I dragged my feet in an exhausted daze through the poker room’s maze of tables until I found my seat ten minutes after the tournament started. I hadn’t slept in two days and I was just getting from A to B on instinct. I ordered a coffee and tried to settle in my chair. The dealer tossed cards in my direction and I looked down at Pocket Aces. I folded immediately. I needed coffee before I played a hand. Everyone else folded to the button, a jumpy kid with way too much energy, who raised three times the big blind. The big blind called. The flop came down King, Jack, 2. The big blind bet the pot and Jumpy went all in. The big blind called and they turned their cards—Ace-King for the big blind and Pocket Jacks for Jumpy. The turn was a King giving the big blind a few outs, but the river was a rag and Jumpy’s full house took the pot. My Aces would have been the third best hand.

A few minutes later, my coffee in hand, I looked down at Ace-Queen of spades. I raised three times the big blind and everyone folded to Jumpy who called. The flop came down Queen, Jack, 7, with two spades. I had top pair and the nut-flush draw. My worst-case scenario was sleep. I bet the pot and Jumpy quickly went all in. I gulped my coffee and called. Jumpy turned over another set of Jacks but cringed when he saw my flush draw. The turn was a King of spades giving me the flush and Jumpy needed the board to pair to make a full house. The river was no help and I raked in the pot.
I drank coffee after coffee over several blurred hours of play. My eyes burned and I came close to nodding off at the table. The fatigue helped me stay out of trouble. I played standard ABC poker, only betting when I was sure I had the best hand, and check-calling in a few spots to keep the pots small. I gradually built my stack to just behind the chipleaders. Jumpy controlled the table, raising and reraising at will and hitting his hands whenever he needed to.

I continued to coast as we neared the money cutoff. Most players tightened up, just hoping to make it to the money while Jumpy continued his aggressive play, scooping up the blinds and antes almost every hand. I sat back and waited, barely conscious.

In early position, I looked down at Pocket Aces. Hoping Jumpy would raise behind me, I only limped in. The action folded to Jumpy who didn’t seem to look at his cards. “All in,” Jumpy said. I called immediately and flipped over my rockets. “Oops,” Jumpy said, “maybe I should have looked.” He turned his cards slowly and revealed 2-7 offsuit, the worst hand in poker. For once, he didn’t hit any miracles on the board and I doubled up to take a huge chip lead. Jumpy still had a few chips, but was now among the short stacks.

The money cutoff came and went, and players dropped like flies. Someone was all in almost every hand until we were down to the final table. Jumpy made a nice comeback to sit in the middle of the pack while I was still the dominant chipleader, though I continued to sit back and wait for easy decisions my tired brain could handle. Jumpy played almost every hand, scooping up small pots to put himself in a solid second position behind me.

We were down to four players when I was dealt King-Queen offsuit. I limped. Jumpy looked at his cards then back at me. I could tell he wanted to raise but he remembered my limp with Pocket Aces. He decided to limp behind me. The two blinds also limped the board came down King, King, Queen. The blinds checked and I checked my full house. Jumpy considered for a moment then checked. The turn was a Jack. The little blind put out a small bet and the big blind folded. I smooth called. Jumpy took his time before pushing his entire stack out. The little blind folded and I quickly called, turning over my full house. Jumpy jumped out of his chair with a deluge of obscenities. He turned over Ace-ten for the Broadway straight but he was drawing dead. I scooped up the huge pot and Jumpy headed for the rail. The final hands were a blur and were over in just a few minutes as I rolled over the two remaining short stacks and won the tournament. Finally I could get some sleep.