Las Vegas Part 3 - WSOP Event #51
As most of you know, the main purpose of this trip was for Tony and I to play in two events at the World Series of Poker. We played in Event #51 and Event #54, both $1500 No Limit Hold’Em events. I won’t go into a hand-for-hand detail of each tournament, just for the sake of keeping this blog readable for the non-poker reader. However, if anyone would like a more detailed analysis of how I felt I played, send me an email (email@example.com) and I will send you my trip report which contains most of the key hands I played, as I was logging them in a notebook along the way.
We went over to the Rio on Friday to register a day early, and in retrospect, it was a good idea, since we saw people on Saturday (the day of the tournament) being turned away since they capped the entrants at 2,800. It would have been pretty disappointing to plan an entire trip around these tournaments, and then not be able to get in. While I was registering, I could see the VIP entry section on the other side of the registration cage, and that Daniel Negreanu was in there. We were at the Rio about an hour before the start of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, so we were expecting to see a number of the big names. After getting my table assignment, we saw Daniel Negreanu out in the hall, where he said he would stay for a bit and sign some autographs and take some pictures. I’m not really an autograph guy, but I love Negreanu, and he is the face of poker in Canada, so we weren’t going to miss this opportunity.
We took a few pictures with him, and then Scotty Nguyen came out and took some pics as well. Then we headed out and spent the rest of the day at Planet Hollywood and Bally’s.
Event # 51 – Saturday, July 27th
On Saturday, we headed back to the Rio for Event #51. Jeremy had bought into this event as well, so there were three of us in the field. Tony and I had agreed to a ‘last longer’ bet in each of our WSOP events, that the loser had to go to the winner’s table and deliver the one ounce of silver that we had wagered upon being eliminated. Tony and Jer were in the Brasilia room, and I was in the Amazon Room, which is the main hall. My friend Matt Wood was also in the field, but was in another room, the Miranda room.
I started at Table 103, seat 3, and my previous WSOP experience helped me to not be nervous at the outset. Our initial dealer was a friendly black woman named Marilyn, who insisted that we call her our “Chocolate Mama”, or depending on our age, “Chocolate Aunt.”
The table was a generally passive group of players, except for one guy in seat 6 who was angry and aggressive. He had his iPod earphones in and rarely spoke to anyone. The table was a relatively easy study, and I knew how to adjust my game accordingly based on who was involved in the hand. It helped that I also got smashed in the face with the deck. Pocket Kings that held up, and then Aces twice, including one time when I was able to limp re-raise the angry guy in seat 6 who (shockingly) folded angrily. I was praying that this table didn’t get broken up since I was settling in well, but alas, it did…and I got moved to Table 151, seat 8.
At Table 151, it was a different story entirely. The caliber of play was much higher, and I could immediately tell who the three best players were at the table. They were all sitting in a row, seats 1-3, and it was a corner that was going to be difficult to get through. There was no more limping into pots like my previous table, every pot was opened with a raise, and there was a lot of re-raising and squeeze-play steals taking place too. Ok…ok…too much poker-speak…I’ll back it up a bit.
Anyways, the point is that I would need to be much more crafty to be successful at this table, so I tried a risky move the next time I was dealt AA. I just called the $200 big blind, expecting someone to raise, but as it got around to the guy in the big blind, nobody had raised, and I thought it had backfired. But the Big Blind saved the day when he raised from $200 to $800, and I waited a fair bit before making it $3000. It was folded back to him where he went all-in, and I instantly called. He had AK vs. my AA, and was drawing dead on the turn. I won a big pot, and was now close to $11,000 in chips.
Shortly after this, Tony came to my table and flipped me a bar of silver, which was bad news overall since it signified that he was eliminated. He didn’t stick around long enough to tell me what happened, but he was not happy with the way he played. Right after this, I got into another big pot and eliminated a player when my QJ faced off against QK on a QJ29 board when he went all-in on the turn. It was all the more poetic since Everlong (Foo Fighters...my favourite song) was on my iPod at the time. I was now up to $15,000 in chips.
