Can You Say W-S-O-P?!!
Last night, I won a seat in the 2006 World Series of Poker.
I don't even know where to begin this story. Let's go back real quick to the beginning. It's January of this year, and I begin thinking about this year's WSOP. But when I go to check out the schedule for this year's event, I am dismayed to see that the Main Event, the thing all of us out there in poker bloggerland want to play in deep down, has been extended this year to handle anticipated demand, such that it is now a full two-week event start to finish. And that my friends simply does not work with my work schedule, nor with the work schedules of most people I know. So playing in the Main Event was not an option for me right from the beginning, much to my disappointment.
Although I don't recall seeing much satelliteage into the non-Main Event WSOP tournaments in 2005, in March of this year, I begin to see these ads for "Bracelet Races" during my visits to fulltilt, which were becoming more frequent at that time as ftp was working its way on to my nightly radar. So I investigated. By the time April came around and the Bracelet Races were in full force, I was hooked. Not only was I playing for a spot in the premiere poker tournament a guy in my situation could play in, but the timing of the events (weekdays are at 9pm and some nights at midnight as well, ET) was perfect given my own personal schedule.
Long story short, ftp has been running nightly Bracelet Races, at least 9 tourneys per week as I understand it, which guarantee at least two seats per event in the $1500 buyin WSOP event of the winner's choosing, plus $500 cash money as part of the 2k total prize package. Most nights the buyin is a regular $26 ftp token, but there are some larger buyin Bracelet Races as well to choose from. This is right up my alley, as I would desperately love to play in the WSOP this year, but could only take one or two days tops in which to win my six-figure score and my eternal WSOP bracelet. So I've played in a number of these, along with many of you out there. Smokkee and Drewspop have done a number of these with me, as has Change100 as well as my man drraz who many of you know from our weekly Mondays at the Hoy (MATH) tournament on Monday nights at 10pm ET. Until this week, my best finish in an ftp Bracelet Race has been 35th, and for the most part I have not done as well in these particular MTTs as I've felt I should have, including frankly quite a few examples of pure donkery from me, culminating in last Sunday's early bustout on a Hammer reraise against a fish who I had already previously noted does not raise without having a real hand.
After last Sunday's Bracelet Race humiliation, in front of Change100 and Dr. Pauly himself to boot, I had a real heart to heart with myself. I told myself that I definitely take very seriously the chance to play in a $1500 wsop event. I told myself that I recognize that now, as the Ides of June are upon us, time is truly beginning to run out if I hope to win a seat. The wsop starts on Monday June 26, and the first $1500 nlh event is Day 2, on Tuesday the 27th of this month. Just 12 days away now, leaving really just a week or so tops for me to stake my claim to a seat, or face putting off the dream for another year. I hated that thought, but I made a commitment to myself several weeks ago that I'm not buying in to any poker tournament with a $1000 buyin or more. No way. Even with the 10k I won in the party 40k guaranteed tournament last month, most of that money is unavailable now, earmarked for much more important things than a large buyin to a poker tournament that will largely be comprised of players better than myself. In my view, despite my recent successes, my roll is nowhere near big enough to justify dropping a grand or two on one wsop tournament buyin. So I was going to have to win a seat sometime this week, or sweep the dream under the rug for one more year.
My first chance to log on before the 9pm ET start time was Tuesday night. I managed to final table the WWdN while also final tabling the Bracelet Race, but I was unceremoniously bounced in 8th place out of 242 players in the Bracelet Race, with just the top 3 spots getting their seats. I was disappointed with that result for sure, as bubbling like that never feels good. But I was also encouraged. It was by far my best Bracelet Race performance yet, and after getting so close I was actually really looking forward to spending the rest of this week playing in as many more of these things as I could.
