Friday, September 28, 2007

Chapter 29

An hour or so after lunch Tricia was sitting on a chip stack that was second only to Carmen’s at the table. Tricia thought that there was a good chance that Carmen and thus her also were among the chip leaders. A new player sat down to Tricia’s right replacing the one Carmen had just knocked out.

She looked vaguely familiar and Tricia thought it might be from one of the cash games she had played.

“Hi, my name is Nicole. I don’t know if you remember me but we played a $4/$8 game together the other night. I guess you were there with your husband.”

Instantly Tricia knew it had been when she’d been playing with Jaime that night. “Hi, I’m Tricia. I’m curious, what makes you think he was my husband?”

Nicole shrugged. “You looked comfortable together like you’d known each other a long time. You both had rings on and you were not acting all kissy kissy like you were having a fling.”

Tricia had to laugh. “He’s just a friend. Honest. My husband is back home in Columbus.”

“Ohio?” Nicole asked incredulously. “He let you come to this by yourself? Do you have any kids?”

“One boy. He’s five years old and staying with my parents while I’m here.”

Nicole looked at Tricia then at her chips and back at Tricia. “Wow. That would never in a million years work for me. I only got to be here because it’s a day trip away and my husband wanted to come up for the weekend and try the event yesterday. Did you play that one?”

Tricia nodded. “Did you?”

“A thousand dollar buy in?” Nicole laughed. “I don’t THINK so! This one is big for me. How’d you do?”

“I finished eight out of the money.”

“Really?” Nicole said looking impressed. “My husband was out in an hour and a half. Boy was he ticked.”

Nicole looked at Tricia’s chips again. “You must be a pro, aren’t you? Why were you playing that $4/$8 game?”

Tricia smiled. “I’m no pro. The pros are on the other end of the table. Carmen Cruz and Carolyn Snow. This is my first ever Circuit Event.”

“Holy shit! I thought that woman looked familiar. My husband is going to be sorry he missed seeing her. He thinks she’s hot as all get out.”

Tricia laughed. “I am sure he’s not alone. She seems nice enough. I got introduced to her earlier.”

“How’d you get your husband to let you come to this alone?” Nicole asked. “My hubby would never go for that. Not that I’m good enough I guess.”

“You did fine the other night in that cash game. You must have finished ahead. You were ahead when Jaime and I left.”

Nicole shrugged and then paused. They’d been talking as they played but so far neither of them had played a hand. Nicole came into the big blind and the conversation waned until they both got through the blinds.

“I did ok in that game. I usually do ok in cash games. Derrick, my husband, says I play too tight but I make more than he does so I just tell him to mind his own business.” Nicole chuckled. “He never does but he can’t argue with my results either.”

“I’ve been amazed at how well it’s gone here. Before this I’ve just played in the casinos my husband likes to go to near home up in Canada.”

“Why didn’t he come here then?”

“He’s a workaholic for one thing,” Tricia said. “He gets his fill of a casino pretty quick. I think he just likes the drive and the free booze. Then he’s ready to go in four hours and I have to drive home. Since I started playing poker I’ve been making him stay longer but he fusses about it.”

“Well I would love to get to go to one of these things somewhere else by myself. I’d be scared to death probably but I’d like to try it.”

“You might meet up with some interesting characters when you are alone too.” Tricia said with a smile.

“No doubt,” Nicole said. “but I’d never cheat on Derrick. He would never believe that but it’s true.”

Tricia dropped that line of conversation like a hot potato wondering why that sort of thing seemed to work for Sandy but not her. She picked up a few hands to play and conversation was spotty at best. Then Nicole got involved in a big pot and ended up all in against another player who had her covered slightly. She ended up losing the hand and stood up, out of the tournament.

“Well that is that,” Nicole said. “I lasted longer than Derrick did yesterday though.”

“You did fine, the best you could with what you had,” Tricia said consolingly.

Nicole shook her hand. “Good luck.”

Two more players went out after that, one of which Tricia took out. Instead of bringing them more players the Tournament Director brought seat cards which he distributed along with empty racks for their chips. The players racked them chips and stood, looking around for their new tables.

As they passed one another Carmen smiled at Tricia and winked. “Good luck. I’ll see you at the final table I suspect. I’m glad they broke us up. It would have only been a matter of time until we’d ended up in a big pot together and I’d rather wait until later for that.”

