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Poker News: April 24, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 CBS News

Playing Poker For Charity

Recently I traveled to Annapolis, Md., to compete against 140 players in a charity fundraising tournament. The first prize was a seat in the $10,000 championship event at the World Series of Poker in July. The tournament was designed to raise money for Access Information, Inc., an organization that provides online and published information about facilities and services which are accessible to people with disabilities.

Charity tournaments are structured quite differently from standard tournaments. Their objective is to raise as much money as possible for the sponsoring charity. All the entry fees paid by the players go to the charity. The prizes for which the players compete are all donated. In this tournament the second, third and fourth place prizes were gift certificates from Best Buy in the amount of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.

The initial entry fee was $150, for which each player was given 1,000 tournament chips. Unlike a typical tournament, however, if you lost your chips during the first three hours you were not eliminated – you had the option of buying another 1,000 tournament chips for $100. And you could “rebuy” as many times as you wanted during the first three hours of play. The only limitation was that you could only rebuy when your stack went below T-500 ($500 of tournament chips). Then, at the end of the three hour “rebuy” period, every player had the option of buying another T-2,000 for another $100 fee, regardless of how many chips you had at that point.

This raises a lot of money for charity, but it calls for a radical adjustment in strategy. Because no player is risking elimination from the tournament during the rebuy period, players are prepared to gamble more – they tend to play more hands (hence weaker hands) and to play them more aggressively. Very few players are eliminated during the rebuy period – only those who lose all their chips and who do not want to invest any more money in the tournament.

After the rebuy period ends, things settle down and the “real tournament” begins. From that point forward if you lose all your chips you are out, so the action tends to slow down.

The players were mostly folks from the Delmarva area, of all sizes and shapes and ages and colors. I was assigned to the same table as last year’s winner, Steve Crawford. It quickly became apparent that he was an experienced tournament player. He played aggressively, he played well, and worst of all (for me) he was really “running good” as they say. During the first five hours of the tournament he turned over two aces twice, two kings twice, two queens and two jacks once each, an ace and a king twice and an ace and a queen once. Most telling of all, all those hands held up and won big pots.

In contrast, I never picked up a single premium pair. I was dealt an ace and a king once and won a nice pot with it, but otherwise I had to depend on playing aggressively in favorable position and forcing people to lay down their hands, in order to stay alive as long as I did.

The tournament got off on a bizarre foot when the director announced that the first three players who went “all in” and got called would get a free buy-in if they lost. I suggested to the players at my table that four of us should immediately go all in as soon as the cards were dealt. One guy would quadruple his stack, and the others would get their chips replenished for free! Well, they all looked at me like I was crazy.

So the cards were dealt, and one player moved all in (with what turned out to be two 10s). I was dealt A-2 of spades, and I quickly said “I call”, figuring that if I won I would double up and if I lost I would get a free new supply of chips. Everyone else folded. Then the dealer informed us that three other tables had moved faster than us, and I was the fourth player to call an all in bet, so our table would not be eligible for the freebie extended to the first three all-in players who got called! I asked if I could change my mind in that case, but the director ruled against me and said I was bound by my verbal “call” of the all-in bet.

The dealer turned over the three card flop: A-J-2, giving me two pair. My opponent (whose bet I would not have called had I been told it was too late to get in on the freebie) needed one of the two remaining tens in order to overtake me. Luckily for me fourth and fifth street did not help him, and I doubled up (accidentally) on the first hand of the tournament! My hapless opponent had to fork over $100 to rebuy.

During the course of the next hour I won moderate pots with A-7, Q-5, and A-3. I won a good sized pot with A-K when a player with K-J moved all in after a king came on the flop. I lost a sizeable pot when I flopped two pair with A-4, moved all in, got called by a woman who had a flush draw, and lost when she made her flush on the river. When all was said and done, I ended up with T-3425 at the end of the first hour.

During the next hour I won with a king of hearts and a 9 of hearts (I made a flush), J-9 (two pair), a king of hearts and a 7 of hearts (everyone folded when I raised before the flop), and 9-7 of clubs (flopped a flush, beat an all in player who had the ace of clubs and was hoping for another club). I lost a big pot when I flopped top pair with K-10 and lost on the river to an all in player who made a straight. At the end of the second hour I was holding steady at T-3225.

Early in the third hour I ran into a disaster. Holding K-J in the small blind, I flopped a pair of jacks. Steve Crawford, last year’s winner and the chip leader at our table, had 9-9. He caught a third nine on fourth street, played his hand skillfully, and got all my chips. Rebuy!

With less than an hour to go in the rebuy period, I was forced to gamble in an effort to accumulate chips. I was dealt the A-10 of diamonds in late position. An early position player raised, and I re-raised all in. He called and turned over K-K, but I got lucky. The flop came K-Q-9, all diamonds. I flopped the nut flush. But he flopped three kings, and could still win if the board paired (which would give him a full house). Happily for me that did not happen and I doubled my small stack. Then I won a decent pot with the 10-9 of clubs when I flopped top pair and bet it aggressively.

At the end of the rebuy period I had run my new T-1,000 stack up to about T-3700. With the additional T-2000 “add-on” chips, I started the “real tournament” after the rebuy period with T-5700. The chip leader at my table had a bit more than T-8,000, so I felt I had enough chips to be competitive if the cards would cooperate.

When play resumed play tightened up dramatically, as you would predict now that losing a big pot could mean elimination. One of the secret weapons employed by professional tournament players is to play aggressively when the table is tight, and play tight when the table is loose. You make the most money when you are able to play counter to the strategy of the rest of the table. (Like most of the pros’ secrets, this strategy is now accessible to all of us thanks to the plethora of poker books published by the top pros and teachers of the game.)

I still was not able to pick up any premium hands, but by betting hands like K-J and A-10 aggressively in late position, I was able to move my chip count up to T-9500. If you keep pushing marginal hands, eventually you are going to run into a better hand and get trapped for a lot of chips. That finally happened when I bet 8-8 aggressively against a player holding A-K. Unfortunately for me, he spiked an ace and I lost a bunch of chips. I never won another pot. With the blinds escalating every 20 minutes, I made a move with K-J and ran into the chip leader’s J-J. I was unable to catch a king, and shortly before the dinner break I was eliminated.

It never feels good to bust out of a tournament you hope to win, but this time at least I could feel good about having contributed to a good cause.

Anyone who needs information on disability-accessible facilities and services can find help at

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on April 23, 2006:

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