I didn't have to wait long, as I returned from the gym on Wednesday night at about 9:01pm ET according to the clock in my
Ugh. Another bubbly performance as my time is really running low to win my way in to one of these things. Yet again, I also felt a strange sense of calm, almost of confidence, after managing for the second time in two days to last far into this thing despite once again not getting much at all in the way of good cards. I tucked that feeling away for the time being, and instead focused on the weekly Mookie tournament, sans Mookie of course who is off in Las Vegas winning some real cash money in a real card room IRL. Long story short, although my mind remained mostly focused on the possibility of winning a seat into the wsop within the next few days, I managed to final table the Mookie just one day after final tabling the WWdN. I believe this is 3 Mookie final tables out of the last 4 events, although I might be making that up. Unfortunately I ended up going out in 6th place, one spot from the money, so more bubblage for me, but I got rediculously beat on my last two hands consecutively, including me running my KQ on a King-high flop into a slow-played AK to eliminate me on the bubble, so I feel very pleased with another final table performance out of 31 players who started the tournament:
And, congrats to Smokkee, who won another of these blogger events in a big way, amassing a huge chip lead after the final five battled it out long and hard over about 45 minutes of trading chips back and forth amongst the players:
OK. So I had near-bubbled yet again in the 9pm ET Bracelet Race, and then I final tabled the Mookie, getting eliminated at 11:46pm ET. Over the next 13 minutes my eyes could not seem to keep from lingering on the 11:59pm ET Bracelet Race on full tilt (what I think of as the West Coast version, kinda like the old WWdN Thursday tourneys), and sure enough, just a minute before the 11:59pm kickoff, I was registered. Normally I don't ever start new tournaments at midnight. But something about this one just felt different. I had been playing very well in my last two Bracelet Races, and I planned to continue my approach in this event, hopefully riding it to a $1500 wsop seat, at long last. And the structure of this particular tournament was by far the most favorable -- one wsop seat would be awarded for every 10 players in the tournament. With 70 people signed up and starting promptly at midnight, that would mean that 7 seats were up for grabs. I just needed to end in the top 10%, and I would have the opportunity to play for a silver bracelet. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars likely to be awarded as the first prize in the event.
My card dead ways definitely followed me in the midnight Bracelet Race on Wednesday. I ended up seeing just over 7% of the flops throughout the entire tournament, which as you know is an abomination as compared to my usual percentages. I simply have not been getting cards, in particular where it counts, when I need them. But I was no longer put off by my lack of good playable hands. It's been several days in a row now of me getting almost every pot that I win solely by relying on my reads, making well-timed steals, and just generally playing the other players rather than playing the cards in my hand. And I'm getting used to it, and I had done very well under this structure already twice this week, so it's not like I was lacking in confidence. I stole a lot of pots. Although I mentioned I saw just over 7% of flops in this event overall, I did manage to win close to 21% of the hands dealt at my table throughout the event as well. 21%. If you think about it, that is a downright nasty statistic. I was getting no cards to speak of, but was still managing to win more than one-fifth of the total hands dealt at my table all night long.
Stealing and bluffing in the right spots, acting when my opponents were giving off the vibes that they were weak, avoiding the largest stacks where at all possible, and not making many crucial mistakes, that was my game in the midnight Bracelet Race last night. That's the way I managed to stick around the middle of the pack, preserving my tournament existence, once half the field of 70 original players had been eliminated, even managing to increase my position to the top third of the field as we crossed the 30 players left mark.
I also kept my cool, even in the face of the inevitable bullshit beats that have plagued me so badly over the past few days. After this hand:
turned into this on the flop:
I suddenly found myself down near the bottom of the barrel in 21st out of 24 players remaining, and basically feeling like it was just about time to go to sleep. But I perservered, in a way that even I usually do not manage to keep my cool, until around 12 hands later when I found AK, ran into a totally raggy flop, and then faced what amounted to an allin bet from my opponent:
I had sat and played with this guy for some time at this table, and I quickly made the determination, even before the flop came out, that he had been holding just two high cards. Which obviously did not hit at all on this totally raggy flop. So when he pushed all these chips at me, representing more than anything else some kind of medium pocket pair, I just had to follow all the professionals' advice and stick with my first impression, which was that he had two high cards only and was bluffing at this pot. So I called, and he showed:
And I had doubled up, taking me off of the hottest part of the hot seat anyways, at least for the time being. In fact, a few hands later when there were just 20 players remaining, I was in 7th place out of 20 left, leaving me right on the last spot to win a seat, if the tournament were to end right then.
My best bluff of the tournament occurred here, where I sensed my opponent's fear on the turn card, and my spidey senses were going crazy, keenly suggesting to me that my opponent not only could not beat a flush, but really thought I had made my own flush on the turn card. He went from aggressively betting preflop and on the flop, to straight up checking the turn (I checked behind him) when the third heart fell. So, when he bet about half the pot on the river card, I decided to once again following my instincts and show him the exact behavior I could just tell he was fearful of from the turn card:
This was a big bluff win for me and got me up into 4th place out of 16 remaining players:
This was the first time I had been solidly within the top 7 (places that win a wsop seat) in the entire tournament, which by this time had run two full hours, and for the first time I began to entertain the very real possibility that I could be going to the world series of poker. For real! But I also knew there was a whole lot more poker left to be played. I just had to make the best of this opportunity -- 4th out of 16 chip stacks, with the top 7 all getting the wsop seat. I could do this.
