The alchemy of disappointment is a curious thing. It’s nothing you can divine from fertile ground. It’s not some noble gas you can suck from the earth. Disappointment is something you can only distill. Like a bad moonshine, you must take all your hope, run it through a series of complex copper tubes and pans, and watch everything good and wonderful evaporate. What’s left is pure disappointment.

That’s what Dominik Martan is drinking today.

Martan, known as DomMarty on PokerStars, has the distinction of earning the cheapest-ever entry into the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker. He won his $5,200 seat with 12 PokerStars Frequent Player Points. That alone was an accomplishment, one that gave Martan the opportunity to play the biggest and richest tournament of his life.

It also taught him that while hope may spring eternal from the ground, disappointment falls from the clouds when you least expect it.

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Dominik Martan

How exactly does it happen that hope can so quickly turn bitter? It has something to do with the unstable nature of potential.

See, Martan made Day 2 of the three-day WCOOP Main Event, and it all but guaranteed him that he would turn his 12-FPP investment (roughly 19 cents worth of ethereal currency) into more than $10,000. Within less than an hour on Day 2, he did just that. It took around 45 minutes for the WCOOP bubble to pop on Day 2, but once it did, Martan was guaranteed $12,000.

With that money locked up, Martan felt a certain kind of hope bubbling. With fewer than 200 players remaining in the event, he moved into the Top 10 on the leader board. The $12,000 he earned no longer felt so important, because he could now see the $1.76 million first prize in front of him. For hour after hour, he somersaulted forward with such wicked and intoxicating potential that nothing short of the final table was going to be enough.

That was where that sick alchemy began to bubble.

See, before he started Day 2, he had his eyes set on the final table. After the tournament money bubble popped, everything changed.

“I really wanted to win this tournament,” Martan admitted later.

For a few hours, it looked like Martan’s hope had a right to be. He played aggressively, and he was getting paid off for it. There was nary a misstep along the way. And then he ran into Kevin “ImaLuckSac” MacPhee. Martan had MacPhee covered by a decent margin and managed to get MacPhee all-in pre-flop. Martan held queens to MacPhee’s fives.

The five on the flop was where that hope started distilling down to disappointment.

MacPhee doubled through Martan, and from there, Martan could find neither hide nor hair of that hope he’d held just minutes earlier.

“My stack had gotten bigger and bigger, and I knew I had a decent chance to do make it (to the final table),” Martan said. “But after the hand with Kevin MacPhee, I knew it would probably be the end of this amazing tourney for me.”

Martan lasted a while longer, but he eventually went bust in 53rd place. It earned him $25,000, the biggest cash of his poker career by a long shot. The fact he turned 19 cents into $25,000 all of a sudden didn’t seem like such a big deal.

“Before this tournament, I would’ve happily taken this money,” Martan said. “But after what happened in the tournament I am little bit unhappy.”

And that is the fickle nature of hope and potential. It only takes minutes for all of that good to cook down to something bitter.

Today, Martan is dealing with that distilled disappointment, a strain most folks know as “What Might Have Been.” He is not alone. There were 1,995 people in that Main Event. Nine of them are left. They will return in just a few hours to crown the $1.76 million winner. Eight of those people, no matter how much bigger their bankrolls get, will feel some form of disappointment today. It might take them a bit longer to find the peace Dominik Martan already has.

“For me it was really big experience,” he said. “I’m looking forward to these tournaments in future.”

That’s the funny thing about poker. No matter how big the disappointments get, it’s hard to forget what that hope felt like, and it’s even harder to not think about the next time you can feel it again.

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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.


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