This ain’t no DQ Blizzard – GMPT TOC Report

By Karaoke Phil

I began playing in the monthly General Mills Poker League (now called the GMPT) in October.  I was just able to get in the minimum 4 matches to have a chance to qualify for their year-end Tournament of Champions (TOC). My two final tables and final table bubble in a third tourney allowed me the chance to “back-in” to the TOC and receive an invite for one of three spots reserved for “Best Point Average”.  I took it.

But, then came the snow – or more accurately – the blizzard.  About 14 inches dumped over night and up to about Noon on TOC day (another 3 or so inches kept coming down) .  What is a guy to do?  An email had gone out the day before saying the TOC was on – regardless of weather – these guys are hard core.  I went out and fired up the snow blower – I was going. 
Road conditions were – treacherous.  I was 15 minutes and 3 miles from home when “Comeback Kid” Bill Lanoux (one of our CPL home league players and the guy that got me into the GMPT called).  “Phil, Bill here, I’m making an emergency decision and NOT going to the TOC.”
“WHAT!,” I exclaimed as I swerved around three spun out cars on Highway 61.  “It’s a free tourney.  How can you not go?”, I exhorted.  “I’ll pick you up.”  Normally, that wouldn’t be all that much out of the way.  But, road and wind conditions as they were, it was an adventure – with absolute white out patches of driving over the Mississippi River to get to his house.  Sure, bringing Bill along meant another competitor at the TOC, but I thought it more important to have another strong back for pushing should we (likely) end up in the middle of some 3 foot drift. 
Of course, we made it (with only one near drift moment) – despite having one bad wiper (my side) and one wiper that quit working entirely (Bill’s side).  We were the last to arrive – 10 minutes late.  But, they held the game start for us which was very nice of them.  In all 19 of the 22 qualifiers were in attendance (two of which weren’t coming anyway).
Bill was card dead through it all and went out around 16th when his K/8 flopped two pair but couldn’t hold up against a straight on the river. 
One bad part about backing your way in to the TOC is that you start with the smallest chip stack – I had 5000 chips (with 3 or 4 others), but chip average was closer to 10K and the top 3 or 4 stacks held 12 to 14K.  So, it’s an uphill battle.
I managed to play well, get some good cards and limp into the final table (9 players) with 900 chips remaining.  On the first hand I’m in the SB and pick up A/8 off.  There’s a middle position limp – the rest of my chips complete the blinds and the big blind checks his option.  The board runs out 4/4/5/9/Q – but there are 4 diamonds – I have none. My A high beats the big blind, but the guy in MP has the A of diamonds and I’m out.
Worth the trip?  It’s the TOC and a free tournament – of course it’s worth the trip.