Charity poker: FTW
Tonight I played poker. Texas Hold ‘Em. For charity. It was fabulous.
I was playing for the Home Office–Defra consortium, joining my “colleagues” Alan, Denise, Simon and Jimmy.
Although billed as a team event, we were all five placed on separate tables, each of around eight players. There were no buy-ins. You were simply given 2,000-worth of chips and had to do your best. As people dropped from various tables, people were re-positioned to keep the tables roughly even in numbers. When the tables got light on numbers, a table closed, its remaining players moving on to the other tables, until at last there was a single table of nine players, all loaded with chips (comparative to what they had at the start of the night), and all vying for first place. It was a fight to the death, the winning player choosing the charity to which all of the donations at the beginning of the evening would go. Plus an extra slug from our hosts, Field Fisher Waterhouse.
I started a little shabbily, losing a couple of relatively big hands, taking me down to around 700 chips—a 65% drop. I rallied a little before winning a couple of big ones. And the more chips I amassed, the more power I had over other players, and the easier it was to wipe others out of the game, both on my original table and the one I was subsequently placed at.
I seemed to be doing quite well, ignoring much of the activity on the other tables, when suddenly I found myself on the final table. Nine players vying for the win. And I was second in terms of my chip-count, Jimmy, on my own team, beating me by a small country-mile.
So we played a few hands, 41 bystanders spread evenly behind us, making the act of keeping your own two cards secret somewhat of an art-form.
And the nine were whittled down to seven, then to five. Then four. Jimmy and I were still in the game, so the 10% odds of a member of our team winning the tournament at the beginning of the evening had risen to 50%. Then Jimmy went big, and lost out. A real shame and the loss of a comrade in battle. And the odds sunk to 33%. And I was our only hope.
But chips-wise, I was doing well compared to the other two. I bided my time before confidence built with a Jack and a Queen in my hands. I ante-d up, and took the betting a fair way, raising things further when a straight looked likely. The straight came off, with 8, 9, 10 appearing within the five tabled cards, and I held my composure. I bet enough to take both of the other players out of the game. And I won. With around 100,000-worth of chips to my credit.
The exhileration was immense. At first, I knew I’d taken one of my opponents out of the game, but I had no idea that the other had gone too. I’ve played poker a number of times before, but betting with my own money (usually amounting to few £10 notes) didn’t compare to betting for such a relatively huge pot for charity. Now I knew the pot was going to charity, but how I played the game determined which charity it would end up with. (As Simon pointed out shortly after the win, maybe I should feel guilty about all the dogs that might die at my expense, or all the good work for cancer research that might have been done.)
My whole upper body was sweating. My face was clammy, as were my hands. And my heart was racing throughout the last few hands.
I loved winning. I loved winning because I got to determine that the £1,200 pot (including the kind top-up from FFW) would go to the NSPCC. (Thank you so much, Denise, for offering me the choice.) And I loved winning because of the exhileration that my team-mates showed both at our individual win, and our team win. (Our team took the trophy off OGC, last year’s winners—it’s currently being engraved.)
The adrenaline was pumping throughout the latter stages, and it felt like a real sense of team accomplishment having won both the individual and overall event.
Thanks, team! And roll on next year.