Running Deep in the WSOP ME - account & strategy of a Poker Pro (Part 1)
I started preparing for the main event about three days before day 1 and tried to eat well and not drink alcohol. I turned up and didn't recognise one player which was great. I started slowly but managed to finish the day with about 80k which was well above average and definitely a start everybody would take at the start of the day after starting with 30k in chips. The key in the main event is to play carefully and pick spots early on. I think early it is correct to play squeaky tight as there are lots of bad players around who will donate a lot of chips if you remain patient. As the tournament progresses then it is time to maybe start opening up and playing some higher level poker.
Last year I finished 111th so after a great start I was determined to try and go further than last year and use the experience as well as the experience from my cash in 2008 (270th). So I went into Day 2 and again I did not recognise a single person and after back to back aces and a couple of well timed bluffs I was cruising to a great stack and then I had a huge flip v a loose player with QQ v AK and lost it with ten minutes to go til the end of the day. I was steaming as I felt like my hard work had been undone for the day. I'd been losing showdowns all WSOP. I still bagged up just short of 100k and luckily had a couple of days to cool off and realise that these hands happen and you can't be reacting like a baby to every single bad beat or unlucky pot. This is where a lot of people come unstuck as they forget that this is a 9 day tournament and what happens on day 2 is almost inconsequential. The key is to keep accumulating so you can withstand the bad beats and each day the goal is to be bagging chips for the next day.
Just to note my target at every level was to try and finish with 100 Big Blinds so for day 3 they started at 800/1600 and I began with 100k. Again I was fortunate with my table draw as I didn't recognise anybody but the players seemed younger and more focused than at other tables with a few older dudes dotted about. I played some of my best poker of the whole tournament in the first two levels rising from 100k to nearly 300k hardly showing down cards and playing lots and lots of hands although there was a very loose player on my right who I managed to get the better of overall but he did pose a few problems but with a 2 hour clock he was playing far too loose in my opinion and playing pots in position vs him was just a dream. He was more of a preflop player so I just peeled a lot with medium+ hands and let him make mistakes. Another player who was playing well was a player I would come to play with again later in the tournament, Brian Yoon. Team Pro Sebastian Ruthenburg came to the table with a lot more chips than me and at the time I was probably double the average stack. I decided to sit back as I knew the table was breaking and he is a very good player. Another tip to come from this if playing a long tournament like the main event is that you are never in a rush. If you feel the time is right to sit back and not play a hand then do it. If you have a big stack you can afford to be patient and not play any pots for a while if you are not getting the right cards or situations, plus a tough player is standing in your way who will make it difficult for you to win the pot if you don't connect. I want to be in there with the bad players making them make mistakes. So the table broke and my new table was great just recognising one guy John who I'd been playing a few sessions of PLO with over the summer. I ran pretty good and made JJ v the table fish on a 743 board and he stacked off with A4. I ended up finishing the day with 492k. Like I said I think I played excellently this day and my only mistake was being too heavy handed after flopping a set of 3s on my new table.
So Day 4 came and I had over my 100 BB target with 492k and today was also when we made the money so I would be looking for any opportunities to steal chips. This table was my toughest to date and many players gave me lots of problems all the time and my stack fluctuated between 300k and 450k for a long time and there was a 40 minute spell where I was playing every hand. It just felt the right thing to do and I made some sick bluffs in this period to go from 300k back to 450k. I played briefly with Sam Holden on this day and he didn't put a foot wrong in my opinion and came across as a very nice guy. The bubble broke, our table was bored and nobody came close to bubbling. We broke soon after and I moved to another table where I played my worst hand of the tournament with 66 and ended up getting counterfeited by the river and having to check fold. My play was poor and I really found this day to be hard work and i couldn't gain any significant momentum like I did on day 3. I left the table with about 400k and moved to my 3rd table of the day in the last level. We were playing 4k/8k so I was feeling the pressure but at the same time I didn't want to force the action too much. I managed to go on a mini rush and I ran from 400k to 650k without showing a hand and the table were absolutely afraid of me. I'd finally hit my rush of the day and was very pleased with how my final hour was going after a very tough day. However, this hand came along. John Esposito raised to 22k in mid position and I find AK in next seat. He seems tight so I just call as I think if all the money went in vs this player I would be shown AA and KK far too often so I played carefully. Then, a young guy who'd been fairly tight but with about 850k squeezes to 75k on the button and Espositio folds. I have 4 legetimate options here:
1) Call. I hate this option as i'm having to play AKo out of position vs what seems a good player who is going to make good decisions post flop and put me to tough ones. My hand flops poorly and even if I flop an A vs JJ for example I would win maybe 1 bet. I don't think we are deep stacked enough either as there would be nearly 200k in the pot and I would have 575k back. If the flop comes say 379 and he bets 80k I am in a horrible position with probably the best hand but no way of knowing. My least favourite option.
2) Fold. Kinda nitty as I do have arguable the 4th best hand in hold'em. I'd been really active as well and this looks like a great squeeze spot for him and I have a great hand. I prefer this option to calling and I would not fault anybody for folding here as it is the main event and this is a crucial decision. If all the money ends up going in I would say you are not going to get shown AQ or AJ. You will be vs AA, KK, QQ and AK. However, my image is loose. This could be my joint 2nd favourite option.
3) Move all in. This play could be joint with folding. It wins what is in the pot a very reasonable % of the time and prevents me from getting outplayed on later streets. There is 75k + 22k + 22k + 4k + 8k + (8x1k antes) = 139k to pick up, my stack after investing the 22k is at around 628k so i would increase my stack to 767k but I am risking my whole tournament. I will also make him fold all the hands that I have beat and he will only call if he has the same hand or a better hand than mine. I might be able to fold out TT but I don't think he 3 bets that particular hand in this situation.
