £1,000’, I thought to myself, after all, my tutors had said: ‘Even bad poker players win tournaments sometimes!’ One hour 43 minutes later, my chips were severely dwindling. I’d stuck to a relatively tight strategy, winning a few hands, losing a few more small bets, but I was crippled when I bet heavily on an AK (ace / king), only for one player to keep calling me to the river (the final face up card dealt), only to take it with a fluke pair of fives on the river, with nothing for me to show but a couple of high cards. It was cruel and unlucky, I was a complete beginner, but the sharp intake of breath from the rest of the table when I revealed my cards confirmed what I already knew, my opponent totally lucked out right at the death and I would have had the biggest stack on the table, but that’s the luck of the draw.
As we moved into level six I decided to go hard, or go home (a level is a set period of time for a number of hands to be played. As the levels go up the blinds increase). I had a decent hand so went for it. After the flop I went all in, which admittedly wasn’t a lot, but it felt good to use the phase as I pushed my modest stack forward. I ended up with a pair of tens but was beaten by a pair of queens – close but no cigar. I was out, but I outlasted three other players on a table of eight and managed to win four of the 12 hands I played. I felt I could leave the bright lights of the casino floor knowing I’d done myself proud and that I would definitely return soon for another shot soon!