Friday, July 15, 2011

Taking My Shot At The 2011 World Series Of Poker

The dream of almost every poker player is to play in the World Series of Poker (WSOP), which takes place every summer in Las Vegas. Due to the ESPN television coverage of the WSOP Main Event each year, many people mistakenly believe that it is just one tournament, but in actuality, it is a series of between 55-60 different events, featuring varying buy-in amounts and different poker games. The series culminates in the Main Event, usually around the first week of July.

The first time I ever played in the WSOP was in 2007 when I played a $1500 No-Limit Hold ‘Em Event. There were over 3,000 people in the tournament, and I missed making the money by under an hour. I played two events in 2009, both $1500 No-Limit Hold ‘Em, both around 3,000 people again. In each of those Events, I made it into Day 2, and cashed in one of them (finishing in 217th place), missing the money in the other one by only half an hour. Three Events, three deep runs, and one WSOP cash.
This year I played in my 4th WSOP Tournament, Event #56, which was once again a $1500 No Limit Hold ‘Em Event, with a record field of 3,389 players. 342 players would make it into the money, with a first-place prize of $777,928 and the coveted WSOP Bracelet. (Look, I know I’m Italian, but the only reason I would ever wear a gold bracelet is from the WSOP!)
I started off in the Pavilion Room, at Table 81, Seat 7. As I was sitting there before the tournament, I ran into a friend from my home casino in Brantford, a player who I have played with there named Marcus, who was also in the same tournament (That story on Jeff X is still coming for you, Marcus. I promise.) My table was right on the rail, so my girlfriend Devena would be able to watch the action from up close, when she wasn’t being accosted by Costa Rican Poker Pro and resident “dirty old man” Humberto Brenes. As I was sitting there preparing for the cards to hit the air, Brenes strolled by and sized up Devena, saying hello as he passed.

I chuckled until I found out that he later approached her in the hallway, asking if she remembered him saying hello to her in the other room, and asking if she would like a picture with him. A lot of players/spectators get star-struck at the WSOP, walking the halls next to Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, and all of the players you would see on TV, and quite often you see people (myself included) asking for a picture. But when have you ever heard of the poker player asking YOU if you want the picture?
Brenes even asked her if he could give her his little shark, and THANK GOD that’s not code for anything, since his trademark is a tiny shark with a light that he uses as his card marker. Devena graciously said no, and suggested that he instead give the shark to a young girl who was nearby waiting for an autograph. But enough of that dirty old Costa Rican, back to my table…

My table started off less than half full, with only 4 of the 9 seats filled when the cards hit the air, and both blinds not at the table. In the first hand, the blinds were 25/25, it was folded to me, and I had pocket 5’s, so I raised to 75. The French guy to my left either took offense to me apparently stealing the empty blinds, or had a real hand, and re-raised to 275. It was folded back to me, and I briefly considered folding (starting stack was 4500), but I didn’t want to advertise that I would fold to a re-raise on the very first hand, so I called. Odds are 55 was the best hand right now, anyways.

We went to the flop heads-up, which was Ace-Ace-5. Flopping a full house on the very first hand? I’m praying now that this French guy has Ace-King or some sort of Ace, so I checked. He checked behind, which still could have meant he had an Ace. The turn was a 7, and I bet 300 into a pot of 625. He thought for a moment and then folded. Unfortunate I couldn’t make a big pot out of that first hand.
The table gradually filled over the next half hour, so let’s go over the players in each seat, so you have some context for the hands I will be detailing. I’m disheartened that the WSOP Photo Site did not include pictures from my table, even though the photographer came to our table and took shots of all of us. It would have been nice to have photos of the other players at my table (as I included in my last WSOP report in 2009). Nonetheless, the players at my table were as follows:

Seat 1 – Tall, lanky kid who looked like he should have been on a Junior Varsity Basketball team, and appeared to have just woken up.
Seat 2 – 30-something guy who looked exactly like my friend Schumy.
Seat 3 – 40-something guy with a sleeveless black T-shirt and a goatee, who looked like he just rolled in from a Bob Seger concert.
Seat 4 – Old Guy who was wearing 2 pairs of glasses: silver mirrored sunglasses underneath his regular prescription glasses.
Seat 5 – Portugese girl who looked like Nelly Furtado and wore WAY too much perfume. Seemed more interested in making sure everyone could see her breasts and Everest Poker badge than actually playing poker.
Seat 6 – If Harold Ramis was from India, this is what he would look like.
Seat 7 – Me.
Seat 8 – New Jersey Kid who looked like he could be Tyler Hansborough’s brother, and was watching The Wire on his iPad.
Seat 9 – French Euro-Donk who looked like a turtle and was wearing man-pris.
Seat 10 – 40-ish guy who looked like Phil Mickelson and was wearing a bright lemon yellow shirt.

