On the second play-off hole against Swede Robert Karlsson at the Dubai World Championship, Poulter dropped his ball on his "lucky" marker. Because the marker moved - it actually flipped over - he called for a referee and his worst fears were realised. It was a one-shot penalty. "I've heard of it happening before, but not to me," Poulter said.
Instead of having a 30-foot putt for birdie it was suddenly only for par, and after leaving it short Karlsson, four feet away in three on the par-5 18th and favourite to win it in any case, holed for victory.
The 41-year-old won 776,686 compared to Poulter's 517,789, but that was not all. If he had won the play-off the Englishman would have finished third on this season's European Tour money-list rather than fourth, just behind new No 1 Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood. And that would have earned him a 466,012 bonus instead of "only" 372,809.
There was more even that that. The runner-up spot, coming as it did a week after his Hong Kong Open victory, has lifted him from 11th to eighth in the world, but he would have been seventh with back-to-back titles.
Asked how frustrating it was the 34-year-old said: "About 20 world ranking points (23 actually), a lovely trophy and about $400,000 - that much frustrating. It's a shame it's just ended the way it has and it's not a consolation for me that Robert holed the putt in any case.
"It's a strange rule because if I had dropped the ball on the middle of the marker and it had not moved there's no penalty.But I should not drop my ball on it. It's been my lucky marker since the start of the year and has got my kids' names on. There are always positives, but right now I'm not seeing them."
What certainly was lucky for Karlsson was the 620-yard 18th. He birdied it to force the play-off, shared the first play-off hole in birdies after another pitch to three feet and then made four again to triumph.
The 2008 European No 1, who has suffered a serious eye problem and glandular fever since then, will also remember his start.From three behind Poulter overnight he birdied the first two holes and then sank an eight-iron on the third for an eagle two, just as Kaymer did in the opening round.
He and Poulter, who just missed a 15-foot chance to win on the last hole of regulation play, finished with rounds of 67 and 70 respectively for 14-under-par totals of 275.
World No 1 and defending champion Westwood shared third place with Alvaro Quiros a stroke behind, the Spaniard missing a long eagle putt on the 18th and Westwood pulling his second there into water and taking 5 when a birdie would have made him part of the play-off.
Kaymer and McDowell, the only two contenders for the Order of Merit entering the event, finished joint 13th, which earned the 25-year-old German - the youngest No 1 since Ronan Rafferty in 1989 - a bonus of over 932,000. McDowell had to finish third just to have a chance, but a bonus of almost 700,000 - and the memories of the US Open and Ryder Cup, of course - softened the blow of just missing out on the top spot.
Karlsson said: "It was a strange day to say the least. To start birdie-birdie-eagle is not what you expect to happen when you are three behind. Then there was the one-shot penalty. It's not the way you want to win, but these things happen in golf.
"The rules are there for a reason, but some of them look very hard at stages. In one way that's the purity of the game."
Tour chief referee Andy McFee, the man who had to break the news to Poulter, said: "Any accidental movement of the ball marker which occurs before or after the specific act of marking - including as a result of dropping the ball - is not considered to be directly attributable to the specific act of marking and results in the player incurring a one-stroke penalty."