TJ Cloutier shares tales from the poker trail.
I've suffered two real, real early outs in my career in which I went out on the first hand dealt in the biggest tournament at the casino. The first one happened at the Hall of Fame in the early years at Binion's Horseshoe. Going out on the first hand dealt, that's a sick feeling. The buy-in at the Hall of Fame was $5,000, which was a pretty big purse in those days. And you won a beautiful gold watch with a horseshoe on it, too.
On the first hand of the first round, I was in the big blind. This Guy limped in from early position and got two or three callers. Of course I called the flop with the K-9 of diamonds, since nobody had raised. The flop came with three diamonds, including the 10, giving me the second-nut flush. I checked it with the intention of check-raising, This Guy bet it and The Button raised. I'd never played with This Guy before, but I knew The Button. I just moved in right there. Would you believe, they both called me!
This Guy had the A-J of diamonds and The Button had two tens in the hole. So here it was the king-high flush against the ace-high flush and a set of trips on the very first hand dealt! If I'd even had an inkling that This Guy had that big a hand, I could've gotten away from it. But I'd never played with him before and just decided to go with the hand. His nut flush held up. To get lucky enough to flop a flush and then be unlucky enough for it not to be good proved it just wasn't my day! The Button and One Slightly Large Texan walked off into the sunset together, empty-handed.
Number two was the strangest of the three. It happened at the very first $10,000 tournament that Caesars held just after opening their new poker room and it was fancy. As I'm walking over to my table, there's my picture hanging on the wall along with other famous poker players ... I was feeling pretty good. Until the first hand ...
I was in the big blind with the A-6 of hearts. Five limpers come into the pot, so I saw it too. The flop came Q-10-3, all hearts! I flopped the absolute nuts! Now here comes the strange part of this story: Caesars had put in pastel tournament chips that none of us had ever played with before, so we weren't familiar with how much they were worth. Well, Erick Lindgren was in the little blind. So he pulls some of these pretty little chips out of his stack and throws them in on the flop. He thought he was betting $250, but he actually bet $2,200! That put enough money in the pot for me to just move in with the nuts. Everybody threw their cards away, but Erick called. We turned our cards up and he shows pocket threes. I've got the nut flush and he has a set. Naturally the board paired on the first card off the deck. And One Slightly Large Texan walked past his picture and headed home to Dallas.
The funny part about this hand was that Erick intended to bet $250. If he had bet $250, there's no way in the world I would've raised him right there, because I would've tried to get more money out of everybody. I would've just flat called. Then when the board paired, I would've played very carefully with the hand, and the most I could've lost would have been $1,000 out of my $10,000.
My third early out happened just a coupla months ago at the $10,000 buy-in event at Foxwoods. Joy and I left the Big Apple (after playing the Math for America tournament) at five o'clock in the morning to drive to Foxwoods so I could get there by noon for the tournament. Early on I flopped trip sevens and won $6,000 so I got off to a good start. We started with $30,000 in chips and I had $36,000 within the first 15 minutes. We played 90-minute rounds and just before the first break, I picked up two kings. I raised the pot and the Big Blind called. The flop came with a queen and two rags, nothing spectacular. He moved in with his case $16,000 and I called him, of course. He turned up an A-Q against my pocket kings. Don't worry, an ace came on fifth street and he won the pot, leaving me with about $20,000.
Just after the break, I looked down at pocket 10s in the big blind. This Guy raised the pot and three people called. I called too. The flop came J-10-7 rainbow. I checked it to This Guy for a play, he bet $6,000 at the pot, and I moved in for the rest of my chips. He studied forever, and finally called. "You got a set?" he asked. "Yeah, I've got three 10s," I answered. He showed pocket kings. Beautiful!
So what happens on the turn? A 9 comes off the deck ... followed by a queen on the river. This Guy hit his straight and One Slightly Large Texan hit the road after only an hour and forty-five minutes of play in a $10,000 tournament. Just shows you that it doesn't matter how well you play, you have to have a little bit of luck on your side in a tournament. Otherwise, your chances of winning are less than slim and none.
Till next time, this is TJ signing off from Texas to the world.
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