Tricia wasn’t sure what to make of that and just smiled and said, “Good luck to you too.” She found her new table and the looks around it were generally looks of dismay as she put down two racks of chips and began to stack them.

In the late afternoon during a restroom break she tried calling Matt thinking he might be back from the lake. She didn’t get an answer but left a message telling him she was in a tournament and doing well. Then she called her parents telling her mom the same, that she was in a tournament and doing well. She asked if they’d heard from Matt and her mom told that she hadn’t since he came to see Matty before heading up to the lake. When her mom mentioned that Matt had shown up with the boat and all his gear she felt a little better that he was really doing what he’d said he was doing. She’d started to have some doubts as she’d replayed their last conversation in her mind.

The buzz at the tables increased as the blinds did the same and players were eliminated faster. With a consolidation to five tables the final fifty players knew that only five more had to be eliminated for the rest to be in the money. Tricia found herself not worrying about just finishing in the money. She found she had enough chips to be a force and actually play for the win.

As players at her table tightened up to try to hold on and make the money Tricia began to put pressure on them with near constant raises, stealing many pots that she probably would not have otherwise won or even been involved in. It was a heady feeling and one new to Tricia. She had to tell herself not to get cocky and lose any big hands and hurt her chances.

They money bubble burst on another table and a cheer went up among the remaining players. Then play turned around. The tight pre-money play turned into a wild time of short stacks pushing all-in with little to lose trying to double up and move up to a higher payday. Forth fifth place paid $271 and the players had to get all the way to thirty sixth place to move up to $361 let alone vie for the $27,060 that first place paid.

As Tricia played, trying to remain cautiously aggressive, her thoughts drifted to Matty. She had found herself missing him terribly after talking to him briefly that afternoon. It had been building the whole time she realized but it was an almost physical ache now and she wanted desperately to hold him in her arms again soon.

During the next restroom break Sandy was waiting, watching the play from the sidelines.

“Where’d you finish?” Tricia asked.

Sandy was beaming. “I went out 98th as near as we can tell. I know it’s not in the money but hell I outlasted over 400 others. I’m tickled pink. But look at you girl! It looks to me like you’re in the top three or four chip leaders. That Carmen Cruz has a huge lead though. She’s good.”

“Tell me about it. She was on my table to start and I was so afraid she’d knock me out.” Tricia said.

“Thank God she wasn’t on my table. I might not have lasted five minutes!” Sandy joked.

Kevin spotted Tricia and walked over. “I’ve heard how Tricia is doing,” he said smiling at her. “How are you doing Sandy?”

Sandy shrugged and said, “Well you might not think it’s good but I’m tickled. I went out in 98th place.”

“Do you feel like you played well?”

Sandy nodded. “And I had a blast.”

“Then I think you did great.” Kevin said giving her a kiss on the cheek that left her beaming all the more. “I’ll be back for the final table Tricia. I’m out as you may have guessed and I’ve got a few things to take care of. I should be able to watch your final table and then we can go over and hopefully watch Jaime at his. He’s doing well.”

“Great!” Tricia said as Kevin walked away.

Sandy watched him go. “He’s cute. He sure seems to be taking an interest in you honey.”

Tricia laughed. “Get your mind out of the gutter Sandy. I’m confused enough. Besides he can do way better than me for that. I think at best he sees me as a business opportunity or maybe he’s just being nice to a friend of Jaime’s.”

“Maybe,” Sandy said. “He’s got a reputation for being a ladies man you know.”

“I’ve heard.” Tricia said. “But I’m messed up enough right now without that. Now I’ve got a tournament to play but I want to try to call Matt again.”

“Ok,” Sandy said. “Good luck. I’ll be watching and Gary will be back soon. Do you want any dinner? I heard you aren’t going to get a dinner break.”

Tricia giggled. “You might want to check with Rick or Kevin first. At lunch I got two sandwiches.”

Sandy left laughing about that.

Tricia managed to get Matt who assured her he was back home safe and sound. She started to give him a capsule of the weekend but the players were called back to their seats and she had to say a quick good-bye. Surprising her he asked her to call him when she was done with the tournament even though she warned him it could be ten or later.

