Illusions

With a few days off before day 2 of the Main Event, I head to the Wynn to play a $1100 tournament. This is the second starting flight of the event. The Wynn has posted a $400k prize pool guarantee, only to see that guarantee smashed on the first day. By the end of tonight the prize pool will climb to $1.4M.

I’m late to the start, so it’s serendipity that I’m seated right away. The alternate list will grow to be an hours-long wait. There aren't enough dealers or tables to satisfy the insatiable demand of tournament grinders. This is the busiest week in the poker world.

A few levels in, a player in middle position opens and gets three callers. From the big blind I see pocket aces, and make a 6x 3-bet, hoping it looks like I’m making a move to get all the dead money in the pot. The original opener moves all-in and I call. He flips over pocket kings.

A king hits the flop, giving him a set. I don’t improve by the river and am left short. I end up shoving AJ into AK the next level to bust.

I join the alternate list with a second buy-in, using the long wait to call home. When I’m finally seated, my starting stack looks quaint compared to the towers accumulated by others at the table.

I survive a few levels, but double up a short stack with my top pair versus his bottom two. With my remaining crumbs I push QJo all-in before the flop, and can’t beat the K6o of the big stack in the small blind.

It’s the last level of late registration, and the alternate list has dwindled. I might as well fire a third entry, take my chance at running up my starting stack.

The last hand before the break I pick up pocket queens and get all-in pre-flop against AK. I’m ahead until an ace hits on the river.

The victor looks to me, “I’m sorry man.” I tell him not to apologize.

There are no bad beats. There is only the illusion of certainty in a world of chaos, and the stories we tell ourselves to deny this.

I can make decisions that change the course. I can fold, I can raise, I can call.

But there was always going to be a king on the flop. There was always going to be an ace on the river. The outcome was set as soon as the cards were cut. The winner anointed before I even looked at my hand.

Enough flops, enough turns, and enough rivers, and it becomes clear.

I sit at the bar in the Wynn sportsbook, eat dinner, drink some local beers and play video poker. Fans are glued to games on the giant screens, cheering for touchdowns or 3-pointers.

I have my AirPods in, watching the livestream of the WSOP $50k Poker Players Championship final table on my phone. I’m rooting for the old school player Eli Elezra. But I'm also enjoying the antics of the eventual winner, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, who’s dressed up as a character from Street Fighter.

I love this game.


Buy-Ins: $54,700 (39)
Cashes: $16,644 (8)
People who unsuccessfully tried to scam a comped drink from the Wynn by pretending to play video poker: 1