First of all thanks to my wife Jen, for posting some of the little tid bits that I texted. I haven't done much texting and I have an old phone so I pretty much kept it to the bare bones information with none of the flavor.
We started the HORSE event with 452 players, who each had 9,000 chips. Unlike online HORSE tournaments where all the tables play one game for a certain amount of time and then switch, here every table independently plays 8 hands of each of the five games and then switches to the next one in the order: hold'em, Omaha-8, razz, stud, and stud-8.
I got what looked like a tough table draw to start. Two seats to my right was Ivan Demidov the runner up in the main event last year (who also made the final table of the WSOP Europe main event). To my left was "Miami" John Centano who is one of the old guard and has been a pro for a long time and to his left was Robert Misrachi. The rest of the table was a mix of OK or good, but not great players.
The interesting thing about many of the big name pros is they've almost all made their name playing no limit hold'em. That doesn't always mean they are great at the HORSE games which require a different set of skills.
The first few hours felt like warm up. We started out playing 75/150 stakes and it climbed slowly from there to 100/200, 150/300, and 200/400. My stack went down to 7,000, then up to 11,000 and settled back at 9,000. Not too exciting, but it did give me time to get a strong feel for how the other players at my table were playing.
In my second text update I made sure to include "These guys aren't so tough." I backed up that statement a few hours later.
Maybe my favorite hand of the tournament came up when we were playing 7 card stud. The stakes were up to 300/600 and I started with Q66 with one of the 6's up. Demidov raised the bring in to 300 with a jack showing, another player who had a 2 up called and I also called. On 4th street Demidov caught another jack, the other player caught a brick, and I hit a queen giving me two pair. Demidov bet out 600 and we both called. On 5th street Demidovn caught an 8, the other player paired his 2 and I bricked.
Now I was pretty sure I was in bad shape. I thought one or both of my opponents could easily have three of a kind here. It's often the case that if a player plays a hand for a raise that they have a pair and the most likely pair for them to have is a pair of whatever their up card is but I hadn't seen any other 6's or Q's the pot was getting big and I was almost positive if I hit I'd get paid off. 6th street brought another 8 for Demidov, an ace for the other player and a queen for me! BINGO!
Demidov bet again, the other player called, and I raised it to 1,200. Amazingly both players called. On the river Demidov bet out again! The other player just called and even though I knew I was going to raise before I did I peaked down to see what I caught. It was the fourth queen! BOOM! Quads baby!
I raise and Demidov reraised me! Now I thought there was a good chance that he'd made four jacks or four 8's. The other player folded (later he said he folded a small full house) and I made it four bets. Demidov thought for about 60 seconds before saying "I guess you could have sixes full and the pot is too big to fold," and then he called. I showed my hand and took down a massive pot.
By the time hold'em rolled around I finished him off. He was running short on chips and raised with K3 on the button. I three bet with 88, he raised again and I put him all in for his last chips. I dodged the king and sent him packing. A few hands later I took the last of Robert Misrachi's chips too! These guys aren't so tough!
At that point after 6 hours of play I had my 9,000 chip starting stack up to 32,000. We only had 2 more hours to play before calling it a day I was feeling like I'd be happy just cruising for the last two hours and moving on to day 2.
But that wasn't to be. The last two hours went almost as bad as they reasonably could have and I ended day one with only 10,300 chips.
It was 3 am when we called it a day and now I had to go back to my room, pack, and move over to the Bellagio where I'd be spending the next three nights. I'd called ahead that morning and let them know that I'd probably be checking in late, maybe as late as 4 am and I wanted to make sure I still had a room when I got there.
I made it over by around 3:45 went through the normal check in process but when the lady at the front desk handed me my keys she said "Wait here for a minute, the manager is coming down to show you to your room." "OK?" I replied. "I think I can find it on my own?" "No." She said. "You can't."
Of course I was intrigued. I made the logical jump pretty quick that they must be out of normal rooms and were going to be putting me in a special room that was no doubt going the be sweet.
When the manager got there he said "We're going to be putting you into one of our Villa Suites. You'll have to switch rooms tomorrow, but for tonight I hope you'll enjoy it." SCORE!
He led me to an unmarked door behind which was a bank of elevators. When we got out he led me down a long hall way that looked like it belonged in the White House. There were paitings and sculptures and chandeileres and flowers lining the whole hallway and it was at least twice wide as a normal hotel hallway with ceilings that were also twice as high.
We made it to suite 11 and they showed me into the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in. Again there were paintings, a few sculptures, flowers and a slew of mirrors. There were four TVs: one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in each of the bathrooms. That's right there were two bathrooms, one with a huge jacuzzi tub and the other with a shower that had a door so tall that I couldn't reach the top of it (I can touch the ceiling in a normal hotel room). It was pretty cool.
The next day I woke up around noon, switched to a normal room and headed over to the Rio. There was a redraw for seats at the end of day 1, so I was at a new table with 7 new opponents. We started day 2 with 198 of the original 452 players and since I was fairly short stacked I knew I'd need to make some hands early.
