I’m back, with a renewed faith in the game of poker. The truth is I never really lost it, but there was a moment or two that had me on the edge… This past year was extraordinarily rough… With the loss of two family members, and a good friend, I needed something to pull me away from my grief, and the WSOP couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed the vacation and the relaxation that poker brings. Some people don’t understand how poker can be relaxing. The grind itself has run many players off. All the elements involved, have a strange way of bringing peace to my life.
This summer’s WSOP was definitely different. A lot of change happened. The first thing that caught my eye was the layout. The rooms were switched around, with an addition to a “High Stakes” area… I will say this; there is a certain comfort to familiarity. The first lap, had me a bit confused, and almost out of sorts. But all that was replaced with the calming hum of the shuffling chips… I know many people who hate that noise, but not me. This sound brings me an odd inner peace. It’s like the smell of a home cooked meal when you return to your parents or grandparents home after an extended absence… Like sitting on your couch after a 1500 mile drive… (Yes… my adventures this summer had a lot of drive time…) I love the sound of shuffling chips. It reminded me that I was home.
I normally have a large group with me when I venture to Las Vegas, so I made it a point to arrive a day or two earlier than everyone else to attempt to get my feet under me. I arrived kind of late on my first day; too late to enter any events so a good night’s sleep was in order. After wandering around a bit, spending a few moments watching a final table battle, it was time to call it a night.
This year we awarded 6 people tickets to play in a $1500 WSOP event (If you’re unfamiliar with Piper Poker, look us up on Facebook @piperpoker). All 6 of these players were new to the WSOP. I know that I would be an acting tour guide to each of them so I wanted to get some time at the tables before they arrived. One of my favorite parts of going to the WSOP is introducing new players to an event that has colored my life. Walking around, pointing out their idols. Then, surprising them, as I offer to introduce them. I’ve played cards with the best and the worst. I’ve watched the worst beats, seen the amazing rivers, and hugged heartbroken strangers. I’ve learned from some of the greatest unknown players this world has to offer. None of this could have happened had the WSOP not existed. The WSOP has been a part of my life for 15+ years now, and I have plans for that relationship to continue.
My first full day of poker started with one of the Daily Deepstacks. I really enjoy these events because they are a great way to hit the ground running. The entry fees are reasonable, ranging from $125 up to $365, and the payouts are great way to pad your bank roll. Where I didn’t fare well in this first event, I’d like to think I played well. It allowed me the chance to knock the dust off my game. This is something I will always recommend. When you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with your surroundings you need something to break the tension. At the WSOP these are perfect for that.
I ended up playing in several of the Deepstacks, and I cashed in two of them taking 157th out of 1,349 players in one and 15th out of 209 in the other. The payouts were nothing brag worthy but the experience was rewarding. Over the last year or so I’ve talked a lot about table image, and learning from your surroundings. I’d like to believe that those two things are exactly how I lasted all the way to 15th place. To lay a foundation for the examples of this, there are a few things you need to know about me.
I like to consider myself a “situational aggressive player”, and what I mean by that is I don’t get involved in a lot of pots, but when I am involved tread carefully, the cannon balls splash ripples for a while. Yes, I like to play position and pick up a few early pots, but I’m a huge fan of telling my story slowly. Think of it like the typical stories we’ve all read that started with the “Once upon a time”… We didn’t consider them thrillers; we knew we were in for the long haul. Those stories we enjoyed reading because you got to know the characters. You got to establish a bond with them as you turned the pages. That’s me. I’m the Samwise Gamgee of poker. No one pays a whole lot of attention to me the poker player. Sure I talk at the table and tell stories and get to know everyone, but I’m, for the most part, pretty passive as far as information at the table. I like to surprise people when I get involved in a hand. In most cases, when my chips go out, the table agenda adjusts, and the demeanor changes. People tend to avoid getting involved because I represent a tight player. Tight players will fold almost anything. But that’s not me at all. When my chips go in, watch out, because I’m defending those chips. When these situations occur, no one at the table is prepared for it. Like Mr. Gamgee, showing up to kill the spider to save Frodo. I create high intensity moment that leaves a lasting effect.
Now that you know this about me, I can tell you about a few hands that propelled me into the 15th place finish. The first hand I have to set up with the tournament situation. We had been playing for nearly five hours by this point, and were nearing the money bubble, when I look down at my stack and realize that I’m very close to the short stack in the room. The specific hand I’m sitting under the gun, and I have been dealt KsQs… Now I’ve been sitting with most of the people at the table for over an hour and have gotten to know them all fairly well, so I decide to raise putting about half my stack in. Everyone folds around to the big blind (who I’d been sitting next to since the beginning). Now this player is the key to the hand because he’s obtained the most possible information from me. He sits and thinks for a while, possibly as long as 2 minutes before he makes an action. He decides to fold his hand, and when he does he turns his cards face up showing AhQh. His comment as he does this is, “I haven’t seen you play a hand in over an hour… if this was you making a move, I would have expected you to be all in… that move smells like Aces to me.” I politely reply “Thank you for the fold,” and smiled as I stacked the chips. Two hands later we hit the money. My table broke soon after.
Fast forward another hour, I find myself in yet again the same scenario. Short stacked and nearing the end of my run, I’m under the gun with AcQh. The new table brought a few familiar faces with me so there’s a chance I can pull this move off again, but half my stack is just calling the big blind… So I move all in. Amidst a few groans, everyone folds and I earn another double up. The entertaining part of this is the very next hand; I’m dealt AhAc in the big blind. Action progresses with a raise from seat four and a three bet from the button. The three bet is enough for me to be all in, so I move all in and get a call from the four seat and the button. The action on the flop ends with the four seat moving all in and the button calling. As they reveal their cards I’m blessed with being ahead of 44 in the four seat and QQ on the button. My hand holds up! I triple up, and seat four is eliminated. Two hands later we’re down to 18 players and we redraw seats again… unfortunately I don’t see another playable hand or situation allowing me to gain more chips until I see the hand that felts me… I move all in with Ah10c and get called by ironically the guy who laid down the earlier AQ. He shows A7 and he hits his 7 to knock me out.
Overall I was very pleased with my play in this year’s WSOP. The 2 bracelet events I played were uneventful, but fun! In the Bounty Event I got to rub shoulders with poker pro Sam Grafton, who was the chip leader early during day 2AB of the main event. He’s been one of my favorite characters to play cards with over the years. If you get chance to look him up, or watch him on YouTube, you should watch his facial expressions… They crack me up every time.
The WSOP is probably the greatest poker event out there. It brings tens of thousands of poker players from around the world together. This is my family. This is my family reunion. I’ve spent half my life time playing poker and every year I attend this convention of sorts. It’s hard to explain the feelings of having people remember you, or remembering people who had an effect on you. Some people overlook the life lessons they’ve learned at the poker table, but those lessons are some that I hold dearest. I’ve won my share of hands, and lost more than I can count. As weird as it may sound, I don’t set goals of winning bracelets. I set goals of winning hearts. The poker table is my medium, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.