Big Laydown against a BIG Player
By: Derrick Oliver
Talk about card dead! I couldn’t catch a hand or a break. I did flop a full house with Queen-Six in and blind versus blind battle but got no action and was left wondering why, on a crazy table, the one time I pick up a hand my opponent doesn’t? Frustrating! Have you been there? So, my initial starting stack of 20,000, which I would have loved to have at that point, still less than average, had dwindled down to about 11,500 and my hopes of winning a prestigious tourney in a beautiful, international city like Montreal had shrunk to even less than that.
The Poker Pro Canada Classic was a $1500 buy-in with three Day 1’s, meaning if you busted on Day 1a you could re-enter on Day 1b, if you busted there you could re-enter on Day 1c, at the beautiful Four Aces Poker Club. At the time, I was the Country/Brand manager for Poker Pro Media, a stable of successful poker publications worldwide. The club’s owner, Dan Vigderhous, and I organized the event. We attracted players from across Canada and parts of the U.S. and managed to inflate the prize pool to $370,000. The winner walked away with a cool $100,000. Not bad considering it was the first time I had ever attempted to organize and arrange an event like that; we had sponsors from UB.net and Bodog, a vendor selling t-shirts, and a number of high profile players, including Hollywood Dave Stann, the Bad Boy of professional blackjack, Canadian Heads-Up champ Benjamin LeBlond, Mark ‘Poker Ho’ Kroon, a good friend of Phil Hellmuth and who you may know from ESPN coverage of the main event this year (he had the chip lead for a while early on but then ‘Blew Up’), and Bryan Devonshire, who finished 12th in the main event a couple of year ago. It was the largest poker tournament, with that buy-in, in Quebec history at the time and to say I was proud of that achievement would be an understatement.
The club didn’t look like much from the outside but inside players were treated to all the amenities you’d find at any well-known gambling parlour in Las Vegas and, in many cases, more. It featured a beautiful diner, the chef putting his heart and soul into a varied menu that included a Seafood Stew, Steak and Lobster, and a couple of scrumptious past dishes. It boasted 15 tables and a private room in the back for ‘bigger’ games. At the door, players would be greeted by beautiful, buxom, hostesses who helped you get settled and then an excellent wait staff that seemed to hustle always. There was even a smoking room with complimentary cigarettes. It was a great venue, about 20 minutes from downtown Montreal, on the Kahnawake Reserve. Dynamite event!
Okay, so if I organized it why was I playing? Good question. I think the consensus was, from other players and the club’s hierarchy, that since this was an inaugural event and, to be honest we weren’t sure how it was going to go over, if everyone was alright with me playing it would be allowed. There were no objections because I’m a fish. Once play started I was no longer the event organizer I was a competitor. And, it should be noted I did only play one of the starting Day 1’s.
Bryan Devonshire is a super nice guy, affable at the table unless in a hand, who’s got a great presence about him. He’s likeable. He chews tobacco while he plays, which I must say is a little unsettling, when your neighbour reaches for a cup. You can’t help but think of all the nastiness within. That said, I really enjoyed playing against him and I was fortunate enough to be on his immediate left. I had position baby. Then this hand came up:
DEVO can play! Also very enjoyable to play against.
With the blinds at 200/400, Devonshire opened for 1000 and I smooth called with Ace Queen. We were heads-up. The flop came Q, 7, 2 and he led for 1200. I have top pair, top kicker, and I need a double-up desperately. ‘This is my chance,’ I think quietly to myself, trying not to give off any tells. Mike Caro where are you when I need you? I certainly don’t want to tip off my opponent, Bryan Devonshire, a guy who won hundreds of thousands of dollars for that stellar run at the World Series of Poker, yes, that guy, as to my monster holdings. I popped him to 3100, not disappointed if I take it down there but fingers crossed on a huge pay-off. I go into my Hellmuth pose, stern and concentrated, hands covering my mouth, I make sure not to open my mouth, telling myself, ‘don’t say anything, don’t say anything!’ A player of Bryan’s calibre, he’d be able to decipher my tone, discern my confidence level and perhaps get away from his hand. It feels like a minute goes by. Let me tell you, if you’ve never been it that spot, where a top notch pro is staring you down, with your chips at stake, believe me it’s nerve wracking. Then, with no warning, he says, “All-In!”
Oh No! What? Really? I immediately leaned back into my chair and scratched my head. “Bryan, what are you doing to me,” I queried, as if demanding an answer. I mean, I have the best hand don’t I? My tournament life is in the balance, this is by far the best hand I’ve seen all day, I have a chance to win a big hand off a world-class player, my tournament life is at stake, I have Ace Queen. Top pair top kicker and my tournament’s on the line! Did I say that already? Sorry. All these things are racing through my head. Can I make this fold? Am I good enough to lay this down?
After some time and some banter, I was talking to myself because Mr. Devonshire’s lips were sealed, In folded the Ace Queen face up to the surprise of the table. I only had 7400 left. The pot was big. I should have called right? “But then he turns over Kings and my tournament’s done,” I said, as if defending my play to the table. “What did you have?” I asked. He smiled and said what they all say, “I’ll tell you later.” I tried to get an answer a few times, “I’ll tell you later,” is all I got in return.
I eventually busted a few hours later and as I was leaving I crossed paths with DEVO, that’s what his friends call him and since I played against him feel like I’m privileged enough to call him that. He had a healthy, growing, vibrant stack, and I said, “So, what did you have?”
Wow, what a laydown. As I was patting myself on the back he added, “But with your stack, you should have called. I could have been on a flush draw.” Oh yeah, did I mention there were two hearts out there.
“You made a good fold but you really should have called.”
I loved the fact he told me the truth, that I did make a good laydown, to save my tournament and give me a chance to come back, and that he offered up advice on what he thought my play should have been. Thank-you Bryan, it was a pleasure playing against and losing to you. No, I didn’t get the 100k. I did get a lesson though. Your thoughts?
Programming Notes: Two great Q&A’s; Nolan Dalla is the media director for the WSOP, an executive on the new television show Poker Night in America an author of One of a Kind, the Stu Ungar biography. He’s legendary in the poker world. John O’Shea, an Irishman, is legendary in the gambling world; wagering up to $5 million (British Pounds) in a year. He has been featured in the documentary The Gambler. Enjoy.
Nolan Dalla Interview – http://www.highrollerradio.net/Nolan_Dalla.html
John O’Shea Interview – http://www.highrollerradio.net/John_O_Shea.html