Timing and dumb luck can play huge roles in your life journey. I have had so much going on in my life over the past year that I can barely keep track of what’s going on. Some is good, but some is bad. In the middle of all this, I happened to post that I would be going to the Horseshoe Tunica for the RunGood Poker Series after spending a few days at Harrah’s Cherokee for the WSOP Circuit. I had no idea where this would lead.
First, I received a message from the Poker Room Manager at Horseshoe Tunica, with her asking me if I wanted to be one of the bounties for the Pro Bounty Tournament, which is the opening event of the series. They give these bounty spots if you’re a professional poker player, or if you won a seat.
The Pro Bounty event is a Texas Hold’em poker tournament, but it’s not a regular bounty tournament. The 20 bounties carry envelopes. Inside those envelopes are secret prizes. They include RunGood apparel, gift cards, a Nintendo Switch, Main Event seats with a $575 value, and $1,000 in cash (only one of those). The RunGood team doesn’t select who holds what prize. Each bounty picks an envelope and nobody knows what’s in that envelope.
I placed the envelope in my pocket because I was wearing a string necklace with a badge, indicating that I was one of the bounties. A few of the dealers asked where my envelope was located. I told them it was in my pocket. I wasn’t hiding the fact that I was a bounty, I just didn’t want to work around an envelope that was behind my chips. Looking back on it, I guess I should have placed the envelope behind my chips.
I had once been asked to be a bounty in a small tournament in Minnesota, but it wouldn’t have been worth the travel expenses. Based on a small book signing experience in Savannah last summer, perhaps it would have been worthwhile. When it’s a small setting and you have an opportunity to talk to everyone, it has a bigger impact than being introduced in a large setting. It’s the same as social media. The connections mean more than the numbers.
I’ll tell you all about the Pro Bounty Texas Hold’em poker tournament in a minute, but I want to mention one other thing. Two days after the bounty tournament, Tana contacted me about having breakfast to discuss business. I assumed he wanted his RunGood brand in my movie, so I started going that route. It turns out that he was more interested in some kind of collaboration with my books.
He prefers that because my books target the masses, which are beginner and low-limit poker players, not poker players who play in sky-high buy-in poker games. Since RunGood has lower buy-ins and is more focused on fun poker games than the WSOP Circuit, that’s a market that we share. It would make sense to see if we can work together in some way. Plus, we get along well, which is important.
There is something else that was discussed, but I can’t reveal it at this time. I hope it happens, but if it doesn’t, that’s fine as well. I believe that when life seems to be kicking your ass, as long as you maintain a positive attitude and treat people right, life is secretly leading you in the right direction.
Getting back to the poker tournament, I was announced as a professional poker player, author, and ‘White Chocolate.’ The latter relates to basketball. It’s nice to be noticed as a professional poker player, but I haven’t been playing like a professional poker player recently. I think life events have clouded my mind. However, I also believe this will lead to some kind of crazy run in the future. When my mind is finally cleared, it could have a significant impact because I will feel free.
For some reason, I was able to put my rut to the side for this tournament. I’m pretty sure I know the reason: I was challenged. I’m not great early in poker tournaments. I play the correct poker strategy, but I will sometimes go out on a limb and it will hurt. I prefer pressure. That’s why I have a lot of final tables.
Once I’m in the money, something changes. My brain switches to intense focus mode. For this tournament, I was challenged because I was a bounty. I knew others wanted that bounty, and I wasn’t going to let them have it. That made me think of something at this very moment: Maybe I should always pretend I’m a bounty. That would be a unique poker strategy.
Professional Poker Player | 19% Chapter Secret
Some of my biggest fans know that I’m currently working on a book titled 19%. The premise of the book is that I only play 19% of hands to see if it’s effective. This is a poker experiment book, not a poker strategy book. I have written 34 chapters so far, which means 34 poker tournaments. I have done my best to follow my own poker rules for this book, but I have only played 19% of poker hands (or less) half the time.
Tend to talk to my readers as friends, like we’re sitting at a bar and having a beer with someone. I have admitted this error in one of the chapters and informed them that I will tally up how many poker tournaments I was over 19% and how many poker tournaments I was under 19%. I will then zone-in the rest of the way to make sure that I play 19% of poker hands going forward.
It just so happens that the percentage of poker hands played for the Pro Bounty tournament was the lowest I have had so far in the book. It also might be the fewest hands I have ever played in a poker tournament. I saw 174 hands, but I only played 14% of them. And I finished 21st of 424 runners. What does that tell you? It tells you that tight is right. If I had played 28% of poker hands, I would have had no chance at finishing 21st.
It’s funny when I read that back to myself because there are many poker tournaments where I have played about 28% of poker hands and not cashed. Maybe I’m teaching myself poker strategy as I’m writing about it. This can happen for a writer. You get all the information on the page and it sometimes reveals what your subconscious has been thinking. I might have an advantage as a professional poker player since I’m also a writer. Even most poker writers write dry strategy or poker news.
