Poker for Police Officers
I recently emceed the “Playin’ The Hand” Charity Poker Tournament in Phoenix for the Taser Foundation For Fallen Officer, held at the Fort McDowell card room. The Fallen Officers charity gives money to families of police officers who have died — or were seriously injured — in the line of duty. Like many of us, I became a bigger fan than ever of law enforcement and firefighters after 9/11. When Taser called on me to host the event; I knew that I’d do it.
The event was unique in that we had three poker tournaments: the first tournament featured a $200 buy-in with unlimited rebuys; the second was the $1,000 buy-in “VIP tournament”; and the third tournament combined the final three players from the first two tournaments (six total) and gave away a seat to the 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP). One half of all of the tournament entry fees went to charity, and the other half went to the prize pool. In effect, by playing in this tournament you could do your part in helping to raise money for a worthy charity, and still win $10,000 for first place!
With 80 runners in the VIP tournament and five people getting paid, Kevin O’Donnell, who owns a bar in Phoenix — and is also a semi-pro poker player — Taser board member Bruce Culver, and me made the final three. I was donating all of my winnings to the “Fallen Officers,” and I would have been more than happy to win the event and give the $11,000 first place prize to the charity. After I finished in third place, Culver and O’Donnell had a spirited battle for the trophy and the first place cash. With the blinds at $10,000-$20,000, Culver called — in the small blind (in heads up play the small blind is on the button) with Kh-8c, and O’Donnell checked with Jd-2c. The flop came down Ah-Qh-Js, O’Donnell bet out $20,000, Culver raised it up to $40,000 to go, and O’Donnell called. The next card was the 6h, and both players checked. The last card was the 8d, O’Donnell checked, Culver moved all-in for his last $60,000, and O’Donnell called and won the pot. At this point, the chips were counted down and it was determined that Culver had $3,500 left. O’Donnell had all the rest, in fact he had a whopping $236,500 in chips.
Let’s discuss this hand. First off, because the blinds were so hefty relative to the chips in play, I would like to see Culver raise it up with K-8 before the flop and give himself a chance to win the pot right then and there. I would suggest a raise of say, $40,000 or so. By the way, if Culver had raised it up, then I’m pretty sure that O’Donnell would have folded, and Culver would have won this pot. I like O’Donnell’s bet on the flop. He flopped a pair, and the bet was a good one. Culver’s raise on the flop here was too weak. If you’re going to make that bluff raise, then make it for a much bigger number; like $60,000 or perhaps move all-in. O’Donnell’s call here was natural and routine even though he only had bottom pair, because it was only $20,000 more to call. After the 6h came off and O’Donnell checked, I would like to have seen Culver move all-in and represent that he had hit his flush. After all, Culver now had a straight draw (he needed a 10) and a flush draw (he needed a heart), and he may have been able to get O’Donnell to fold his hand. Culver started down the bluffing path, and now it was the time to finish the job! After the 8d came off, I think that Culver’s all-in bluff was OK, but O’Donnell’s call was terrific! At this point — a flush, a straight, a pair of aces, a pair of queens were all possible — O’Donnell could only beat a bluff, and he made a tough call with a fairly weak hand.
The rest of the story goes like this: Culver said, “Good game,” and stood up to leave. Of course, he was quickly reminded that he had a few chips left. So we began the formality of playing it out, amidst many jokes (“If Bruce doubles up his $3,500 three times, then he has enough to post the big blind.”). I have never seen anyone come back from a deficit like that before, but nine hands later, with the spectators staring on in disbelief, and the energy level in the room way up from all of the exciting hands that we announced consecutively, we handed Culver the trophy! O’Donnell then told me, “Phil, that’s my luck. I have never won a tournament before, but I’ve been close so many times.” Usually you have to wait quite a long time to have another crack at winning, but in this case O’Donnell had to wait about ten minutes for his next chance in the six-handed “Winners” WSOP seat giveaway. Amazingly, I finished third again, and O’Donnell and Culver played heads up one more time, with O’Donnell winning this time around. Congrats to Culver and O’Donnell for winning their first poker tournaments. Y’all won, and still managed to make money for the “Fallen Officers!”