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Yesterday I played in a $500 buy-in tournament against 450 other players. It was not a good outing for me. During the first round of play I had a chance to double up with A-Q versus another player’s 9-9. The flop came: Q-J-5. He was all in, and I was a 9 to 1 favorite. The ultimate bet dealer brought a 10 on fourth street, reducing my odds to 6.5 to 1. My opponent needed an 8, a 9 or a K to overtake me. And that is exactly what happened. He caught a third 9 on the river.

From that point forward I was very low in chips and had to gamble in an effort to rebuild my stack. I stole the ultimate bet blinds a few times (in poker parlance, when you raise before the flop with a mediocre hand hoping everyone will fold so you can capture the blinds and antes it is referred to as stealing the blinds), but eventually I got caught.

I moved all in before the ultimate bet flop in late position with A-7. Ordinarily that is not a situation in which you want anyone to call, as anyone who calls is likely to have a better hand. I was not happy when the player in the big blind called. But when he turned over the K-J of spades, I felt better as I was a slight favorite (53 to 47 percent). That changed when the flop came Q-10-4 with the Q-10 of spades. He was now a 2 to 1 favorite, as he could overtake me with any one of 21 cards on fourth or fifth street – any spade, any ace, any 9, any K or any J. When a meaningless 3 of clubs came on fourth street, the worm turned as I became the favorite once again (54 to 46 percent). Alas, he caught a ultimate bet K on the river, and I was eliminated early in the tournament. Twice I had been a favorite, and twice I had been outdrawn on the river.

That’s the way it goes in no-limit hold'em. All you can do is try to get your opponent’s chips in the pot when you are an ultimate bet favorite, then hope that your hand holds up.

The next opportunity to compete was four hours away, so I decided to get some exercise. One of my poker buddies (a real estate broker known as “Real Estate Larry” in Washington poker circles) busted out shortly after I did, and we decided to go bowling. It was an excellent decision by ultimate bet, as we had a good time, got some exercise, and got our minds off our disappointingly quick exit from the tournament.

We returned to Caesars in time to get back up on the horse, as they say, and compete in the daily 5 pm “second chance” tournament. Every day there is a second tournament, with a $200 buy-in, starting at 5:00 for those who have been eliminated from the main event. Yesterday 145 of us went to ultimate bet once more into the breach. I got very little to work with in terms of premium hands (only one premium pair in 7 hours of play), but I made the most of what I got and outlasted 93 percent of the field.

In every poker tournament, the number of people who get a share of the prize pool (also referred to as finishing “in the money”) depends on the number of players in the tournament. Ordinarily you have to finish in the top 7-10 percent in order to be in the money. In this second chance event, with 145 ultimate bet competitors, only the top 9 finishers would be in the money. Whenever the number of players remaining is one more than the number who will get paid, the players are said to be “on the bubble”. The next player eliminated (the “bubble boy”) gets nothing, and the rest are “in the money”.

Busting out of a tournament “on the bubble” is arguably the most exasperating of all tournament experiences. You play your heart out all day long, and end up in exactly the same position as the ultimate bet player who busted out in the first 5 minutes of the tournament.

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