To say that I have been running bad is an understatement. I have now seen how streaky tournament play can be. Coming into the WSOP(World Series of Poker), I had only one final table for the year. My personal life has also been turbulent as well. I have become divorced and sold my practice in Paducah. Thus I find myself presently homeless and unemployed. I feel like a true road gambler. However, despite the immediate disarray in my life, I have a job lined up in Mississippi, and I look forward to putting many of my past problems behind me. The sale of my clinic has given me a bit of a bankroll to play on, while I wait for my Mississippi license to come through. So here I am at the WSOP.
I don’t have the money to play all the events here at the WSOP, so I have been focusing mostly on Hi-Lo events and some mixed games with a few Hold-em events mixed in, avoiding all of the limit Hold-em events. I have also been playing super-satellites. I came very close in the first super-satellite I played. I finished third, when they gave away only two seats. I moved in from the big blind with pocket 5’s against the small blind. He faded the bet with pocket Kings, which he had also had, when we were heads up in the blinds last round. Luckily I flopped my set, but for me excitement didn’t last long, as the King fell on the turn and I was done. I still took in over $2000 for third, which paid for the Omaha 8 tournament.
The only tournament I went deep in was the ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล event, which is Hold-em, Omaha 8, Razz, Stud, and Stud 8. I got off to a great start. I had Huck Seed sitting on my left. He was really firing it up, but I actually won a few decent pots off of him. The field was about 120 people, and it was a who’s who of poker. Our table broke and I found myself at a table that starting from my left had Phil Ivey, Eskimo Clark, David Chiu, Chris Bjorn, and Vince Burgio. I was actually very pleased with how I fared against Ivey. However every time I built a stack, I went card-dead. I never won a single hand in Stud. I entered two pots the first round, once with Aces and another tine with Queens. The next two rounds of stud I never entered a pot, except for bring-ins and one steal in last position before the low card after it was folded to me. I had nothing that was playable. I still somehow managed to get down to the top thirty, but I just couldn’t get a hand. I eventually had to just start pushing my short stack in with anything as the antes went up, when I finally busted out. Doyle Brunson won the event, showing that he still has what it takes.
I left Vegas and headed back to Kentucky to take care of things, and I returned a week later. I got off the plane and headed straight for the Horseshoe tournament area, buying into the super-satellite. I busted out and decided to go check into my room. For some reason I came back for the second-chance tournament late at 11:45PM when it started at 11:00. This is a late night $225 buy-in no-limit Hold-em event that gives you 1000 starting chips. Warren Karp was kind enough to let me in at the last minute. Three hands into the event, which I didn’t start until the 3rd level, I picked up pocket Aces in early position, and made it $250 to go with the blinds 50-100. I picked up two callers, and moved in after a Jack-10-x flop with both players calling. I tripled up, and I was off and running with that. I ended up chopping the first three places, and I made $5000. I was awarded first place, because I had a few thousand more than the next guy, who was Brian Plona.
I had a chance to talk with Brian, and he turned out to be a Poker School Online Student, who finally decided to give it a shot at the WSOP. We had a nice talk about the site and poker. I told him I wrote articles on Pokerpages. He said he didn’t recognize me at first, until I reminded him about the content of my articles. Then he indicated that he might have read them, probably just to get me off of his back. I started to feel like Max Shapiro, trying to get people to acknowledge his literary skills. (By the way I read everything he writes, except his book). Nonetheless, $5000 is a good start to a poker trip. We could both agree on that.
I was really looking forward to playing the $1500 Limit Omaha Event, because I play it almost exclusively in the Paducah home-games, but I couldn’t get anything going in that event. The only highlight was having a chance to mix it up with Amarillo Slim Preston, who was on my left. He is so much fun to play with. I won a hand off of him, when the board paired the top card, which I held and he folded to my bet. There were no other exciting hands, and I was out in time to play the 4PM super-satellite. Again I got down to three-handed, when there were two seats to be given away. We were all pretty even in chips, and I moved with K-Q suite in the big blind against pocket 6’s. I caught the Queen on the flop, but lost to a set on the river. I am two two-outers away from a seat in the big one now. I was desperately looking for my luck to change.