As you might imagine, the action screwed down real tight as we neared the final table and the 7 wsop payout seats. I continued to avoid confrontations with the larger stacks, and executed one more huge bluff after my opponent bet the pot on the a raggy flop where I was again sure he had seen the flop with just two high cards. I had middle-pair-decent-kicker, and I reraised him allin, putting my tournament life on the line. He quick-folded, and I shot up to 1st out of 11 players remaining:
Could this really be happening? Miami Don was there on the rail, watching the last hour or two of this satellite, so I knew this whole thing was for real. But would I really be able to withstand the pushfest and hang on through what was sure to be a hideously long bubble period to win my first major live tournament seat? I was afraid I would lose it when I called a guy that I just knew was stealing with nothing, getting all his chips in in this scenario:
and then this flop hit the board:
I mean, even in a steal situation, who the F raises allin with 94o right near the bubble of a major satellite tournament? Groth911t, that's who. And so I was nearly tilted once again, a terrible thing to be with just 2 spots left before the final table, and 4 spots left before the wsop seat payout spots. But somehow I again managed to remain calm (relatively), until flopped trips helped me to get back the stack I wanted to be able to remain in the hunt.
11th place eventually went out on this bloggericious hand:
and with ten players remaining, the true final table bubble, I was able to really crack out my aggression stick, which generated folds from everyone else at the table almost immediately as no one was willing to take a chance and miss out on the final table and the good chance at the wsop seats. This is a great time to be aggressive in nlh MTTs -- almost any pro will tell you that as well -- and it really worked for me here, resulting in a high of 24000+ chips for me, easily in the lead among the 10 remaining players:
And finally, after about 45 solid minutes of bubble time, 10th place moved in with A7o and got called by AQ:
and I had made it back to the final table, my second Bracelet Race final table in the past two days, but this time I was in 3rd place out of the 9 players remaining, and this time I only had to outlast two more players to win my seat:
Two more players. Two more players. That's what I kept telling myself. Here the play was tighter than I have ever seen before. We probably went 20 or 30 hands at a time without any two players both calling to see a flop together. Everyone wanted to just wait for the short stacks to go out, and they, in turn, steal-raised more or less Every Single Time it was folded around to them, regardless of their position and regardless of the cards they were holding. And every time the short stakcs were successful in this endeavor, the total of the large blinds plus the ever-growing antes would usually be enough to pop them out of last place temporarily, and out of imminent danger of being blinded out. So the focus of the table really turned more to not letting the two shortest stacks at our table have any chance to steal a pot. The rest of the larger stacks at the table really seemed to get this, too, as we all collaborated on a couple of occasions to make sure it would be as difficult as possible for the shorties to get back into the game.
If you're interested, you can view my stats for the entire tournament as of 10 players remaining. Again you will notice the 8% of flops seen, and the nearly 20% of hands won at that time, most of which were won preflop without any dispute.
Finally after three eternities, the short stack at the table moved in with ATo, and was called by a larger stack. Unfortunately, the larger stack flipped over a dominated A6o, and it looked like we were heading for more of the same. But then fortunately, ftp delivered. Let's call this a pokerstars special for posterity's sake:
And we were down to 8, just one spot away from winning the wsop seat, with me solidly in second place of the remaining players! I just kept telling myself not to do anything stoopid, and to fold if I was in any doubt at all that I held the best hand in the case of any preflop pushfest showdown here on the wsop seat bubble.
Mercifully, we played only 9 poker hands on the bubble, before the new short stack at the table found himself with just 2600 chips left, and with blinds of 800-1600 and a 200 chip ante, this left his M at just over 0.80, easily in push-only territory. When he found 66, he had to push. And thankfully someone with some ballz at our table called with a cripey hand, but one which happened to have two overs and therefore was an almost even shot to take the hand down and put the rest of us out of our misery:
and with this board:
I was going to the World Series of Poker!! When all was said and done, I finished the tournament in 2nd place out of 70 entrants:
Now I just have to (1) figure out which event I'd like to play, (2) find a way to get the time off from work to go and attend that event, and (3) figure out how to convince the ever-understanding Hammer Wife that this is something she should support. I would normally try the "once-in-a-lifetime" route, but in this case I'm not so sure I want to swear off ever going back for a run at the Main Event in some other year where I feel like I have more ability to take an extended, impromptu vacation to attend, or just heading back for another of the smaller events, some side game action, etc. All I know is, I am still sitting on cloud 9 here and I cannot believe I'm actually going to go and play in the real-life World Series of Poker!!
See you at the WSOP!!! WooHoooooo!!!!!