About 40 minutes later, with the blinds 100/200, and just minutes away from the dinner break, I had been shaved away down to about 12K in chips when I raised UTG with Queen-King of diamonds. Only one player called, the solid player in seat 3, who was on the button. I asked how much he had before the flop came, and it was about $7,000 more. The flop came QQ6, and I checked. He bet $700 into a $1500 pot, and I check-raised to $2000. He went all-in, and I knew he couldn’t have Q6 after he called my raise, so I figured the worst case scenario was that I was up against AQ or 66, but I couldn’t fold here. More likely he had a pocket pair and didn’t believe I had a Queen. I called and he showed pocket aces. Perfect. He has two outs, and I’m already counting the chips in my head, bringing me up over $22,000. We were both standing when the Ace of diamonds hit on the river and he made the miracle full house. I walked away from the table in disbelief before coming back and calmly counting out the chips he had won. I was down to $4500 in chips and in danger of losing them all quickly since I was so devastated from that hand.
The very next hand, in the big blind, I had pocket fives, flopped a 5, and busted a player two seats to my right. Back up to $7500.
The hand after that, in the small blind, I had pocket threes, flopped a 3, turned the last three for quads, and won a big pot from the player to my left. Back up to $13,000
$12,000 to $4,500 to $7,500 to $13,000 in 3 hands, and now it’s the dinner break. What a roller-coaster ride.
On the dinner break, we broke at the same time as $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, so walking up the hallway with Gus Hansen and Johnny Chan was an interesting feeling. I spoke briefly with Greg Raymer and Mike Matusow (who was a bit of a douche since I didn’t want to buy his autobiography), and also with Annie Duke, telling her how outraged I was at the result of The Celebrity Apprentice. (See my May 11th post.)
A few hands after dinner, my table got broken up and I was moved again. As I was de-racking my chips on the table, I saw a player with a HUGE stack raise, and when I looked at my cards, I found Ace-Queen, and folded it instantly since I had no idea how my new table played. The initial raiser in seat 5 was a guy with a loud, colourful hoodie, a purple flat-brimmed ballcap, and dark sunglasses. I could tell immediately that he was running the table. One player called the raise and the board came Q9724 with a LOT of chips in the pot. I cringed at the showdown, waiting to see if I would have won a big pot. The stubborn caller showed QK for a hand I would have beat, and the raiser showed AA, which would have had me crushed and crippled. I dodged a huge bullet folding that hand preflop.
The guy in seat 5 with the purple hat was named Jeffrey Vanchiro, and I was really pleased with my overall Day One play…except for when I played pots with him. My QJ lost a big pot to his QK later on a Q high board, and he was whittling me (and the table) away with constant raises and overall good play. Plus, he was running so well. His AQ would bust A9 all-in preflop when two 9’s hit the flop. He got it all in with 88 vs TT, and the guy with the tens said “At least I’m winning”, and Jeff smiled and said “Not yet”…just before the 8 hit the flop to eliminate his opponent. I didn’t want to tangle with him anymore. I had been cut in half to about 7K in chips.
With the blinds $200/$400 and a $50 ante, I get Ace-King and raise to 1525. I only get one caller, a guy in seat 10 who hasn’t played a hand in the 90 minutes I’ve been at this table. I assume he has to have a pretty strong hand since he never plays and I never raise. The flop comes 873 rainbow and I shove for my remaining 5500. He has about 1000 less than me, and thinks forever before calling with…get this!...8-10 of spades. I can’t even fathom: a) how he waited 90 minutes to call a raise with this hand, and b) how he flops top pair and took that long to call. The turn is a 2, and I’m praying for an ace or king on the river.
I pull my chips back and say “Good Game” as I eliminate my 5th player of the day. Back up to $13,800.
It was up and down from that point until the end of the day. I got whittled away a bit more, stole some chips back on re-raises and steals. I even flopped a set and rivered a boat against Jeff on a hand where I let him take the lead, but he couldn’t catch anything (and semi-sniffed it out, I think) and only lost $1000 on the river.