On the fourth hand, I found KdTd (King-Ten of diamonds, for those of you not used to poker terminology in text), and raised from Middle Position (MP) to 75. Junior Varsity and Bob Seger Concert both called me and we saw a flop of 4-6-7 with one diamond. Seger Concert’s eyes widened on the flop and he fired a bet of 125. I folded, as did Junior Varsity.

A few hands later, I was under the gun (UTG) and raised to 75 with Ac9c (Ace-Nine of clubs). Junior Varsity re-raised me to 275, and I was contemplating what to do when it got around to me, whether his raise was legit or not…but Indian Harold Ramis re-raised from the Big Blind to 825, so it was an easy fold for me. I ditched my cards and when it got back to Junior Varsity, he folded as well, with a disgusted, embarrassed smirk that made it clear that he was busted.

Only a few hands later, I found pocket Jacks in MP, and raised to 100. Seger Concert called from the small blind, and we saw a flop of KdJc9d. I flopped a set of Jacks on a board that was pretty scary because it could have hit a lot of hands, making a number of different draws. Seger Concert bet 150 into a pot of 225, and I had to figure out what exactly was the right move here.
Trying to figure out what he had, I ruled out KK because I thought he would have re-raised preflop and NOT bet out on the flop. Ten-Queen for a flopped straight was possible, as was 99, AK, KQ, KJ, KT, JT, or TT. I’m beating every one of those hands except Ten-Queen, so I felt the right move was to raise, only because the board was so draw-heavy and contained 2 diamonds. I raised to 350, and he called.

The turn was the 7 of hearts, which didn’t change anything if he had any of the hands I suspected. He checked, and I bet 400 into a pot of 925. If I bet more, I think he would have folded all of his one pair hands, even with a gutshot straight draw, and I was willing to risk it and get that 400 into the pot.

The river was the 8 of clubs, which I didn’t like one bit, because now two of the hands I suspected (KT, JT) have made a straight. But when he checked to me, I was still pretty sure I was good. With 1725 in the pot, I contemplated betting 700-850 in the hopes of getting paid, but now hands like AK or 99, that would have paid me off, may fold because he is suspicious of ME having the straight. Plus, what do I do if he checkraises me? I have to fold. So I felt like checking behind was the right move, which would also allow me to see his hand since he had to show first. I checked, he showed AK, and my JJ took down the pot. Unfortunate river, because I could have gotten more chips from him, but after flopping two sets in the first half hour, I wasn’t going to complain.

The next orbit around the table, Lemon Mickelson in Seat 10 was UTG and raised to 75. It was folded to me on the button and I had a garbage hand, but I raised to 275 to test what a UTG raise meant from him. He folded relatively quickly and I won a small pot, but learned that Lemon Mickelson raising UTG doesn’t always mean strength.

9 hands later, Indian Harold Ramis raised to 75 in LP (Late Position), and I re-raised to 300 immediately after him in the cutoff with pocket Jacks. It was folded back to him, and he called. The flop was 6-8-2 with 2 diamonds, he checked, and I bet 400 into a pot of 675. He thought for a while and then called. The turn was another 6, he checked, and I contemplated betting, but again, I didn’t feel like my hand could withstand a checkraise. Plus, if he was on a draw and missed, checking the turn may induce him to bluff the river. I checked.
The river was another 6, so the board read 6-8-2-6-6, and I was positive I was good, unless he had a 6 for quads. When he checked the river, I knew I was good. If he had 99, 77, or 55, I felt like he would have bet the river, so there’s really nothing that can call me on the river. I decided to check and see his cards since he had to show first. He showed Ad7d for a missed flush draw and I took the pot. I was pretty surprised that he had called 300 out of position preflop vs me with Ace-Seven, especially since no one had seen a bad hand from me. I won the pot, but I don’t really like how I played this hand. I feel like I was too timid on the turn, and possibly even on the river. I definitely should have bet the turn. My stack was now up to $6225.

