Aruba’s ‘Bubble Boy’ Smiled
Here in Aruba, at the UltimateBet.com World Poker Tour event, 125 players got paid. (By the way, to finish in position 126, and thus receive no money, is to finish on the “bubble.”) With 135 players remaining, I went down to the tournament area to root for my good friend Greg Pierson. Greg is the founder and CEO of Iovation, an Internet security company (whose products are by America Online and UltimateBet). I knew from the day I met him that Pierson would be a billionaire someday, but can he play poker?
A few minutes later, with 126 players remaining, the blinds at $1,000-$2,000 with a $200 ante, Mister 6 (the player in the sixth seat) opened for $6,000 on the button. Pierson, in the big blind, moved all-in for roughly $30,000 with his Ad-3s. Mister 6 immediately flipped up pocket aces, and declared, “I call.” What a nightmare scenario for Pierson! He was now roughly a 12-to-1 underdog for his tournament life (Mister 6 had more chips than he did), and he was about to finish in 126th place when only 125 players would be paid!
Unfortunately for Pierson, he busted out, to loud applause — not surprising, as all of the remaining players would now receive at least $5,500 in prize money, with $1 million for first place. What did Pierson have to say about all of this? He said, “Nice hand, good luck everyone,” smiled and told me he was heading to the beach. I caught up with him on the way to the beach, to ask about this hand.
Pierson said, “In hindsight it doesn’t look like a very good play, does it? But the reality was that I was going to move all-in there no matter what I had; and seeing an ace in my hand made the move even easier to make. You see, Mister 6 had made a big deal out of the fact that we were, all of us, almost in the money — as if to tell the other players that they needed to fold a lot of hands and sit tight, to be sure of being one of the final 125 players. I, too, was telling the others how close we were to the money, because I wanted to raise a few pots and win them without being contested, just as Mister 6 was doing. Winning a pot before the flop uncontested or ‘stealing the blinds and antes,’ was worth $4,800 in this case.
“Mister 6” Pierson went on, “had raised, what looked like to me, every pot (PH note: While I was there watching I noticed Mister 6 had raised five out of the last 10 hands, which feels like every hand when you’re sitting there behind him.) So when he raised on the button, and I was in the big blind, the die was cast. I was moving all-in no matter what I had. I wasn’t exactly rooting for a call at that point, especially one made at lightning speed (Pierson laughs).”
I asked him if he had any regrets. Pierson responded, “It’s hard to have regrets when you’re in paradise (Aruba), but I have two: first, that the flop didn’t come down 3-3-3 (a pretty cheeky answer!); second, I wish I had raised a bit more in the preceding ten minutes and picked up a few of those $4,800 pre-flop pots.” Pierson then says, “Phil, I’m done with the interview. Let’s you and I play some poker!” (And we did!)
Rather than play to make the money, Pierson had played to win, and that’s what I would have done. Of course, as a pro I hope that I would have picked up on the fact that Mister 6 had pocket aces — the pros often do know when an opponent has a super-powerful hand. But other than pulling a great read out of thin air, there was nothing Pierson could do. Like me, he was playing to win!
A.) finishing the tournament while drinking Dom Perignon
B.) finishing one position away from the final table
C.) barely make the money
D.) finishing one position from the money