7 PM Sep 13 2012, Riverside (Laughlin, NV), 1st-10th (40 entries)

While playing for a few hours in the cash games earlier in the day, I qualified to enter the Riverside's small daily "freeroll" tournament they offer in the evening. You get 1000 chips for free once you qualify. To help keep you at the table once you qualify, the room's promotion continues to pay off by providing 200 more free starting chips every time you re-qualify.

One way to qualify is having certain high hands like pocket aces, pocket kings, or a flush or higher beaten. However, the dealer at our table, when I inquired, added: "or just by asking the dealer politely for an entry". I didn't ask to enter, but a few minutes later he handed me the sign-up sheet, so I signed up.

This tournament, while technically a freeroll, practically speaking is an ordinary small buy-in tournament. This is because you can purchase an extra 4000 starting chips for just $15. Almost everyone purchases the add-on before play begins, but a few players try to start with the short stack and see if they can build it up without paying the $15. (I purchased the add-on before play began both days I played this tournament.)

You always have to win a bunch of pots to cash in any tournament, but with this tournament's accelerated structure (15-minute levels and pretty shallow starting stacks), winning just one big pot can take you a long way towards cashing.

Fortunately I won such a hand not very far into the tournament. After maintaining my original stack size through the first couple levels, in the big blind I caught

Mostly to my delight, one of the early-position players raised all-in with a stack a little bigger than mine, after one player had limped in front of him. I called and the early limper folded.

It turned out my kings were up against this:

This was mostly good news, as it meant I had a significant lead in the hand.

The flop could have been a lot better, but most importantly, no ace fell:

The turn had exactly the same quality as the flop: extremely dangerous, but not disastrous:

The river card was a beautiful thing:

Just like that I became the clear chip leader at our table.

From here out I played what's lately come into poker parlance as "ABC" poker and waited out the final table. Players familiar with this tournament had been saying that the final table usually splits the prize pool evenly ten ways, $100 per player, so this seemed like a good approach - with this being the case, why take any big chances and get knocked out before making the final table?

Since nobody had an overwhelming chip lead when it got down to ten players, the much talked-about 10-way split did in fact take place. The player to my right only had three $1000 chips (in tournament dollars, not real money) left - in other words, he was about to be eliminated from the tournament - so he was pretty happy with the split. Even though my stack had me in about 5th or 6th place, so was I.