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A Chip and a Chair

A Chip and a Chair
by Chad Holloway of

Once in awhile in poker I will come across a situation I hadn't previously encountered. This recently occurred in a Turbo No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament at my local casino.

Players had started with 2,000 in chips and the blinds were at the 50-100 level. I took a bad hit to my chip stack and was left with 75 in chips, which were represented by three green 25 unit chips.

A few hands later, the buzzer went off signaling the end of the level. This was bad for two reasons. First, the blinds were going up to 100-200 and I had to wait 20 minutes for players to come back from a break, which seemed pointless to wait that amount of time when I was so short stacked.

The second reason this was bad was that the end of the level coincided with the "racing-off" off the green. This meant the green chips would no longer be played since the black 100 unit chips were the smallest denomination we would now use.


This inspired the situation I had not previously encountered . . . what happens to a player with only green chips remaining? The dealer suggested they would have to be raced off like normal, and if I didn't win the race, I would be eliminated. I said this was ridiculous, as no player can be eliminated from a tournament as long as they have chips remaining. I was prepared to raise bloody hell if the floor agreed with the dealer, but luckily he ruled the chips should just be rounded up. This was good news but it still left me with only a single 100 chip with the blinds at 100-200. This is where things started to get interesting.

I returned after the break feeling pretty good, having won at 4-card poker in the pits, and was looking to get my money in with the best hand.

The first two hands I looked down at were terrible, so I opted to be forced all-in on my big blind. There were two callers seeing a flop, which was K-4-x. One of the players bet and forced the other out, and showed a King for top pair. I hadn't looked at my cards until this point and sheepishly turned over an A-10. The turn blanked but the river delivered a miracle Ace!

I was now up to 300, 100 of which was automatically in for the small blind on the next hand. There was one caller back to me and I decided to blindly call the extra 100 chip, while saving my other 100 chip. The flop came J-J-x and I looked at my first card, a four, and checked. The next player bet, was called, and then I looked down at my other card, another jack! I tripled up to 900!

The very next hand I looked down at Ac 8c and pushed all-in. I was called by a player with KQ and managed to double-up when I spiked an Ace.

In three hands I went from having a single chip to holding 1,800 and being right back in it. I started to feel like "Treetop" Jack Straus in the 1982 World Series of Poker. For those of you who do not know the story, author Des Wilson explains in his book, Ghosts at the Table:

"For a while it looked like the 1982 World Series would be a disaster for Straus. It was hardly under way and he pushed all his chips in, only to lose the hand. Then he noticed that there was still one $500 chip left (it had been obscured by a napkin). Fortunately he had not actually called 'all-in' when he put his chips in, so he was able to sit back down and play that chip. From there he began an incredible comeback. He immediately went all-in, won that hand and then set about attacking everyone else at the table, bluffing outrageously and pushing every reasonable hand as strongly as possible until he had not only come back all the way from the dead but taken the lead.

With nearly twice as many chips as anyone else, he now began to boss the competitive final table, raising almost every pot and eliminating one opponent after another. Doyle Brunson says they called the seat immediately to the right of Straus 'the electric chair' because anyone who sat there was executed." [Straus went on to win the 1982 W.S.O.P. thus the origin of "a chip and a chair."]

As it turned out, I was not destined for victory as "Treetop" had been. I managed to play a little longer, chip up to 2,800, but then had my Ace-Jack run into pocket Kings.

Regardless, I was proud to have made a brief comeback from the lowest point possible, which is to have a single chip of the lowest denomination remaining (eat your heart out "Treetop" since you had a bigger denomination chip as your single chip!)

I truly learned that as long as you have "a chip and chair," you have a shot at winning.


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