IT TAKES good judgement as well as good luck to win a poker tournament. The basic problem everyone faces is what to do when their chips run low. In a cash game, you can simply dig in your pocket to buy another stack. In a tournament, when your chips are gone, you are out.

In the final of the Victoria Casino no-limit Hold 'em tournament this week, Ben Roberts showed the kind of judgement needed. Down to a handful of chips, he had to make a move sooner rather than later. So when he found 5-5 in the hole, and the whole field had passed around to him, it seemed the moment to go for it. His thinking was that with only the two blinds to act behind him, the odds were in his favour. If only one player calls, he is unlikely to have a pair, so Ben probably has at least an even money chance to win.

Unfortunately for Ben, the big blind called him with a pair of 10s. The flop showed nothing, the turn nothing, and Ben was already on his feet to leave the table when the river brought a miraculous 5 to give him trips. This timely 21-1 shot put him back in contention. But it wasn't just luck. In tournament play, the key is to avoid committing all your chips to the pot, unless you absolutely have to. Ben waited until he felt he had a chance of doubling his dwindling reserves.

Many others in similar trouble lack the patience. One player, for example, loudly berated ill fortune for being out- drawn playing the good hand A-J by a raiser with K-Q. The flop came K-Q-J. This is common enough in regular Hold 'em play. If there is a raiser or a couple of callers ahead of you, why risk everything on a hand like A-J?

Ben Roberts went on to take second place in the event, winning pounds 8,000.