Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Last night I went with The Legal Team (or members thereof) to the Hamels Foundation "Batter Up" poker tournament. The event was meant to be a celebrity poker fundraiser, linked up with the All Star game here in St. Louis. Unfortunately I think they overestimated the draw of a tournament with no prizes, and the depth of the pockets (or willingness to reach into them, anyway) of the St. Louis upper crust.

I have to say I had a great time. I thought, going in, "I'm going to totally embarrass myself, going out in the first round." and I was right on one count. I did embarrass myself, but not going out. Instead I started out my night by spilling my drink across half the table as I reached for my first pot. Good thing it was my second drink, and I'm a lightweight. The buzz kept me from crawling under the table and hiding, or resigning outright to flee the mortification.

I redeemed myself slightly by taking a big pot on an ace-low straight several rounds later. I did not get a second second drink, so I was safe to scoop up my winnings with abandon. The very next round I got pocket aces, so I bet pretty strong. Half the table called me. When the flop showed the third ace, I went all in. Let me tell you, going all in when you have nothing is just kind of blah - a last ditch effort to save your skin. All in when you've got some chips to lose (or win!) - it's quite exciting.

Two others went all in to match me, but three of a kind, well, sure enough it beats two pair. Woot!

Our table broke after that, and I was reseated with players who had the cash to buy more chips. This is where it got a little less fun. As I watched a few of my competitors sign their credit card stubs, and have $2000 more in chips plunked down to play, I felt a little out of my league. But I managed to hang on through enough rounds to get to the Final Table.

Here's where it got kind of strange. There were supposed to be two "heats" of poker, and I'd wondered at the start how they would deal with determining a winner. I thought perhaps they would play down to a final 4 in each heat, then have a final table. Maybe the waiver we signed at the start - the one that said "I acknowledge that this game is only for fun, and that no prizes of any kind will be awarded, nor will there be any betting or gambling of any sort allowed." - should have clued me in, but I was still thinking this was a tournament. Playing for bragging rights would be fine by me!

But just as we were getting down to the final four, the MC announced that the second heat could take their seats. We all looked at each other a little perplexed. Our dealer continued to deal, and we continued to play for 10 minutes. Then the Woman In Charge In The Shiny Coat came over and said we were done. We had to clear out.



We didn't. The dealer said he'd never seen a tournament end like that, and he decided this wouldn't be the first. But Shiny Coat went ahead and seated several new players, all with heavy stacks of blue chips, at our table.

Don't get me wrong - I was going out, and soon. I had maybe 2500 left, and the chip leader had easily ten times that. But I wanted the chance to play out against my final table, not against a random group of newcomers. It's a different game playing against 4 people or against 7... but either way I was out a few rounds later.

My friends congratulated me heartily, and I heaved a sigh of relief knowing I might be remembered as the only woman at the leaders table rather than that floozy who spilled her drink. Here's hoping, anyway.

I could go on about how disappointed I was in St. Louis to fork up the cash for even the opening bids in the silent auction, or to advance bidding in the live one. But, having been involved in fund raising in this city before, it was really no surprise.

The biggest problem, I think, was that the 'celebrities' never materialized. Sure, Billy Bob Thornton may have bought a ticket, but if he was in town last night, he was at a different party. Pair old money St. Louis against itself, and it's not going to budge. These people all know each other, and whatever they have to prove, well, they aren't going to prove it with generous spending. Pair them against Hollywood, however, and I think you'd have seen a totally different show.

St. Louis, and maybe the midwest in general, has this inferiority complex that I think the organizers could have exploited had they worked a little harder to get more big names in the door. Celebrities "On the Guest List" may have got people to come out, but didn't get them to shell out $3000 for sports memorabilia. Now, give them the option to get in a bidding war against "Big Names" from either coast, and well, *then* they'd have something to prove.


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