Like I said in my preview 6 handed limit hold'em is my specialty. As a result I went into my first event of this years WSOP feeling confident. My travel to Vegas went off without a hitch and by 2 p.m. I was checked in to the hotel, registered for the tournament (which started at 5), and eating a steak. After all who cares about a $40 lunch when you're about to play a $2,500 tournament right?
This year the WSOP has taken over even more of the Rio convention area (which is massive to say the least). In 2005 my first year at the WSOP and only the second year since the WSOP moved over from Binion's, everything was in the Amazon Room. That's where you went to play the events, register for the events, play cash games, play satellite tournaments and even play smaller buy in nightly tournaments (for the amateurs, spouses and friends who don't want to pony up the big bucks). It's a big room (think warehouse or airplane hanger - the size of a few football fields), but it was a still a little crowded.
They've gradually expanded each year and this year they have a room where you register for everything, another room that is just for satellites, and even the WSOP events have been split into multiple rooms. I'm always impressed that every year they make improvements.
Now on to what happened in the actual poker! We started with 367 players each with 7,500 chips. 36 players would make the money with 36th place paying about $4,500, 1st place being $224,000 and 35th through 2nd falling somewhere in between. Finishing 37th or worse meant you'd be losing your $2,500.
For the first four hours I was at a fairly good table. I was in seat 1 (just to the left of the dealer). In seat 2 was a player who was clearly a serious tournament pro, but who was playing too many hands and (in my expert opinion) was too aggressive. In seat 3 was a total buffoon. This was a guy who had money and that was the only reason he was playing. He blamed the dealer for his bad luck and once called a raise with 92 because he "had a feeling." I LOVE seeing this type of player at the WSOP! In seat 4 was a guy about my age who seemed like he knew what to do, but was too nervous to play well. In seat 5 was a middle aged Asian fellow with the biggest watch I've ever seen. He was an OK player, but fairly predictable.
Lastly in seat 6 was Daniel Negranu who is one of the most successful tournament poker players of the past 10 years. In 2004, he was WSOP player of the year, has 4 WSOP titles, and something like $10,000,000 in career tournament earnings (and that's not counting millions in cash game winnings). He was also one of my heroes when I first started playing poker. I always thought he was great, not just because he was a fantastic player, but because he was charming, friendly, and engaging with just about everyone he played. That is certainly something I've tried to emulate. There are a ton of pricks in the poker world and I am constantly reminded how foolish they look.
It was great fun playing against Daniel and luckily he was not giving me any trouble. First of all because short handed limit hold'em isn't his specialty and it is mine. Second of all he was dead tired and a little loopy. I found out through conversation that he has a $300,000 bet with John Juanda that spans the length of the WSOP. Whoever earns more player of the year points wins. Amazingly he also has similarly sized, but slightly smaller bets with Eric Lindgerin, Barry Greenstien, and Chris Ferguson. As a result of these bets (and because the best players measure their careers by how many WSOP titles they have) all of these guys are playing as many tournaments as they possibly can (apparently Ferguson had played 12 of the first 13 events!). Trying to win a bet like that means starting at noon just about every day, playing multiple tournaments at once (you have to periodically run back and forth usually playing the tournament that is farther along while your chips just sit there in the game you're not playing and they take your blinds and/or antes), and going until 3 am if you're doing well. And doing it day after day after day for 6 weeks!
I started off this tournament playing well and getting OK cards. After two hours of play I was up to 9,000 chips, and got my stack as high as 12,000 chips, before going back to square 1 by the end of round 4. In the mean time the two softest players had gone broke and been replaced by tough players. I was not thrilled.
After four hours of play it was time for dinner break. My favorite restaurant at the Rio is a seafood restaurant called Buzio's. They have a lobster tank outside the restaurant and when you order one they pick one out and throw it in a pot. It is amazingly good lobster. Another thing I like about this place is they have a counter like you might find in a diner except you're getting top notch seafood instead of pancakes.
