Not Meant To Be
Saturday, 4 July 2009
I don’t think I am meant to win the World Series of Poker. I mean… in a field of 5000 or 8000 or 10,000 (or whatever it’s been since 2004) most people are never going to win it, but I have never got ANYWHERE AT ALL in this competition. There are tournaments where I have gone deep, had good chips and just missed out but thought, well, maybe another time (like the WSOPE where I’ve been effectively on the bubble both times I’ve played, with phases of double average chips) and tournaments which have gone particularly well (like EPT London, played 3, cashed 2, won 1) - but the main WSOP event, I have only ever gone out quickly and unluckily with no shot at all. It’s just silly.
I have been knocked out on day 1 three times. Once after a day of double-cracked aces and set under set; once after straight under straight, flush under flush and finally with AK v. AJ after four raises against someone who absolutely could not conceive of a better hand to get it all-in with pre-flop. Today, it was a bang-bang little series of hands on level 3.
I lost a big pot just before the dinner break, when I raised on the button with KQ and got called by one limper. The flop came Qh Jh 3s. He checked, I bet 1200 and he called. The turn was Ah, which I didn’t love at all - but it gave me the nut flush draw, so when he bet 2100 (into a pot of 4300) I decided to call. The river was an offsuit 10. He bet 4100 and I’d like to have been able to pass the straight, but I just couldn’t. He showed 2h 3h - a curious hand with which to limp and call a raise before the flop, but fair enough. I was annoyed with myself mainly for making a mistake which I had warned others to avoid only four months ago in my Guardian poker column. Yes, my hand improved from a pair + a flush draw to a straight - but that was a red herring against a made flush, and I think it might have been possible to pass.
Anyway, I was glad the dinner break had come round so I could regroup. I still had 20k in chips, with returning blinds of 150-300: fine. But after dinner it was ridiculous. I played a weird hand where I raised with Qc Jc and got a board of Kd Jd 3s Js 4h and my opponent check-called throughout with KJ. A nervous way to play a full house, but good luck to him. Then two people flopped sets against me back-to-back (once when I had KK, then with AK). My third hand of this happy little trilogy was QQ. Lise Vegezzi raised early to 900 and two people called. With 9000, I decided to go all in: no point calling and letting three of them (plus the possibly priced-in blinds) see a flop; no point making a small reraise when I couldn’t possibly pass for whatever I had left. So I stuck it in and the big blind, who had yet to act, found KK. The Q on the turn helped me for about three seconds.
The good thing is, I’m absolutely fine about it. If ever a tournament was not meant to be, it was this one. Just daft. People were flopping (or finding) monsters against me time after time after time. It was relentless. I never had decent chips, never had a chance, nothing to mourn or feel nostalgic about. And I don’t think there’s a hand I would have played differently - apart from maybe passing that straight on the river. I have this discussion with The Camel sometimes: if he plays well and gets unlucky, it devastates him; if he makes a mistake, he can forget about it. If I make mistakes to knock myself out, I am filled with loathing and self-disgust for hours. If I get unlucky, it just rolls off. What can you do? This is not a risk-free enterprise.
It may also be a factor in my sang-froid that, last night, I had my greatest ever night of blackjack. I know, I know, I shouldn’t play. AND I DO NOT ADVOCATE IT. I smoke, and I recommend that to others about as enthusiastically as I recommend casino table games. Stay away, stay away. But it’s nights like this that suck you into gambling for the rest of your life. Over a quite astonishing series of shoes on the double-deck, I turned $3k into $40k. Amazing. People were gathering round to watch; I was like an advert for blackjack. The casino should pay me a marketing fee. Of course, the fates soon organized for this luck to be balanced out today - but hey. I won as much last night as I would get if I burst the bubble in the Main Event and beat about 4000 players. And that would have taken at least four days.
So I am feeling philosophical, and very efficient. Now to win the Bellagio Cup.