A while later, the blinds had gone up to 25/50 (levels were one hour long), and I got into a pot with Junior Varsity in Seat 1. He had raised to 150 in EP (Early Position), and I called with 9dTd (Nine-Ten of diamonds) from the button. The flop was 8c8d10s, he made a standard continuation-bet of 200, and I called. The turn was a third 8, and he checked. I checked quickly behind to hopefully make him think I was on a draw so he would bet the river. The river was a 2, he checked, I bet 300 into a pot of 875, and he folded. Some may think I should have bet the turn, but I think it’s worth the risk to check quickly there and hope he bets the river. If an Ace or some other high card hits the river, I’m not sure what I do if he bets. Stack is now $6775.

Next hand I played was KdTh, which I raised to 175 after Double Glasses limped into the pot. Seger Concert called from the big blind, and Double Glasses (who only had 1500 behind after losing a big pot) called as well. The flop was K-6-3, they both checked, I bet 375, and they both folded. Stack is now $7100.

Later in the level, I was in the big blind with King-Jack offsuit (KJo), and Lemon Mickelson raised from EP to 150. It was folded to me and I called to go heads-up with him. The flop was 8d6c2c, and I checked. He checked behind and I assumed that meant he had two big cards that completely missed. The turn was a 3 of hearts, and with me being in the big blind, I figured I could take it down with a bet, so I fired 225 into a pot of 325. He called, which made me think he just didn’t believe me, and was calling with two big cards, or possibly a flush draw.

The river was the 8 of clubs, which paired the board, and completed a flush draw. I thought if I checked, I was resigning to losing the pot since he would bet and win, so I fired again, hoping he thought I made trip 8’s or made a flush, and would fold. I fired 550 into a pot of 775, which made sense for either scenario, and he thought for a long time before calling. I turned over my hand, a total bluff (which was actually leading until the river…little did I know!), and he tabled his cards: Qc9c for a rivered flush. I like my play on this hand, and it would have worked if he didn’t make a flush. I was unhappy that I had to show my hand since this was the first bluff I had to show, and would undoubtedly lose me some credibility with the rest of the table. I had interpreted Lemon Mickelson’s pause on the river as considering folding, but he told me later (and correctly so) that he was never folding, and only deciding whether to call or raise. Lesson learned in this hand that Lemon Mickelson raises in Early Position with weak hands like Q9 suited. Stack is down to $6200.

Nothing eventful happened until the blinds had gone up and we had returned from our first break with blinds at 50/100. I had AcKc in LP and raised to 325. The French Turtle (who had been raising almost every hand to steal blinds) called me, along with Schumy in the Big Blind. The flop was As10c4c, and with top pair, top kicker, and the nut flush draw, I’m thinking to myself “I will happily shove all my chips in this pot with anyone.” Schumy checked to me, and I bet 525 into a pot of 1025. The French Turtle called and Schumy folded.

The turn was the 3 of spades, and I bet 1000 into a pot of 2075. The French Turtle tanked for quite some time after I bet, and I could tell that he was considering shoving all-in (I had him covered), which I would have called instantly. If he had AT, A4, A3, 33, 44, TT, or 25, then I still had plenty of outs (although I had pretty much ruled out A4, A3, and 25 since he called a raise to 325 pre-flop.) Other than that, I was good. He thought so long that I could tell others at the table were getting frustrated and considering calling a clock on him (which would give him one minute to act), but I wasn’t going to call it on him. Finally, he called, and I put him on AQ or a flush draw. I was praying for a club on the river.

The river was the 2 of spades, which made the board As10c4c3h2s. I didn’t like the river, because if he had a flush draw, he may have also had the 5 of clubs, which now made a straight. It was highly unlikely, but still possible. I decided that checking was the best move, because if he missed a flush draw, he may bet to try and steal the pot, and I had already decided to call anything he bet, up to and including an All-In. He checked behind, I tabled my hand, and his jaw dropped. He said “thank god a club didn’t hit.” I never saw his cards, but it was clearly a flush draw, I believed that statement. In retrospect, checking the river was indeed the correct move, in case he decided to try and steal the pot with a bluff. Stack up to $8025.

Nothing more eventful really happened at my table: Hansborough-lookalike bluffed pre-flop, on the flop, and on the turn, to double up with a gutshot on the river on his very first hand vs. Double Glasses; Indian Harold Ramis disappeared for an hour; Smelly Nelly Furtado had her set of aces cracked by the French Turtle’s flush draw; and Schumy built up a big stack. Our table broke partway through Level 3, and I was shipped off to Table 65, Seat 2. My stack was $7850.