So I sit down at the counter and who sits down next to me - Gap Tooth! My regular readers will know this is a guy that I decimated in a tournament on my last trip to L.A. I resisted the temptation to bust his balls by asking him what he'd do if he raised to 5,000 with QJ offsuit and someone moved all in for 30,000. He probably wouldn't say, get pissed, put in all my chips and loose to pocket kings!
After dinner I came back and instantly got moved to another table. This was good news and I liked my new table a lot more than my old one. Two of the players were missing (stuck at dinner I guess), another was terrible and I went on a major rush. With a combination of bluffs and made hands I was up to 20,000 in 20 minutes! All of a sudden I was liking my chances a whole lot more.
Then things started to turn sour. On my right at my new table was Raul Paez, who I'd never heard of, but it was clear he was sponsored by fulltiltpoker.com which means he is at least a somewhat accomplished tournament player. I knew who he was because his hat said RaulPaez.com. I looked him up and he has probably the least impressive resume of any player sponsored by fulltilt. Also I don't think he played particularly well, but he got the best of me time and time again.
Here are four hands I can think of that happened in quick succession. He raised in the small blind with QJ I reraised with A6. The flop came down T 6 4. He checked, I bet, he called. 8 on the turn and we both checked. Jack on the river, he bet I called.
4 hands later another player raised, he called with KJ, I three bet from the button with AT, the other player made it four bets and we both called. The flop was Q T 5, the other player bet and we both called. The turn was a blank, the other player bet and we both called. The river was an ace, the other player checked, Raul bet, I raised, he three bet and I called. This was a huge pot and the other player said he had 99.
5 hands later he was on the button and raised with A3. I reraised from the small blind with AT and the flop came down A 5 3. I didn't make two pair and lost another big pot.
3 hands later he raised with KT under the gun. I reraised with QQ and the flop came down KJ9 with three spades and I had the queen of spades. He bet the flop and I raised. We both checked the turn which was a jack. I missed my draws on the river, but had to call his bet.
These hands took me from 20,000 down to about 6,000. In all of them I was ahead or way ahead at some point and I think I lost the minimum or close to it every time. If we were playing no limit I would have gone broke at least twice, but I was still in it.
About the time we were finishing our 5th hour of play I got moved to a new table. I was only there for 10 minutes, but that was long enough to bust Josh Arieh. Josh finished 3rd in the 2004 main event, has two WSOP titles and $4,500,000 in career tournament earnings. And he took it like a big baby when I busted him!
I had AK in the big blind and he raised under the gun with T9. I reraised him, he raised again and I put him in for the last few chips he had. When the flop came down A K 5 he literally threw his cards five feet in the air and stormed off before the turn card even came out!
Shortly after that I was moved to a new table which was tough. To my right was Cardplayer publisher Barry Schulman (I'm not sure if he's supposed to be good or what - his play seemed a little goofy to me, but he's well known so I thought I'd mention him), and to my left was Evelyn Ng a well know pro (and a very nice and attractive woman - as rare as a straight flush at the poker table), and to her left was John "PearlJammer" Turner who is one of the premier online tournament pros. And the other two guys didn't suck!
By the time we finished level 6 I only had 5,000 chips and in level 7 we were playing 500/1,000 so I knew I'd have to take a stand with any good hand. About 10 minutes after play resumed I'd been through the blinds once which left me with 4,200 and I was back in the big blind when I looked down at AQ. Turner raised, I reraised, he looked at my sad stack and reraised, and I made it 5 bets (online 4 bets is a cap, but here it's 5 bets). The flop came down KJ3, I bet, he raised and even though I was pretty sure I was beat, I had to put in my last few chips (I knew a ten would be good and I thougt there was some chance an A or even a Q would make me a winner). When the cards got turned over I saw he had KQ, I missed and that was it. I finished 158th of 370.
The good news is I have 10 more chances to make something happen and it only takes one good one to make this trip a success!