I was deep in a satellite tournament where the top nine players won a seat to the main event of the World Series. We were down to twelve players, six at each table and I hung around the middle of the pack. I didn’t need to get involved any big pots, just sit back and wait for the three short stacks to be sent to the rail.
All-in Alan sat to my right. He played a variation of a system by David Sklansky. He only made decisions before the flop. If everyone folded to him and he had a decent hand, he went all-in. Rarely, if ever, was he called. The idea being that to call an overbet all-in, a player would need one of the top three or four hands and the odds of that were unlikely. So All-in Alan built his stack by stealing blinds. With him to my right, he acted before me on every hand except when he was the big blind, which took away my chances to steal.
As we got close to the final nine, the blinds and antes were so high that someone went all-in every hand before the flop. Whenever it was folded to All-in Alan, he pushed no matter what his cards were. By doing this, he built a huge chip lead and nobody dared call him unless they held Aces or Kings.
My stack dwindled with the blinds and antes taking bigger and bigger bites each round. If I could steal the blinds just one hand per round, it would keep my stack even. But All-in Alan beat me to the punch every time and I didn’t find any hands I could call off all my chips with. Before I knew it, there were ten players left and I was the short stack. I needed to push with any two cards if it was folded to me or I needed to call All-in Alan’s all-in with any pair or any halfway decent Ace.
I was under the gun (the only time I acted before All-in Alan) and only had about three big blinds left, so I knew I was going all-in this hand or the next when my big blind would price me into calling no matter what I held. I looked down at Pocket 10s, sighed, and pushed my stack out. Everyone folded to All-in Alan in the big blind who called without looking at his cards. He turned over King-7. The Flop didn’t bring his King nor did the Turn or the River, so I doubled up and breathed a little easier. But I was still the short stack.
On the next hand, I was in the big blind and it was folded to All-in Alan who put out enough chips to cover me, again without looking at his cards. I peeked down at Ace-Queen offsuit. “Ah,” I moaned, “I hate going out with this hand, but I have to call.” He turned over Queen-4 offsuit. I had him dominated; he needed to spike a 4 to beat me. The Flop came down 3, 5, 6, rainbow, giving All-in Alan eight more outs to a straight. The Turn was a Queen, taking away three of his outs, the remaining 4s in the deck. But the River came down a 7 making his straight and I was knocked out, one player away from a seat to the World Series.