My new table was very serious, very quiet. Tobey Maguire was sitting just two tables away, and poker legend Barry Johnson was playing at the next table. A quick survey of the table saw three big stacks immediately to my left. First impressions of my new table (this time with pictures!):
Seat 1 – Nervous French guy, who could barely speak or understand English.
Seat 2 – Me.
Seat 3 – Wanna-be pro with a ponytail, mirrored sunglasses, and huge cans (earphones) over his Flat Cap (aka Old Man Hat). Had seemingly been trying to gather all the green 25 chips since he had a stack nearly to his chin.
Seat 4 – Black guy, grey hoodie, dark sunglasses, sporting 2 WSOP rings.
Seat 5 – Young pro, looked like Howdy Doody.
Seat 6 – Young Indian kid with Starsky and Hutch sunglasses and a popped collar.
Seat 7 – Big guy wearing a Chicago Bears hat and Chicago Cubs shirt. (No Bulls wristband?)
Seat 8 – Shortstacked guy who looked like he had already given up.
Seat 9 – Older guy who looked like Ed Helms in 20 years.
Seat 10 – Quiet kid who looked like my friend Matt.

The dynamic of this table was very different than my first table, so I resigned myself to watch for a full orbit and only play premium hands until I got a sense of the atmosphere. I even went so far as to fold Ace-Queen (unsuited) in a pot that no one had entered yet. Turned out it was the right decision, too, as two players behind me played a big pot with TT and AK. After a few hands, I could tell where the aggression was coming from and how almost everyone was playing.

The first hand I played was against the shortstacked guy in Seat 8, who only had slightly over $2000 left. The blinds were still 50/100, and he raised to 250. I was in the big blind with 4d5d, so I decided to see a flop for 150 more. The flop was Q-2-6 with 1 diamond, and with a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor diamond draw, I checked. He bet 250 again, and I decided to call, knowing that if he missed, and this was just a continuation bet, he would shut it down on the turn with a short stack. However, as soon as I called the 250, he looked crestfallen, so I decided to fire out on any scare card on the turn.

The turn was the 2 of spades, and I asked him how much he had left. He counted and responded “$1700.” I knew he didn’t like me calling the flop, and couldn’t possibly like that turn with me in the blinds, so I counted out 800 in chips and bet it, sending the message that I was not folding if he went all in. He fired his cards into the muck and folded instantly, and I raked in the pot. Stack up to $8175.
Then I took my notebook out and started logging what had happened in the hand (you didn’t think I write this all from memory, did you?), and a couple of people made comments about it, asking what I was doing. “Recipe Ideas”, I answered, which elicited a few laughs. A couple of players kept on me, and I wouldn’t tell them what I was writing. It was a topic of conversation for a few hands, with some good-natured banter back and forth.

About 10 hands later, the blinds had gone up in Level 4 to 75/150, and I was in the small blind. The guy with the two WSOP rings raised to 400 UTG, and when it was folded to me, I found Ace-King. I knew I couldn’t just call here, so I re-raised to 1525. The big blind folded, and the original raiser looked over to see how many chips I had. I moved my hands to show him my stack, which was still over $6000 after my raise was put into the pot. He thought for a few moments before grabbing a stack of yellow chips (worth $1000 each) and dropping them in, enough to put me all in if I called.

Now, a lot of people can’t get their chips in fast enough with Ace-King, and maybe in my regular home game, I ship it in here too. But I felt sick about calling away all my chips with Ace-high here. I struggled with the decision, and once I didn’t instantly call him, he said aggressively, “Oh? You wanted ME to make the decision, did you?” (At this point, I didn’t know that the hooded figure with the sunglasses was Dwyte Pilgrim, 3-time WSOP Circuit winner, and WPT winner, but I don’t think that knowledge at this point changes anything.)

I can’t think that he was shoving with anything that I was beating, and I didn’t want to race for all of my chips, considering I still have 40 Big Blinds left if I fold (plenty to still play comfortably with). After about two minutes, I reluctantly folded and said “nice hand”, as I pulled my notebook out to log the pertinent details. Suddenly, the shortstacked guy in Seat 8 (now down to about $1100) decides to pipe up and say “He’s writing ‘Just folded Queens to a 4-bet’ ”, and snickers. It took all I had not to fire back, “No, but if I go back a page, I’ll read you how I took 1/3 of your stack with 5-high.” Stack was now down to $6175.

