[ Adventures ]
a dose of reality
We all know today’s the day we make it into the money—or at least, that some of us do. The bubble—the microscopically thin but all-important barrier between the last person not to be paid and the first one to be paid—will surely burst today, probably sometime just before or just after dinner. As the bubble approaches, people famously play tighter and tighter, avoiding risks that might cost them their chances at the money, which in this case is about $19,000, or just about twice as much as the $10,000 entry fee.
Professionals and the writers of poker books normally reserve a great deal of scorn for those who play simply “to get into the money.” “If the money matters to you, you’re playing too high,” The Numbrist says at tournament boot camps. What you want is the top three places, or at least the Final Table. Or at least, in this event, a significant payday. To play your heart out for four gruelling days, plus waiting around for all those days off in between, plus your plane fare, your hotel, and all your other expenses, and then just to net a $9,000 profit—well, there are easier ways to get there, especially when you figure in the 80%-plus times you’ve played your heart out and lost. You need tens of thousands of dollars to pay for them.
The one exception, The Numbrist always adds, is if, like me, you’ve satellite in. In my case, the profit won’t be $9,000, it will be $19,000+-$50, my initial investment, since my expenses and buy-in were all covered by my prize package. Now there’s a payday. But I’m still trying to act like a professional and scorn the money per se, focusing on the plays that will put me into a position to succeed over the life of the tournament rather than simply survive. Besides, as the Poker Buddy reminds me on one of my desperate phone calls during the break, trying to survive is no guarantee that you will. Those blinds and antes are going up pretty fast, so even if I don’t play a single hand, I might not make it to the money anyway, especially since the entire room—full of many people who do care about making it to the money—is playing pretty tight.
With the exception, of course, of the big-stacked pros, who understand that their role is to use this pre-bubble time to accumulate as many chips as they can from us smaller fry. The online pro to my right has an enormous stack; the European pro basketball player across from me has a similarly large hoard; the aggressive online guys further to my left aren’t doing too badly either. I do outstack another Oldie McOldenstein to my right, who carefully goes all in or makes oversized bets that no one ever calls, since it’s all too obvious that he’s playing only the best of the best hands and making it as expensive as possible to ever even see a flop. He’s treated kindly, without obvious condescension, but there’s a kind of mascot aura around him that makes me cringe, though he probably doesn’t care because, unlike me, he doesn’t aspire to be a pro or even a semi pro—he just wants in to the money. Like me, he’s won his buy-in on Full Tilt, and he reports the latest news from the site: anyone who makes it into the money today will get a free Main Event buy-in next year. I try to ignore this information, which has just made the money worth not $19,000 but closer to $29,000. I still want to play real poker, the way the big guys play it, and I’m going to do my best to do that.