(LAS VEGAS) - Survived.
That’s the best way to describe Day 1A of my 2012 WSOP Main Event.
I’ve played in the World Series of Poker Main Event three times now, and this was the most mentally grueling Day 1 I’ve experienced.
But, I got through it, and heading into Day 2 Tuesday, I have 35 big blinds and a stack of $17,775.
We started with $30,000 chips, and I was committed to doing what I didn’t do when I played in the Main in 2008 and 2009: play poker.
Sounds simple…and perhaps stupid…but in 2008, I was so fucking nervous that I was folding so damn much I might as well have not even shown up. And, in 2009, with a year of experience under my belt, I was all fired up to be loose and get after it…but three Internet wizards arrived at the table…and I was flat-out overmatched. The gameplan of going balls to the wall was hijacked by “The Terriboos,” and I folded my way to Day 2.
This year was a different program.
First off, in 2008, I was just starting to actually become a winning player, but I wasn’t particularly good. My hopes of having a deep run were, in hindsight, absolutely delusional…rooted in ignorance to the talent of the good players who play this game for a living. And, secondly, in 2009, once I had the breaks put on by the wizards, I never got back to playing my game and nitted out.
This year, while I was nervous going into Day 1---that just comes with the territory---I was confident. And, I was comfortable getting knocked out early if that were to happen. I was planning on playing some shitty hands, being aggressive, and finally, actually playing poker---not just premium hands---in the World Series of Poker.
Now, when it comes to the WSOP, you can play your game all day long, but you’re still at the mercy of two monster factors outside of your control. One is obvious. One isn’t.
The first is the cards: you can get great hands and lose. Part of the game. Any poker player knows that. AA can get cracked by 89s. Happens. Sucks. We all have stories.
The second one is your table draw. It can mean the world. If you’re a guy or girl who plays recreationally, enjoys the game, but doesn’t stay up to date with the latest trends on styles of play…and you sit down at a table with pros…you may not realize it, but barring a ridiculous amount of run good, you’re likely going to get eaten alive.
That’s what sharks do. They feast on fish.
Here’s what you want to see at your table when you show up for Day 1 of the WSOP Main Event:
-The STLToday commenters’ utopia: older, white Americans.
This is not a racially motivated comment. Personally, I’m not too high on a good percentage of older white Americans lately. But, from a poker standpoint, they’re the ones you want at your table. They tend to play a certain way, and that way is easily exploitable. It’s the young players…or the foreign players…who will make your day at the Rio a living hell. There are exceptions, but I promise you, fun with stereotypes is an important part of gauging the strength of the players at your table before you get a chance to see them play.
Just like with all stereotypes, you’ll find exceptions, and I had that Saturday at the Rio on Day 1.
Upon arriving at the table, I was quite happy to see what I saw: only one hooded sweatshirt.
The hooded sweatshirt is the official jersey of the wizard. And, the wizard is the 21 or 22 year-old online player who will raise about 75% of hands and play batshit loose aggressive.
Instead, I saw a Russian---not great news, but not terrible as he was around my age---an older American, a younger American, and another older American.
What a break.
Now, unfortunately, two hooded sweatshirts arrived right before we started, and while I was in Seat 1, one of the hooded sweatshirts was in Seat 2…and the other was in Seat 4. Right on my left. Blah. But, overall, without a doubt, if the poker stereotyples held up, I had quite a favorable table draw.
As I said, we start with $30,000 chips. Blinds are at 50/100. Levels are 120 minutes. Two fucking hours. 300 big blinds. In other words, you either have to receive a horrific bad beat or be a complete dumbshit to get KO’d in the first couple of hours.
Turns out I had a complete dumbshit on my left. In Seat 2, we had a good one. And, he was gone 38 minutes into the event.
He had already donked off $10,000 chips with a bluff gone bad. And, he got rid of the other $20,000 just a few minutes later.
We had an early position raise to $250. Two callers, including my guy in Seat 2. The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair then made it $800 from the small blind. That’s a sign of strength early in the tournament. No need to create a big pot out of position unless you have something. Two players got the hint. Dipshit did not.
The flop came off JT3. The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair led out. Dipshit called.
The turn came off 6. The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair bet big. Dipshit called.
Finally the river came off Q for a board of JT36Q. The Russian bet.
Dipshit gave a speech.
