This post is part of my story from my 2012 World Series of Poker run.
Overall I was very happy with how my summer went, especially in terms of my results. I played a $1500 Venetian Deepstack (at the Palazzo ironically), two $1500s at the Rio (late registered like an idiot) a $2500, $3000, the $3000 PLO-8 and the Main Event. Not the heaviest schedule, but I strongly believe picking and choosing tournaments that will get you excited is the recipe for success. Playing the full slate will leave you burnt out and unmotivated, it’s really hard to play your best when you aren’t even looking forward to playing.
I made day 2 in every event other than the $1500 NLHE tournaments, and I cashed in the most important events, the first one I played, the last one I played, and one of the bigger buyins in the middle. These results were very important for me as they kept my confidence high throughout the series. It’s very easy to get disheartened down there if you’re bricking every event you enter (which is very possible in such a small sample of high variance tournaments!)
Every event I played I felt like I learned something new, and that I played better than the day before (again with the exception of those damn $1500s). Everyday I would get to come home and talk hands with tournament wizards who not only helped me with my mistakes but introduced new ideas to me that I would get to implement in the main event (with great success I might add). I was playing well, eating well, exercising, living well, fuck that’s an understatement…I was living the dream!
In the meantime since this will be the last entry about the poker side of my journey, here are a few memorable hands from my run in the Main Event:
Day 2 – Death to the Doctor (Blinds 500/1000/100)
Day 2 was a great day for me and I had steadily built my stack up from 76k to just shy of 180k. I got moved to a new table where there was another big stack directly across from me. A few players got knocked out and then a familiar face filled the seat to my left, it was non other than former Bluefire instructor Martin “DrGiggy” Giguere. For those of you who don’t know Giggy, he is a heads up specialist and a very tough player, I was not happy to see him on my left. He proceeded to open almost every hand before dinner break, and on the drive back home I tried to figure out my game plan. I decided the prudent thing would be to simply tighten up my opening ranges to avoid having to play out of position against him.
When I got back from dinner 10 minutes late I saw that his stack had dropped from about 50k to 30k, odds were he’d eaten something big on dinner break and was splashing around. My first hand back he raised under the gun (which he’d been doing fairly often) and it folded to me in the big blind, I held A♣ 3♣. Now Giggy only had about 25 big hands, and A 3 isn't exactly a strong hand to be playing against a strong player out of position. Given the awkwardness of his stack size (if I 3-bet him, he would effectively be put to a decision for all his chips) and the fact that I had a blocker (having an ace in my hand decreases his odds of having an ace by about 50%) I opted to 3-bet him and to my delight he folded.
The next hand it folded around to me in the small blind, Giggy was in the big. I said “oh man, this is your specialty eh, heads up in position”, he gave me a nod of acknowledgement and let me know that if I wanted to give him a walk, that would be OK.
I looked down at pocket Jacks and decided to limp in. As a heads up player I thought he would raise my weak looking limp fairly liberally which would set me up to limp-raise all in and pickup a decent amount of chips. I also thought that given how short his stack was, he didn't really have the ability to defend a super wide range (most of the hands that would play on facing my raise, would also raise if I limped in). To my surprise he checked his option and with 3k in the middle we saw a flop of 2 6 9 (with a heart flush draw). I led out for 1800 and he called. The turn was another 2, and I opted to check. As I expected he made a bet of 2800 (which I figured he would do with all his float as well as value betting hands), I decided I’d like my hand to look like a draw as much as possible so I quickly slid out my stack of orange chips (those are the 5k chips).
He talked for a good 3 minutes, and after a lot of deliberation and genuine confusion about the strange line I took, he made the call with 5 6 off. Given that I had limped in there was no way I could be holding a big pair, and it seemed a lot more likely that I would make this sort of play with something like 7 8 or a flush draw with over cards than with a hand like A 9. I managed to fade the 2-outer and took out the toughest player at the table which allowed me to go right back to work, chipping up at my favorite time of the day, right after dinner break.
Day 3 – The Teacher passes the Torch (Blinds 2000/4000/500)
On Day 3 I made a slip-up at the start of the day which took me from a fully armed big stack, to a grinding short stack without much flexibility or room for error. I sucked it up though and didn't allowed myself to tilt despite that fact that I’d given up so much of my play-ability on a reckless bluff.
