The End of the Beginning

We’ve finally come to the end of the preliminary tournaments that lead up to the Championship tournament of the WSOP, and the most anticipated event of the poker year has now begun. I’m not scheduled to play until tomorrow so have been spending some time resting and trying to recover from the poker overdose of the last four weeks, preparing for the gruelling days to come. This has been the most intensive period of poker I’ve ever played, and the long hours have taken their toll ~ after three days away from the tables, I’m only just starting feeling human again. And it’s not just the physical strain either. In a good indication of my poker-addled state of mind, when Andy Black asked me how I was going the other day I immediately rattled off my chip tally in the day’s tournament. “No”, he laughed, “I mean how are you going?”. So some time out has definitely been a good thing. On top of the much-needed R&R this week, a decent cash in the final holdem event before the Big One has been a timely boost to my confidence.

Poker highlights from the last week or so have been the $2,500 and $5,000 Pot Limit Holdem events (I seem to do best at my favourite game), and of course cashing in the $1,500 No Limit Holdem. Lowlights included a very quick exit from the $5,000 No Limit Holdem Short-Handed event after finding pocket queens in the small blind but running into aces, and an excruciating 5-hour stint in the Limit Holdem Shootout in which I never made it much past my starting stack before an ignominious exit.

But back to the highlights. I went deep in both the pot limit tournaments, twice finishing just out of the money ~ the first time through bad luck, and the second time through bad play. Short-stacked in the $2,500 event and facing an aggressive player who stole my big blind from the cutoff every round, I decided to take a stand with the first decent hand I’d seen in an hour and pushed all-in. Unfortunately my pocket tens were no match for his pocket kings, and I was out. In the $5,000 pot limit tournament, I’d made a bad start and took some early losses at the toughest starting table I’d faced so far, which included Erik Seidel, Barry Greenstein, Anthony Reategui and Ross Boatman. I managed to play my way back though, and towards the end of the night I found myself in a decent position to make the money, including after busting Annie Duke in a dream hand when I had a raise and a re-raise to me and found pocket aces. But then I blundered into a hand against the big stack on the table and eventual winner of the event, Jason Lester. He had raised and I called from the button with A-10 of hearts. I hit the flop of A-5-4 and raised his bet, but somehow the warning bells that should have been ringing when he called just didn’t register. He did a great job of seeming hesitant, and when I picked up a flush draw to go with my top pair on the turn and he checked it to me, the adrenalin took over and I pushed. He called instantly with his set of fours, and when my flush didn’t hit I was on the rail again.

With play like this, I had little hope of making it through the huge field of more than 2,800 that participated in this week’s $1,500 No Limit Event ~ but somehow, between some good play and good luck, I found myself among the 280-odd players who cashed in this arathon event. Although I was among the shorter chip stacks to return the next day, I still managed to make it to 50th place for a prize of a bit over $9,000, a welcome relief from what was starting to feel like a long dry spell.

Dinner that night with Tony Bloom, Vicky Coren and Hugo Martin was a great way to celebrate, and we finished off the evening at a party in the surreal surroundings of the ‘House of Cards’, where Dave Colclough and others are living while a film is made about the decadent lives of poker players during the WSOP. Not sure I could live there, but then topless waitresses have never been my thing…

I also had the pleasure this week of having dinner with the Hendon Mob, and of meeting Pauly, Change100, Dan, Jen and others from the poker blogging community ~ all of whom do a great job of keeping the poker world informed and entertained. Thanks guys, hope you enjoy my modest writing efforts as much as I do yours!

Now it’s time to move the focus back to poker again ~ the next few days will be when it matters most. Wish me luck.