“I’ve got you on Aces or Kings. If you have AceKing, that’s just so sick. Man, if you got there on the river, that’s just so sick,” he continued. Speech. Speech. Speech. Shove.
He moves all-in.
The Russian instacalls.
Dipshit had J8o. Yep. He had a pair of Jacks. The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair…he had AceKing, and he rivered broadway…to pick up a free $20,000 chips and end Dipshit’s Day.
Quick question: If you’ve got him on Aces or Kings…or even AceKing…what are you doing that for? What hand can you beat?
You can’t beat AA. KK. QQ. JJ. TT. AK. AQ. KQ. QJ. QT.
And, just like that, I have a Russian with Quin Snyder Hair sitting at nearly 2x the starting stack on my left. Sweet. Not a positive development.
As the day progressed, it became clear that the three best players at the table were directly on my left. With Dipshit gone, Canadian Wizard moved directly to my left in Seat 2. Russian with Quin Snyder Hair was in Seat 3. And the best player at the table who was building chips steadily was in Seat 4. Seats 5, 6, 7, and 8 were crazy tight, and it was a feast for Seat 4. Wow. That was the run good of the day there.
My biggest hand of the first couple of levels came with pocket Jacks.
Seat 6 raised it to 250 from early position. I picked up JJ on the button and made it 750. Action folded back to him. He called.
The flop came off: AhQhTc.
I bet. He called.
Not a great flop for me. Not a great result. But I had the Jack of hearts, so along with a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush, I was still in this hand despite the fact that it looked like I was behind after the flop.
The turn was an 8 of hearts. He checked. I checked behind. I’ll take the free card.
And, the free card was a good one. The 9 of hearts. I now had a flush. Not the nut flush…but unless he had a King of hearts, I was good.
The pot was about $4,000. He checked. I value bet it. He called. I showed JJ with the flush. He mucked.
That put me up over the starting stack of $30,000.
But, I wasn’t just playing premium hands, and so I was opening up with a wide range. Unfortunately, one of the tight players in Seat 5 pulled a monster check raise on me on the turn on one of those random hands, and my stack was back below $30,000 as I had to fold.
Now, here’s something that’s so fucking weird I hesitate to even write it. But, it happened, so do with it what you want.
I opened up in middle position with 7s5s. I thoroughly enjoy raising suited one gappers like that. They have great value if they hit..especially against a fish.
The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair called the raise. But, The Good Player made it $2,000 in the cutoff. Blah. Then the tight player in Seat 5 called. Now, I’m out of position with a hand that is not one you want to play in that spot.
So, the right thing to do is fold it. No question.
But, as I was getting ready to fold, something told me not to fold them. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to the little psycho voice in my head and folded them.
The flop came off 752. Weeeeeeeeee.
Even better…after betting the flop and checking the turn…Seats 4 and 5 saw the river: another 5.
Perfect. I would have had a full house.
Now, I likely wouldn’t have gotten paid off as it was checked down at showdown and Ace high won it, but it still would’ve been a nice pot to take down.
That missed opportunity---by playing the hand the right way---led to the beginning of a downswing.
I was below $20,000, and while I had a shitload of big blinds, I was starting to feel the pressure. Not good.
I picked up Ah7h utg. I raised it up.
Seat 5 was crazy…and tight. It was an odd combination. He didn’t play many hands, but when he did, he did so in position…and would go batshit with how big he’d make the pots.
And, sure enough, he’s on the button in this hand. And, sure enough…he three-bets me.
Now, I don’t want to play Ah7h out of position…but I was planning on making a bit of a stand here, because I felt like it was a button raise, and I was going to make some money on this hand.
The flop came off Q86 with two spades.
He makes it about $1,900.
I dick around with my chips. I have absolutely nothing. Not a pair. Not a draw…unless I get him runner-runner with a straight. Nothing.
But, I don’t think he’s got anything either.
And, if you’re going to run deep in any tournament---but especially this one---you’ve got to make some moves.
I check-raise him to $5,100.
While it wasn’t a ridiculously huge pot, had I lost it, I would’ve been close to $10,000 chips and in serious trouble. The win got me back in the mid-$20’s.
Unfortunately, I was missing some big draws. Didn’t hit a set all day. Picked up AA once. KK once. And QQ once. In the instances of AA and QQ, I got them both utg. I raised…and they were all folded around.
