My first significant live multiple table tournament entry was at the Atlantis in Reno Nevada for the World Poker Tour Regional Series also know as the Western Poker Challenge.  The months leading up to it I had bank rolled about 3k in live cash games and had another $500 staking package from HWP.  There wasn't another place on the globe where I would of rather been when I first sat down at the Saturday $240.   The tournament had a large field that swung along the terrace that overlooks the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  I had no expectations and felt aloof and determined.   I wasn't completely present but in a haze of disbelief combined with statistics and probabilities.  The words of Caro, Brunson, Sklansky, Patten, Sexton, and Greenstein filling my head with ideas I couldn't remember.  I was certain the people sitting around the table would know more and see right through me, this wasn't the case.
      I barely watched the average stack numbers or the player count and most times when a table broke I had no idea it was coming.  They were slowly moving tables around and closer to the escalator and then back towards the banquet rooms.  I felt like a good dog being led blindly towards the final three tables.   After six hours I looked up and realized consciously that I had been keeping with the field beautifully.  I was above average stack by 30 bbs and the money bubble was looming along with a final table that had nine empty seats and hats on each seat.  I wanted that hat almost as much as the money.  I had seen a couple guys wearing them from the previous days' tournaments and had inquired about how to buy one.  "You have to win it" I was told.  I felt determined.
     Guys that I had let bluff me for hours were now short enough for my stack to call.  It was gratifying to send them squirming toward the exit.   My idea was that I would be eaten alive with superior card playing, but that was just fear.  I would agonize over large perentages of my stack to call an all in and when I finally did call they would show down something so pathetic it would surprise me.  When we got down to eighteen players the heat really started to escalate. About this time the deck started hitting me in the face.  I  had 5 hands in a row that were kk, ak, qq, 99, 1010 and an unexpected thing happened. I knew I had to play them but had never considered a scenario where good hands would hit me one after the other.  I was terrified and actually begged the dealer to start dealing me horrible cards.  Everyone was laughing because of the irony of a poker player asking for bad cards.  I was quite vocal and serious with my complaints and was adament that she deal me cards I could easily fold. I had been quite vocal during the entire tournament once I had gotten comfortable.  I found that when people were listening to me they would miss pertinent information.  I became the sit down comedian.  The problem was after I opened three hands straight with large bets the rest of the table was thinking "This guys full of it".   I had never been that active the entire tournament.  It didn't matter what the others were assuming because I was showing monster holdings!  So the sixth and seventh hands after the streak ended I just kept raising like I was on an inferno run of great cards, which I was,  minus the last two!  By then they believed I was telling the truth anyhow. I won seven hands in a row and had busted two of the fifteen left to get to thirteen players left.  More importantly I had enough chips that I knew I would get my beloved final table hat.
     Final table was a romantic tragedy of epic proportions.  I was getting steam rolled by seasoned live players and at the time I didn't have the moxie to go for it. That's different now.  When we were down to five players left the chip leader (Michael (CA) Cooper) was tired and he said he would even chop for everyone. One 22 year old kid didn't want to.  We all have heard this kind of story before?  On the next hand "Baby No Chop"  pulls a three barrel all in stack bluff that would have been a perfect play if only Heather Landey hadn't hit one of her two outs on the river!  He went out fifth and made $125 profit, almost a $2,000 difference.  I later talked to him in the pit and he was full of justification and resentment.  He never once blamed himself.    
We were down to 4 left and one guy was clearly an underdog and I envisioned him as an Amway salesman that somehow lucked his way there.  I actually called him Mr. Amway at one point and he asked me "How did you know that".  I argued we give him $400 less and chop up over 2k each. Everyone was fine with it except Mr. Amway who was offended but seemingly agreed with my perception.  He was feeling the heat too.  I told him that he was probably a Ruby level distributor anyway and that he should consider the $400 penance for all the poor people he had taken advantage of over the years.  I don't know if he thought it was funny,  but he said "This kid drives a hard bargain".  He agreed he would give an extra $100 from his portion to each of the other four.
     I had the time of my life at that tournament and I couldn't wait to share the news with my friend Jeff Shuman.  He had listened and encouraged me on every break, had talked me down from panic on more than one occasion, and had validated my skills deep into the night by waking up to take my phone calls. Going deep in  sanctioned live event was significant for my life at the time and a validation I might be able to play higher level poker.  I went on to get a second place finish the day after that and couldn't of imagined a greater experience or excitement level doing anything else.  Of course I called my mom right away for validation and gave her the good news, and cried like a baby.  She also said to me, "You called me after your bad beat at the One Drop Satellite crying, and you call me when you win crying."  We both laughed at that.  What can I say it's an emotional game and holding emotions in for fourteen hours isn't healthy.

Aloha a hui hou kakou!

- Ken Horrell aka Quenched

This story is participating in PokerListings “My Most Memorable Poker Game” story freeroll.