I took a walk after that hand over to my friend Gabe’s table (in another section), and saw him a couple of tables away from his own, chatting with NBA Champion Shawn Marion (Suck It LeBron!), who was playing in the same tournament as us. I told Gabe a bit about the hand, and pointed out where my new table was, so he could drop by later.

Back at my table, I was in the big blind once again, and Ponytail Flat Cap to my left raised to 400 UTG. Everyone folded and I found pocket 6’s. I considered re-raising, but decided to just call. The flop was 945, I checked, and he bet 500. I called. The turn was another 5. I checked and he checked, so I knew my 66 was good at this point. The river was a 3, and unless he had Ace-2, 67, or 22, then nothing had changed if my read was that I was good on the turn. I checked with the intention of calling any bet, but he checked behind, I showed my 66, and took in the pot.

The very next hand, I was in the small blind and it was folded to Quiet Matt in Seat 10, who raised to $375 from the cutoff. I looked down and saw pocket tens, and since I hadn’t seen Quiet Matt play a pot yet, I just called. The big blind folded, and we saw the flop heads-up, which was a flop of Jack-Ten-Three. He bet $450 into a pot of $850, I check-raised him to $1400 with my set of 10s, and he folded. Stack up to $8200.

With 66 and 10-10 in back-to-back hands, many people would have re-raised on one or both of those previous two hands. But keep in mind that only one orbit earlier, I had re-raised for the first (and only) time, and then folded to a raise. I didn’t want to risk that again, especially since neither 66 nor 10-10 could have called a re-raise or All-In.
The conversation at the table continued…anyone who plays with me knows that I can be a yappy bitch at the tables (I’m wondering how many dealers at Brantford are laughing at THAT one!)…and Gabe dropped by the table and recognized the guy with the rings as Dwyte Pilgrim. I hadn’t actually looked closely enough since his hood was up most of the time, but now I could clearly see that it was him, and I was pissed at myself for not noticing before, especially since I noticed the rings when I initially sat down. So now, Dwyte and I, and Howdy Doody Pro are all talking quite a bit, and Dwyte says to us: “You two have changed the whole table since you got here. Nobody was talking before.”

That’s what I do.

The next hand I played started with the Shortstacked Wise Guy (who had since doubled up off the Indian Starsky) raising to 375 in EP. I called with QhKh in the cutoff, Ponytail Flat Cap called from the button, Dwyte folded his small blind and Howdy Doody Pro called from the big blind. $1125 in the pot going to the flop.

The flop was Q-J-7 with 2 spades. Howdy Doody Pro checked, Shortstack checked, and I was getting ready to bet, but I saw that Ponytail Flat Cap (who hadn’t won a pot since I sat down) was reaching for chips already, so I decided to check. Sure enough, he bet $725, Howdy Doody and Shortstack folded, and it was up to me. I think this is 100% a button steal, maybe a draw, and I have the best hand here, so I eyed his stack to see that he had just over $4000 back. I cut out the $725 as if I was just calling…then just before putting them in the pot, added $2500 and tossed the chips in.

The message was clear. I’m calling if you go All-in. After about 30 seconds, he took his glasses off, shrugged and said “Good luck, sir” and shoved All-In. I called and he turned over As9s for the nut flush draw. I had him outchipped but I had to dodge a spade or an Ace to win the pot. The turn and river were both blanks and I shook his hand after eliminating him. I looked over at Devena on the rail (we were two tables in from the rail now) and she had a panicked look on her face since she couldn’t see the cards…just that I was in a pot with someone and one of us was all in. I gave her the thumbs-up so she knew I won, and she exhaled. Stack was now $14,700.
We were nearing the second break, and I found pocket 5’s in MP. I raised to $400. A new guy who had replaced Ponytail Flat Cap (older guy with a Super-Bling Diamond Bracelet) called, Dwyte called, and Howdy Doody Pro re-raised. I folded, as did the other two.

Very next hand, I have pocket 9’s. I raise again to $375, and get called by the Senior Ed Helms in Seat 9, who was in the big blind. The flop is Qd8c2d, and I fire $600 into a pot of $975. He calls. The turn is the 5 of diamonds. I check, he bets $1200, and I fold. Stack is now down to $12,475. I fold the last few hands before the break and go into the break with that total.