That doesn’t allow them to get their thoughts on the page. Someone who writes poker news articles might also be a professional poker player, but I would recommend they (and you) write about your poker sessions. You will learn so much about how you have been playing, what mistakes you need to correct, and if your mindset is on or off.
Professional Poker Player | Two Biggest Hands
It just happened again, but this time I looked back at my notes to realize that the key to this Texas Hold’em poker tournament was two big hands: AA and KK. Yes … those can help.
With the KK hand, I had raised four times the big blind pre-flop from middle position. Everyone had already folded to me. The player on the button blind re-popped me. If I re-raised him all-in, he would know my cards and fold. Plus, I had position. I figured I’d throw him (and the rest of the table) for a loop. I flatted.
Not a bad flop.
I bet out (changing gears).
Now we have a boat.
I bet out.
I called quickly to make it look weak.
Before the river came out, I checked dark.
He bet out (I had already checked dark).
I paused, but not too long. Didn’t want to tip my hand. I looked at his stack as though I could push him around and steal the pot, then raised four times his bet.
I tabled kings full of twos.
He tabled jacks full of twos.
I guess nobody had a clue where I was at on that hand because one of the players said, “They don’t call them pros for nothin’.”
Another player simply said, “Wow.”
This all felt good, but the game is a lot easier when you have KK, flop top set, and turn kings full of twos.
The AA hand was a lot different. Every professional poker player’s dreams of being dealt AA in a big spot. It’s always a good chance to double-up because an opponent might have AK, KK, QQ, JJ, or AQ, and call. Some might even call with AJ. I’m not sure what those people are thinking, but, hey, they’re allowed to play their cards as they please. I will just say this: A good professional poker player will not call an all-in bet with AJ.
On the other hand … I know of one Circuit player with several rings who would always make the call. He’s crazy, though. His mentality is double-up or re-buy, which is why he has several rings. He’ll just keep firing until he gets that double-up, then apply pressure on the shorter stacks at the table.
When I had AA, Seat 3 (and nine-time WSOP Circuit ring winner) raised 3x the BB from UTG +1. Somehow, this is the first time I played against him, but I knew his reputation and saw how he played: very AGGRO.
Once again, I flatted, but this time I was in middle position and suspected one of the two aggressive players to my left to raise. This would allow me to limp-raise. Instead, both of them called, one from the button and one from the big blind. This spelled trouble.
Flop: Q42 (two clubs)
The BB bet out.
Seat 3 called.
I raised five times the original bet because I didn’t want anyone drawing to a flush.
The button hesitated. I could tell he was really debating what to do, and I could see that he went through all three options: fold, call, raise. He went all-in. I knew this meant he had a flush draw.
The BB insta-called.
Seat 3 folded.
I was now a bounty in the middle of the tournament and faced with a difficult decision. Knowing the button had a flush draw, but what did the BB have? I thought KQ, but if that was the case, he would have raised pre-flop, so that didn’t really add up. Of course, I was most concerned by two pair or a set. But the pot was way too big to fold, and I would have hated myself if I folded AA there. I would not have been a professional poker player. Would have been a sucker.
It turned out that they both had flush draws, with the BB having the nut flush draw. This was good news for me. If two players have flush draws, then more of their outs have been removed from the deck.
I faded the flush, raked in a huge pot, and now had double the average chip stack. I coasted to ITM (In The Money).
Professional Poker Player | Down The Stretch
I had a table change and found myself card dead while half the players at the table were going all-in with monsters every hand. I tried to be patient, but I went Middle Patience, which is never a good idea. This means that I called in two spots pre-flop instead of folding or jamming. I missed on both flops, had to fold to bets, and lost 35% of my stack.
A professional poker player doesn’t make this error. Then again, a professional poker player is not on their A Game 100% of the time. I think I went from my A Game to C Game after the table change in this tournament. I didn’t realize how little time I had left. Usually I stay calm and pick up a big pot or two every 30 minutes when deep in a tournament, but that didn’t happen. I had nothing to work with, but I should have created something to work with.
When down to 8 BB and everyone having folded to me, I jammed it without look at my cards. The SB went all-in over the top. The BB folded. I looked at my cards and found As 7s. Not bad! But the SB had 99. Not good. His hand held and he won a Nintendo Switch (the bounty prize in my envelope).
This was an amazing experience. When I reflect on it, I played like a professional poker player for 90% of the event, but I didn’t adapt and play like a professional poker player down the stretch. How ironic based on what I wrote above. I will admit when I make an error. It might present an opportunity for you to learn from my mistakes.
I’ll end on this note, if you’re short-stacked and card dead deep in a tournament when others are building their stacks, you need to close your eyes, shove your chips forward and hope for the best. It’s always better to go out swinging, which fits our poker rules for winning. However, I had 8 BB. If you’re at 10 BB or higher, remain calm.
♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals
Pro Poker Bounty – FAQs
A: A bounty poker tournament is a type of poker tournament where you get paid a cash amount or a prize when you knock out one of the bounties in the tournament, usually a pro player or celebrity.
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