It happened in Dublin and in Warsaw it looks to be happening again. A forward march to the top of the hill by Andy Black only to march all the way back down again. Had he suffered such a mugging out on the streets the crowds would have parted for the arrival of two trucks with sirens blazing – a team of armed police in one truck; a team of psychiatrists in the other.
Instead the poker world shows little remorse in circumstances like these, not even from the guy responsible for this sudden calamity. This is the table of death after all where the vultures circle preparing for another feast.
Christoffer Sonesson was responsible in part, the man who doubled up within ten minutes of the start of play on day one, taking a few pots from Andy before the big one, a 50k ka-boom hand against Christian Oman – aces for Black, eights for Oman who then caught runner-runner for a flush.
Now the question is much simpler. Will Andy self-destruct or is there something left in his stack of 15k for a comeback?
It didn’t seem like it at first. In between an uncomfortable silence – no more talking and no more jokes – he called bets and mucked a hand on the showdown. More chips gone. The cameras and press still hover around the table, as they have done each day this week, but these are the vultures I mentioned, waiting for a blurry shot of the Irishman leaving the tournament area – surely any minute now. In the distance someone strikes it rich on a slot machine for a perfect melodramatic reminder of how fortunes change.
I’d stopped by this table to see PokerStars qualifier Craig Hopkins. Instead I’d joined the Andy Black Death Watch. Hopkins, from the UK, made the final table of the PCA in January, a fifth place that netted him €321,429, but right now he’s just waiting for things to calm down.
Another hand for Andy, all-in with K-J, called by K-J. The comeback stalls. Craig then calls a bet from Christopher Sonesson. They see a flop of 6-A-J but Craig is chased away by a big bet. Another all-in by Andy over a raise from Leszek Krawczynski who then calls. Andy has pocket nines, Leszek shows J-9.
“That’s not the hand I was expecting to see…” smiles Andy, raking in chips.
Another hand, and Craig makes it 7,200 to go this time. It’s folded round to Andy again who re-raises to 17,200 in total. It’s on Leszek again who asks Andy how much he has left. It takes a few moments but Andy is determined to oblige, replying and then holding his head in both hands, face down, his forehead going pink. Leszek goes through his stack, re-piling it neatly before announcing ‘all-in’.
Craig Hopkins had been waiting patiently during this theatre, watching Black in the brace position and Leszek stand up to chat and joke with friends. He points over at him to ask how much – 53,600 in total, and too much. He shakes his head and lets it go.
Cue Andy Black…
It must have been nice to flip over those aces. For Leszek just A-Q; puzzling everyone. But least among those who cared was Andy Black. Taken to the brink by bullets just a short time ago, brought back from that place by the same hand.
He’s talking again now – the Andy Black Show is back on air…
Photos © Neil Stoddart