Let me say it louder; LOSING SUCKS!! For years I’ve been writing tournament reports about events where I’ve gotten deep. There were always exciting, key moments and hands late in events that were interesting and instructive. This year my key moments are happening in the first few levels, where I’ve consistently gotten my chips in good, and then have taken the walk of shame.
Variance in poker is a very real factor that we have no control over. It’s why I’ve always adhered to, and built my game around, the Hellmuthian theory of avoiding coin flips as much as possible. I’ve never done particularly well when the hands are flipped up with more cards to come. (Of course, probably every poker player south of Jason Mercier feels that way.) If I had I’d probably be playing in such a way that invited flips. But regardless of your style, those moments inevitably come; then the difference between glory and going home is up to the poker gods. It’s what makes tournament poker one of the strictest tests of mental toughness anywhere, and one of the reasons why most of my friends have given them up for cash games, golf and actually having fun during the WSOP. I swear I’m running below 10% on flips this month. Looking at a lifetime graph of my results, this WSOP disaster would be a minor blip. Mathematically, a player only figures to cash in one out of ten events. Throw in the skill factor, maybe an average of one out of seven. So an 0-for-20 isn’t statistically significant. There are a lot of names you would recognize that are 0-for-more than me. But when you experience it up close and personal, it’s very real. I’ve been around this game a long time and have suffered through many maddening downswings. But why it has to happen now, when the WSOP is about all the poker I play anymore, and is the highlight of my year, is something I can’t understand. My friends don’t understand. My investors don’t understand. My cats can’t understand why they’re getting flying lessons when I get home. (Just kidding. I love my cats.)
I played the 10k HORSE the other day, one of my favorite events. Some people look at the 10k limit events and think that they’re filled with superstars and lack value. I don’t find that to be true. A lot of the players who can afford multiple 10k events these days (kids!) aren’t good mixed-game players. My Day 1 table was one that any mixed-game player would love to have every day. I ran my 30k opening stack up to 52k, and knew I had a chance to get hold of some real chips. Then I hit a bad 20-mimute run in the late level to end the day with a disappointing 34k.
I liked my Day 2 starting table. I scooped an early pot and got back to 45k. I was feeling good and very positive. Then our table broke. I hate moving tables. One reason is the fact that it’s advantageous to be at a table that doesn’t break and players come to you one at a time, rather than moving and having to adjust to a whole new table. The other is that I have a lot of stuff to move; my knapsack/pillow thing, another pillow (if I’m going to sit here every day for six weeks, I’m going to be comfortable), water, my chips and my table card. So I get my new table card and am lugging all this stuff across the room. When I’m about 15 yards from the table the dealer, who was about to pitch the first card, spies me and decides to sit there and wait for me. I don’t think there’s another dealer in the world who wouldn’t have dealt without me. So I get to the table with all my stuff and she’s bugging me to put up my ante so they can play a hand, like I’m holding things up. So I put everything on the floor except my chips and play an important pot without being remotely settled. The game is razz and there’s an ace, 2 and 7 out and I have A-2-7. Big hand! I raise and Shirley Rosario re-raises on my left. On 4th I catch a jack and she a 5, the livest baby out there and which I’m pretty sure paired her. I call and end up making an 8 by 6th. Shirley keep catching babies and betting into me. Turns out she did pair the 5, but made a wheel on the river anyway. Sigh! I’m still not settled, lost half my stack in a hand I should never have been dealt in, and look around to see a killer table: Shirley, Brett Richey, Huck Seed, Jennifer Harmon, John Monette and a big stack I didn’t recognize.
While I’m still trying to get ready I’m dealt 4-5-7. The big stack raises with a 9 up and several babies behind. I had to check to make sure I’d been playing the right game! (The razz play throughout this event is horrid, one of the reasons I love the event.) I re-raised, caught two bad ones while he caught good and had that familiar sinking feeling. In limit hold’em I raised with JJ and got called by Brett. I bet the flop of 3 undercards and got called. Ace on the turn and I lose most of my remaining chips to AQ. They finished me off in stud 8 when I had an over pair against two opponents, and they both made 2-pair on the river while I missed.
I was very tired and irritated, so what do I do? Entering the late event, the $2500 PLH/PLO sounded like a good idea. I’m not a tilter at the table, but this decision was kind of tilty. I got there about halfway through the 1st level and proceed to sit there for an hour and a half without picking up a real hand. I was steaming, and could have gone off by playing questionable hands, but maintained my patience. It was an unusual table as there were only two Russians. One of them was one of the original Reds, Kirill Gerasimov, who finished 2nd to Alan Goehring in the WPT season one championship event in 2001. Now there are more Russians at the Rio than in Dr. Zhivago and War and Peace combined!
The late events have only a 30-minute dinner break, which I like because it gets us out by 2 am. I don’t eat big dinners anyway, but I needed something so I decided to walk up to Buzios and get some quick oysters or chowder. I sat at the counter and tried to get the attention of the waiter, who was joking around with some customers on the other end. I tried to get his attention and he looked at me like I was a homeless guy looking for old newspapers. He finally threw a menu at me and walked away to the other end where he was folding setups into napkins. I yelled, waved, pleaded for him to come back and take my order but it appeared he wasn’t interested. Since I wouldn’t trust him with my food now anyway, I walked out. I’ll tell you, when you run bad!
I hurried down to the Poker Kitchen and grabbed a Chicken Caesar wrap. It sounded good, and probably would be if freshly made, but when the croutons sit in the there for a few hours they get kind of gross.
A kid joined me and we started talking. His name was Dilyan and he’s a poker pro from Bulgaria. Bulgaria! There are pros from Bulgaria now? Jesus, there’s poker everywhere and the place where it started is trying to stamp it out. I asked him if Bulgaria is a nice country. He said only if you like beautiful mountains, beautiful beaches and beautiful women. I’m in! If Harrahs is set on spreading WSOP bracelets around the world, how about a WSOP Bulgaria? Winner gets to spend some time in Sophia. That’s the capital city, for those of you with dirty minds. And while we’re at it, I’ve heard some good things about Ecuador. The new Costa Rica. Hell, the old Costa Rica ain’t bad. WSOP Quito! Anybody got the number for Ecuador Air? Dilyan made the FT of the 3k PLO. Bet he won some flips.
I came back to sit for another hour without a hand. My tablemates must have been ready to give me the nit-of-the-year award. I finally picked up Jh-Th-8d-7d, a big PLO hand. A guy limped, a Russian raised, I called from the BB and the limper re-potted. The Russian folded and I figured I was probably getting the right odds to put it all in, and I haven’t been doing too well with the best hand, so I called. The raiser show Ah-Ac-8h-4d. I was about 45% pre-flop, 55% after the J-J-9 flop, and 0% after the river. Time for a little break.
Tonight’s the razz event, one of my favorites. The past four years I haven’t been able to play it because I’ve been in Day 2 or 3 of another event. Not a problem this year! And I’m pretty good at not making hands, so this is right up my alley. After what I’ve been through the past four weeks, I hope there’s a happy ending in here somewhere.
When I’m running bad and come back after taking a little break it reminds me of joke I’ll close with:
Guy dies, goes to Hell and is met by an assistant devil, who tells him he must choose how he wishes to spend eternity. He takes him into a room where people are tied to racks and are being stretched. Nah. In another room people are being tarred and feathered. I’ll wait. In the 3rd room a bunch of guys are standing around in shit up to their knees smoking cigarettes. That me! The assistant devil leaves, bolts the door and a different one comes in and says, “Ok, break’s over, back on your heads!”