4th Videoblog (little heavier on the poker)
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Here’s my fourth mini-videoblog from the PCA in Nassau (the link’s at the bottom; for the previous videoblogs, see the two threads before this one).
As requested by The Sweep, this one contains a couple of hand sweats. Non-poker-players may find it a little too card-heavy, relative to the others - or perhaps it’ll just be a pleasant and occasionally baffling 5-minute narrative of a day.
This was the day I played the $5000 Heads Up side event. I was looking forward to this a lot. I love Heads Up - plenty of action. And I’d been so card-dead for a few days, I was looking forward to a variant where the cards barely matter at all. I mean… of course they matter. But “finding a good hand” when there are only two of you at the table is very different from “finding a good hand” on a ten-player Day One Main Event table - and bluffing is a damn sight easier to get through.
But the event began oddly for me. I sat down with my first opponent, a young Dutch fellow called Rashid. Very nice guy, very online-pro-looking in his patterned jumper. And the match kicked off very well for me. We played for about twenty minutes and I didn’t lose a hand. I gained a chip lead of about 2-1, while the poor chap next to us was still waiting for his opponent to show up. (I don’t think it’s great form to show up late for a Heads Up match. Your opponent will almost invariably wait for you, if he’s a nice guy, but that gives you a big advantage because he’s got bored while you’re still showering and enjoying breakfast.)
Nevertheless, I have no idea why this opponent was late, so I can’t judge in this case. And when he turned up, he too turned out to be a very nice and funny guy. A very nice and funny guy with a ticket for Table 22, seat 2. Where my opponent Rashid was already sitting. Yes: Rashid had sat in the wrong seat by mistake.
The solution seemed obvious to me: we were quite deep into the first game (these matches are, quite rightly, best of three), the guy next to us was waiting for an opponent, the whole situation was only as random as the seat draw itself, so the new guy should obviously sit down in the spare seat and play the person who was waiting. But that was not the ruling. The ruling was that Rashid be given his chips back, and we all start again with new opponents.
Oh, I dunno. I’ve always felt that in any poker situation - whether a single hand or a whole tournament - once there’s been action, there’s no going back. In a multi-table tournament, if someone had sat in the wrong seat and lost chips, they would never be given their stack back and redirected elsewhere. In a Heads Up, of course, that’s easier to do: you know exactly where the chips have gone, you can re-allocate them very simply. At the time, I definitely felt the ruling was wrong. Later, I have wondered whether perhaps it was actually right and fair, since it stuck by the original seat draw.
But I couldn’t help being a little affected by it. I accepted the decision of course, and sat down for the new game. But I felt strange - as if I’d somehow used up some of my good plays and good hands, in a match that had become unexpectedly irrelevant. I know I know, just superstition talking. But that’s how I felt. I felt a sense of ill omen, of the day having gone wrong already, which is bad for the mindset at the start of a poker tournament.
Anyway, mustn’t complain about that. One of the key skills of poker is rising above any kind of emotional disturbance (whether it’s the change of an opponent, the loss of a pot, the sprain of an ankle or the break of a heart) to play your game in as focussed and positive a way as possible. Readers of my book will know that this is one of the things I love about poker: the demand to quiet your heart and engage your brain is a challenge which also works as a comfort. It’s an anaesthetic, without being mindless or (if you’re playing properly) damaging. It feels good for you, rather than bad. That’s one of the reasons why poker is my escape and my safe place, in times of trouble, and I’ll always be grateful to have it.
I can only be responsible for my own game - if I am helped or hindered by an unexpected turn of events, that should be down to my reaction rather than the events themselves. I was (as I hope you’ll see from the video) pretty philosophical about it and I enjoyed the tournament. But I mention it here because I’d be interested to know, if other poker players are stopping by, whether they think this was the right ruling. I honestly don’t know; I can see both sides.
Here’s the video anyway, hope you enjoy the little tale.