Poker

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The worst position in poker is to be "on the bubble". This is the term used to describe the player who is last out in a tournament, before the prize money. If, for example, the final table of nine players qualifies for prize money, it is a ghastly fate to finish 10th. So much hard work for nothing!

The worst, or most unfortunate, play I have ever seen in this respect was in the recent World Championship at Binion's in Las Vegas. A total of 312 players paid $10,000 each to enter, with the final 27 getting in the money. When the field was down to 30 players, comprising three tables, the deals were synchronised so that, in fairness, everyone played out the same number of hands.

At 28 survivors, everyone was on edge. Some players were down to just a few thousand chips, desperately hanging on, praying that someone else would be busted. On this night, disaster struck a careless player. He had about $50,000 in chips in front of him, which put him mid-way through the field. He bet a goodish hand, A-J suited, and was raised back.

The raiser had a stack of $150,000 chips, which meant that even if he lost the hand, he would still be in there, fighting. But if the man with the smaller stack went bust, he was o-u-t.

In the heat of battle, this player went all-in. He had forgotten, momentarily, the terrible risk of being on the bubble. If he had simply mucked his hand, one of the low stack players would certainly have fallen a few hands later. He would then, automatically, have collected at least the 27th place prize, worth $21,200, with the prospect of playing on next day. As it was, he lost to a high pair.

In the chip position he was in, he should not have fired even pocket rockets (aces) against a player with a bigger stack. This is an elementary principle of tournament play, which players must always watch out for as the final table approaches. As he realised what he had done, the man stood up, trembling, white-faced, and fled the room. He would remember this mishap not just that night, but for ever and a day.

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