You probably all know by now that poker is my game. I started learning it when my dad’s side of the family would get together, and I played it very, very badly for years. In fact, up until about 10 years ago, I needed the rank of hands (what beats what) scribbled on a little piece of paper next to me at the table.
I’ve come a long way since then, at least in my confidence about the game, though I still don’t play as well as I wish.
Some of the most fun I’ve ever had at the table was when, upon winning an online tournament that paid for my seat, I got to play in the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event.
I know that some of you play poker and will know the structure of that event, but for those of you who don’t play or haven’t watched endless hours of poker on TV, here’s the rundown: That year, there were 5619 entrants, and we were divided into three groups. Each group had a Day 1 of the event, separate from the others. Everyone starts with $10,000 in tournament chips. At the end of those three days, the number of remaining players had whittled down to somewhere between 1500 and 2000.
On my Day 1 (Day 1B), I had an excellent run of cards and managed to knock out 11 people. After playing for about 15 hours, I finished the day with $85,350 in chips, which placed me at 14th in chips out of the 560 remaining players from our group. That run of great cards helped me to last longer that day than Oliver Hudson (who famously lost his whole stack to Sammy Farha on the first hand), Tobey McGuire (yes, he’s cute in person, too), Mimi Rogers (story to follow), Cindy Violette (ditto), Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke, Erick Lindgren, and Phil Gordon.
When the survivors of the three groups convened for the official Day 2, and all the counts were in, I started the day 39th in chips overall. I was feeling pretty damn good, if exhausted.
And then it all went to hell. Slowly, but that day was a long, steady decline. The run of cards I had enjoyed a couple of days earlier had moved on to some other lucky bastard. The good hands I did have didn’t hold up so well. But I managed to last until the end of the day, until 10:00 or 11:00, and finished in around 700th place.
As it is sometimes in life, the mistake I made that cost me my chance to continue happened about a half an hour before my final hand. I didn’t play a hand that would have tripled my stack (although it was probably the smart decision in the moment), and then later I pushed on a pair of 10s that ran up against pocket kings.
I was tired and disappointed to the point of tears (which I held in until we got at least to the car, and maybe to the hotel…there’s no crying in poker!), but I knew also that the whole experience was one for the books.
Though I finished just 140 spots out of the money (I didn’t need that stinking $18K anyway, maybe more…bah), I had a hell of a good time.
During the entire two days I played, I was never seated with a name pro, though Gus Hansen came over to my table to say hello to a friend, and I saw just about every pro there, both close up and from a distance.
But. I promised you a story about Mimi Rogers and Cindy Violette (a poker pro)…
I didn’t play with either one of them, but I did find myself in the ladies room with them somewhere around the middle of Day 1. They came in together. When Mimi (I can call her Mimi, right?) walked up to the sink, she smiled and said hi, and I asked her “How’s it going in there?” Because we poker chicks are, like, cool that way.
And then she’s all, “Oh pretty well. How’s it going for you?”
And I’m all, “Oh, all right. I’ve got about $35,000 right now.”
“Wow! That’s great. You’re ahead of me.”
I didn’t ask her what it was like to get it on with be married to Tom Cruise. I also didn’t ask how she stays so skinny (she was, very). And, goodgodno, I didn’t ask for an autograph. We wished each other good luck and went on. I mentioned that we poker chicks are cool like that, right?
Anyway, over the years, I’ve kept a running list of people with whom I would love to play poker sometime. And now, just for all of you, I’ve transformed the top of that list into Jennifer’s Fantasy Poker Tour.
It’s a good table.
But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to check it out. See you then!