This isn't exactly a revelation, and it's not the first time it's been said, but this knowledge still isn't much comfort when you get your beautiful stack in the middle with the nuts just to see your opponent hit runner-runner to send you on your merry way.
The luck of the draw starts at tournaments even before the cards are in the air; the seat you are dealt at one of these events can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes it's hard to believe the seating plan was random when you find a table stacked up with pro after pro. For an amateur who qualified for one of these big games, finding yourself sitting at a table like this can be both a blessing and a curse.
Sure you have the chance to play and chat with some of your poker idols, maybe even make a move or an elimination that will grow to be one of your favorite stories to tell at your own home game, but this opportunity comes with a price. These pros didn't get to be famous by giving away chips, and you can be sure that although they may be cordial, chatting as if you were the best of friends, they're going to do everything in their power to relieve you of that pretty little stack you've grown so attached to.
Today we saw some of the ways that luck can confound players who make brilliant calls and reward those who do their best to donk away their stack. The hand that comes to mind as a perfect example of how cruel the game of poker can be is one that involved Bradley Booth and Shaun Sturgeon.
Booth has been playing well throughout this event and has hovered in the top ten for most of the day. In this hand, he exhibited the insight that has served him so well, but despite his best efforts, the cards simply wouldn't cooperate. One thing about poker, you can make all the right decisions and still lose.
It was heads-up between Booth and Sturgeon going to the flop in this hand and a scary looking board of 10♠ 10♣ 7♦ was turned up by the dealer. Sturgeon checked to Booth who bet out $5,000. Sturgeon then raised to make it $13,000 total which Brad called. When the J♦ fell on the turn Sturgeon immediately moved all-in. He had about $60,000 more, a huge bet compared to the size of the pot.
Brad went into the tank and began to mentally dissect the progression of the hand, trying to figure out why his opponent would make such a seemingly over-sized bet. For the sake of this example, I'll add that Brad was holding J♣ 2♣. He had turned two pairs, jacks and tens, a reasonably strong hand but one that starts to look a little pale when confronted with an all-in bet.
So what was Brad to make of this sequence of events? Sturgeon had check-raised the flop; would he really do that if he had flopped a monster? Was he on a draw, semi-bluffing with 8-9? It was the jack on the turn that had prompted his all-in move, but if he had indeed turned a straight, it seems unlikely he would move in then. Could he be protecting a lower two pair with a seven in the hole? Hell, he could have just hit the same jack as Brad and have him out-kicked.
These are just a few of the considerations that must have been going through Brad Booth's head while he was simultaneously bantering back and forth with the other players at the table. Whatever his thought process was, he made a decision and forcefully deposited the $60,000 in the pot to find out just what kind of hand he was up against.
As it turns out Brad had made a superb read on his opponent and was in good shape with his two pairs. Sturgeon was holding K-Q for nothing more than an open-ended straight draw with two overs. Even more surprisingly, the check-raise that Sturgeon had executed, which had probably worried Booth more than anything, had been a stone bluff. True, he had picked up a good drawing hand on the turn and could win the pot with any nine, queen, king or ace if he had put Booth on either a jack or a seven but it was still a very bold move.
Not only was it bold though, it was extremely strong. With such a scary board showing, and the jack on the turn which could have easily filled his straight, it would seem extremely unlikely that Booth would be able to call with just two pair. However, there was still one card to come and with it the fate of Sturgeon's tournament life.
As the theme of this piece may have lead you to believe, the river did bring one of those fourteen cards that Sturgeon needed to win the hand, a queen. Despite this fact Booth had made the correct decision, one that has already been referred to as the call of the tournament.
This was an interesting hand to watch and a perfect example of the way one can make a brilliant move and still suffer because of it. Conversely, Sturgeon made a risky move, which put his tournament life on the line with him behind in the hand, from which he profited immensely. Poker is a game of many facets but few are more frustrating than the way everything can change with the luck of the draw.