During the second break, I spoke to Dwyte about the hand we played earlier, and he told me that he had Pocket Queens, so I told him I folded AK to his re-raise. I think we both played that hand right. I went to the Poker Kitchen and had a bite to eat with Devena, Gabe, and Marcus (who had both been eliminated), and tried to get ready for the next levels. They had some food waiting for me, so it was good to be able to get something in my stomach. When we came back from the break at Level 5, the blinds had gone up to 100/200. With a couple minutes to go in the break, I saw the Quiet French guy from seat 1 posing for a picture with Dwyte…now that he knew he was a famous pro, he was starstruck. As we sat down, presumably since I had been talking with Dwyte for the half hour before the break, he asked me “You are a pro, too?”

I’ll wait a moment while you stop laughing at that one.

I didn’t have a playable hand for the entirety of Level 5, and folded for nearly an hour…until the very last hand of the level. I had pocket 5’s and raised to 525. The only caller was Dwyte, who was acting after me, and had lost about half of his stack over the course of Level 5. I could tell he was steaming and wanted chips back. The flop was 2-3-4 rainbow (3 different suits) and I checked to him. He bet $525, and I asked how much he had back. He had only about 4K remaining, so I did the same move he did to me a couple of hours earlier, I grabbed enough yellow chips to put him all-in, and dropped them in the pot. He folded. Stack back up to $13,300.

The blinds had gone up to 100/200 with a $25 ante, so there was $550 out there every hand, and now people were clearly trying to raise regularly to take the blinds and antes. The shortstacked Wise Guy had busted and was replaced by a guy from Wyoming named Josh (I didn’t know his name at the time, but ran into him later in the trip and talked at length). He raised in EP to $450, and I was in the cutoff with Qc9c (the same hand that Lemon Mickelson made his flush with at my first table!) I hadn’t played a hand other than the one with Dwyte for over 90 minutes, and the only time I re-raised preflop was 3 hours ago (when I ended up folding Ace-King), so I thought that this would be a good time to use my tight table image to my advantage.

I popped it to $1300, and it was folded back to Wyoming Josh, who took a long time thinking. I was sure he was going to fold, but he ended up calling the $1300. So much for that table image, huh? The flop was 10-3-3, and he checked. I took some time before firing a bet of $1800 into the $3150 pot. He thought for a while and then folded. I took the pot, and my stack was now $14,650. (Josh told me later that he folded JJ and put me on a higher pair.)
I think it’s important to note here that even though I had been at this table for over 3 hours now, the players at this table had seen only 2 of my hands. I had been relatively active, but in terms of cards they had seen from me, all they had seen so far were the pocket 6’s where I won the pot from Ponytail Flat Cap, and the QhKh when I busted him. They didn’t see the AK I folded, they didn’t see any of the hands I checkraised with, nor the hand that I just 3-bet Wyoming Josh with.

The last hand before the dinner break (after Level 6) was being dealt with just 30 seconds left on the clock, so once people folded, many of them got up to leave. This perceived disinterest in the last hand is something that I remembered from my last WSOP experience, so when it was folded to me in LP, I raised with garbage cards (Queen-2 offsuit), and it was quickly folded to Johnny Chicago in the Big Blind. He smiled and showed me King-Jack offsuit, and said “If it wasn’t the dinner break, I would call you.” Mission accomplished. 6 levels complete, into the dinner break with $14,550 in chips, with only 1380 players remaining from the 3389 that started.

After our 90-minute dinner break, we came back at Level 7, with blinds at 150/300 and a $25 ante. Nothing eventful happened during Level 7, I stole the blinds and antes ($700) 3 times, with QQ, TJs, and pocket 2’s, but other than that, I didn’t play a hand. Quiet Matt in Seat 10 got busted, and was replaced by a guy that looked like a young John Juanda. Super-Bling Bracelet beside me got busted, replaced by a tall Euro-Donk who looked like Where’s Waldo (complete with striped sweater), Indian Starsky busted after losing twice with Pocket Kings, Dwyte bluffed his chips away to Senior Ed Helms in Seat 9 and was replaced by a tall guy who was gone for almost an hour because he was feeling sick to his stomach, and Howdy Doody Pro took over the table, stealing blinds and antes at will and building a huge stack.

Level 8 had blinds of 200/400 and an ante of $50. Early in the level, it was folded to me in the cutoff, and I raised Howdy Doody’s big blind to $1025 with Ace-Ten offsuit. Euro-Waldo was on the button on my left, and re-raised to $3100. It was folded back to me and I folded as well.

