The chop came at a good time and a bad time, I guess. I'd just taken a huge pot where I'd gone all in. I got lucky on the turn and paired my ace. Put one guy out and did some serious damage to first place. After that one, I was either second or first for sure, sitting on around $20k in chips. They decided to change dealers, and the blinds were about to go up to $3k-$6k, which is just brutal, so we all agreed it was a good idea.
I've never lasted this long in a tournament before. The other few times (I can count them on one hand) I've played a hold 'em tourney, I was out before the first table shut down. Tonight there were 30 players to start. The first table seemed to go out pretty quick. In fact, by the time they were gone, I think we still had 9 of our original 10 at my table. After a little while longer the casino guy told us we were down to 7 people at each of the two remaining table - fourteen of the original 30. I started to think, "Wow... if I keep playing tight, I could make the final table!"
I got moved to another table, and then moved back two hands later (one of which I won, putting out another player) when they consolidated down to the final table of ten players. According to the board, they were paying out the top six players. I was four places away from finishing in the money! A couple more players gone and we were down to seven. Everyone tightened up. Nobody wanted to be the last one to go out with no money. Finally someone went all in with a bluff to try to steal the blinds, which had grown considerably, and got taken down. I was now at least going to double my buy in, but at this point, I was the short stack at the table and the blinds were pretty high. I had enough to call maybe three hands.
I waited it out for a while and on the hand before the big blind came to me, I got some decent over cards so I decided to call all in. Somewhat gutsy, but we were down to five players at this point, so I figured I could chase everyone out and steal the blinds to buy myself a free round. I was wrong. Big blind called my all in with nothing much. I got lucky and paired up and took the hand down, but my winnings were quickly spent on the blinds that had now come to me and I was back where I'd started that hand.
A couple of hands later, I get A-J suited (diamonds) and for some reason I decide it's time. Before I get to act, the guy across from me goes all in. The guy to his right folds. It's just all in, me, and then big blind. I eyeball big blind and he's impossible to read, but I sense he's gonna go out, despite the fact that he's pretty loose. I call all in, having to go all in myself. Surprisingly, big blind calls. We turn them up. Big blind's got J-4 off suit and all in's got Q-J off suit. My A-J is looking good. The flop comes and doesn't help me at all. Big blind pairs his four. The turn is an Ace so now I'm looking good. The river doesn't help anyone at all. All in is now all out and I triple up. Big blind gets like a hundred bucks back and now he's lower stacked than me. Sweeeet. After another hand, we chop it.
The best hand, though, was pretty early in the tournament. I get pocket Aces (the first of three times I get them) and I'm on the big blind. Everyone folds except one guy who bets and I just call him, just to see what happens. The flop comes and it's ugly as shit. I'm pretty sure my Aces are good, but I check them just to see. The other guy checks. The turn comes up a 2 and it's definitely not any help. I decide to still slow play a little and I bet a thousand. The rationale is that I don't want to bet too big, because I don't want to risk scaring him out. I don't want to bet too small, because I don't want him to think that I'm deliberately trying to deceive him in to thinking I've got a shitty hand when I really have something good. No... the thousand was like saying, "I've got something okay, but I'm hoping to scare you out so we don't have to play this thing to the end." when really, given what was on the board and how the dude had been betting, I was in good shape, as long as he wasn't slow playing me as well.
He looks at me and flat out asks me, "can you beat pocket 9s?"
"I don't know. Maybe?"
"I don't think you can. Call."
The river comes. It's an 8. I mostly believe him that he's got 9s, but I decide not to overdo it, in case he's really got two pair or a set of something. Thousand. I don't look at him. I stare at the board. He figures I'm trying to buy it and he calls me. I flip over my bullets and he shows his 9s. I take it down. He's pissed but he compliments my discipline. He asks me later if I put him on a set. I tell him I really didn't know, but I decided to slow play to keep in the hand and I was just hoping that he didn't have two pair or a set and wasn't about to make me look like an idiot. Another guy at the table says something like, "sometimes, this game has to be about RESPECT." I wasn't sure what he meant. At first I thought he meant that I was a dick for slow playing that hand and taking half that guy's stack, but later I found out that he was trying to tell the guy to quit bitching about getting beat and to respect my play of that hand. That was pretty badass, because he was a gnarled old polynesian dude, and they ain't got respect for 30 year old software engineers. Ever.
Win or lose, I had a good time this go around. I really kept myself under control and my instincts were spot on. I was playing tight at the right times, and I also took some good risks. At the end of it, I realized that I never showed a hand that lost. This means that I didn't blow too much money on loser hands. I folded them all before they cost me too much.
I did get lucky a lot though. I got some good pocket pairs that ended up standing for me and I was able to buy a few pots where I'd gotten myself in trouble. The times when I risked some chips on overcards usually ended up working out for me, and the times they didn't work out didn't end up costing me too much, because I got out at the right times. I'm getting better.
Alas, I'll miss living 10 minutes from card rooms.