How did I get in?
I entered a Double Shootout Tournament. First place was a $10,000 entry fee into the World Series of Poker Main Event plus $1,000. What happened?I checked into my hotel in Vegas (Bally’s) on Wednesday, July 6th in the late afternoon. There was a PokerStars.com party at the Mirage for the online qualifiers. It was a nice event. I was rubbing elbows with Greg Raymer (2004 WSOP Champion), Chris Moneymaker (2003 WSOP Champion) and Evelyn Ng.
It was weird. Raymer was bigger (taller) than I thought he would be and Moneymaker was not as tall as I thought he would be.
Without having played a single hand of live poker, I thought I needed to put some quality time in at a casino. After checking out several online reviews on the Vegas poker rooms, I decided to go to the MGM Grand. A very good room. Good dealers and good players. In fact, they were too good the first day. I lost about $180.
The moment I knew that it was not going to be my day was when I got dealt Kc Qc (that would be King of clubs and Queen of clubs for those who do not read poker shorthand). I was playing at a $1/$2 No-Limit table. I raised to $10 preflop. I got a call. The flop was terrible, but I thought my King high might still be OK. Unfortunately, there were two hearts on the flop. The player in seat 7 puts me all in. I really thought it was odd and decided to call with just King high. So, I get a Kd (king of diamonds) on the turn to make top pair. The river was another heart and I lose to a flush. It was a questionable call on my part BUT this wizard who won the pot only had 2h 9h (two of hearts and nine of hearts). Huh? Are you kidding me? He called a $10 preflop bet with that crummy hand?!? Unreal. Maybe tomorrow would be better.
The next day I go to the MGM and try to gain some confidence back. After all, I have to play 24 hours later in the World’s Greatest Poker Tournament. Nothing really sticks out in my mind regarding my play, but I do remember getting a 5 on the river to make a full house and about $100 in the process. I invested $120 that day and left with $420. THANK GOODNESS!! I felt a lot more comfortable about the prospect of playing against top notch competition. Incidentally, Chris Moneymaker was also playing $1/$2 No Limit at the MGM Grand. It struck me as very odd (to be playing small stakes), but I later learned that he did not want to wait and the $1/$2 was the only table that had an opening. He only played about 45 minutes and made $100 during that period.
On to the Rio and the 2005 WSOP…
As I am trying to find table 83, I walk into the event with James Woods (the actor). He was actually a very cordial guy. He sat at table 82.
I also saw Tony G. play a couple tables away.
So, Saturday at the Main Event, I sit down and play with players from Sweden, London, Costa Rica, Toronto, Boca Raton and Los Angeles. One player in particular, Joe Sebok, was somewhat famous because his father was Barry Greenstein. Joe had placed 4th in the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event at the 2005 WSOP (for $159,000). Once Joe got short stacked, ESPN was all over him to see when he would be ousted from the tournament. I almost had the honor, but, alas, Joe folded his hand after I put him all-in when he reraised me to $3000. The hand left him with only $2000 left. I became the chip leader for my table and went from $10,000 (everyone starts with this amount) to $20,000. After a couple of sessions, I had around $24,000. Right before one of the breaks, Rocco Mediate (pro golfer) sits two seats from me. Rocco was a good guy (even though he attended Florida Southern :)).
I was moved to my second table. I was probably in second chip position at this new table. Nothing of great interest happened at this table. I did increase my chip stack to about $27 – 28,000. At this point, I had played about 7 hours in the competition and I had done well. After all, many of the better players in the world had already been eliminated.
There was a standing ovation when Doyle Brunson was eliminated. I saw TJ Cloutier also make an early exit.
