It’s amateur hour at the poker table

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I don’t play a lot of poker so shouldn’t have been nervous. 

But when I sat at one of six tables at SkyCity Queenstown casino for Winter Festival’s Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament I strangely was. 

I was an underdog and the casino had spotted me the $65 entry (as an esteemed member of the media, you understand). 

So no pressure – it wasn’t even my money. But when you and 60 others all start with the same sized pile of chips and you supposedly have as much chance as anyone of winning overall it gets you thinking – and inspires a few nerves. 

I’m sure everyone on my table pegged me for a rookie within seconds. The dealer mentioned something about ‘the blinds’ and I had to ask what she meant. I thought she was having a crack at my aviator sunglasses. 

But no, ‘the blinds’ are the compulsory bets individual players have to make as the starting hand rotates. 

A mate and poker shark Matt Davies wandered over and recommended I take off the aviators – other players would see my cards in their reflection. Someone asked for the time – and I told them exactly what it was: “It’s amateur hour.”

I scanned my opponents. One guy was slowly rolling a toothpick around his mouth – definitely a seasoned pro. A girl kept giving me subtle smiles. Not flirtacious, more the kind I imagine a shark breaks into just before it attacks a helpless seal. She sensed an easy kill. 

I played aggressive early – amateur hour bets backed by rubbish cards. I lost big early. 

I let a few hands pass me by. And then went for broke. I had a king and a three. Two aces in the middle. I stuck with it. I added a few chips to my bet. One by one, opponents folded. My heart skipped a beat …everyone was going to cave. I was going to win a hand. But the last player didn’t fold – she pushed her considerable pile of chips into the middle. 

I went all in. She’d have to have an ace or a pair to beat me. We turned our cards over – she had … an ace. I was cleaned out, barely 10 minutes in. 

Gutted – I’d been looking forward to actually competing for the $1500 first prize. Ah well, next time. 

This month SkyCity Queen-stown hosts a lucrative New Zealand Poker Tour series culminating in a main event with a 
$3000 buy-in and six figures on the line. Imagine the nerves for that.

All you need to know
What NZ Poker Tour satellite series
Where SkyCity Queenstown casino (R20)
When Entry-level tournaments tonight and Sunday, additional satellite tournaments, main event July 24-29
Cost Buy-in ranges from $35 to $3000 (plus you can win seats)
To enter Check details at skycityqueenstown.co.nz/whats-on/satellite.html
Thrill-o-meter 5/10 … but the deeper you go, the better it gets