My first day at the WSOP is in the books. It featured a tournament with 1,995 players (my biggest previous field was around 200), and a cash hand at 2-5 with the biggest pot I’ve ever played outside of the Poker Night in America game. Absolutely crazy hand.
I decided to take the morning off so that I could focus during the tournament, which started at noon. I got 5 hours of sleep, which is about all I ever hope for in Vegas. I did some work on my computer in my room until the gym opened at 6, had an intense workout for about an hour, grabbed breakfast, and then went back to my room. Ironic that my idea of taking the morning off meant that I didn’t play poker, but rather, sat with my laptop and worked on my research.
I have to admit that I felt very nervous as noon approached and my first WSOP bracelet event was about to begin. You start the tourney with 3,000 in chips, and so one big mistake, and you’re out. I arrived at my table around 11:45, one of the first ones to show up, and I took in the scene. Pretty unbelievable room, with hundreds of active poker tables. The sound of the crickets filled the air, as thousands of people shuffled their chips in unison.
The blinds started at 25-25 and moved up every hour. I loved the slow blinds pace. My table featured a number of players who had won their home leagues and were representing their buddies here, as well as this familiar looking Indian guy who was super aggressive. He seemed to have Jerry’s hand-reading skills, and Woods-like abilities, and by the first break, he had over 6,500 in chips. People kept coming over to our table to talk to him, and I figured he must be a known pro. It turns out he was Mukul Pahuja, last year’s WPT player of the year, and one of the top players in the world. Just my luck. In fact, I tangled with him a couple of times, and he really crushed me. I might have been out early but for a stroke of luck that our table was broken up, and I was moved with my 2,100 to a new table. After a few orbits, I was down to 1,100. Everybody seemed to be playing very tight, except this one woman who played every single hand - not exaggerating, and one older guy to her right who was pretty loose and selectively aggressive.
I was pretty desperate with blinds at 50-100 and my stack of 1,100. Crazy aggro woman raised UTG to 300 for like the 15th time in a row, and I had TT in the BB. I shipped, and she called with 66. Tens held up, and I had some breathing room. I went on a bit of a tear after that and got to the second break with 5,200, well above average.
I was pretty excited about my prospects of getting to the dinner break with chips. I’ve never played a multi-day tournament, and I’ve never even had a dinner break during a game. I got moved to the other room, along with most of the other players, and I could see from the tournament board that we were getting down to around 700 players remaining. So, I had out-lasted 2/3 of the field so far, and notable eliminations included Antonio Esfandiari and several other famous pros. Cousin Kenny was a couple of tables over in my new room with slightly more chips than me, and he came over at one point to tell me that Phil Helmuth bought in late and was seated two seats to his left. Very cool, but better him than me!
With 6 minutes left until the dinner break, I had a slightly below average stack of 7,200, which was my biggest stack so far. I had been playing pretty carefully, winning most of my pots uncontested either pre-flop or on my continuation bet. A couple of my C-bets were raised, and I got away from the hands. I never had any real cards. No aces, no kings. I had QQ once, and only took down the blinds. I was never dealt AK nor AQ. I was quite pleased to be in the position I was in having been pretty much card-dead most of the tournament. Of course, being card dead has its advantages. There were lots of all in confrontations and bad beats at my table. One hand featured AK, KK, and QQ all in pre-flop with a Q on the turn and two players licking their wounds as the scrambled to twitter their bad beat stories to the world. My 83 and 2J hands were not getting me into trouble.
So back to 6 minutes left until the dinner break. Phil Helmuth had already left the room, willing to be blinded out while he enjoyed whatever it is he does during the breaks. I considered the idea of leaving as well, just to get to the dinner break, but I dismissed that idea as wimpy and short-sighted. In the cutoff, I got K♣ J♣ . Blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante. I had 7,200 and the BB had a huge stack. I raised to 500, and the BB called 300 more.
Flop came K♥ 8♠ 3♦ . He checks, and I bet 700 into a pot of 1,300. He called. I know that he’s seen me continuation bet 100% of the time, so I am not surprised that he calls, and I think I am probably good here. He could have an 8, a weaker K, a pair below 88, and many other hands that I am beating. Turn is 10♠ . Pot is 2,700, and he checks. I think I am still good, and some straight draws and a flush draw have arrived, so I want to end it now. I bet 2,000, and he calls. Now I’m not happy. Lots of 2 pair combinations that beat me, but also a bunch of draws that he could be playing. River is 3♣ . No flush. He puts me all in, and I have 4,000 left. The pot is 6,700.
Not happy. If I call and win, I have over 10k and am in great shape to continue my run towards cashing. If I fold, I have 4,000 and way below average stack. What am I beating? Really just a bluff. But, this player was capable of bluffing, and there were a lot of missed draws on the board. I have to be right once in 2.5 times. In hindsight, my turn bet was too large. If I had bet 1,200, then I may be able to get away from the hand. My river call was also pretty bad. I knew in my gut that he had me. I was out. C'est la vie.
Can't believe he called me pre-flop with K♦ 8♣..
Felt pretty horrible about busting right before the dinner break. I walked over to Kenny’s table. He had just lost an all in with AK to 99 and was on life support with around 1,500. Two hands later, and we’re going to dinner. He’s still alive, but blinds will be 150-300 with a 25 ante after dinner, so he has to make a move in the next orbit.
Kenny and I did the buffet, and then we headed back. He folds 2 hands and then gets a walk in the big blind! Nice timing. The next hand, Kenny is blind vs. blind and he shoves and gets called. He flops a straight with J9, only to lose when the other guy rivers a boat. So brutal. He would have been right back in with 4,500. Thatz poker.