It didn’t change in the Omaha 8 event either. I was up a quick 500, but then I didn’t win a single hand for the next hour and I was busted, possibly first. I actually think I played decent hands. I just couldn’t hit a flop or a draw when I got close on the flop.
With all the hold-em I was playing in the supers and the second-chances, I actually was feeling better about my hold-em game, so I decided to play the $2000 Pot-Limit Hold-em Event on Saturday, May 3rd. I was getting off to another crappy start. David Pham, the second ranked player for Player of the Year right now, was playing very aggressively. I decided to call his under the gun raise with 9-10o from the button. He had been raising with a lot of crap hands himself from any position, so I decided to take a flop. It came 9-x-x. He bet and I moved in, figuring my pair to be best. He thought for a long time and moved in with me, showing K-9. Oops, I didn’t expect that. If I would have had a coat, I would have been putting it on, but I rivered a 10 and I was back up to 3000. I had the honor of busting my first former World Champion of the day, when Huck Seed raised from the button, when I was in the big blind. He had been playing so wild, that I figured him for a random hand, and he only had 125. With my blind at 50, it was an easy call with my 6-8. Oops again, he had pocket Queens. No problem I made a straight on the river, and he was out.
Naturally, the way I playing at that time, it wasn’t long before I started losing chips and I found myself at 1400 again. I was expecting to be in the super-satellite real soon. I almost got up and registered. I picket up an A-Q, and raised. I flopped an Ace, and I moved in, only to be doubled up by a guy who called with a flush draw, that missed. This took me back up over 3000, and our table broke. Now I was two to the left of Johnny Chan. I had never played with him before. He had already won an event at this year’s WSOP. I picked up A-K suited under the gun and bet the pot, only to be called by Chan in the small blind and the big blind. The flop came with all rags. It was checked to me and I bet the pot again, and they folded. One round later, I had my Rounders moment. Johnny made it 300 under the gun with the blinds 50-100. I called two positions to his left with pocket 8’s. The board flopped K-4-5 with two diamonds. He checked. I figured that he could have anything from A-Q to a set. So I welcomed the free card, thankful that I didn’t have to contemplate a bet. The turn brought an 8 and a second heart on the board. He bet 500, and I decided to move in, just in case he had a flush draw. He came over the top for a few hundred more than my original raise, giving me concerns that he might have trapped me with a set of Kings. I wasn’t folding, so I called and showed him my two 8’s, legitimately asking him, if they were any good. He nodded yes, showing me his pocket Aces. I was now on my way. So by eluding Johnny Chan’s attempted trap, I was able to get him to trap himself.
With the thrill of busting Johnny fresh on my mind, I was moved into the section of tables that were last to break. I had Ralph Perry on my left. I wrote about him in my third article titled, “The Amateur’s Tale Part 3: Is Jack Keller Anyone I Should Know?” I described a very aggressive player, who I handled by check-raise bluffing a lot. He seemed to respect that move from me, when I was in early position. He finally busted me after I made the money, finishing 17th. He had Q-10, while I had A-9 suited. The chips went in when the flop came A-Q-10. I was not at all surprised to see him at the final table of the 2002 Main Event of the WSOP, as I have a lot of respect for his play. He was on my immediate left and he was the only stack to be as big as mine at that table. Every time I raised him from the button or the blind he would come back over the top of me and I would lay it down. He usually would respect a raise back at him, but I hadn’t wanted to move in with any of my hands. I had built my stack to about 15,000 on the strength of pocket Queens all-in that held up against A-K. Ralph was at around 12,000, getting most of his money by reraising any late position raiser, who came after his blinds. I was tired of getting pushed around by him, so I decided to only raise him with hands that I could make a stand with.