When play began again Tricia picked right up where she had left off. Everything was just falling into place. She thought back to the discussion in the restaurant on Friday night after Rick’s tournament. Kevin and Jaime had been describing a feeling like Tricia was having when everything just seemed to be working perfectly and they were playing perfectly. They called it ‘being in the zone’. Tricia thought that she could relate now. She marveled at how easy this felt when she had struggled so hard in some of the other tournaments really doing nothing she could discern different.

Players continued to go out and the final table drew nearer and nearer. They were playing nine handed now, nine at each table. Eventually it got down to six players on one table and five on the other. The final table was reached as two short stacks were eliminated at once with a roar from the rather large crowd watching the remaining ladies play.

New seats were drawn and the remaining nine settled in, looking around to see what they would have to deal with. Tricia saw Carmen two seats to her right, not a bad place to have her, she thought to herself. Carmen’s chip stack was huge though, over twice Tricia’s who was in third place at the moment.

Looking around she caught sight of Rick and Kevin. Kevin had a small camera out and was taking pictures. She wondered if she could get copies from him and vowed to try to remember to ask later. Gary and Sandy were there as well. Gary gave her a thumbs up and Tricia smiled back. She was assured at least $1804 if she went out in 9th which was unlikely. That would mean Gary got a minimum $451 as his 25% on his $200 investment in her buy in.

She was suddenly more nervous than she had been since the first night here. It must have shown because just before play resumed Carmen came over and crouched down beside Tricia, her hand on Tricia’s arm.

“Good luck, Tricia,” Carmen said. “This is your first final table? Yes?”

Tricia nodded.

Carmen nodded back her deep brown eyes locked on Tricia’s. “I know you’re nervous but if you just do what got you here you will be fine. If Kevin James has been teaching you then you know enough to win this.” Then she smiled. “You won’t win it. I will. But you can be second.”

Tricia wasn’t sure if Carmen as joking or not about that last part but figured it was true. “Thanks. I appreciate it. You have no reason to try to be nice to me.”

Carmen squeezed Tricia’s arm and smiled. “I think I will be seeing you from time to time and us ladies got to stick together. We need to show the men that we’re not just pretty faces. Of course we are that too and that is our secret weapon against them, right?”

Tricia laughed. “Well thank you. I hope I will get the chance to play with you again.”

“You will.” Carmen said standing up. “Good luck.”

They’d been talking quietly and the room was noisy so the woman next to Tricia had apparently not been able to hear what Carmen was saying. She looked at Tricia. “You know her? Crap, what am I doing here? I didn’t think any of the big pros would be in this.”

Tricia laughed. “We just met today and I, at least, am no pro. You made it here to the final table so you must belong. Pretty much that is what she was telling me.”

“Really?” the woman said. “That’s pretty cool. I guess I thought all the pros would not have anything to do with us amateurs.”

“So far I’ve met some nice ones.” Tricia told the woman.

Play began and table chatter died off. Tricia fought down her nervousness, watching the other players and trying to decide which of them, if any, was as nervous as she was. Several of them showed signs of it which surprised her.

The first elimination was of the player Tricia had just been talking to by the player who had been in fourth place. That moved Tricia down into fourth. She smiled at the woman and shook her hand as she left the table.

The very next hand Tricia made a raise with pocket kings and the second place player re-raised her. Nervously Tricia just called after considering going all-in. The three cards of the flop were a queen, a king and a four. Tricia had flopped a monster, three kings. Her first thought was to go all in to protect her hand but then she decided to check and try to trap the other player. She checked and the other player made a bet that was bigger than the pot and which looked suspicious to Tricia. It would be half her remaining chips to call so Tricia announced she was all in. The other player called instantly. Tricia looked up in surprise.

The woman proudly turned over her pocket queens which made her three queens. She then groaned as Tricia turned over her two kings showing three kings. The turn and river helped neither player and Tricia won a huge pot that put her only slightly behind Carmen and which crippled the former second place player.

That player went out on the next hand and over the course of the next forty five minutes or so players went out one by one until only Carmen and Tricia were left. Carmen had a chip lead but it wasn’t as huge as it had been.

Tricia’s mind was whirling as she realized she was guaranteed second place and over $14,000.

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