Soon after, I found out just how ridiculous poker can be. Absolutely the craziest hand I think I’ve ever played.
Kenny and I went to play 2-5 in the huge cash room full of crickets. We did not want to play against each other, so we went to different tables. I bought in for $600. About an hour later, I’ve got $975 and am starting to feel a bit better. Busting in the tournament was painful, but the cash game was going very well. The guy two to my left has about $3,000 in chips, and decides to call it a night. He leaves and is replaced by a guy who buys in for $1,000, the table max. I don’t know his name, so I will call him Villain, or V for short. V decides to post his blind, even though he will be the big blind in two hands. It’s his very first hand, and I have no read on V whatsoever, although I decide based on his demeanor and that he bought in for the table max that he knows his way around a poker table.
So, UTG folds, and V raises to 25. It’s an active table, and he gets 5 callers. I’m in the BB, and I look down at A♥ K♦ . Seems like a good squeeze spot, and I make it 150 into a pot of 150. V calls, and everybody else folds. Not really what I was hoping for. He’s got position on me and a big stack. My guess is that if I whiff the flop, he’s coming out betting no matter what. Since I have no knowledge of how he plays, I imagine he is putting me on a range of TT+,Ak. So, since he called, I’m thinking he has JJ+,AK, weighted more towards the higher end.
Flop (450): 10♦ A♣ 7♠
I have 825 left. My pre-flop stack to pot ratio is under 2, so this is an excellent result, and based on SPR, I am supposed to try to get as much money in as quickly as possible and never to fold. Based on the range I assigned him pre-flop, I’m only losing to AA and chopping AK. It’s sort of possible he has TT, but that is so unlikely, I’m just going to have to pay him off. I decide I am pot committed, and that I want to value bet. So, what kind of bet will he call? If he has JJ-QQ, he might call one continuation bet. (I assume he would have re-raised with KK pre-flop.) However, the range I assumed he had me on pre-flop included mostly AK, with some high pairs. He has to be worried about TT, AA and AK - i.e. most of my range is good here. I decide that if he is calling at all, I need to bet on the small side, so I make it 200. He calls.
Turn (850): 5♥
I now have 625 left. I have a nagging feeling that he’s slow playing AA, and that he smooth called pre-flop to trap. But, I have to stick to the plan. So, I’m value betting. How much will he call? Well, clearly the normal play here is to stick my remaining 625 in. But, perhaps there’s a small chance he has JJ or QQ. So, the only hand I might get a call from, if he is a non-believer is JJ or QQ. If I had my guess, I would say we’re going to be chopping this pot. Anyway, I bet 300, leaving 325 behind. I expect him to shove or fold. To my surprise, he just calls. Is it possible he has JJ or QQ? If so, he’s one stubborn dude, and simply does not believe I hit that flop. Still, the flop hit my range pretty hard. Now I’m really starting to think he has AA. Slow playing on every street. Oh well, if he has that, I’m going to pay him off.
River (1,450): Q♦
I have 325 left. There is no longer any value in betting. If he has QQ, he just hit his hand. If he has JJ, he’s probably not calling, although he should know he’s pot committed. I cannot think of a single hand that I am beating that he could have in this situation, and I can think of one hand, that I now feel he probably has that is beating me. Most likely, we’re chopping. Anyway, I check. He goes all in. I call, knowing that I am beat.
Amazingly, he then utters those three little words that every poker dreams of,
“You got me."
And he emphatically tables 8♥ 9♥ face up on the table. WTF?!?!?! I turned over my AK, and got congratulated by the table. V got up, knocked on the table, said “Good hand”, and left.
So much for my hand reading skills and my careful analysis. Upon reflection, here is how the thought process probably went in his head:
“Okay, I’m going to buy in for the max and teach these guys a few things. Wow, look at this hand! I have a flush draw and a straight draw, and I once saw a flop with three eights. Wouldn’t that be cool. Two hearts! I love hearts. Hearts actually symbolize love. I’m going to raise to 25. Okay, good, all these suckers are calling. They don’t know how strong my hand is. I’m going to crush them. Wow, check this out, the short guy in the Michigan hat just raised. Not sure how much he made it, but I’m definitely calling with all my draws.”
“Bingo!!! I just flopped an open ended straight draw! The nuts! If I hit a 6 or a J, I have a straight. Holy cow that’s a great hand. And this idiot just bet into me. I’m definitely calling. Now the turn. Ugh! So close. A 5 is almost a 6, and I would have hit my straight. Look at this guy betting again. Should I raise? Nah, I don’t want to give away the strength of my hand. He might fold, and then I won’t get the rest of his chips. I call. And the river. I can’t wait! Here comes my straight! If I hit this, I will double up to 2,000, and then I can go put the money on the roulette wheel, and I can win 100k, and then I will go home and throw a party for all my friends. This is the best trip ever. I love Vegas. Here it is … oh no! I missed. Wait, OMG, he checked. He is weak. Is it possible my 9 high is good? Wow, wouldn’t that be something. 100k. I better go all in. Uh oh. He called. I guess that’s poker. What a bad beat. I don’t understand why I’m always so unlucky at this game. Maybe I’ll head to the craps table. I still have another thousand in one of my pockets.”
So, I won my tourney buy-in back in one hand, and even covered most of my expenses for the trip in the session. I called it quits and went over to Kenny’s table, where he was up several hundred. Called it a night and went to bed.
Today, I’m going to play in another bracelet event. It’s a 1,000 turbo. Same as yesterday’s, but rounds are 30 minutes instead of 60. Two day event, so again I’m hoping to get past the dinner break and get to day 2 tomorrow.