We started Event #16 with 359 players each with 4,500 chips playing 50/100 stakes. As I mentioned in my preview I expected this tournament to be filled with old timers and amateurs. Once the tournament got underway I confirmed that my expectations about the starting field were right on.
Looking around at the 20 other tables that I could easily see standing up behind my seat, I didn't see a single player that I was confident was younger than me (I'm 29 for those of you who might not know). More importantly I didn't see a single famous pro player. In fact the only poker personalities I saw were David Sklansky and Mike Caro both of whom are famous theorists and authors who wrote important poker books in the 70's and 80's (the still write and instruct, by their best work is behind them in my opinion). It really was like a WSOP time warp.
Once play got underway I was amazed at how weak my table was. This was the 21st event I've played at the WSOP and over the course of those tournaments I've played at something like 60-75 (or maybe even more) different tables. This was without a doubt the softest table I ever encountered at the WSOP. It felt like the $4/$8 stud games I used to play at the Oaks club when I was 22.
Good players tend to do a lot of raising. Aggressive poker is usually good poker. It can be tough to play against very aggressive players even if they are making mistakes. On the other hand, players that tend to just call and only bet or raise when they really have something are easy to beat.
In the first two hours there wasn't a single reraise (except by me) on third street (the first betting round). In the first four hours there were only two check raises (another tool used often by strong players) of any kind (except by me). It was almost too good to be true.
For the first few hours my only battle was with myself. For the most part I was getting total garbage and it was very difficult to stay patient. I knew I could out play these players and it was tempting to get in there with very suspect hands with the plan of just relentlessly firing away. Looking back that might have worked (if it was a cash game or we had deeper stacks that's probably what I would have done), but I decided a better option would be to stretch my starting requirements a little bit while not getting too out of line.
Eventually my patience started to pay off. The player just to my left was the worst player in the game and a total jerk. We got involved in a few hands with each other and they all ended the same way.
In the first I started with AA9 with one of the aces as my up card. I came in for a raise and The Jerk called. I bet fourth street and fifth street and then checked sixth street. He bet sixth street and the river. I didn't get any help and all I had was my one pair of aces, but my opponent didn't have strong up cards and the pot was more than big enough to warrant a call.
After I called my opponent angrily turned over his cards showing a missed flush draw and pushed them hard towards the dealer. As I was stacking the chips he said "I can't believe you just called there! You only had one pair! You are really terrible!" I calmly replied "I had the best hand didn't I?"
A little while later I started with a pair of jacks with one showing. The action was exactly the same. I bet fourth and fifth street, he bet sixth and the river, and I called him with an unimproved pair of jacks. This time he showed king high total garbage. After again shoving his cards at the dealer he went on for about 30 seconds about how bad I was, talking about how many thousands of dollars he wanted to bet on me not making the money and how I was 50 to 1 to make it. I calmly informed him that I would take the 50 to 1 if he was willing to book a bet, to which he said nothing.
About 15 minutes later I again started with aces, with one up and came in raising. This time there were two other players in the pot so the action was a little different. I bet 4th street and everyone called. On fifth street the jerk had 3 clubs showing, the other players got what looked like a little help and I hadn't improved so I checked. Everyone checked behind me. On sixth street the jerk caught another club and bet after I'd checked. The two other players folded and it was back to me. I was about 90% sure that if he'd had 4 clubs (or 5 clubs) on fifth street he would have bet, so even though he had 4 clubs showing on 6th street I was almost positive he didn't have a flush. Taking that into account, I called.
I checked the river after getting no help and he bet without looking at his last card. I called without hesitation hoping he didn't catch another club or make two pair on the river. He showed one pair of fives and I took down another nice pot.
Of course he had more to say. "You are so unbelievable! I can't belive how terrible you are!" My mind was blown at this point and I couldn't hold back. "I called you three times with one pair and I won every pot! How is that terrible? What do you want me to do if you keep bluffing into me?"
He replied "I had four clubs showing! What could you beat?! I mean what could you beat!" My instant retort was "tell me the exact seven cards you had and that would be a perfect example of something I could beat." It makes me wonder how this guy came up with $1,500 to get into the tournament.
Four hours into the tournament we went on dinner break. I was up to 7,300 chips, the average stack was about 5,700 and we'd lost a quarter of the starting field. At that point I was feeling good about my chances. While my primary goal was to go as deep as possible in the tournament, I really wanted to make it to day 2 so I'd have something to do Sunday since there were no tournaments on my schedule for that day.
After dinner I came back and rocketed right down the toilet. I kept getting strong starting cards and making no improvements.
The one time I did improve I got squashed. My opponent who was a fairly good player, had a lot of chips and was playing a lot of pots. On the hand in question he started with a ten up and a pair of deuces in the hole. I started with a 6 up and two jacks in the hole. He came in raising, got called by the player just to my right and I reraised. They both called, we all caught bricks on 4th street and I bet. Both players called, which put the player to my right all in. On fifth street my main opponent caught a third deuce and raised me when I bet. I check-called 6th street and checked the river without looking at my last card. My opponent who had a board of T 5 2 8 (about an innocuious and you can possibly get) bet and when I looked down at a third jack I raised. Sadly my opponent had picked up another 5 to go with his three deuces and now had a very well concealed full house. He reraised, I called and lost a huge pot.
I don't remember all the details of the other hands that led to my demise but it was a lot of start with one big pair, finish with one big pair and lose to two bullshit pair. It's not that hard to make two pair in stud, but I just wasn't getting any help. I finished about 250th of 359, 30 mintues after getting back from dinner.
Bad luck (or very bad luck) will always derail you in a poker tournament. But bad luck doesn't last. Being a successful tournament player is all about making the most of the cards you get and the situations in which you find youself. If you keep making the best decisions with the information you have and giving youself chances one of them will pan out. In my first tournament I took my 7,500 chip starting stack to over 20,000. In this one I took my 4,500 chips stack close to 9,000 at one point. I gave myself a chance in both tournaments, but they just didn't pan out.