Luckily I did. In fact I ran super duper crazy hot during the first two hours and took my stack from 10,000 (less than half of average) to 48,000 (twice average).
The ups and downs continued through hours three and four. I plumeted down to 17,000 and then came back to 35,000. On the last hand of hour four (level 12 of the tournament) I took a terrible bad beat. We were playing Omaha and my opponent raised under the gun with AKQ5. This is kind of a marginal hand to be raising first to act. I was in the big blind with A345 with the A4 of diamonds which is a better hand.
In Omaha hi-lo split the lowest hand (which must be 5 cards 8 and lower - which is why this games is often called Omaha 8 or better of just Omaha-8)and the highest hand split the pot (you have you use exactly two cards from your hand and three cards from the board to make each hand although you are allowed to use different cards from your hand for low and for high). Aces are both the lowest and highest card. With a few exceptions the best starting hands are the ones that have a lot of potential to win the low half of the pot with a little pop for high and not the other way around since it's much easier to make a strong low hand than a high one.
I thought about reraising before the flop, but instead opted to just call since I would be out of position for the entire hand. The flop came down QJ5 with the QJ of diamonds. I check raised my opponent and he three bet me with his two pair (a little thin if you ask me). The turn was the perfect card, the deuce of diamonds! Now I had the nut flush, and the nut low draw. I check raised my opponent again and he just called. Based on his flop action I assumed he had a set and I was thinking "No board pair!" as the river came out. The river came out and it was a 5. AHHHHHHHHH!
I checked, my opponent bet, and even though I was pretty sure I was beat the pot was so big that I had to call. When I saw his hand I realized that there were only three cards (two queens and one five since I had one of the fives) that could come on the river that would allow me to lose that pot.
There were 34,000 chips in that one pot and now instead of having over 50,000 I had less than 20,000 going to dinner.
But once again I managed to stage a comeback. I had it up to 40,000 and we were down to about 80 players when Chris "Jesus" Ferguson (he looks like Jesus) came to our table and sat down right next to me. I'd played for the full 10 levels of day 1 with Chris in 2006 and found him to be a very likeable guy.
Here is a name dropping story for you! So I said to Chris Ferguson "I was talking to Daniel Negranu and heard that you were pretty much playing every event you could this year." He said "That's right" I was about to ask him if he'd made any final tables when he said "I haven't cashed once yet." That made me feel better about my starting for 3 this year and my 1 for 10 showing in 2006. Ferguson is one of the best. He won the main event in 2000, he has at least two if not three other WSOP titles, I don't know how many other final tables and cashes, he's a certified genius, isn't sweating the money at all, and has the toughest possible table image. If he can blank 15+ tournaments in a row then 0 for 3 doesn't seem so bad!
Anyway I scooped a big pot against him in the Omaha. I had about 40,000 chips and we were playing 2,500/5,000 stakes. With around 70 players left I didn't exactly have the kind stack I could cruise into the money with, but it was still more likely that I'd make it than not.
At that time the following hand came up. Ferguson raised from the button and I looked down at AAK2 with the AK of clubs an the K2 of hearts. This is a premium hand. With the AA part of the hand I am ahead against 95%+ of his possible hands for the high half of the pot and the A2 is the best possible starting two cards for the low half. To top it off I have two flush possibilities. This one was a real monster with a ton of potential.
I reraised, he just called and the flop came down Q J 2 with two clubs. I wasn't their yet, but I had the nut flush draw, still had the aces and the nut straight draw. Of course I bet out, and he just called. The turn was the 6 of clubs. BINGO! Now I had the best possible high hand and I bet. He just called and the river came out an 8. This was a bad card for me. Since I'd paired my 2 I could no longer make a hand with 5 cards below 8. But since I was guaranteed to win the high half of the pot I bet. Ferguson reluctently called and showed two pair with no low! SCOOP!
Now I was up to 60K and that's about where I stayed for a long time winning small pots here and there to compensate for the blinds and antes I was losing. When we made the money around 10:30 I had 55K. It felt great to make the money in this event since it was a totally stacked field. On top of the dozens of pros that I recongnized (I won't list them all here) at one point on day 1 I saw Doyle Brunson (10 WSOP titles!) at the table to my left, Phil Ivey (5 WSOP titles and one already this year) at the table to my right, and Barry Greenstien behind me(he's made the final table of the $50,000 HORSE every year they've run it - which is three times in a row - even though there have been 100+ or 150+ entrants each time). These guys are the best players in the world without a doubt and play $4,000/$8,000 HORSE cash game against each other and a few other players. None of them made the money and I did.
My plan and my results after making the money were a microcosim of the tournament as a whole. I started off losing a few substantial pots and fell all the way down to 14,000 (the stakes were 4,000/8,000 at that point). Then I bounced back.
I went on a tear and took my stack all the way up to 140,000! At that point we were down to 32 players, and we only had about 90 minutes of play left before we'd call it a day and go on to day 3. The average stack was about 120,000 at that point and I was starting to think about the final table. But then I made three second best hands. One in the Omaha and two in the Razz and that was enough to do me in.
I finished 28th which paid $6,449! Hopefully I can take at least one more of these tournaments deep.