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“The Most Important Hand I Ever Played”

August 14, 2018

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Every poker player has a hand that they’ll never forget. The newest member of our Poker Operations team is Jonny, also known as GoldenDonkey, and he shares a personal story about a hand he played that changed his life. Read on!

“It was the summer of 2007. It might have been a hot one, but being in England, the likelihood is that it really was not.

I had started to take a very serious interest in poker and had studied hard. My copy of “Harrington on Holdem” (varying volumes) never left my side. I wandered into my local pool hall with my buddy Stuart, with whom I had been travelling to local poker events.

We were there for my usual schooling at pool, and we noticed a sign on the desk “£10,000 first prize poker tournament, enquire within …” As both of us were avid poker players, with ideas above our skill level, we decided to give it a shot.

The format was simple: every branch of the pool hall company ran a weekly event for 10 weeks. The best players would qualify for a regional final, with the top 8 players going on to the national final.

I worked hard, attended each week and was fortunate enough to qualify for the regional final. I was also fortunate that our regional final was at my local club — I had home ground advantage and a small but vocal rail.

At the start of the qualifiers, Stuart and I decided to swap 10% of each other’s winnings in as we are friends and we thought it would be a fun idea. Stuart also made the regional final, so I thought we had a good shot.

Stuart was eliminated early. I wish there was a good story behind it, but it was likely something standard.

I was playing tight for a long time, as the idea was to come in eighth and make the national final, rather than to come in first here. I was getting short stacked and someone on the button shoved all-in for a stack that was shorter than mine. I remember looking at my cards and I could not call quick enough, A-Q. I was hoping the button all-in could represent a wide range of hands, but to my dismay, my gleeful opponent turned over the A-K. I was distraught as the board ran out in my opponent’s favor. I was down to fumes and was fuming — there was no chance to make the final 8 with 32 people left in the event. All my hard work had been undone.

Then it came. The very next hand I was dealt 8-8.  Everyone folded to me in the small blind and I moved my chips in with confidence. I had to have the best hand; here was my divine intervention! My opponent called so quickly it put Phil Hellmuth to shame. My opponent had a good reason, too … he held Cowboys — two shiny Kings.

I was doomed. Feeling upset, I stood up to put my jacket on, preparing to whine to my friends about how unlucky I was (and my friends bracing for impact). I don’t remember exactly where, but an 8 hit the board and I won the hand. Shocked, I took off my jacket and was back in the game.

After that hand, I managed to run my stack up and make the final table, and I was near the middle of the pack. Nine combatants made the final, but only eight went through. This was now a waiting game. I remember someone raised under the gun, and I was in middle position with A-K.  I picked up my cards, showed my rail and mucked them. Most of my friends were in shock, why throw away such a premium hand? I had decided I did not need to gamble, as finishing 8th is the same as finishing first.

I was right. Two other people got into a big pot, one trying to bluff the other, the other calling the bluff and suddenly I had gone from being on the verge of elimination to making the final.

The final went surprisingly well. I remember that deep in the tournament, I ran a HUGE bluff on someone with no pair no draw and was squirming in my seat for the four minutes my enemy agonized over their decision. It was real hell — I was breathing heavily and looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. My relief when he finally folded was audible.

I finally found myself heads up with an older, more experienced gentleman. I don’t remember too much about the final table itself, as I had been force fed Red Bull all day by my rail and was even more hyperactive than my normal self.

I do remember the final hand. I was dealt A-9 and had a big chip advantage. All the chips went in pre-flop and my opponent turned over 9-9. The door card was an Ace. You didn’t need to see that to know an Ace had come, the noise made by my rail was enough to tell.

The car ride back to the local branch was fun, I was flashing my giant novelty cheque to anyone who would look, with the largest amount of money I had ever won, £10,000 written in large marker pen. Only £9,000 was mine for the spending, after I had paid Stuart his share.

I was the champion and it felt great. It was the beginning of a journey that has shaped and defined who I am today. If I had not won that 8-8 hand, who knows what would have happened.

Poker is more than just a game.”

What’s the most important hand you’ve ever played? Share your experiences (or your replays) with us below!