The last post that I tossed up had a more whinny tone to it than I would have liked. It had a ton of stuff that just really bugged me about the WSOP. But overall, it was an experience that I’m NEVER going to forget.
This was my 2nd time seeing the action at the WSOP, with the first being last year for about an hour. My venture got me on TV briefly in hand where Joe Hachem eliminated Surinder Sunar by hitting a straight with J-9 vs. Sunar’s AQ. I saw Hellmuth get eliminated and Ivey become a tournament chip leader while sitting at the featured table. But I was overwhelmed with “Fan-Da-Monium” and couldn’t believe the sights, the sounds, and the reality. This was the World Series of Poker after all.
After my trip for the $50k players championship, the novelty and newness had really worn off quite a bit. I was now used to running into players that I’d recognize only from TV, and this trip, I was more interested in reuniting with friends that I’d made throughout my last stay and even before that. It was a different experience as people recognized me this time around. I wasn’t the new kid on the block anymore, and I wanted to take in the entire experience.
The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is still a magical affair. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have butterflies when Day 1a started off with Greg Raymer hoisting his arms in the air and saying “this is what we’re all playing for. Lets shuffle up and deal.” Obviously Raymer was alluding to the bracelet he’d won in this event in 2004, but for me, this was unique. I’d seen Jack Effel take the mic now several times before, but I’d never seen the buzz that was the start of the Main Event. It’s hard to describe the butterflies of Day 1a. You have no idea how big the field is going to be, where anyone is sitting, or who really stands a chance at winning the thing. Kind of like opening day for Major League baseball, the score is tied before the first pitch is thrown, and everyone goes into the season thinking “maybe this year, my team will be a world champion.” And truth be told, regardless if you’re there because you’re a former champion (there were a lot), or you’re there because you’re a playboy model or a porn star, or an actor, an NBA superstar, or a pro poker player that no one has ever heard of before, I think that everyone takes a seat with 30,000 chips, and says “I could be that person on the stage next year. I think that I might actually have a shot at this November 9 thing.”
After watching the first 2 days of play at the main event, I really felt like I belonged in the field. I saw so many ridiculous plays, so many ridiculous beats, and I saw the ability of knowing when to fold hands in marginal situations. Greg Raymer himself taught me a $10k lesson when he shipped in Kd-Qd on a Kc-Td-5d board and ran into an amateur holding pocket T’s. Of course he didn’t lay down his middle set, and Raymer would not improve on his top pair with a flush draw. He was crippled after only 30 minute or so, and would be eliminated before the end of the first level getting 8-8 in against A-A, and his World Series was over. The main lesson, there’s not really a need to gamble when you’re that deep. Having a lot of chips is great, but this is a marathon…not a sprint. Day 1 meant almost nothing. In fact, in the 4 levels of play that they did go through, you could have folded EVERY SINGLE HAND, and began day 2 with about 20 Big Blinds. Mixing it up on Day 1a worked well for some, but was a sad story for the likes of Mike Mattusow (who spent his day at the ESPN Featured table, only to see it end before the last break of the night – ESPN didn’t film the rest of the table either which I found quite humorous), Chino Rheem, Jimmy Fricke, and Victor Ramdin. All of them saw the rail on the first day.
I did enjoy watching Ray Romano play as well. The cameras loved him, and he in return played up to them. Wearing his “Men of Certain Age” ball cap, Ray played rather well, mixing it up quite a bit. Eventually, he’d get short and go bust, but “It took a straight flush to eliminate me from the main event this year” he’d say, and he was right. Ray got it in with nothing but a pair and a dream on a flop that produced straight, flush, and straight flush draws for his opponent. And his day was done.
I also enjoyed watching Tiffany Michelle and Maria Ho mix it up at various tables. The girls would ask me on a number of occasions how the other one was doing, and I’d oblige by going between the two tables from time to time to provide basic updates on chip counts. Chris Moneymaker ran up a stack as well giving hope to the fact that the man who started the poker boom might actually have a deep run in him. He finished the day with more than 100k in chips, but his Main wasn’t meant to be in the end again either. Miraculously, David Allen-Greer would survive the day, albeit short stacked, and he would succumb on Day 2. But Day 1a was a pretty special event, if for nothing else it was filled with a lot of wonder of what could be. Unlike the other day 1’s, this was simply special.
