Well, for anyone that has played for a one million dollar first prize, and finished second for $16,000 there is little for me to say because you have already felt it. I am the person that came second after getting heads-up at the MansionPoker.Net Poker Dome Grand Final on Fox Sports Net with nearly a 2 to 1 chip lead. Usually I get over anything after a sleep but here it is more than a week later and counting and I still have a hard time eating the gap. The gap exists of course because television loves the drama and they would prefer to see you sweat it out when your move means winning, or not winning, one million dollars (can you put your pinky in front of your lips when you say that?).
Let me be clear about the fact that I love the modus operandi of the Mansion Poker Dome and believe that they hit upon an entertaining format. Six handed with 15 seconds for each decision with one 30 second time extension—that is the way all poker should be played! Why let one slowpoke ruin everyone else's day? Of course, I also liked limiting the play before the flop to pot-limit, and play then becoming no-limit after the flop.
There are two hands in particular that replay themselves over and over for me. We are playing for a million dollars and I have eliminated two players to this point so we are now four handed with blinds of 2000-4000 and I have more than one half the chips in play (something over 150,000 of the 300,000 total in play). Rodel Tuazon has the button and is second in chips with about 67,000, he raises to 12,000 with on the button and he has raised a lot of times when he is first in on the button so I am looking for a decent hand to play back at him with. I look down at and re-raise to 40,000, at this point the big blind shrugs and puts his last 12,000 total into the pot. His name is Ben Ludwig and he told me afterwards that he was intending to move all-in with almost any two cards—in this case he held . Now Tuazon went into a long think and used his one time extension of thirty seconds. Well when I say "long think" I am speaking relatively as in the Dome you have only 15 seconds to act every time it comes to you. At the end of his time extension he mucked his hand! I do not feel that one has the luxury of mucking such a big hand with so few chips. You have to gamble a bit and get lucky at some point. Why not now with this huge drawing hand? If you were to win the hand you would have the chip lead! The all-in player should not be a factor in his decision as he will have to commit all his chips and beat Dennis in order to win. So does Dennis have only an ace high? Or worse? If Tuazon could see the hands he is against, he would call instantly. Of course Tuazon is a genius when the flop comes and he would have been knocked out. Some days are like that and you are destined to win no matter what you do!
The second hand is the first hand of heads-up when I have a chip lead of 198,000 to 102,000 and complete the little blind on the button to 10,000 with . Once you arrive at heads-up it is no-limit before the flop as well as after. There are two other ways to play the hand, of course—and you can make an argument for passing or raising, especially if you know the result of the hand. Tuazon checks and it comes and he bets out 15,000 at which point I do not believe he has an ace, but am not sure he would muck his hand if I move all-in. He might call with a flush draw or with a ten. Is all-in correct? Is mucking correct? I believe that by raising a lesser amount that he might have to respect my hand more and so I raise it to 35,000. Clearly I would love to have a blank come off, I am not sure what a blank might be but he has to act first and I get to observe him after he sees the turn card and how he acts when he sees it? Or do I? The turn brings a and now the light begins to count me down! What is going on? I not only have not seen him act, I might lose the hand! If I act first then he might still be given the chance to act! I am confused, I ask Matt Savage, the tournament director, what is going on? Now Tuazon bets 20,000 into a pot of 110,000 and clearly I should call, but now confused I let my time run out. I have too much to think about, I don't have time to think about it. I know we were only playing for one million dollars but someone should have been able to keep it straight! What did I have to think about? Well, for starters if he had a flush how big was it? If he held or I should pass as I have only two sevens and two aces that I could catch to beat him. If my Jack of clubs is good if a club comes off then I have enough winners to call as long as he does not hold the ace that I have not put him on—if I can win with a flush then I have 13 cards or possibly only 11 to win with and that would mean I am only a dog of 13 to 31 or 11 to 33, in other words I am getting 5.5 to one when I am better than, or no worse than, 3 to 1! Lastly if I muck right away I still hold a 153,000 to 147,000 chip lead and can possibly bust him on the next hand. Too much to think about in such a short period of time and distracted by the incorrect light I made an error that might have cost me the win. He actually held .
On the final hand I had 125,000 in chips and the blinds are 8,000-16,000 with me on the button holding and making it 38,000 to go. Tuazon now moved all-in. Of course I knew I was an underdog in this situation but many factors made me lean to the call. If I win the hand he will be crippled as I will have a 250,000 to 50,000 chip advantage. If I muck the hand I thought I did not have many hands to choose from as I thought that in practical terms I had to play one of the next four. The actual hands I have left if I don't play any is seven. Tuazon is raising every hand on the button, so do I want to go all-in with some other holding or right now? If I muck the hand I have to win at least two hands—what a big difference that is from having the possibility of crippling him right now. If he has 66 or any other small pair should I muck? If he has AK should I muck? I am getting almost two to one on my chips to call—87,000 to win 250,000 with 163,000 in the pot. Of course if he has a pair 77 or higher my call is stupid, and it was. He had 99. Watching the replays does not make me feel any better and writing this column does not either!
Dan Harrington had a hand that cost him one million dollars versus David Williams and had a great line that he offered to me later, "I know a million isn't what it used to be…but I am the one who bluffed all my chips away…" In the hand he is referring to he had 86 and the flop came 532 with a turn of a 9 for a double gut-shot, unfortunately for him David had 32 for bottom two pair, and called his all-in immediately. Now Dan may have given away a million in that hand but at least he made good money…and saw his book sales soar as well.
The other great line about a million was delivered in a tournament in Atlantic City where they asked the final table contestants on television what they would do with the million if they won and they had various answers but Thor Hansen told them he would pay some debts. "What about the rest?" they followed up, innocently enough. "They'll have to wait!" he responded without hesitation.
Until next time…Play good and get lucky!