This is a story about something amazing that happened at the final table last Thursday night. It was another unbelievable moment in poker that seems to only happen at Delectables on Fourth.
It began like any other poker night, with players from all over the city joining together for a fun and friendly game of free Poker. Drinks flowed from pitchers to glasses to lips without hesitation. The smell of T-bone steaks slow danced in the air. In the background, laughter played like a theme song. There was no indication this night would give birth to a poker legend.
When the game began, Kyle decided he was going to win. It wasn’t a casual declaration, hinged on bravado. There was a sense of challenge buried deep inside his vow, as if he’d decided to play the best poker game he’d ever played in his life on this particular night. Problem is, the universe doesn’t take kindly to receiving orders from mere humans.
Kyle took several bad beats early in the tournament. He watched his pocket Kings get demolished by Jacks. His faith in a straight on the turn got broken by a flush on the river. He chose great hands and excellent positional spots to go into battle with—determined not to donkey away his chips—but none of that seemed to matter. He lost hand after hand.
By break time, Kyle was grappling with tilt. He’d played every hand correctly, yet he still lost with them. Poker isn’t loyal to skill, he mused; it will schedule a rendezvous with luck at any given moment.
When the game resumed, Kyle decided to stay the course. If he was destined to lose, Fate would have to steal it from him. He wasn’t going to give up or give away his remaining chips. He declared war on the game itself.
Refocused, Kyle battled his way back, stealing blinds, four-betting loose/aggressive players out of pots, folding when he got unlucky on the river. Before long, Kyle had made the final table. He nursed a small stack while the supper aggressive players took each other out.
With five players left, Kyle seized the moment. He began chipping up. In a matter of moments there were only two players left, with almost equal stacks. Kyle looked down at his hole cards to discover a suited Ace and King, a very strong drawing hand pre-flop. Kyle raised from the button. His opponent went all-in. Kyle called. It was the dream situation. Kyle’s A/K was going up against A/Q. He had his opponent dominated. A crowd gathered around the final table to witness the flop.
The community board shattered the moment with 2,2,7,9,Q, giving Kyle’s opponent a queen on the river. Once the chips were stacked and shipped, Kyle’s opponent held over 600k in chips versus Kyle’s single 5k chip. The blinds were 5k/10k, placing Kyle all in the next hand.
In poker, there’s a common saying that all you really need is a chip and a chair to make your mark on this incredible game. There are legendary stories about poker giants throughout history who’ve come back from a single chip to win an entire tournament. Yet it’s rare to see someone come back from heads-up play, as the blinds essentially forces the player all in.
No one in the crowd believed Kyle could win. Many expected him to practically give up. But Kyle knew something the other players didn’t. Several months prior to this game, Kyle had played heads-up against a poker savant named Jesse Lopez. In that game, Jesse had been reduced to a single chip, yet managed to grind Kyle down and steal the win. It was one of the first times Kyle had seen a player’s desire to win surpass the fear of losing. That experience made Kyle believe in all the infinite possibilities inherent in poker and life—if it could be done, he could do it too.
Kyle won six straight all-ins before he could focus on playing solid poker. Like a crafty boxer, Kyle picked his spots carefully, bobbing and weaving, striking hard when he sensed an opening. The crowd started to feel that something special was marinating at the table. The turning point of the night came with A/8 off-suit on the button. Kyle decided to call a 3X raise from his opponent with ace high. The flop revealed K,J, 6 rainbow. A pot bet on the flop made Kyle decide to take a stand. Kyle raised. His opponent called. A queen came on the turn. Kyle bet half the pot on the turn, after a check from his opponent. The river brought another 6. The opponent bet out, representing a thin value bet. Kyle tanked for several minutes before going all in. His opponent instantly folded pocket 5s and Kyle showed the bluff. The crowd erupted into a roar of appreciation. Kyle was now the chip leader.
Poker is about more than a collection of hands that battle to connect with the community board. It’s not completely defined by luck or skill or position. Instead, the game of poker incorporates all things, tangible and intangible, into a giant soup of possibilities. Changing one variable in poker could very easily change how a hand should be played over the long term. With any card game that has incomplete information, it’s inevitable for it to also have a complete set of nuances and variance. What makes the profitable player better than the unprofitable player is often his ability to remain fluid, to become whatever the table dynamics requires him to become. He reads players and situations as clearly as he reads hand ranges and profiles. But more than anything, he allows himself the chance to grow, to evolve with the game, never becoming a prisoner of a past hand or bad beat or victory. These are the things that define greatness, both in life and at the poker table.
Something incredible happened with that one hand. Kyle’s opponent was psychologically thrown off balance. Kyle was no longer playing the two cards dealt to him, instead, he was playing his opponent. How much will he call? How much will make him fold? Will he call in this spot? Will he fold in this spot? Kyle’s opponent felt transparent.
In no time at all, Kyle decisively won the tournament. It felt unbelievable to everyone in the room; high-fives and congratulations filled the room. A local poker hero was born.
Before leaving, Kyle’s opponent seemed dazed and withdrawn. “I’m not sure what happened,” He said, staring at Kyle.
Kyle shook his opponent’s hand and said, “Don’t worry. You played well. I just got lucky on that one A/8 hand.”
No bragging. No boasting. No rubbing the victory in another player’s face. Just class personified. And this is why we play this game. Anything is possible.