The notion of a poker tournament with a $100,000 buy-in was, for many years, entirely absurd. But there were two such events within the first month of 2012, in addition to a tournament with a $250,000 buy-in. Granted, those events feature a pretty slim collection of ultra-rich enthusiasts mixed with ultra-talented players who either have the money or can sell off percentages to come up with it.
One of the youngest players in the field at the Super High Roller event held at the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January was my friend and former backer Mike "Timex" McDonald, a 23-year-old Canadian who built the bankroll necessary to participate in such an astronomically high-priced tournament by investing in other profitable players and being a successful tournament player himself. McDonald first became my backer when he was merely a 17-year-old whom I'd met online, and I've hated him and his wealth-accruing talent ever since - a common sentiment in our shared social circle.
McDonald was sitting on a stack of $375,000 at a seven-handed table with the blinds at $2,000-$4,000 with a $500 ante. Cunning professional Matt Glantz, who had a stack of $250,000, opened under the gun for $8,000, and when it folded around to McDonald in the small blind, he re-raised to $23,500. Glantz thought for a moment and called "only grudgingly," as McDonald would later describe it.
The flop came 8d 6h Js, and McDonald fired out a bet of $25,500. Glantz made a small raise to $56,500, and McDonald sat in the tank for quite some time before electing to call.
The turn brought the Ks, and McDonald checked. Glantz bet $76,000, again sending McDonald deep into the think tank. McDonald stared down Glantz and asked him how much he had left in his stack after making the bet. "Ninety-five," Glantz replied. After briefly considering this number, McDonald announced that he was all in, leading to an instant fold from Glantz. As McDonald raked the pot he exposed a single card, the 7c.
Glantz never found out what the other card was, but McDonald later told me that he held 8c 7c, which gave him third pair. So why did McDonald play such a huge pot with a seemingly weak holding?
McDonald said that, given their history, he didn't believe Glantz would play a big pair the way he did pre-flop. McDonald also suspected that if the flop had given Glantz a set, he likely wouldn't raise the flop when it was fairly safe and uncoordinated.
As a result, McDonald believed Glantz's range to raise the flop included mostly drawing hands or bluffs, so McDonald called with the intention of evaluating the turn card. An overcard on the turn that wouldn't complete any draws could be a tempting one for Glantz to bluff, and McDonald believed him capable of trying to bluff there.
After checking and facing the large bet, McDonald decided to move in, because he couldn't just call the bet and then fold the river with so much in the pot. Also, moving in would eliminate the possibility of Glantz sucking out with a fortunate river card if he was holding the sort of overcards that would fold to such a raise.
Unfortunately for McDonald, his clever play couldn't keep him from busting outside the money in this event, and for a brief moment the rich took a break from getting richer.
Tony Dunst is a poker pro and host of "Raw Deal" on World Poker Tour telecasts. Catch him every Sunday night on FSN. Poker Pros will appear every week.