Later in the level, Wyoming Josh raised to $1000 preflop. I was in the big blind with Ace-Queen (a hand I hate re-raising with, especially playing out of position), so I just called. The flop was A-Q-6 rainbow, and I checked with the intention of checkraising. Wyoming Josh checked as well. The turn was a 3 (there were now 4 suits on the board), and I bet out $1400 into a $2450 pot. Josh called. The river was a 7, so the board was AQ637. I’m sure I’m good, but I want him to pay me off, so I can’t bet big. Even though the pot was $4250 at this point, I only bet $1500, slightly higher than my turn bet. He looked disgusted because it was so small, thought for a while, then called. I showed my hand (only the third hand this table had seen) and raked in the pot. Stack is now $17,000 even. (When I ran into Josh later in the week, watching the Final Table of the $50,000 Player’s Championship, he told me that he had KK on that hand, and probably wouldn’t have paid off a bigger bet on the river.)

Then I saw one of the oddest things I’ve seen at a poker table. Mini-Juanda had been at our table for almost 2 hours now, and had yet to play a hand. Not one single hand. Like I had mentioned, Howdy Doody Pro was raising almost every hand, stealing the blinds and antes ($1100 to steal each hand now), and the mood of the table was that we all wanted someone to stand up to him. Personally, I never had a hand to make a stand, but any time someone did, and 3-bet him, he would almost always fold. But he had the stack to take the risk.

Anyway, Mini-Juanda had been folding and folding…he had come to the table with about $6000 I think, but it had whittled away to $3200. He was in the big blind for $400, and when Howdy Doody Pro raised to $975, he shoved his whole stack. Howdy Doody had over $30K at the time, so he called the extra $2400 with Queen-Ten. The whole table expected to see a big hand from Mini-Juanda, but he turned over 3-4 of diamonds. Really? You fold for 2 hours, losing half your stack, then make your stand against the big stack with 4 high? What the hell? (No help came, he was eliminated.)

I played a hand with Howdy Doody Pro later in Level 8. I had raised to $1025 with Ace-Eight of spades in MP and he called me in position. The flop was 3s-10d-10c, and I checked to him, he checked behind. The turn was a King of clubs, which I thought was a good card for me to bet, since AK made sense for me to raise preflop, check the flop, and bet the turn. I fired $1550 into the pot of $3150, and he called. I didn’t like that one bit. The river was a blank, and I checked to him.

He bet $4000, which screamed bluff to me, but I didn’t have anything to call him with. I can’t really call him down with Ace-high for $4000, especially when I only have $13,000 left. I tried to think of hands that could have made sense, and a club draw, or JQ missing the straight both made sense, but it also made sense that he could have a ten…checking a harmless flop for me to catch up, and just calling the turn hoping I go nuts with one pair. He might have had a king, but I don’t think he bets that much on the river with just a K. My gut tells me it was a ten, or a missed draw…but I still couldn’t call. Down to $13,000 after this hand.

Level 8 ended with my stack at $12,550 and under 700 players remaining. Just under half of the players remaining would make the money, and almost 2700 had been eliminated. I had some work to do, I was well below average stack (about $22,000), and had some big stacks at my table. Wyoming Josh busted shortly after my AQ hand vs. him, and was replaced by a young guy with a massive stack of chips…when he sat down, he was the big stack at the table. I was rapidly becoming one of the short stacks, even though I had over 20 big blinds. With the blinds in Level 9 going to $300/$600 with a $75 ante, it would cost me $1650 each orbit, so I didn’t have long to turn it around. If I let myself get too low, I would have no fold equity, and with the sizes of the stacks at my table, any all-in for a small amount was sure to get called.

I remembered how exhausted I felt in the final two levels of Day One the last time I was at the WSOP. It was so mentally exhausting, and I was starting to feel it again, so in the break between Level 8 and 9, I had a banana and a fruit smoothie to try and revitalize my brain, instead of just pounding back another Red Bull.

If I was going to have a chance, I had to pick my spots and steal some blinds. I stole $1650 raising with 10-8 and taking it down, and then a few hands later, found pocket 8’s UTG. I raised to $1325 and it was quickly folded to the Quiet French Guy in Seat 1, who had recently won 2 big pots and was accumulating a rather nice stack. He and I had been very friendly (despite the language barrier), and I knew he respected my game. He was in the big blind, and was the last hurdle for me to get past. At first he looked like he was going to raise, but then he just called.

The flop was 10-6-6, and he went all in for over $20K. With him considering re-raising preflop and now shoving, I had to think he had a pair higher than the board. I thought for a minute, then shrugged and showed him my pocket 8’s, and folded. He nodded and showed me his pocket Jacks. Bullet dodged.

