Riding an unlucky hand to victory
In early April, I played in the Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event in Milwaukee, a tournament that attracted 556 players and created a total prize pool of $556,000. I had actually finished runner-up in the same tournament seven months earlier, and this time I found redemption by capturing the title and a $129,077 firstplace prize.
There were dozens of notable hands on the road to victory, but few were more impactful than one that took place in Level 20 (5,000-10,000 blinds with an ante of 1,000), with 48 players still remaining.
I started the hand with around 280,000 in chips, and a player opened to 25,000. Two to her left was Travis Lauson’s hand: Brant Graves, who threebet all in for 220,000. Action folded around to me, and I looked down at pocket queens.
Now let me start by saying there is some serious history between myself and pocket queens. For some reason this has been a cursed hand for me ever since the start of my poker career. I’ve had more horrific bad beats with queens than I care to share or relive. It is definitely my nemesis hand. Brant Graves’ hand:
As a result, I was not as excited as most players would be to look down at queens in this spot. The original raiser had me covered, so I was obviously afraid that she held a serious hand such as pocket kings, pocket aces or Big Slick (ace-king).
I took some time in making a decision, mainly to focus on the original raiser to see if I could get a read on what she wanted to do. Was she excited about Graves’ shove? Did she look de- Flop: feated? Was she interested in what I was going to do? Or did she just want out of the hand all together?
After deciding that she no longer seemed interested in the hand, I moved all in.
Graves held As Kh, and my Qh Qd held up after the board ran out 5h 3d 10c 5d 9h. Graves was eliminated from the tournament in 48th place, while I chipped up to 600,000, which gave me the chip lead at the time.
That hand was a huge psychological boost for me, Turn: mainly because I had actually managed to win with queens. It was also the first time that I truly felt I could win the tournament. I had been grinding a short stack for a day and half. To have more than 60 big blinds with only 47 players remaining — and to get to that point by winning with a hand that had vexed me for years — was just what I needed to get me through the rest of the day.
I’m sure this will come off as ridiculous to some read- ers, since pocket queens is a tremendous starting hand. But again, you honestly can’t possibly imagine how many times I have busted from a tournament with pocket queens when I’ve been ahead. Luckily, this wasn’t one of those times.
The Mid-States Poker Tour operates $1,100-buy-in Main Events across the Midwest in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. For more on Lauson’s win, visit msptpoker.com.