On the last level of the day with about 80k in chips, I looked down and found pocket Jacks under the gun (I don’t know why this hand has such a bad rep). My options were to raise small, or to simply send all the chippies in the middle. I felt like with this stack size I really didn't want to raise, get called, and potentially see a bad flop that I would have to check/fold on, I was simply putting too high a percentage of my chips in pre-flop to not back them up. I also thought that since I’d been playing fairly tight on the shortstack, it was very unlikely that someone would 3-bet me all in with a hand like a small pair (the types of hands you typically want to induce from, rather than blow them out of the pot). So I decided that open shoving all in was the optimal play.
It folded around to Dan Harrington who asked for a count and after a minute or so made the call, it felt like Ace King, and I felt good about my chances until…it folded around to the big blind who was a young Spanish kid. He was the player I’d given my chips to earlier and he had been playing fairly tight. He didn't fold right away and I quickly realized that he had a decision to make, he either had Ace King as well or a hand that had me in trouble. He asked Dan how many more chips he had behind the 80k, as he didn't want to jeopardize the 240k he had worked so hard to amass. Before Dan could answer (he had 180k for what it's worth) I let the kid know that he already had a big blind invested and that he was getting good pot odds to play with us. He turned to me and gave me a glare, hopefully I’d sent the right message to him: FOLD. Within 3 seconds of me making this comment his Queens were in the muck, and I’d reverse telled my way into a coin flip with action Dan, he held Ace King of clubs.
The board ran out 2 3 4 8 Q and I got the timely double up I needed right before the day ended!
Day 4 – The Magician runs out of Magic (Blinds 3000/6000/1000)
My plan going into day 4 was to sit on my 30 Big blinds, try to sneak into the money and then see if I could run the stack up. After all, we were only about 50 players away from the money and my stack definitely wasn't in that bottom 50. I showed up to my table and found out that we’d be on one of the side feature tables, I was excited to find out which poker celebrity we had that gave us the honor of playing in front of the cameras.
To my delight it was Antonio Esfandiari, I couldn't think of a more fun guy to spend the day playing poker with, and the good news was he wasn't on my left! He was commanding a reasonable sized stack, but he lost a good chunk of it by 4-betting and folding to start the day off (even the best pros make misreads). About 40 minutes into the day a hand came up where he min-raised the button to 12k, the small blind called and I looked down at pocket Tens in the big blind with 150k behind, we weren't in the money yet, but this wasn't a spot I could afford to pass up. Even though I really wanted to cash (20k is a lot of money), I was here to win and if I passed on this opportunity I would be accepting defeat and have to wait until next year to try and win this thing.
I moved all in rather quickly and Antonio went all-in over the top faster than you can say all-in, he didn't ask for a count, he didn't do any Hollywood…I know it’s getting old hearing this, but it felt a lot like Ace King. The small blind folded, the cameras came over and the hands were turned up. As I had hoped he had Ace king and my Tens were a small favorite.
“How are you feeling?” -Antonio
“Pretty fucking good, I don’t really see how I could lose this race” -Me
(I felt that I’d gone to Vegas for a reason, and I believed that it was to make the final table of this event. If you don’t believe in yourself it’s very unlikely that you can manifest your desires, I had held this attitude throughout the main, and now definitely wasn’t the time to abandon it)
“I guess I could afford to lose one flip, I’ve had my fair share of luck this summer” (referring to his $18 million win in The Big One for One Drop”
We were off to the races and the flop came Ace Ten Three, not too bad…
The turn was another Ace
“Punish him!” -Antonio
“What did I do buddy?” -Me
“I guess you’re right, the people just want to see the pain though” -Antonio
River Deuce, I was safe, and had a stack that would definitely take me into the money from there. Winning that flip also meant that I’d get to hang out with Antonio some more. We talked about motivational speaking classes, yoga, the importance of family, and happiness. I feel extremely fortunate that I got the opportunity to interact with such a great person and legend of the game, a big thank you to the poker god’s for that and everything else they did for me this summer.