Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The room was dark and smoky. The regular sound of poker chips coming together gave an unsteady rhythm, replicating the mood of the players left seated at the table. Onlookers shuffled around nervously, sensing that something big was about to happen.
There were only eight players left, and one ultimate prize. Nathan, Trent, Darren, Scott, Travis, Robbie, Brett and Michael were nervously about to begin the cruel process of elimination.
The crisp movement of the cards across the table belied the tense atmosphere that had enveloped the scene. All eight players, with their varying chip stacks, sensed that the stakes had suddenly been raised.
Before we had reached this crucial stage, one of the biggest plays had already occurred. Luke, one of the most experienced players in the initial group, had unexpectedly bombed out. In what was later described as a fit of extreme optimism, he risked an all-or-nothing bet in the hope that he would get the 6 that he desperately needed to complete a straight.
It never came. Missing out on that 6 had cost him a chance at the biggest prize.
Before the final eight had settled themselves, Nathan and Trent had picked up some sizable pots while Brett and Michael looked to be hanging by the flimsiest of threads. Darren had taken some big hits as well, but was counting on just one decent hand to get himself back on track.
And every player left in this battle was well aware that only one of them was going to be leaving successfully.
At one stage, Scott and Travis found themselves going head-to-head for a reasonable stack of chips. Travis nearly lost his poker face when his first two cards gave him a pair of Aces, and he immediately threw in a sizeable wager in an attempt to unsettle the newcomer opposing him.
Scott wasn?t shaken, and remained as cool as a cucumber. In the end Travis limped away with his tail very much between his legs, and lost a rather large chunk of his chips in the process. A pair of Aces was no match for Scott?s full house ? sixes full over sevens.
Next hand, Darren and Robbie were the last two players standing. These two have hugely contrasting styles at the table ? Darren is very swift with his hands and likes to show off his ?moves?, while Robbie simply plays what he sees. The game took a strange turn at this point, as Robbie tried to bluff his way through with a pair of threes ? and remarkably, Darren conceded defeat and folded the pot despite holding three kings.
For now, we still had eight players at the table.
After a brief quiet patch, Brett suddenly perked up as he found himself on a flush draw. Some heavy betting silenced the rest of the table before Trent (eventually!) came out fighting fire with fire, forcing Brett to go all-in. While Trent held the upper hand with two pair (eights and tens), Brett?s hopes of remaining at the championship table rested entirely on a diamond emerging from the pack to complete his flush.
It never came.
Trent held on, and Brett left the table after putting in a gallant effort. Such was the size of Trent?s chip stack, he could now afford to put his feet up for a while and leave the others to battle amongst themselves. The eight had become seven.
Michael had been sitting patiently, waiting for a good opportunity to strike. All of a sudden there was a fleeting moment of hope as he was dealt a pair of Kings, but his minimal chip stack made it very difficult to build up any sort of momentum to challenge the big guns.
A solid bet was instantly met with a large raise from Nathan (who was controversially seen laughing as he splashed his chips onto the table), and Michael was left no option but to throw all his chips in the pot. The outcome would either be a glorious victory ? or more realistically, a thumping loss.
The Gods decided to tease Michael with this hand ? his two Kings were joined by a third, and his spirits were lifted ? but Nathan had been holding a Straight Flush right from the start. As everyone had predicted, the seven had now become six.
And once again, the stakes were raised.
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