We found ourselves heads-up in the blinds yet again and I raised him with K-5 suited in hearts, ( Yes, I know that’s not a hand to make a stand with) and as predicted he came over the top of me. I just couldn’t believe that he actually held a great hand all six times he had done this with me, so I reraised him big, making it 10,000 to go. Oops, he called. I hated the call. I had a huge stack and I just tangled with only other big stack at the table. The flop came A-J-x, with two hearts. I moved in hopping he had an under pair, but he beat me into the pot. Oops, he had A-Q, and I had only a flush draw. I called for the heart, and a black Queen came next. I called again for a heart and the river was a disappointing diamond. Then someone said, “Straight.” It was a ten. I didn’t even see that I had picket up a straight draw. Ralph flinched. He wouldn’t let the dealer push me the pot. He just sat there and looked at the board. Oops, I had over 27,000 in chips.
I was moved to Danny Negreanu’s table. Danny is a PokerSchool Online instructor. He had a mountain of chips. I got into some trouble briefly when I bluffed into Mickey Appelman’s meager stack with J-10o, after he made a button raise into my big blind. Then an Ace flopped, and I put him all-in, hoping that I could represent the Ace that Mickey himself actually had. Oops, now Mickey had chips thanks to my generosity, he made very good use of them. I was able to catch a set of sixes later, after limping on the button, when another had limped. It was a dangerous board of 5-6-8 with two hearts. Danny Negreanu bet, and Scott O’Brien, most known for his second place finish to John Juanda in the 2001 WPO Main Event, came over the top. I was now quite wary of my set in light of the scary board I faced, but I decided to make the play, and I raised it over 10,000, and everyone dropped. Scott told me he had 8-7. There was no way I could ever justify slow playing that hand. You have to move in with the hand. You cannot let a straight draw or flush draw have a shot at you. If you are beat, then you’re beat.
After that I went on a run. We slowly eliminated players to get into the money, and then I started busting people. I busted Jacks with A-K. I busted pocket 8’s with my pocket 9’s, catching a set on the flop. Then I busted 9’s with my 8’s, when I flopped another set. This was already my first money finish at the WSOP, but with a stack of over 50,000 I wanted a final table. I was careful not to get out of line against other big stacks as we waited for the last small stack at the other table to fall. When that happened, I was 4th in chips. Outside of one small stack, everyone had enough chips to maneuver at the next day’s final table.
Guess who else was at the final table with Dan Negreanu and myself. None other than the PokerSchool Online Graduate, Brian Plona. It was Brian’s second lifetime major event. He started with 31,400 in chips, I had 50,800, and the biggest stack, belonging to Michael Carson was only a little more than mine at 74,000. Ian Dobson had the second biggest stack and busted the short stack of Roger Easterday, with his A-2 against Roger’s A-K, when Ian rivered a deuce. It was clear that Ian was going to get out of line, and he didn’t last terribly long. I got involved in a big hand when Ian raised my small blind. I came over the top for about 10,000 more with pocket 10’s. Ken Jacobs also came into the pot with a very short stack, after Danny made a set of 7’s against his pocket Aces a few hands earlier. Ian called my raise. The flop came 9-8-5, and I moved in at the side pot. Ian thought for a long time, which convinced me that he didn’t have me beat, but I knew he had to have outs to beat my holding. Ian eventually folded, and Ken took the main pot when his pocket Jacks held up. I lost about 10,000, but at least I didn’t get busted with my tens.
Michael Carson, went on a tear busting Ken Jacobs who took his under-pair against Michael’s over-pair. Michael also busted Ian Dobson, and now Michael had nearly half of the chips in play. Then things started to go badly for Danny. His student at Poker School Online, became his nemesis. Danny would raise, and he would run into a reraise from Brian who was on my immediate right. On another hand I picked up Aces, and Danny had raised into me. I smooth called. The flop came A-K-9. I made a small 6000 bet. I expected Danny to put me on a bluff, because he had seen me bluff several times. The turn brought a scary Jack, that allowed for draws to a flush or a straight, if he didn’t already have one. Danny Checked and I bet all-in. Danny thought for a long time. He started commenting on my play. “Normally this is an easy laydown, but this is Doc. He could have pocket 6’s or something.”
What an insulting compliment. I was glad to have him guessing. That’s the one good thing about bluffing into Mickey Appleman with J-10. I actually had Danny contemplating a call against my set of Aces. He eventually mucked and I showed the Aces. Danny did have a live straight draw, and I wasn’t letting him get there for free.