Day 1b started in much the same way, with much the same field size, but much more action early. I saw a player within about 15 minutes ship in Ah-Qh on a Kh-Td-5h board, and get snap called by KK. The set held, and the guy was eliminated in just 15 minutes of play. He would say “well, at least I have my $10,000 seat cushion.” Referring to the Everest Poker leave behind that was nothing more than a cheap advertising ploy. The cushions were terrible, and Andy Bloch would say a few days later, “I’d be embarrassed to have my logo on these,” eventually getting one of the vacant dealer chairs to sit upon instead. Annette Obrestad would provide some smiles as she took her seat at the ESPN secondary table. She seemingly wanted to play every pot, losing virtually half her stack in the first level. She’d battle back to get to over 20k. I witnessed her ship in 99 on a Ten high board, and a guy would tank-call with JJ. She accused him of slow rolling her, and then the dealer proceeded to place a 9 on the turn to double her. She wasn’t intimidated by her table, but she did seem to play too fast, which really led to her exit late in the day. I would catch up with her later in the series and chat about her WSOP. She was disappointed in her results, but was really focused on the Bellagio WPT event that she’d played earlier in the day. It was all about looking forward. Playfully, she spotted Phil Galfond and asked to sweat a hand of his. Action had been raised and then called at his table when it went to Phil in the Big Blind. Phil opened his hole cards so that Annette could see them, and Annette groaned as it wasn’t a playable hand, and Galfond tossed them into the muck. But day 1b was the most uneventful of the day 1’s. Gavin Smith played at the ESPN Featured table, and that place was locked down for the ESPN cameras. I heard that Jamie Gold played day 1b, but I never found him. After he busted, he’d sweat his mom who was also in action on the day, before she would go broke as well.
Day 1c was probably my favorite of the Day 1’s as it had more friends playing in it, and also some pro’s that I really wanted to watch. Joe Cada did the honors of “Shuffle up and Deal” and began his title defense playing great poker. It was almost like it was “Champions Day” as Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen, Carlos Mortensen, Huck Seed, and Jerry Yang would join the Main Event champ in action. And later, at the secondary featured table, Phil Hellmuth made one of his “entrances.” I won’t write about it, because it was a joke, only to say that Annie Duke was also in the Amazon Room, and had tweeted that she wouldn’t “have a very good view of Phil coming in.” As it turned out, from where she was sitting there were so many people in the way, she really couldn’t see him that well, to which I said to her “isn’t that a run-good?” Lee Childs played in the Amazon room, right in front of one of the outside featured tables where Carlos Mortensen was creating one of his chip towers. I was able to chat with him throughout his play and his dad Bill, who was registered for day 1d. I also wandered over to the Pavillion Room to watch Alex Outhred go on a huge heater, chipping over 100k really early. And Tom Dwan was also in play, although clearly disinterested as he’d had a prop bet to see if he could play the largest percentage of pots on day 1. It cost him virtually 2/3 of his stack.
Other pro’s to watch on Day 1c included David Williams (who started the day on fire), Patrik Antonius, Daniel Negreanu, and Isabelle Mercier. I made it over to the Pavillion room to watch Huck Seed go broke. He only had about 400 chips when I got there, and he got them in preflop from the Big Blind with 2 callers. A c-bet from the middle position guy chased one player and Huck Tabled A-T, which was painfully behind his opponent’s AJ, and Huck was gone in the first 30 minutes of play.
The end of day 1c was really devastating though. Lee Childs had really grinded all day long, hovering between 10 and 20 Big Blinds. He just couldn’t seem to really get it going, and in the last 10 minutes or so of the day, shoved about 12 big blinds with 5-5, and found two callers with bigger pairs. No 5 meant that Lee would hit the rail at the end of the day. I’d shake hands with him as he’d exit, and then headed over to Tom Dwan’s table. I got there to see him get it all in with top 2 pair, only to watch his opponent river a straight to KO Dwan. Upset at the falling stars, I went next door to the Pavillion and found Alex Outhred’s seat empty. I asked the guy next to him what happened, and he said “I busted him. He shipped top pair and I called with a flop set.” So in 10 minutes, I had 3 people that I was really interested go broke. It was a tough ending.
This has become a really long post, so I’m going to stop for now and break this up into a little bit of a series. I’ll probably blog some more tomorrow on the rest of the stuff, because there are plenty of other fantastic stories from the play.