I simultaneously love and hate playing poker on the East Coast.

I love it because the tournaments there still attract a healthy number of amateur players, and the caliber of characters you run into at the table is unmatched anywhere else. I hate it because I live on the West Coast and am not a morning person. East Coast tournaments start at what feels like 9 a.m. for me. Half the reason I became a poker player was so I could throw alarm clocks at the wall if they dared to disturb my slumber.

For the World Poker Tour's Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City, I needed to be ready at 8 a.m. the day after I flew in, because I was needed for the "Shuffle Up and Deal" presentation. This is usually performed by WPT commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, but they were on a flight from Paris when the tournament kicked off. I woke up at the necessary hour feeling as if I were getting a cold, so I decided to just give the presentation and then return to bed. It wasn't until 3:30 p.m. that I finally entered the tournament.


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It was a Sunday, and the Borgata had projectors showcasing the NFL throughout the tournament room. I decided that since I felt sick and probably wouldn't play my best, I'd just play tight all day and watch football. The deck cooperated by dealing me extremely few quality hands, though I hit set over set against John Racener to take my starting stack from 30,000 chips to 50,000. Other than that, I was free to enjoy football, with no hands good enough to tempt me into a pot.

After the big hand against Racener, I barely played another until the last level. I was moved to a new table and soon found myself mixed up in a huge pot.

I was dealt aces second to act with 250-500 blinds, and the player under the gun limped with a stack of about 9,000. He was young, and I anticipated that he was going to limp-shove, so I made it 1,600 and prepared for action. A fish on my left called, as did a young player on a short stack. When it folded back to the player under the gun, he went all in for his 9,000, and I decided to just call to allow the fish to make a major mistake by coming along. That's exactly what he did, and the young short-stacked player behind him folded.

The flop came 9s 3c 9h, which I figured probably didn't hit my opponent. I checked and he checked behind.

The turn was the 5s, and I bet out 15,000 to get value. My opponent called.

The river was the Ad, which looked good but would probably cause my opponent to fold what I guessed to be a medium pair to any river bet I made. However, I thought that if I checked, he would inevitably check behind, so I went all in for my last 27,500 and hoped he would decide to be a hero.

My opponent thought for a long time, then finally slid the necessary chips into the middle. I tabled my essentially unbeatable hand, and my opponent, visually deflated, turned over As 2s. (I also had the under-the-gun player beaten.)

I had hit the one card in the deck that was going to get me paid on the river.

Tony Dunst is a poker professional who hosts the "Raw Deal" segment on World Poker Tour telecasts.