WSOP 2006 Event #3 ~ Pot Limit Holdem

Pot limit holdem is my favourite poker game. It combines the structure of limit with the bluffing opportunities of no limit ~ so you can be creative with your play, without going broke quite as quickly if you make a mistake. I learned to play PLH in London, where it is the main game played by holdem players there, and quickly came to prefer it to both limit and no limit poker. With the hours I’ve put in to PLH over the last couple of years it should, in theory, be my best game ~ or so I was hoping when I entered the first of four PLH tournaments to be held during this year’s WSOP.

The tournament kicked off yesterday at noon with a field of just over 1,100 players, less than half the previous day’s record number. “Only 1100?” joked John Juanda who was at my starting table. “Well I’ll definitely be winning this one then.” (As it happens, he is well on the way to doing just that, having made the final table with a healthy chip stack). He didn’t make much of a start before our table broke, however, and neither did I in what was an uneventful first few levels.

On moving to my new seat I found myself facing not one but a table full of serious pros: Allen Cunningham, Toto Leonidas, Rocky Enciso, and Mimi Tran were all seated together, and all had chip stacks that my modest pile would barely make a dent in. Against this competition, and with rising blinds, I needed to win a pot (or three) quickly or I would be out.

My first attempt came quickly, and was a classic race between my A-Q and a pair of fours which initially looked like doubling me up after I flopped a queen, but the board also brought a jack, ten, nine, and finally an eight to give us both the straight and split the pot. As if to make up for this bad fortune, when I pushed all in with A-J a few hands later and was called by both pocket eights and A-K, I was lucky enough to find two jacks on the flop and nearly triple up.

I then went on a bit of a rush which saw me go from just over 2,000 chips to almost 19,000 in less than two hours. Toto Leonidas was my main victim, doubling me up twice when playing weak aces for a reraise and finding himself dominated by my stronger holdings, and I busted him late in the 6th level. Then Allen Cunningham doubled me up with pocket threes against my tens, and finally I picked up pocket kings no less than three times in an hour ~ once taking out Brandon Adams, and once splitting a mammoth pot with another player’s pocket kings. By the time we broke for dinner I was elated to find myself well ahead of the chip average with around 200 players left.

While I was moving from weak to strong, both Mimi and Allen had shifted in the opposite direction, and both busted out in the same dramatic hand just before the money. Although Allen had some hands and was up and down (including one lucky escape where he called for all his chips with only two overcards but hit an ace on the river to double up), Mimi basically went card dead, folding virtually every hand for close to two hours. When she finally picked up pocket aces and reraised Allen all in, Rocky Enciso had enough chips to call them both with A-K, and hit a straight to take the pot and take them out.

The empty places at the table were quickly filled by a short stacked Erick Lindgren and chip leader Randy Jensen, neither of whom would fare well in what became an action-filled final stage to the day’s play. Erick’s few chips were soon snapped up by Rocky in another three-way all in pot, and Randy made some horrible plays and then went on tilt to throw away half his 60,000 stack. Can Kim Hua, who had also joined the table, was among the players who benefited, quietly adding to his monster stack.

I steered clear of much of this late action and managed to finish up the day with 20,000 in chips, just under the average and sitting around the middle of the 71 players left in the field ~ OK, but hardly comfortable with blinds starting at 1,000-2,000 the next day. Returning on day 2, I found that the table draw had me sitting just to the left of the relentlessly aggressive Victor Ramdin, who proceeded to raise almost every pot. Despite showing down some fairly marginal hands he eliminated three players in quick succession (including Erica Schoenberg, the only other woman left in the tournament), and I knew I would be next if I didn’t do something. So when I found K- Q on the button after a raise from Victor in the cutoff, I decided to push all in. Unfortunately for me, the big blind woke up with pocket queens to send me to the rail.

44th place and the highest finishing woman isn’t bad, and it’s great to have another cash in the WSOP ~ though of course it would have been nice to go further. Perhaps tomorrow’s 6-handed no limit tournament will be the one.