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January 20, 2018

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Pocket 8s spell disaster in WSOP media tournament


Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer, second from left, competes in the World Series of Poker media tournament at the Rio Wednesday, July 13, 2011.

2011 WSOP Media Tournament

Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer plays in the World Series of Poker media tournament at the Rio Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Playing poker looks easy on television.

You are dealt two cards, place a wager or fold your hand, engage in friendly small talk with the stranger sitting next to you and hope to catch a miraculous hot streak.

That, however, is only half the battle.

That’s something I learned Wednesday at the Rio while playing in event No. 337 of the World Series of Poker. The no-entry-fee media tournament, where reporters covering the nearly two-month-long series get to try their luck, always makes for a fun afternoon and great column material.

The tournament ante and blind structure was designed to promote quick play, and small prizes were awarded to the top nine finishers.

My luck ran out when I went all-in with pocket 8s only to be called by someone holding pockets aces. I finished 35th in the 150-participant tournament, surviving three all-in bets earlier to hang around longer than my skills merited.

I was simply overmatched from the minute I stepped foot in the poker room, even needing help to find where my assigned seat No. 9 was at my table. Several in the tournament worked for poker trade magazines, giving me the feeling that I was in a home run derby against the analyst crew of Baseball Tonight. Professional Annie Duke, one of the best known female players, just released a strategy book and was playing in the event. That’s fair, right?

Excelling at poker involves a lot of patience and a certain confidence at the table that can only come from experience. I had neither — and it was glaringly obvious to my opponents.

When I finally pieced together a hand I felt confident about, a more seasoned player sensed weakness and pushed me off the hand with a big bet. The helpless feeling of knowing you are getting bullied around is awful, comparable to be dunked on in a pick-up basketball game or making an error on an easy play in beer-league softball. I have experience at that, too.

In the end, my lack of patience was likely my demise. As the ante slowly went from $200 to $500 and my starting cards continued to be weak, my stack dwindled from its peak of $28,000 in tournament chips to virtually nothing. We started with $10,000.

I wish I could report that I bluffed Annie Duke out of a big pot or reached the final table. Instead, there was a small moral victory in lasting until the final three tables and plenty memories. After all, not everyone gets a crack at this experience — a poker fantasy camp of sorts.

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