Rid­ing an un­lucky hand to vic­tory

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - POKER - By Travis Lau­son

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.

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