I played in my first World Series of Poker event… a $1,500 No Limit Hold Em tournament on June 25, 2010 at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Before I started following poker about 7-8 years ago, I saw the WSOP on television, but didn’t realize there were so many events… in 2010, there were a total of 57 events with a variety of games (7-Card Stud, Omaha, etc.) and stakes (ranging from $1k to $50k, with most being $3k or less). The most well-known tourney is the one shown every year on ESPN… it’s also known as the “Main Event”. It’s the last tournament of the series and has a $10k entry fee.
The tourney I played in was Event 45 (of 57) and with a relatively low buy-in, it certainly wasn’t a prestigious event, but I was excited to play nonetheless.
My wife, Sheila, and I flew in the night before and settled into our room at the Tropicana. After a good night of sleep, I was ready to go and felt great. I ordered breakfast from room service… and after a bit of a delay which had me on edge a little, I ate an egg on a bagel with a V8 Splash… yum.
I shared a cab with another poker player. I think his name was Javier… good guy. We chatted a bit and he actually calmed me down some because he had played in some events before and knew where to go to register… so he led the way and soon afterwards, got in line to sign up.
Right after I entered the room to register, I saw one of the guys from Keith Switzer’s home game in Livermore… Mark Zika. He actually played in the Main Event last year and in Event 42 a few days earlier. He was very cordial and showed me around the place a bit after we signed up.
We still had about 20 minutes before the tourney started, so I went to the Full Tilt Lounge to see if TilterRick was around… I know Rick from the poker forum and have helped him out on occasion with keeping track of online leaderboards for some forum events. Anyway, Rick told me to ask the girls in front to look for him when I arrived, but he had just stepped out, so I decided to go directly to my table and settle in.
On my way to the table, I started to notice some of the more well-known players walking around… Phil Gordon, Jeff Madsen, Maria Ho and Roland de Wolfe to name a few.
I was assigned to Table 224, Seat 10 in the Pavilion Room. This room is massive… maybe as large as a football field, not sure. Anyway, when I got to my table, I was the first one to arrive and the dealer took my entry ticket and checked my ID. The other players arrived shortly after. No one looked familiar… and I was kinda bummed… was hoping to play with a semi well-known player.
But once the cards got dealt, it was all business and I didn’t really care who was at my table… the other nine were the enemy and there wasn’t a lot of chatting going on.
The first 15 minutes were fairly quiet… no huge pots… and everyone was playing somewhat straight forward.
In about the 12th hand, I looked down at pocket aces… my heart started to race a little… do I play it slow? Do I make a standard raise? Hmm…
Well, I didn’t have much time to think about it… I was left of the “under the gun” (UTG) player who opened for a raise to 175 (blinds were 25/50 and we started with 4500 in chips). My first thought is this guy must have a big pocket pair (tens or better)… and was hoping he’d re-raise me with QQ or KK, so I raised his bet to 525.
Everyone folded and it came back to him… I was expecting at least a call, but was hoping he’d say “raise”… he ended up folding! Wow… I was really surprised. What the heck was he raising from UTG that he didn’t want to call there?
I didn’t get much after that to tangle with. I raised pre-flop with Ad Td (ace/ten of diamonds), but laid it down on the flop when I whiffed and another player came out betting.
About 45 minutes in, they broke up our table… on to Table 223… one table over. But by the time I sat down, they broke up that table and I was off to Table 128, Seat 4.
Coming to a new table is a bit unsettling… the best way to describe it is like going to a new school on your first day where everyone is a complete stranger.
After a few hands, I started to relax a bit and noticed the player in Seat 9 looked very familiar. I asked the guy to my left in Seat 5 if he was a well-known player and he told me it was Adam Junglen. I had heard of Adam before and my understanding was that he was a solid, well-respected player who earned his reputation online. I later found out that the player in Seat 5 had some online and live tournament success, Kenneth Terrell.
Soon after coming to this table, I got a visit from Miles and Keith from the MK Poker Club and Tyler from Full Tilt’s forum… it was really good seeing those guys… this also made me feel more at home and relaxed.
The new table was a bit more active than the previous one, but certainly nothing out of the norm… no maniacs at this table. After about 30-40 minutes, I got dealt AdTd in the big blind… I got dealt this exact hand at the previous table, so I took this as a sign to play a pot with it 🙂 The blinds were now 50/100 and the player in Seat 1 raised it to 350 and I called. With 750 in the pot, the flop came T76 rainbow (rainbow means 3 different suits). I checked and he almost immediately said “all-in” (for about 1,800). His bet was for about half my stack. I would have been left with about 2,000 in chips if I called and lost the hand… certainly not a desirable position to be in less than two hours into the tourney.