Next thing I know, the seat to my right is filled by Mike Watson, WPT Champion – SirWatts in the online poker world. I highlighted Mike’s blog in a previous post, and now he gets moved right beside me. We’re chatting for a bit, and I’m basically avoiding him, but when he shoves all-in from the cutoff with 9-10 of clubs, and I have pocket 10’s, my time alongside SirWatts is finished as I eliminated him from the tournament. Up to $24,000 with 500 players left, and the top 297 making the money.
The last hour was painful, and the fatigue of playing for over 12 hours clearly got to me as I made some bad decisions and bled away some chips. I squeaked into Day 2 with only 7900 in chips, and 349 players left...52 until we reached the money.
I was angry at myself for how I played the final hour, and it was difficult to shake off. Jer tried his best to talk me down (he had stayed with me the entire time, updating on Twitter), and we went out for some steak and eggs before hitting the sack for the night.
I was still upset in the morning and knew I would have to make a move fast once Day Two started. We went online to see my table assignment and saw that I was at a table of shortstacks, with almost everyone under the average stack. This was good, as I knew I wasn’t going to be insta-called by a big stack with any two cards.
Tony, Jer, and Dave, all came with me for Day Two to cheer on from the sidelines. It didn’t take long, as I found QQ on my very first hand of the day, and a player all-in in front of me. He had Ace-Ten and I hit a Queen to move myself up to $18,200. Folded Ace-Ten, Ace-8, and pocket 7’s all under the gun in three consecutive orbits, and dodged bullets each time as bigger hands would have called…and won. I was losing blinds and antes fast not playing a hand for 3 orbits. I was now under $7,000 in chips with the blinds $600/$1200 with a $100 ante, and only minutes from going up to $800/$1600.
I got moved to another table as we found out we were down to 300 players, only 3 from the money, and were moving into hand-for-hand play. I had only 6400 in chips, and had 5 hands before I had to pay a blind. After the first hand of hand-for-hand play, the tournament director came on the microphone and said “Players, I need you to listen very carefully…”
…and we all waited…
“Congratulations! You’ve all made the money.”
The room erupted and we all congratulated each other at the table. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I had made it into the money and now could shove without the fear of having nothing to show for a day and a half of exhausting poker. I wasn’t just going to shove with any hand now, though. I still wanted it to be a good one.
But I couldn’t find one, and I lost yet another set of blinds and antes when I found Ace-Queen and shoved it all-in, using both hands to push 2400 chips into the middle. The blinds were $800/$1600 and the blinds had big stacks, so I knew it was likely going to be a 3-way pot minimum. But the guy to my left RAISED to 6,000 and everyone folded. I assume I’m crushed with AK or racing against a pair, so imagine my surprise when he turns over 7-8 of hearts.
That was the collective confusion of the table (including me), who had no idea why he would isolate me heads-up with 8 high and no side pot. The flop came 252T6 and my AQ won a pot of $9,000. The BB folded 9-10, so he would have eliminated me had this guy not raised. (side note: thank you, donkey.)
I won’t bore you with the final details of me shortstacking up and down below 10K for over an hour, but I made it into the second level of pay. I won a pot at one point, and heard the boys on the rail yell ‘GARRRRRR!’ as I stacked the chips, and I yelled back…then had to explain what that meant. It was great having them there on the rail for support. I ended up shoving for 7K with pocket tens, and being called by a guy from Montreal with pocket jacks. No help came and I was eliminated in 217th place.
I got my payout slip and headed down to the payout room, where I ran into Linda Johnson, who I had met at a charity event a number of years ago. She congratulated me on my first cash and gave me a big hug. I also ended up standing beside Shannon Elizabeth as she was registering for an event, and was privately wishing she would give me a congratulatory hug as well. (No offense, Linda.)
Three side notes: a) Jeffrey Vanchiro, from my third table, ended up finishing 15th in the event, and was responsible for the bustout that put us all in the money. b) Carsten Joh, who won the event, was at one of my tables briefly. c) I proudly wore a memorial T-shirt under my shirt both days to honour my cousin Paul, who passed away last year. I honestly felt like it gave me strength when I needed it.
That’s the summary of Event #51. Next post will be Event #54.
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