Danny was finished off by Brian. They were heads-up in the blind. The flop came A-J-5 all in spades. Brian had raised before the flop. The flop was checked. Danny bet the turn and Brian raised. Danny was flustered, but eventually called, showing the A-6, and Brian had only pocket 7’s, but one of his 7’s was a spade, and it was larger than Danny’s 6 of spades. A 4 of spades hit the river and Danny went out in 6th place.
The play got tight after that. It was two hours before another player went all-in. It was Michael Carson with a mountain of chips, and the rest of us jockeying for the rest. At one point I pulled ahead of everyone else getting close to 80,000. I was trying to be more aggressive, since everyone else was playing so tightly. Then I started to get caught, and I found my stack dwindling to 30,000. Brian was making a lot of pot size raises for 10,500, but I was often able to come over the top for the pot, and he would let it go. We found ourselves heads-up in the blinds, and I was holding A-8. He raised my blind for about the 5th straight time, so I moved in expecting another fold. Instead he moved in with K-Q suited in spades. I had a bad feeling even though I was slightly ahead. The flop came J-10-7, with the J-10 in spades. He flopped a straight-flush draw. Now he was the favorite. The turn was a red deuce, but the river was an 8 of spades. Brian jumped up jubilantly, as the card fell. I graciously accepted the defeat, and we shook hands. We had developed a friendship over the course of the week. He had introduced me to his family who had begun to pull for both of us. The dinner break came one hand later, and his mother came over to me, teary eyed and apologetic, and gave me a hug. I told it was OK. That’s how poker is played. I was now a Brian Plona fan. They call him shag, and I told him what I thought his image was at the table, and recommended that he adjust to that perception. Now I would sit with his mother and family and root for Brian, The Poker School Online protege.
I was frustrated with my own play, as I lost patience. This day belonged to the patient ones. I watched as the small-stacked Mickey Appelman and Paul McKinney patiently waited for hands. They along with Brian busted Michael Carson, as he finished fourth. At the end it was down to Brian and Mickey Appelman, who I built up by bluffing into him earlier.. I advised Brain on making a deal with Mickey. They left most of the money in play for first, but saved a little for second. Brian had gained the lead for a while, but lost two decisive hands, once taking an A-9 into a Q-J. When the flop came J-9-8. The chips went in, and Mickey dragged the pot and the lead. Brian finally put the rest of his chips in with a K-7 against A-K, and succumbed to the hand that dominated him preflop. It was a great first time out for Brian and he held it together so well. He’ll be heard from again.
Still I have to be concerned about that damn PokerSchool Online. The PokerSchool Online is the reason Brian was there today, and he busted Danny and myself. Soon we may be faced with an army of new poker players. It’s gonna get tougher. The new players are going to play a more solid game, and make some big scores. They know what the good hands are, and know when to push them. It was clear that Brian was not going to put his chips in when he was taking the worse of it; Except for the two flush draws that he beat Danny and myself with. He achieved in two events what has taken me 13 WSOP events to do, and that’s make a WSOP final table. When Brian started to lose chips, he didn’t melt down, like I hoped he would. He played a solid game. Tournament poker will only get more difficult, if they all play as well as he does.
For myself this is a dream come true. I have always wanted to make a WSOP final table, and I finally did it. Strangely I am not nearly as thrilled at this moment in time as I was in 2001, when I walked out onto my first final table in stud 8 at the WPO in Tunica. I couldn’t sleep, because I was so excited that I won my first satellite back then. Today my excitement is tempered by the fact that it has cost me over $26,000 in entry fees at the WSOP to get to this one $18,000 score. I am sobered by the fact that I caught a three-outer early, to avoid elimination. I benefited from Johnny Chan’s slow-played Aces to catch a set and bust him. Then I completely miscalculated against Ralph Perry, only to bust him, because of my mistake, and become a chip leader. It was nice to get lucky this time. I still think I played well most of the time, but I still had to take the worst of it on a few hands and survive, and I won all of my coin tosses til my last hand. But people were hitting three outers on me like crazy before, so I guess it all comes around. My conclusion is that this is a wonderful hobby, but I will never let my life hang on the turn of a card.