The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat . . .
Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman Doubles Up
I looked at Rob's table, and saw that one of the chip leaders, William Thorsson was there, as well as a few large stacks. I forgot to record all the other details, because Rob got involved in a massive pot while I was standing there.
He raised under the gun, and Thorsson re-raised a lot. It was folded back to Rob, who calmly pushed all of his chips into the middle.
A photographer moved in next to me, blocking Rob's father's view.
"Hey, give his dad some space, okay?" I said. He stepped back.
"All-in on Table 151!" The dealer called out. ESPN cameras moved quickly into action, as Thorsson went into the tank. He stayed there for close to four minutes, and eventually called.
My stomach flipped, my heart raced, and my hands got numb . . . just like whenever I have all my chips at risk.
Rob turned up pocket tens, and Thorsson turned up . . . pocket nines!
Rob was a 90% favorite as the flop came out, all baby cards, but with two hearts, putting a possible backdoor flush draw on the board for Thorsson, who held the nine of hearts.
The turn was the hideous two of hearts, and Rob's chances of winning dropped to just under 80%. Even though the odds were in his favor, I've seen too many heartbreaking suckouts send people I care about to the rail in the last few days to feel any confidence.
"Come on," I said quietly to myself, "put a black card out there, dealer."
The dealer waited for an eternity before rapping the table and burning a card. He slowly pulled the last card off the top of the deck -- the card that was going to double Rob up or send him back to Alabama.
It was a red card. My heart stopped. "NO!"
It was the four of diamonds. "YES! YES! YES! YES!"
Rob, demonstrating a level of maturity and class that several players in the room -- including one prominent young online player at his table -- could learn from, nodded his head, and tapped the felt. William Thorsson, who doubled him up, did the same.
My legs felt weak, and I put my hand on the rail to steady myself. Black dots flashed at the edges of my vision.
"You're on camera," my friend Joy said.
"I don't care," I said. "My guy just doubled up!"
The dealer pushed Rob's stacks back to him, swept him the pot, then began counting out the rest of Thorsson's call.
I turned to his father, and shook his hand. What I really wanted to do was hug him, but I'm pretty sure that shit doesn't fly down in Alabama.
Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman Finishes 33rd
One of the chief tasks of the writer is to share his emotions with the reader, so that the reader may be in the same place, emotionally as well as physically, as the writer.
If you'd like to be where I am right now, please stand up, and punch yourself in the stomach. Then, sit down, and do it again.
Rob "Boilingfish" Berryman was eliminated in 33rd place today, when he made a championship move -- with his money ahead, no less -- against two players who quite frankly had no business being in the hand. Hell, even I know that, and I suck at poker.
[. . .]
Rob was in the big blind, David Einhorn had opened for 160K from middle position. William Thorsson called, and Rob called. The flop came Qs9c5c and Rob checked. Einhorn bet 400K, Thorsson raised to 1.3M, and Rob check-raised them both all-in.
Einhorn thought for .00094 seconds, and called for his last 900K. Thorsson, who I guess took some of my stupid pills this morning, went into the tank for almost five minutes, and also called. ESPN's cameras swarmed around the table, and everything else in the room slowed to bullet time while the dealer counted out the main and side pots.
Rob looked anxious to turn over his cards. I turned to his dad and said, "He must have a set, nines or queens. Thorsson must be on a flush draw, and maybe Einhorn has aces or kings."
We waited for an age, then we waited for another age while an ESPN cameraman loaded in a new tape (He politely barked at the table, "Hey! Don't flip over your cards until I'm ready!" Real classy, those ESPN guys.)
Finally, we saw their cards: Rob turned up 7c8c, for the straight flush draw, Einhorn showed AsQc for top pair (brilliant!) and Thorsson showed . . . KsJs for the 22-1 longshot that he called getting 6-1 (genius!)
"Rob's slightly ahead," I said to his dad, "and these other guys are morons for calling."
The turn was the ace of hearts, and suddenly one of those morons seemed pretty smart. You can start punching yourself in the stomach now, if you'd like to follow along with me at home.
"Come on, just one club. Just put one club out there," I said. "I'll never ask for anything again, I promise."
The dealer knocked the table, and slid one card off the top of the deck underneath the largest pile of poker chips I've ever seen in my life, and I held my breath as the river card came off the top of the deck.
I talked with Rob and his dad after Rob had cashed out. After taxes and things, he'll have over a quarter of a million dollars, yet he was the same level-headed guy I'd talked to so many times over the last few days.
"To be honest with you," he said to me, "I'm really happy to be going home." He turned to his dad and said, "Do you think we can go home tonight?"
He wasn't petulant, he wasn't complaining, he just seemed tired, and eager to get back to his real life.
"I don't think so," his dad said, "we'll probably get out of here tomorrow."
"What's next for you?" I asked him.
"I just want to go fishing," Rob told me.
Though he easily could have been, I knew he wasn't talking about poker, and I was happy for him.
On our way down the hallway to the media room, my friend Ryan said, "You know, he probably finished in exactly the right place for him. He has enough money and success in this event to take care of college, and he's got his head on right, so he'll invest it wisely. He'll be the king of his home game, and he'll be able to walk down the street without anyone bugging him."
Ryan was right, of course, like he always is about anything involving poker. Maybe the poker gods really do know what they're doing.