Tournament Poker won the WSOP, but the first rumblings of the poker boom were already underway

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Tournament Poker It was fall of 2003, the beginning of my third year of college. Chris Moneymaker had not yet won the WSOP, but the first rumblings of the poker boom were already underway. Logan, now my roommate, heard about a $10 no limit hold ‘em tournament held in the lounge of a neighboring dorm on Tuesday nights and Sunday afternoons. Intrigued, we stopped by and were hooked instantly.

The Tuesday night game drew 40-50 players, mostly fish, but in retrospect, there were a few regulars who really knew what they were doing. Making the final table was a rare but unrivaled thrill for us: the first memorable bad beat of my life put me out of one of the smaller Sunday tournaments in 3rd place. A pretty bad player who had luckboxed his way into a monster stack and thought he was hot shit raised my big blind from the button and I flat called with AA. I check-raised an 853 flop and he shoved instantly with 87s, only to turn a 7. I was floored, particularly by the fact that that nasty turn (I had no idea what the odds were of him catching up, I just knew I had motherfucking Aces!!!) had cost me about $50. Super/System For Christmas that year, my father’s new wife (his third) gave him a copy of Doyle Brunson’s Super/System. He lent it to me for the weekend before I returned to Chicago, and I devoured it. Everything that Doyle said about No Limit Hold ‘Em made so much sense to me. I remembered cliches about aggression from Warren’s book, but Doyle gave them content and put them in the context of a coherent strategy. Needless to say, I returned to the Chicago tournaments with an irrational and expensive addiction to suited connectors. I distinctly recall being berated by one of the better players there when, early at a final table, I raised 65s UTG, there was a re-raise all in, the good player called on the button, and I shoved over the top of both of them. He thought forever, folded AK, and flipped the hell out when the all in’s pocket 9’s, which would have lost to his flopped A, held up. Hoop Dreams That spring, Logan took second place in a Sunday tournament, topping both my highest finish (third in a Sunday tournament) and my biggest cash (fourth in a Tuesday tournament). It was a record he would hold for more than a year as we both worked actively to improve our games and finally take down one of these bitches.

It occurred to us that the most money would be won or lost during the heads up portion of the tournament, and neither of us had any idea what we were doing, so we ought to start practicing. From that point on, we probably averaged an hour a day playing heads up $1 freezeout tournaments, sometimes starting with evenly matched stacks but often taking turns starting with a 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 chiplead to simulate tournament conditions more accurately. As may be obvious, our goal at the time was not to make money, it was to win the damn tournament. Our dreams were put on hold early in our senior year, however, when one of our regulars who also an editor for the school newspaper ran a front page story about the game and openly questioned its legality. Sure enough, the school shut us down the next week, and Logan and I were both pissed and confused about why this winning player would draw attention to the illegality of the game. It became clear, however, when a friend of ours who was dating one of the Alpha Delts passed along a rumor that the newspaper editor, who was also the president of Alpha Delt, wanted to start hosting the tournament at his frat and selling alcohol. Fuck that. Logan and I boycotted the tournament and encouraged a few of our friends to do the same. The game never really took off, and it looked like that would be the end of the poker tournaments at the University of Chicago.






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