Steve Patch has loved poker from the first day he played it 45 years ago, playing stud for matchsticks. He’s played lots of home games over the years, but about a decade ago, the Colorado Springs resident got swept up in the “Moneymaker movement” and turned his attention to hold’em.
It’s been a fun pastime for Patch, 59, a retired U.S. Air Force officer who works for the Department of Defense as a senior policy analyst. Several years ago — close to the time Colorado casinos lifted their limits to $100 — he’d been playing tournaments at the Golden Gates and some cash games at Ameristar, occasionally trying his luck in the larger events, leading to some modest cashes here and there.
In November, Patch took a huge step forward with his biggest finish. In Las Vegas, he tried to get into the Las Vegas Heartland Poker Tour stop through a couple of qualifiers but fell short, eventually qualifying through a cash game at the Venetian.
Cut to the final table of the HPT event, where Patch was heads-up for the title against New York pro Richard Lyndaker.
He wasn’t able to pull out the win, as Lyndaker paired the low end of his K-6 against Patch’s 8-9 suited on the final hand, and Patch failed to improve. But it remained an excellent event for Patch, who earned more than $74K for his second-place finish. Lyndaker cashed more than $122K in earning the title.
Considering Lyndaker is a “pro with a fair amount of experience,” Patch said, he figured his odds were poor if he tried to grind it out. He decided his best chance lay in being aggressive: “I call it ‘shock and awe.’ If he raised, I reraised. If he reraised, I raised over the top.”
It was a solid strategy, just one where the cards didn’t play ball: Patch said he had Lyndaker 9-to-1 and all-in twice where Lyndaker caught the winner on the river. “I like to paraphrase Yogi Berra,” Patch said. “I tell people poker is 90 percent luck, and the other half is bad reads.”
Still, Patch is happy with the finish. And because this HPT event was in Vegas, the 353-player entrant pool was heavier than usual with pros, giving Patch plenty of opportunities to study their games.
“I spent a lot of time next to Dennis Phillips, and he was a hoot and a half,” Patch said. “And I sat next to Eli Elezra for hours.”
As for Lyndaker, Patch said, “That kid, he’s 27, and he taught me a couple of things in that match hopefully I can use going forward.”
— Email Rick Gershman at email@example.com.