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Poker by Chad Holloway

Playing in a televised cash game against some of the best poker players in the world has always been a dream of mine. Earlier this year, I had the chance to do it when I was invited to the “Poker Night in America” $25/$50 cash game at the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia.

The minimum buy-in was $5,000, and the lineup included heavyweights such as 13-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, online poker star Shaun Deeb and Alec Torelli, who plays in some of the biggest cash games in the world. I was out of my league, to say the least, but somehow I managed to hold my own.

I even turned a nice profit over the course of two days, much of which came from several big hands.

One such hand took place within the first 30 minutes of play, when Torelli, Dan Shak and Frank Olivieri (the owner of famed Philly cheesesteak restaurant Pat’s King of Steaks) each put in $100 preflop and I looked down at the Kc Kd on the button.

I raised to $400, only Olivieri and Torelli called, and the three of us took a flop of Kh 8h 3s.

After my two opponents checked, I bet $700, and Olivieri, who had flopped top pair with Ks 5s, called.

Torelli, who had bought into the game for $20,000, then check-raised all in.

I quickly called off for $5,550 total with the nuts, and Olivieri wisely got out of the way.

Torelli had also flopped a set, albeit with the inferior 3c 3h.

There was more than $13,000 in the pot – by far the biggest pot of my life – and I was a 91.11 percent favorite to win.

“Wow, set over set. What a sick beat,” said Hellmuth, who then pointed out that Torelli could still win with running hearts.

Indeed, he needed either running hearts or the case three to steal the pot from me.

Understandably, a lump rose in my throat when the Ah appeared on the turn, which dropped me to a 3-to-1 favorite.

“I threw away two hearts, by the way,” Hellmuth added.

Would I really lose the biggest pot of my life to such a terrible bad beat?

The dealer burned one last time and put out the 7c, a safe card, and just like that I had more than doubled my bankroll.

The win relieved a lot of the pressure, gave me newfound confidence and helped me play my best poker.

In short, it was a dream start to the game.

Poker players always recall their bad beats, but it’s also important to remember the good hands and those rare times when everything goes your way.

They’ll remind you just why you fell in love with poker in the first place. It truly is an American pastime right up there with baseball.

“Poker Night in America” airs Monday nights on the CBS Sports Network. My episodes will air in the fall, so be sure to check your local listings.

Chad Holloway is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and senior news editor for PokerNews.com and learn.pokernews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadAHolloway.)