For poker enthusiasts only!

So I entered the tournament last night with a $60 buy in. The tournament was no-limit Texas Hold'em with no re-buys. So, unlike last year's tournament, where players could routinely buy more chips if they busted, this was a "freeze-out" and when you're out, you're out.

My $60 bought me $6,500 in chips and put me at a table with 8 other players.

I knew going into the game that I was in the top half, perhaps even top quarter, of players. First, a healthy percentage had never played before. And second, I finished in the top 20% when I played last year.

But that doesn't mean it's not hard or that luck isn't a factor, if not a defining factor. I stayed pretty average at the beginning, and right before the hour break I was able to significantly add to my stack thanks to a newbie who would just. not. fold. So after the first hour I was around $22,000 in chips.

The next table I went to was a good deal more difficult, with some very good players who were aggressively playing their hands. I dropped a bit, and with the blinds moving up had to make a play. I twice doubled up with a diamond flush. I also put a player or two out, and won a few big pots with an all-in move that no one was willing to call.

By the time that table broke up and we formed the final table, I'd increased to about $90,000 in chips.

The final table had 8 people at it, including one guy with at least $300K in chips. And by this point the blinds were at $15K/$30K, so my $90,000 was really not too great, though still higher than about 3 others. Those three were eliminated pretty quickly, and I knocked one of them out, putting me up a little bit.

The big blow was a guy who went all in and I called him with a K8 of spades. He had about half of what I did, and there was a good chance he was either trying to steal the blinds or felt like he had to go all in just to stay alive (and therefore would be much less likely to have great cards). But he had a KQ of clubs. My only hope was a flush or maybe a lucky straight, but it wasn't to be. I had almost no chance from there. I survived one more player, and then ended up all-in $40,000 on an A7 unsuited. The player with $300K (or more by that point) had AK suited, and I was pretty much sunk.

Still, I got a $50 gift card to Costco out of the deal. The downside is that the buy-in was $60. So I essentially played 3 and a half hours to lose $10–a loss of about $3/hour. So in that respect, it wasn't a great night of poker–I've had much higher hourly wages at games before. But in terms of making it to the final table and all the way to being #4 … well, that part felt pretty darn good.