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Mission improbable

Poker is a strange game. When you think about all the possible cards that can come over the course of a hand, and all of the decisions that can be made, you realize the whole game is based on improbabilities. And in poker, some outcomes are more improbable than others.

A few years ago, I played in a Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas. I think it was a $340 tournament, as there were players with a wide range of skill levels in the field. I made it into the last several tables of the tournament with an above average stack.

A woman joined my table after the tournament staff broke one of the other tables. That's not unusual - plenty of women play poker, especially in smaller buy-in tournaments. But then one by one, as players were eliminated from my table, women filled the empty seats. By the time we made it down to four tables, I was one man playing against eight women!

When the final seat at my table was taken by the eighth woman, I looked around and thought, "What happened here?" You don't usually see a table full of women in a poker tournament unless it's a ladies event. Players at the other tables noticed too. They kept saying things like, "Look at that table. It's all women and one guy." It was really strange.

As the obvious outsider at the table, it was hard not to feel like the rest of the table was out to get me. They succeeded.

We made it down to the bubble. I was playing with a pretty good stack of chips when I was dealt aces. I got into a raising war with one of the women, a pretty young Brazilian with whom I'd been speaking a little Portuguese in between hands. I ended up moving all in on the fourth or fifth raise. She had more chips than me, but not by much.

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She thought things over for about five minutes - thinking, thinking, thinking - until she finally called. I showed her my aces. She showed two ladies, Q-Q. When I flopped a full house, A-2-2, she stood up and prepared to leave. But this is an improbable story, so you know how it ends. The turn came a queen and then the river came the case queen. I was out! At a table of all women, I was the bubble boy, losing with aces full to quad queens. It was an unbelievable, crazy way to go out.

She said, "Sorry, sorry." But she was smiling a little bit. Hey, that's poker. At the end I was smiling too, because something like that is so improbable it's funny. Sure, the main chapter in that story for me was that I was out of the tournament on the bubble, but the rest was funny. How often do you get busted from a table full of women by quad queens?

After my elimination I went to the bar while I waited for a friend who was still in the tournament. I told him, "I'm not going to touch another card today. I'll just sit down and drink a few beers because if I play more poker, some woman is likely to take all my money." That day, that outcome would have been an absolute certainty.

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