Showdown: Nate McNiterson vs. Benny Degenerito
Nate McNiterson's heart raced as he inspected the brochure from his mailbox: The First Annual Desert Classic to be held at Sahara in Las Vegas; preliminary events with buy-ins ranging from $30 to $100 capped off with a $250 buy-in championship event. A wry smile grew on his face as he pictured himself holding his favorite pocket pair, black nines just like Phil Hellmuth, while posing next to the Desert Classic champion's trophy. Nate scolded himself for his wishful daydreaming. He knew his $8,000 bankroll was too small to handle the mandatory 100 buy-ins for the championship event. However, he could roll the dice in a few $40+$20 super-satellites. As he debated what to do, he noticed the fine print at the bottom of the brochure: players will receive a $10 food voucher for each tournament they participate in. Five minutes later, his flight was booked to Vegas.
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Although he swore off gambling four months ago due to a string of bad beats on PokerStars, Benny Degenerito looked at his brochure for the Desert Classic and, as he told his co-workers the next day, "had a gut feeling that I'm going to win it." Back in his days as a professional poker player, Benny made a promise with himself always to trust his gut. His belief was that there's not enough math in the world that is worth more than a gut feeling. There was just one problem. As he preferred to put it, there were some "irregularities" with his bankroll. In times like these, Benny knew there was just one person in the world he could trust, only one person who fully understood how incredibly awful the poker gods have been to him: his mother. However, since he knew she would worry about him in the tournament, he decided it would be best not to tell her about it. He borrowed the buy-in from a jar of cash under her bed and promised himself he'd pay it back double if he finished in the money.
It took him four tries, but Nate eventually secured a seat in the prestigious Desert Classic Championship Event. He commended himself for having the discipline not to buy-in directly. The four $40+$20 satellites cost him $240, a savings of $10 for his seat. On the eve of the tournament, he decided to treat himself to a margarita. "Easy on the tequila," he told the waitress with a smile, "I've got a championship to win tomorrow." To his surprise, she didn't seem amused. He thought to himself that she must be a lesbian.
With the start of the tournament an hour away, Nate took his seat fresh off of nine hours of sleep. Benny was on the tail end of an all-night craps bender and arrived in his seat just as the first hand was being dealt. With blinds of 25-50 and a stack of 5,000, Benny peered down at pocket aces. This was the same hand he busted out of his last tournament with. When it folded to him in mid-position, he knew there was only one play to make: all-in. Everyone folded and Benny picked up the 75 chip pot. Things seem to be turning around for Benny. Instead of busting out like he had before, he picked up an easy 75 chips.
One table over, Nate was fortunate enough to limp into a pot and hit a set of 5s on a K54 board. After taking several minutes to contemplate, he called an opponent's all-in and doubled up against a set of 4s. Nate let out a sigh of relief and complimented himself on the gutsy call. He strongly considered laying it down fearing a set of kings.
When the field of 54 players had been reduced to the final table of 11, Nate slipped away and called his mother. "Final table Mom, final table!!" Although there was still work to be done, only the top five finishers cashed, Nate knew this was a prestigious accomplishment in and of itself. He hoped that someday he would have children so that he could say, "did I ever tell you about the time your old man made final table in the first annual Desert Classic?"
For Benny Degenerito, the final table meant it was time to put on his Fossilman sunglasses. Nate complimented Benny on his glasses to which Benny replied, "if they're good enough for Fossilman, they're good enough for me." The two shared a laugh. This marked the end of their cordial interactions.
On the next hand, Benny made a sizable raise from early position. Nate looked down at pocket kings and decided to just smooth call due to worries that Benny might have aces. The flop came J63. Both players checked. The turn was a 2. Benny checked. That was enough for Nate to muster up the courage to fire a 1/3rd pot bet. Benny called. The river was another 6. Benny led out for a large bet. Nate quickly remembered his mother's advice, "don't let anyone bully you around," and decided to make the gutsy call. Benny turned over six-seven suited and raked in the huge pot.
Nate had taken bad beats before, but he had never experienced a bad beat of such importance in his life. He considered himself a calm, patient man, but enough was enough. Nate began pointing at Benny and started screaming "fish... fish.. FISH!" in the fervor of a psychiatric patient. Benny replied, "six-seven suited is my favorite hand. It's always been there for me when I need it." Nate fired back, "Howard Lederer clearly states in his starting hand requirements that six-seven suited is only a good hand for cash games. To think I actually thought you were a good player. You're just a fish... a fu* fish!"
Nate hadn't used the f-word since he was punched in the shoulder by a big kid in his eight grade class. That didn't end well, and this wasn't about to end well. The tournament director immediately assigned Nate a ten-minute penalty. Benny laughed hysterically while Nate unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears. "This isn't over," he said, snot running down his chin. But he was wrong. Reduced to just two big blinds, Nate stood on the rail as Benny raised Nate's empty seat and stole his remaining chips, eliminating him in 11th place.
With one of the largest stacks at the table, Benny makes a raise with pocket kings. The table chipleader re-raised him all-in. Even though this player has done this move about ten times in the past hour, Benny knew it was a meta-game play and that he always has aces in that spot. Benny folded while his opponent turned over pocket queens and said, "good fold."
While Benny swore to himself that he wouldn't go on tilt, he couldn't help it. He had never lost a hand this important in all his life. In the next hand, Benny promptly raised with A4 offsuit and then called a tight player's re-raise all-in. The other player had AK, which held. Benny was now out of the tournament; his dreams of being the first Desert Classic champion crushed.