I folded for another half hour, never able to pick up a hand vs. Howdy Doody, who was still constantly raising, and now had a mountain of black and green chips ($100s and $25s) that he had formed into a giant pyramid. Every time he raised, I prayed for a hand to shove all-in on him, but all I kept seeing were hands like 9-4, and 7-3, and 6-2. It was painful, and it was getting very frustrating. That’s when the hood goes up.
By now there were four big stacks at the table (Howdy Doody, Euro-Waldo, Johnny Chicago, and The New Guy), and the other 6 players all below average stack. What this resulted in, was that now instead of raising to $1300-$2000 pre-flop, everyone was just shoving all-in for 10-13K in chips. It had been happening for about 30 minutes now. Plus, the tall guy in Seat 4 had returned, talking about how upset his stomach was, and how he wasn’t sure he would make it to the end of the night without another extended trip to the restroom. (I know, nice image.)

With $10,550 remaining in my stack, over halfway through Level 9, I looked down and found AcTs. I couldn’t make a standard raise with my stack, and the New Guy with the giant stack was in the Big Blind. With only 5 trips around the table left in my stack, I felt like I had to shove with Ace-Ten, which I did. Mr. Weak Stomach in Seat 4 then went all-in for a similar stack to mine, and the New Guy in the Big Blind called both of us.

Me – AcTs
Weak Stomach – AsQd
Big Stack – AdKh

Not a really good time to shove, apparently. The board came Queen high, and eventually filled with 4 spades, so that Weak Stomach made a flush and tripled up. He had about $1000 more than me, so I was eliminated in the mid-600’s. The last update on the tournament screen had 680 players remaining, and the next update—10 minutes later—had 620 remaining, so I’m guessing it was somewhere around 640. That means I had outlasted 2750 players, or 81% of the field. But it still didn’t pay anything.

I suppose I could have made a standard raise on the last hand, and folded to an all-in, but I can’t be raising 20% of my stack at that point, at that table, and still envisioning folding as an option. I’m still confident that the shove was the right move there. What frustrates me was that Mr. Weak Stomach could have logically folded Ace-Queen in that position with an all-in in front (although if I was him, I may have shoved too), and if I play it heads-up with Ace-King, I make a 10-high flush and double up to average stack. Maybe if his stomach acted up a bit more, he's not at the table to call my all-in...who knows?

That last hand was the first time I had been All-In and at risk for the entire tournament.

I feel like I played the best I could, dodged some bullets, and made the best out of most of my strong hands. Perhaps I could have extracted more in spots, but I’m very happy with how I played, including laying down that AK to Dwyte Pilgrim pre-flop. It was great having Devena there cheering me on for the whole day, Gabe on the rail at the beginning of the day, and my friend Chris, who showed up partway through the day and stayed with Devena for the last few hours cheering me on. Thanks to all of you for the support, as well as those of you who texted or tweeted your support during the tournament. It meant a lot.

It’s a frustrating game, and I was extremely disappointed after being eliminated so deep in Day 1…and the salt in the wounds of my elimination came only moments after as I walked out in the hallway with Devena…and heard Rush playing in the halls. What a nasty way to go out.

It wasn’t to be this year…maybe next year.

Las Vegas, Nevada
July 5, 2011


Choirchick22 said...

Gotta say I skipped a lot of this post since I know nothing about cards, but from the sounds of it you did pretty good compared to most of the players. I hope it was a fun time for you!

Paul S. said...

Yappy you say? There are many ways to skin a cat, either have an amazing memory or you were writing down notes for all those least you will come home with Devena and some pride for playing well. There's always next year bro :)

DannyW said...

Not gunna lie since the WSOP event where we met. I have took more of a focus toward finishing school and less on poker. Sounds like some good poker play though. I dont even think my game is even that good anymore. Well done, I know how you feel about going out late day 1 though... only about an hour away from the Day 2 cutoff. then you run in to a shit hand like 88 vs KK with a 8 J Q board... only to see a K on the turn. yup brings back some killer memories LOL

Simon said...

good read Furf.

see you next time you come to donate at the fcpc

Anonymous said...

Hey Sean. I can't believe I read the whole thing. But it was interesting, actually! You did a great job with this post; the description of all the hands, the fun little nicknames for all the players, good work.

Poker's a naturally frustrating game because no matter how well you play, you can get taken out by a guy with a 2,5, and not enough sense to fold. You gotta have skill, but nobody wins a tournament like that without luck. Better luck next year.

- caesar