A Better Day
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Well, I promised if I wrote a blog about my next World Series event it would be cheerier - and it is!
My next event was WSOP number 53, the $1500 No Limit Holdem. For Day One I was drawn on table “Silver 22” in the Brasilia room, which was exactly the same table I’d been knocked out from in the Ladies’ Event the night before, soon after we’d been joined by a.. er.. non-lady.
I hoped the draw wasn’t a bad omen but the table had no such controversies on it this time round. In fact, amongst the usual World Series mix of international visitors, brilliant young pros and chatty recreational players, was this surprising character in the 1 seat:
Do you know who that is? I didn’t - indeed, when he told me his name, I said, “Oh stop winding me up!” Here’s your second clue: the other people at the table, none of whom was British (apart from one who claimed to be, but was quite obviously Dutch) were unable to confirm or deny the identity, since they didn’t know the name. But it’s a big name to us. I refused to believe him for about an hour, until I texted Neil Channing who replied, “Oh yes, he plays poker”, and then I realised… oh… it really is!
I hadn’t believed / recognised him at first because, familiar though I was with the name, I don’t (and here’s your third clue) generally watch the kind of thing he does for a living.
There’s a more obvious photo of him coming up in a minute, after a little Day One summary, so pause here if you want to try and guess….
I don’t remember much about the play on Day One, just that I had a very enjoyable day and was pleased to make it to through to the end with only 350 others from the initial field of 3,166 players. It was a hard, fast day. My new friend, unfortunately, was knocked out near the end - and he’s not a guy who expects to be knocked out… (that’s clue four).
But I was back for Day Two, and the bubble burst about two hours in, with 324 of us making the money. After that I think I played very well, made some strong calls and well-timed bets, got lucky once, and finished Day Two with a big stack and only 27 opponents left: my first ever Day Three in world series history!
Have you got it yet? This was the 1 seat on Table Silver 22, day one:
Do you know him now? Disarmingly cute face on a terrifyingly huge frame… surprisingly unblemished ears and nose… sweet little dimples but you wouldn’t want to get the wrong side of him…
... yes, it’s British heavyweight boxer Audley Harrison! And what a nice fellow he was. Taking a bit of time off because his next fight isn’t til November. I’d like to see him try to sneak into the Ladies’ Event without anyone noticing.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Day Three. I won’t go into too much detail because anyone who’s interested was probably following online anyway, but the gist is: 28 players came back and I was fourth in chips, I picked up a few small pots uncontested, lost a decent-sized pot when I had to fold (but it was a good fold - my opponent was kind enough to show me his two queens); we went down to three tables, then two tables…
... and then, with 17 players left, I found AK of hearts. With blinds at 10k-20k and a running ante of 3000, I raised to 50k from middle position and got two callers, the cut-off and the small blind. The flop came Kd 8h 9c. The small blind checked and I bet 150k into a pot of nearly 200k. The cut-off raised to 425k and the small blind folded.
I had about 820k when I started the hand, and my opponent had a bit more. If I was going to play on, it had to be for all my chips (I couldn’t put in 425k and then fold). Could I be losing? Of course I could. We’d only recently gone to two tables and I didn’t know much about my opponent, but he could have a better hand than mine. He could have aces - that might explain the pre-flop cold call at these pricy amounts (when most people, with a bit of a hand in position, would probably raise). He could have flopped two pair, if he’d made a sneaky call with 89 or even K9. He probably didn’t have a set, because he wouldn’t need to raise on the flop (makes more sense to flat call and hope to lure the third player into making a mistake). He COULD have a totally missed hand (like AQ or a pair of threes) and just be trying to take me off it with a bluff - though my relatively large continuation bet insured against that. He was unlikely to have absolutely nothing, though it wasn’t impossible.
And he could also have KQ, KJ, KT, JT, maybe a cheeky little 67 suited, or even - depending on what kind of guy he was - JJ or TT. Plenty of hands I was beating, far more than were beating me. (I say all this because a guy in the hallway afterwards told me I could have folded. But put it more simply: I’d raised with AK, it came a K-high flop which I bet, I only had 40 big blinds and I don’t think I was ever folding. It wouldn’t have been right.)
So, in went the money, he called my all-in and rolled over three eights. I was surprised; I’m not sure I’d have raised the flop with that myself. But it wouldn’t have made any difference if he just called, because the turn was another heart and we’d have got it all in anyway.
SO I was out, in 17th place, for $26,000. I was very, very sad in the moment - of course I was, so close to a final table (and a first prize of $700,000!). Poker is masochistic like all sport: anything less than first place has got to cause a bit of pain, even if only to begin with. But, thank God, I’m lucky enough to be good at cheering up pretty fast after these things. I’ve only played three WSOP tournaments so far this year (and it’ll only be a total of five); some unlucky folk have been out here for weeks already with no cashes. 17th out of 3166 is surely something to be proud of? And $26,000 is a lot of money, back in the real world. And most importantly: if my big call with A high at the end of Day Two had been wrong, I’d have been out then for less. Or my gambly all-in three-bet with 8s6s (also on Day Two) might not have beaten the AQ that called it and I’d have been out then for less too. When grieving the hands where you were unlucky, you must also force yourself to remember where you were lucky too.
AND IF ALL THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, look at the sight that greeted me in the Rio corridor when I came gloomily out of the tournament room:
Yes, it was the great Irish players Scott Gray and Padraig Parkinson, enjoying a couple of ice lollies. With that kind of visual hit, who could stay gloomy for long?