Not long ago, I found $30 on an online site that I had forgotten about, and with little to do at my Colorado ranch home in the fall, I decided to go back to my roots, back to the small stakes, and try to run it up. I'm going to try to run it up to $10,000 without ever depositing.

After increasing my original $30 bankroll to nearly $400, I entered a $1-buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament and made the final table as one of the chip leaders. When we were down to six players, I had 250,000 in chips, one player had 270,000, and the four other players each had less than 100,000. The top six spots paid out $66, $44, $27, $20, $17 and $13.

I had been playing aggressively, opening for a minimum raise at nearly every opportunity, and it had been working well. I built my stack without having a big hand, rarely going to showdown. Then, finally, I was dealt a strong starting hand, two 10s. I opened for the minimum, as usual.

It folded to the small blind, the chip leader, and he went all in. With blinds at 8,000-16,000 with a 2,000 ante, the effective shove was small and, hey, this time I actually had a hand. I gave my dog a high-five and clicked to call.


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My opponent had two jacks, and before the flop came out, I was regretting my decision, or at least the swiftness of my decision. I was now a 4-1 favorite to finish in sixth place, even though my four other opponents combined had less in chips than I did. If this were a cash game, the call would be easy. If stacks were evenly distributed, the call would be easy. If my opponents were advanced or had shown a propensity to get out of line, then my call would be easy. However, with zero of those conditions existing, my call was far from easy and probably should have been a fold.

In tournament poker, since the amount of money you win is based on when you bust out, every chip you win is worth less than every chip you already have. This is because of the mathematical fact that doubling your stack does not double your chances of winning the tournament. Therefore, you have to have a bigger edge in situations like this to make the call, compared with something like a cash game, where every chip is worth its face value in dollars.

In this spot, my stack was worth about second-place money -- $44 in terms of equity. If I called and lost, I would receive sixth-place money, $13. If I called and won, then my stack would be worth nearly first-place money, but not quite. Therefore, I was risking $31 to win $16 or so by making this call.

If the chips were equal, my hand would need to have about 42 percent equity to make the call correct due to pot odds. In this case, since I was really laying about 2-1 in real money by making this call, my equity needed to be much higher, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 percent. Since my opponent had given no indication that he was bluffing, I should have folded.

I hit a 10 on the flop and ran away with the tournament after that, but I made a big mistake that left me disappointed with my performance. I can only control my decisions, not the outcome afterward.

Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Known as "Devo" on the tournament circuit, he has amassed more than $1 million in career earnings.