I came into the tournament with the fifth-smallest stack. Out of a field of thirty-two, all of whom had spent the last four months accumulating points in the twice-weekly regular games, only four had fewer chips than I. The initial chip leader had me stacked better than eight to one. I was doomed.
Or so I thought.
I doubled up less than twenty minutes in but played too conservatively for a while and, by the time we were down to twelve, I was dangerously short stacked. I got aggressive, almost reckless for a bit but stayed in, keeping my stack at almost precisely the tournament median.
The four hand and the three hand rarely made it to the flop. It was all-in's and folds for fifteen solid minutes. I called once and put someone out. The other guy did likewise and it came down to just the two of us. Again, we took turns going all in on our hole cards and letting the other fold. I was weak-willed, I suppose, as I let a fairly substantial lead get nickle & dimed away.
Then I remembered something I once heard Doyle Brunson say in an interview, "When it's heads-up, any two cards will do."
He went all in before the flop and, our stacks almost identical, I called with King-Seven. He had pocket Queens but I caught a Seven on the flop and a King on the turn. When we counted out, I found that I had him covered by less than two percent. I had won.
Sure, it was tavern poker, a free gimick to keep patrons in the bar on slow nights. Sure, the grand prize bounty was only a hundred dollar gift card. Sure, no one but I will remember these events in six months time. The stakes don't really matter. What matters is that, on that one night, on that one occasion, I was a champion.
The truth is that, in any form of competition, there are many more losers than winners. Only a tiny fraction ever get to stand at the top of the podium in any capacity. Many people go their whole adult lives without ever having that, without ever being able to say, "Today I defeated all comers."
For what little it counts, I got to say that.