Vegas or Bust: End of a Dream

The bet was 31,000, slightly more than the size of the pot.

I had made an ace high flush on the river, but the board was paired, meaning my opponent in the hand, who had suddenly sprung the bet on me after we both checked the turn, could have a full house.

If he had that hand, he played it quite sneakily. The player had checked and then called my bet on the flop of 4-3-4 with two diamonds after calling my re-raise before the flop. We both checked after the queen of spades hit the turn and then the eight of diamonds on the river brought this decision.

I held the ace-king of diamonds, and ace-king has been very unkind to me at the World Series of Poker in recent years. In addition to being my bustout hand after my deep run in the Monster Stack two weeks earlier, I had managed to lose with A-K versus A-K in the Colossus the previous summer when my opponent made a flush.

Finally, I called. My opponent didn't have a full house. No, he held four fours.

The loss left me short-stacked late in Day 2 of the Main Event and I couldn't recover, finally running A-Q into K-K just before the dinner break.

My second attempt at the Main Event, exactly 10 years after I finished in 770th and cashed for $16,500, started out promising, as I managed to run my initial 50,000 stack up to 112,000 on a day in which less than 30 percent of the field was eliminated.

But I didn't get a favorable table draw for Day 2, with Belgian Kenny Hallaert, who had finished Day 1 with 269,000 chips, second on the leaderboard, to my direct left. That meant he would act after me on the vast majority of hands, putting me at a disadvantage.

Still, to psychologically boost my own confidence, I considered that large stack simply more chips for me to win. That, however, wasn't meant to be. The first hand set the tone, in which it was folded to me in the cutoff - or one spot right of the button - and I raised with Q-T. Hallaert reraised and I folded. Later, he took a good chunk of my chips when I called with trips and he showed a full house.

At least Hallaert put those chips to good use, making it to the final table, or November Nine as they're called, because they will return to finish the tournament that month.

The winner gets $8 million. Should I ask Hallaert for a commission?

Despite the disappointing finish, it was a good summer. After factoring in expenses, I essentially broke even (showing the true difficult plight of tournament grinders since I was pretty successful at the tables) but the experience can't be emulated. And the family had a good time, as well, and got to see the country - Grand Canyon going, Rockies coming back.

I've largely taken a break the past two weeks from thinking or writing about poker, but I will have to kick it in gear, with a first draft of this book due to the publisher in a few months.

Then the waiting begins, as the book won't publish until probably spring 2018. By then, maybe I'll have a fat bankroll again, with visions of Vegas dancing in my head.