In fact ….Here are some notable bust outs from Day 1C: TJ Cloutier, Minh Nguyen, Andy Bloch, Tracey Phan, Joe Sebok, Mel Judah, Mark Seif, Doyle Brunson, Hoyt Corkins, James Woods, Ram Vaswani, Jim Betchel, Tom McEvoy, Anna Benson, Chau Giang, John D’Agostino, Lonnie Boeding, Simon “Aces” Trumper, Edward Moncada, Shannon Sharpe, Kristy Gazes, Eric Ellisen, John Phan, Thor Hansen, Tony Ma, and Robert Williamson III.
Here are some notable bust outs from Day 1B: Daniel Negreanu, Todd Brunson, Tobey Maguire, Oliver Hudson, Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Erin Ness, Robert Varkonyi, Erick Lindgren, Melissa Hayden, Men the Master, Evelyn Ng, Greg Mueller, Perry Friedman, Max Pescatori, Barny Boatman, Senthil Kumar, David Williams, Johnny World Hennigan, Eli Elerza, Dewey Tomko, Mimi Rogers, Allen Cunningham, Phil Gordon, Cyndy Violette, Hasan Habib, David Levi, Miami John, and Juha Helppi.
Here are some notable bust outs from Day 1A: Steve Z, Ted Lawson, Josh Arieh, Erik Seidel, Chris Bigler, Scott Fischman, Jesus, Ted Forrest, Johnny Chan (yes Johnny Chan), David Grey, Mike Sexton, Marco Traniello, Humerto Brenes, Devilfish, Davood Mehrmand, Brad Garret, Barry Greenstein, Eskimo, Martin De Knijff, My Main Man Freddy Deeb, The Unabomber, Carlos Mortenson, Wil Wheaton, Patty Gallagher, Jennifer Tilly, Brett Jungblut, Thunder Keller, and Jen Harman.
After the dinner break, I caught a bad streak of crummy cards. More importantly, I was moved to my third table in the tournament and was a distant second in chips to the chip leader at our table. He must have had a 3 to 1 chip advantage. I was looking for ways to make a dent in his stack, but did not get help from the dealer. The antes were $25 and the blinds were $150/$300.This table was located right next to the gallery. It made me a little nervous. Of course, I looked over my right shoulder and saw Phil Ivey at the next table which made me even more nervous.
There were two critical hands at this table.
I was dealt Kc Kh in the small blind. The chip leader was in seat 5 and I was seat 8. He raised preflop to $900. He had been doing this to collect a lot of small pots (normal for a player with a big stack of chips). I reraised his bet to $3000. At this point, the rest of the table folds. The chip leader asked me how many chips I had left (which was around $22,175). He was considering a reraise to put me all in. I WISH HE WOULD HAVE. I would have rather taken my chances with my two Kings. It turns out that he had Ace-Queen. It would have been a good race and I might have lost, but if I had won that hand and doubled up, there is no way I play the next critical hand.
Once again, the chip leader raises to $800. This time – I am in the big blind. So I already have $325 invested in the pot and it costs me $500 to see the flop. I was dealt 3c 6c. I take a gamble and see I hit anything. Sure enough, there are two clubs on the flop. The chip leader raised 1200. I call. The turn card is a Ace of clubs. I have made my flush. Now, the chip leader announces that he is “all-in”. Since he raised preflop, I did not have a good idea as to what he may have had. He could have had pocket aces or he might have been trying to buy the pot by posturing like he had a flush. Regardless, I have a flush and I feel like I have to call the best (even though it would end my tournament if I lost the hand). Sure enough, I called the bet and LOST to a better flush (Qc 9c). As soon as the cards were exposed, you could hear the gallery let out its collective “awwww”. I was done.
As I was exiting, people were commenting on how unlucky the hand I just played was. I will tell you that if I had played and won the hand I was dealt two Kings, there is no way I even play that hand. Damn!!
As I am about to catch a taxi back to Bally’s, I see Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. He looks at my shirt to see that I was a player in the tournament and smiles at me as if to say “that’s poker”. Did I meet my goals for the tournament? No. But, I had a fantastic time.
The one thing I can take away is the experience and the fact that I WANT TO PLAY NEXT YEAR TOO.