In the instance of KK, I lost with it when the young guy at the table who you would think would be good but wasn’t---see stereotypes aren’t always accurate---called my raise…and he was too awful to get in a big pot with when the board came off A92…and he was shortstacked. He led out on the turn and river…and I laid them down.
But, the missed draws were what was causing the biggest problem.
A couple that stand out:
I limped utg with 77. The Canadian Wizard called. The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair raised it. Action back to me. I call. The Canadian Wizard calls.
Flop: 689. Hmmmmm. I have an up and down straight draw…and I might have the best hand as it is. We’ve seen The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair fire bullets on the flop and turn with AK before…only to bury Dipshit when he rivered the gutter.
I check. The Canadian Wizard checks. The Russian bets. I call. The Canadian Wizard goes away.
The turn is a 9.
Now, I could represent a 9 here, but what is realistically in my range, if you’re The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair? Did I limp pre utg with T9? What about 99, 88, or 66? JT is also possible. But, the 9 probably didn’t do me any favors. The 10 or 5 would have been the tits.
He bets again. I’m debating what to do. Call. Fold. Check raise. A check raise creates a big pot, and if he comes back over the top or just calls, I’ve got a bad situation on my hands.
And, keep in mind, he raised to two limps from players who were playing aggressively…and with six players to act behind him.
The only way I’m ahead at this point is if he did so with AK or AQ. Don’t get me wrong, there in his range, but it’s a little too dangerous to make this play with so many undercards and being an out of position smaller stack trying to make a move on a big stack in position. So, I lay it down.
Still not sure on that one. However, when not feeling confident one way or another, it’s best to error on the side of caution in a deep-stacked tournament.
Then I missed on an even bigger draw a few hands later.
The Good Player in Seat 4 raised it up to 700. Action folded to me on the button. I had Ad8d. Call. The Canadian Wizard and The Russian with Quin Snyder Hair also called.
I’ve got the nut flush draw and middle pair.
The Good Player cbet. I raised it up. But, in hindsight, I should’ve raised it more.
The blinds went away, and The Good Player called.
The turn was a blank.
The river was a Queen of clubs. Blank again. He leads out. I fold.
Even if he had a set of Jacks---which he obviously didn’t considering the call and not a reraise of my flop raise---I was still a 30% to win the hand. If he had KJ or QJ, I was actually a favorite on the flop.
Some unfortunate misses…and perhaps I could’ve played it better. But, I call him The Good Player for a reason, and he didn’t get that big chipstack by coincidence.
The missed draws led to my stack being just a shade under $23,000 at the dinner break.
Not ideal, but man, considering the misses and the loss with Kings, it was an exhausting $23,000.
Anna-Marie and I had dinner, and I was not feeling particularly good.
The situation had gotten a little rough at my table, as the only good players were still directly to my left---except now they had a shitload of chips.
After feeling quite confident going in, I was worried I wasn’t going to survive the night.
And, right when we got back from dinner, it got even worse.
I consulted with four players who I think quite highly of on this one, and only one would’ve played it differently. I’m fortunate I only lost what I lost on it, because it could’ve been worse.
One of the tight players---Seat 8---raised a little more than the minimum. The button called. I had 5h7h. Call. The Canadian Wizard called.
The flop comes off A86 rainbow. I have an up and down straight draw.
Check. Check. Check. The button bets half the pot.
The turn is another heart, but it doesn’t complete my straight.
I check. The button checks.
The river is the Jack of hearts. Flush. Woot.
I lead out for about half the pot.
The button calls.
I figure I’m about to pick up a $10k pot.
He had Qh2h…and has the higher flush.
Fuck me good and hard.
Down to $15k.
Still have 50 bb’s, but it’s starting to get a little shaky. That’s just unlucky, and that’s part of the game.
But, considering he had a Q high flush and didn’t raise, I got “lucky” that he didn’t raise. Even if he minraises there, I’m calling. If he makes a bigger raise, I still may be calling.
Only one of the people I’ve discussed the hand with said I should’ve check raised the flop with the up and down draw. The risk on that is that I could get raised and miss out on a golden opportunity to pick up a big pot should he have the Ace or even two pair with a cloaked random straight. So it goes…
I was able to run the stack up to $20k going into the final level with some preflop moves, and at that point, I was feeling pretty good. The downward trajectory came to a halt, and I had 50 bb’s going into the last two hours.
But, then we had some drama…and I was ready to die.