My first thought was, “he probably has an overpair, so maybe I should fold this”. Then I started to go though some other hands he’d shove all-in with… almost any ace was a possibility… say AK, AQ or A9… 88 or 99 almost certainly. Obviously 66, 77 or TT would have me in bad shape, but I decided to call, figuring that I had a reasonable amount of outs if he had JJ, QQ or KK… and I’d be in great shape if he flipped over AK.
I took about 20-30 seconds to decide. When I said “call”, he said, “Well, at least I know that I went in with the best of it.”… when I heard that, my heart sank, figuring he had the overpair… but he turned over KT and when he saw my AT, he was really pissed off that I took so long to call. He claimed that I “slowrolled” him. Slowroll is a term poker players use when a player has the best hand possible (aka “the nuts”) and he takes his time to decide whether to call or not (kinda like rubbing salt in the wound). Obviously AT was not the best hand possible here.
I was now sitting on a reasonably healthy chip stack, just shy of 6,000.
The player who filled Seat 1 turned out to be Rafal Michalowski. He and I got involved in a few hands later in the afternoon.
I had been playing very tight the first couple of hours, folding 22 and 55 from early position. I decided to be a bit more active, so I raised with pocket fours. again from early position. But right behind me, I got re-raised all-in by Ken Terrell. Ken had not been too active and although he was getting low in chips (~2500), I didn’t want to play such a big pot w/ a marginal hand, so I laid it down after it folded back to me.
Ken again showed some aggression a few hands later… after a couple of limpers, I limped with As Js from the small blind. Ken raised all in from the big blind. I was tempted to make this call because Ken could easily have been making this move with almost any two cards. But again, I decided to play it safe and folded my hand.
I bit later, Rafal made a raise to 450 from the cutoff (one from the button) with the blinds at 100/200. I called with Qs 4c… garbage, but I wanted to take a stand against Rafal who had been raising a lot of pots for slightly more than the minimum. We both checked a 3-heart flop and when the 4th heart hit on the turn, I led out and bet 500 figuring he would almost certainly fold if he didn’t have a heart. He called. I gave up the hand on the river, not wanting to bluff away any more chips. He checked back and flipped over a turned two pair with 9 7.
My stack was now down under 3,000. Since that AT hand, I went card dead. AJ and 44 were the best hands I saw in over an hour. Waiting… and waiting for a hand to play, I folded two complete orbits (~20 hands) . I finally shoved all-in from the big blind for my last ~2,100 with a monster… Ah 5h! I got called fairly quickly by the pre-flop raiser on the button w/ K7. He had a large stack and had decent odds to call. I took this one and doubled up to about my original stack of 4,500.
After shoving with A5, I shoved with JJ after an early position limper and didn’t get any callers.
A few hands later, I got dealt KK in early position. I went to reach for chips to count out a raise, then said, “Eh, I’m all-in.” I thought this would look indecisive and thus, weak… and with the A5 shove and another shove soon after, I thought this would look like a desperation move. I figured to get called by 55 or better. A player in late position tanked for a good 30 seconds… I thought he was going to call as he looked like he really wanted to, but he ended up folding.
I got involved in another pot with Rafal when he raised to 450 again w/ the blinds at 100/200, but this time there was an ante of 25, so with such a small raise, I was temped to call with just about any two… and this time I had Ac 7c. The flop came AT4 with one club. I checked and Rafal bet 500. This is where I got a brain cramp… I folded thinking that I was going to inevitably be committed to the hand… with such a weak kicker, I wanted to move on to another hand and look for a more comfortable spot. Looking back, I have to make this call and evaluate the turn… had a club, 7 or ace hit on the turn, I would have felt pretty good about my hand.
In the 6th hour with the blinds now at 150/300 and a 25 ante, our table broke up and I got moved to Table 92. We all wished each other luck… and believe it or not… it seemed like everyone was sincere too 🙂 It was an enjoyable table for the most part.
I had about 4,000 chips at this point and really needed to catch some cards. The blinds and antes allowed me less than 6 orbits, so I was looking for a double up within the next orbit or two… time was running out.
About the 10th hand in, I got dealt JJ from UTG, so I raised it up to 900, hoping for a shove from someone… but no… a player two to my left raised to 2,500… ugh. This was a brutal spot. I felt like the best I could hope for was AK and a coin flip. I hemmed and hawed for a good minute… I still had 3,000 behind me, so I decided to fold it. Oddly, the raise to 2,500 seemed like it was a bet to lure other people in, myself included… I may have called if he simply shoved all-in, as this would have smelled more like AK.
About 7 hands later, Olivier Busquet raised to 700 from EP and I shoved my last 2,900 with AJ… a player three to my left raised all-in, Olivier folded and I was in bad shape against AK. The flop came 49T and when an 8 hit the turn, I had a few more outs to hit a straight, but the river bricked and I was out.
If I had to do it over again, I would have played a few hands differently for sure… since it was my first event, I think I played a few hands too passively so that I could “stick around longer” and wait for a “better spot”.