Tournament poker is a variable reinforcement activity. We all occasionally play for long periods without a win. Then one day it all comes together and in a single tournament you make most of your profit for the year in one beautiful peak poker experience.
Thanks to you-know-what we have been deprived of live poker for the past year. In fact, it’s been almost exactly a year since we played Derby Lane on our most recent poker vacation to Tampa. While we are not so patiently waiting to play live poker once again, we thought that we would console ourselves by revisiting our top five peak poker moments.
Peak Poker Moment #5: Playing Crazy Pineapple at Seminole Coconut Creek
Sometimes peak poker is all about the fun, win or lose. Our first venture into a Crazy Pineapple tournament came on our south Florida trip a couple of years ago. Pineapple is a version of Texas Hold’Em where you are dealt three cards and discard one. In regular Pineapple, you discard before the first round of betting. But in Crazy Pineapple, you keep your three cards until the betting has completed after the flop. That, my friends, makes for a lot of interesting decisions (e.g., do I keep the weak 2 pair, or go for the nut flush draw).
What makes Crazy Pineapple fun is the free-wheeling nature of the game. Many players stay post-flop because they have decent equity given their 3 cards. There is a lot of gamble in the game. Players and dealers can forget what game they are playing which leads to funny moments. At Coconut Creek, players would forget to discard. Dealers would start to peel the turn card before collecting discards, as players lunged and shouted “Stop”! Everyone would laugh, remaining good-natured and relaxed. This was easily the most fun we have ever had playing a poker tournament in which neither of us cashed.
Peak Poker Moment #4: Turning Stone
Sometimes it’s all about the room and the results. Three years ago we were on a short trip to Turning Stone in upstate New York. To this day, the poker room at Turning Stone remains one of our favorites. It was spacious and comfortable, with a sliding glass door blocking out the smoke from the adjacent slots room. The dealers were by far the best we have experienced. They were highly skilled, but also friendly and relaxed. They just made our whole tournament a pleasure.
The peak poker moment was fulfilled when Heather and I both made it to the final table and, ultimately the money of a small (three table) bounty tournament. In fact, we were two of the people in a three-way chop at the end of the tournament, with multiple bounties to boot. We celebrated our winnings by stopping off at the new Rivers Casino on our way home and entering our first Survivor Tournament. Which Heather managed to win as well!
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Peak Poker Moment #3: Playground Poker Club
Any time we play at the Playground Poker Club outside of Montreal is pretty much a peak poker moment. We love visiting Montreal, and we adore the Playground. It is a top-flight, professional room with some serious competition at the tables. Heather also loves the fact that most of the players speak French at the Playground, giving it an exotic air. Frankly, I prefer knowing what everyone at my table is saying.
After Christmas in 2019, we were on our annual holiday Montreal visit to enjoy the city and play some poker. The day before New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves at the Playground in a daily 60CD (about $50) freeze out tournament. Fairly deep into the tournament, Heather was down to the proverbial chip and a chair. She had exactly one big blind left to play and was under the gun plus one. She looked down at her cards and saw an AK suited. So of course, she shoved “All in” and was matched by half the table (one big blind, remember). Miraculously, she won the pot and now had five big blinds. Next hand (UTG) she is gifted with pocket Kings. She got two callers on her now five BB all in. Another triple up, and she was on her way out of tournament oblivion.
The tournament was memorable for those five minutes alone. However, the icing on the cake was that by the end of the night, she had turned that little comeback into a four way tournament chop. She made almost $1,000 on her $50 buy in. The next morning, she woke up to find her picture on the Playground’s Facebook page:
Peak Poker Moment #2: Cashing in the WSOP Senior Deepstack
Oh, do we miss the World Series of Poker. As we have written before, the annual WSOP fulfills its promise of fun in many ways. Our most recent WSOP in 2019 was particularly memorable because I managed a 6th place finish in a $250 Senior Daily Deepstacks (out of a field of 206). We don’t play in many tournaments with buy-ins above $100, or fields bigger than 60-70 people. Playing a big tournament in the Amazon Room of the Rio during the WSOP alone was a peak poker experience.
While I played fairly well, I also got some luck to improve from a small stack with 40 players remaining to a competitive stack at the final table. Playing a final table with Heather and a bunch of other people sweating us (at the WSO-freaking-P!) was a ton of fun. I could imagine I was actually playing televised poker with Norm Chad making fun of me at every turn.
Sadly, I failed to successfully negotiate a chop that would have taken me to the real big money. I would have to settle for only about seven times my buy-in. Nevertheless, the experience was a rush and my favorite WSOP moment (yet).
Honorable WSOP Mention: That same week we played a crazy Tag Team Switch tournament at Planet Hollywood which was much fun.One day it all comes together and in a single tournament you make most of your profit for the year in one beautiful peak poker experience.Click To Tweet
Peak Poker Moment #1: Tournament Bad Beat
Poker rooms have recently moved away from bad beat jackpots in favor of daily high hands. Ongoing “bad beat” kitties that build over months or years are largely out of fashion. At large rooms, like Foxwoods in Connecticut, these jackpots could build to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the smaller rooms we usually play in New Hampshire, the bad beats were smaller.
About five years ago now, the tournament bad beat at Seabrook Poker room (now Greyhound Casino and Tavern) had built to about $40,000. Heather was away visiting her parents one weekend when I decided to play. It’s a real rarity for one of us to play a tournament without the other. Fairly early in the $50 buy-in tournament, I was not running very well and had dwindled my starting stack from 15K to 10K. Then I was dealt AK of hearts, and raised 3x. The guy immediately to my right, re-raised me. I decided not to shove all in, because he was pretty tight. Instead I just called.
To my utter shock, the flop was the QJ10 of hearts. I had flopped the one unbeatable hand in poker, a royal flush. I checked, the other player bet and I called. On the turn, I checked again and he bet. At this point he was pot committed and I moved all-in. The other player snap-called and flipped over 10-10 for a set. The table quickly realized that if the final 10 came out on the river, we had a bad beat situation. My opponent would get 50% of the $40,000 jackpot, I’d get 30%, and the rest of the table would split the remaining 20%. We smiled at Dan, our dealer, and said “C’mon you can do this.” And incredibly he did!
There was the expected uproar from our table. Play stopped, the bad beat confirmed, and payouts made. My share was $12,000. Even after a generous tip and a set-aside for taxes, the haul for a $50 tournament was pretty good.
Best of all, I got to call Heather and interrupt her dinner with a cool “guess what?”. She was easily as excited at the news as I. (Although bummed to have missed the action).
Incredibly, two weeks later, I was at the same table, and two other players hit the tournament bad beat again. Due to my recent win, the pot was small and my table share was only $200. But, as Heather had already knocked out of the tournament and was hanging out in the car, I got to walk out and again say “Guess what?”.
We hope our trip down memory lane reminds you all of some of your own peak poker moments. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities ahead as we emerge from hibernation.
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