With the blinds at 200/400/50, action folded to me in the small blind. The Canadian Wizard, with a large stack, was in the big blind. I had A7o. I limped, thinking there was good chance he’d raise, I could reraise, and then I’d likely take it down. If I raise, there’s a good chance he’s calling---or raising based on his style of play---and then I’m stuck playing a decent-sized pot out of position with a weak Ace.
But, to my surprise, he just checked his option.
To the flop we go:
Top two pair.
I bet $800 into the $1,200 pot.
He raises…as wizards often do.
He makes it $2,500.
Well, this could be it. And, if I go out with top two pair to a set of 4’s or a flush draw, then so be it.
But, I’m not letting him get that flush draw for free.
I make it $7,500.
I’m fully expecting a shove…with a flush draw…and a diamond to hit. That’s been my Summer in Las Vegas.
But, he folds and shows me the Queen of diamonds.
I say, “Flush draw?”
“Wow. I figured you’d shove that flush draw.”
“I would, but your raise priced me out of it.”
Now, whether or not he really had a flush draw…and whether or not any of that was true…we’ll never know. I do know he had the Q of diamonds, and I do know I increased my stack with that reraise.
Based on his style of play, I would think he’d shove the flush draw.
But, either way, it was a nice stand, and a hand that I thought for sure was going to be all-in based on the action. A4 would’ve been lovely there.
At that point, I was just about done. The stacks to my left were huge, and I was ready to shut it down for the night and just get what I would hope would be a better table draw for Day 2.
I bagged up $17,775 and made it three for three in making it to Day 2 of the WSOP Main Event. I’ll start Tuesday with 35 big blinds.
That’s plenty. It’s not a lot obviously, but for those of you who play tournaments regularly, you know 35 big blinds is enough to work with.
In perhaps the best surprise and biggest break of the whole event, in an absolute shocking development, I have the fourth-biggest stack at my Day 2 table.
The table postings are already listed on WSOP.com, and I couldn’t be more fortunate that a) I have a bunch of shorter stacks around me, and b) the biggest stack at the table is $50k.
That’s absolutely stunning, but as I said earlier on, the table draw is one of those things you can’t control, and it can determine your whole event.
In this case, I have some pros at my table---although none that you’d recognize from television---but most importantly, I have no huge stacks that can just bully the hell out of me.
It’s the most confident I feel going into a Day 2 in my three years of playing the WSOP Main Event. That doesn’t mean magic will happen, but considering the potential trouble I could’ve been in with my table draw and a short stack, it’s a positive development.
And perhaps because I’ve made it to Day 2 each year I’ve played, I take the accomplishment for granted in a way. I most definitely didn’t sit down hoping to finish the day with $17,775. But, of the 1,066 players who started the day, 40% are gone, so there is something to be said for it, I guess.
But, it’s not the goal obviously.
Considering some of the losses and the situation that developed to my left, I will take it.
And, considering the good fortune of the Day 2 table draw, there’s a chance that I could get something going and make my first Day 3.
No matter what, I’ve outlasted Phil Hellmuth. One of the most well-known/disliked/fascinating/successful players sat down at the table right next to mine at around 4 p.m. Saturday. The tournament started at noon.
He didn’t have the grand entrance. He just took his seat. And, right away, he was arguing with players at his table. Shocking.
At one point, he stormed out, banging on the door on his way out of the Amazon Room, and he was gone until well after the dinner break.
At around 10 p.m., with his chip stack down to $10,000, the vultures/cameras were circling…waiting to see the end…hoping to see the trademark blow up.
I snapped a picture of Hellmuth with his head down on the table in frustration. He had to have kept his head there for about a minute…just pissing and moaning. Classic.
But, when the end did come, it happened so quietly that no one at our table even realized it. He got knocked out…and just got up and left. No speech. No blow up. Just left.
Odd behavior for him. He bitched about it on Twitter, but that was it. Into the night went the poker brat. 2005 WSOP winner Joseph Hachem also didn’t make it through Day 1. That was the case for Ray Romano as well. But, friend of the show and Tony La Russa’s, Kevin Pollak did make it to Day 2 as did Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
Day 2 gets underway Tuesday at 2 p.m. St. Louis time. If the downswing comes to an end, and I’m able to make it to Day 3, that would be Thursday…and that would be around the time we’d start to get in the money.
That would be the tits. But, for now, the focus is on getting to Day 3.