4) Make it 152k (click back). This is the option that I chose. I decided on this option because I felt like I'd been speeding around so much that it looked like I was this ridiculously aggressive player, he might be fooled into thinking that he has some fold equity with hands that I have dominated like AQ, AJ even Ax and KQ and Kx. Players nowadays are crazy and don't like to give up easily. I feel my bet picks up the 139k a lot as well and that my hand is too good to fold. I want to keep in the hands that beat me. My one drawback on this play is IF he decides to just call. I am now in a gross spot out of position in an inflated pot and my opponent could have anywhere from T9s to AA. However, I decided he was very unlikely to just call and I wanted to keep his bluffs in as I felt like this was a good opportunity to make chips and I was in the money and want to win the tournament so I felt like it was time to possibly gamble. When I make this play unless he gives off a ridiculously strong tell or betting pattern I am going to call his all in as this is why I made the 'click back' to keep in the weaker hands that moving all in fails to do.
He ended up tanking for 5 mins and moved all in, I was almost certain he had QQ or JJ as he would have moved all in quicker with KK or AA, plus he didn't have the 'i'm about to spaz' look that a lot of players have, he seemed to have a genuine decision for his tournament. I was hoping for him to fold but I had to take this race on with all the dead money out there and 500k left. I managed to spike an A on the flop and finished the day with a massive 1.35m chips. I'm still unsure if this was the right play and would like to know what a lot of top pros and even the more intermediate players think of this hand. I'm obviously going to be happy because I had a huge double up but say i'd lost I might be still regretting the decision now as I still had a healthy stack if I just folded.
Day 5 I drew a fairly tough table including Bryan Colin, Simon Deadman, and Matt Giannetti. I managed to chip up very efficiently from 1.3m to 1.9m and then I made a huge river bluff into the rivered nuts. I raised A3cc and was called by a Spanish player on the button and the flop came Q52 1 club i bet he called. Turn was Kc and he called 102k bet from me with 550k behind and the river was a T and I shipped for just over pot figuring he would have to fold all 1 pair hands and even a hand like QT is a very tough call. Unfortunately he had made a pretty awful turn call with AJ and rivered the nuts so that was a major setback. I then proceeded to raise and re-raise lots of hands as I felt the table were almost scared of me and wanted to avoid playing hands against me as I was crazy and unpredictable. I managed to get a 280k river bet paid off when I made a thin value bet with a rivered top pair with AKs after flopping the nut flush draw. So I was back up to 1.8m when I moved tables to a really crazy table containing David Bach and Maximillian Heinzelmann (back to back runner ups on EPT). I decided to play squeaky tight as there were another couple of players who seemed determined to go to war at all costs and so I chilled out and sat back, the complete opposite of how I was playing on the other table. I managed to end the day well picking up AA on the button vs a considerably steaming Max who played a very poor hand vs me with T6 on a KT3KK board. He has a lot of raw talent and is tough to play but made a few mistakes in this hand in my opinion. So a relatively uneventful day except for the big bluff and the big hand with AA and I cruised to a final stack of about 2.66m.
I came into day 6 knowing I might have my toughest seat draw as I had the chip monster and current WSOP player of the year Ben Lamb two to my left covering me. I also had Frank Calo who is a very good player who won't make many mistakes. Also i had
Massimillio Martinez who is currently the leading loose cannon on the PokerStars Big Game. The other interesting character was the director of Poolhall Junkies, Mars Callahan who was rather interesting in many ways and the tv cameras were very keen to capture him playing. I ran a huge bluff vs him in the first 30 mins when I shoved over his weak lead river bet on an A hi board to put him all in and he tanked and ended up folding an ace face up. The cameras caught our hole cards for that so will be interesting to see if it makes the cut! Ben Lamb made it hard for me to get involved too much as he likes to see flops in position so i had to make some prudent folds having him in position on me and I wanted to assess his game and see how he played. Obviously the majority of people with say he is a luckbox and just running well etc but I have played with him on and off at PLO in the past and he has always been a very tough opponent. I felt like if I was to go deep he would be in there with me so I wanted to really study how he played and start of playing a bit more on the careful side of things. I managed to get involved with the director on numerous occasions after the bluff and won almost every single pot that we played. Then a controversial hand happened after I raised with AJ and Ben Lamb and Mars were the two callers and the flop came AT6 with a flush draw and the director led huge into both of us. I just called and Lamb folded, the turn brought the Ad making two flush draws and he checked. I decided to check for deception and also to be a bit cautious as I would be in a horrible spot if he were to check raise me here as I can only really beat a bluff. The river came an off suit 7 and he checked in a weird way which made me unsure, so I asked the dealer if he had checked to which the dealer looks at Mars and says 'check' and he goes to flip his cards over. I immediately told him to stop and told him that I had asked a question, he had flashed a card which i had seen but I was clearly asking a question to which Frank backed me up. The floor was called over and between him and the dealer they managed to make a really biassed ruling in my opinion in favour of the multi millionaire director. This is something I see more often that I would like with the bigger names getting preferential rulings occasionally and I think it is unfair as a ruling should be straight down the line to protect everybody. I was made to check behind and showed down the winning hand. I'm often very mild mannered and I told the floor man that the ruling was horrible and it was a joke, he took my comments on board to be fair. I think it was the dealer who made the initial mistake and tried to cover for it by saying he heard me say check, when i clearly didn't! Anyway, I ended up busting Mars in a huge pot with KK on a J hi board when he led into me, I raised and he then moved all in and the board ran out safe to see me move to 4.3m chips and probably top 10 in the room at the time.
My next stop was the tv table which I will talk more about next time, let me know if you like the hands I have talked about so far or not and any other questions will try to answer a few.
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