When I planned my World Series of Poker this year, I knew I wanted to play a lot more than I had in the past. I booked a suite at the Rio, which is extremely convenient when you're spending some late nights in the cash games. Before I won the Main Event in '09, I played a lot of cash games around Vegas. I did really well and I was pleased to discover that the action today is still as amazing as ever. I played my first cash session of the summer after busting out very quickly from one of the noon WSOP events. I got a seat in a $10/$25 NL game at the Rio and luckily for me, there were three really big fish at the table. I did really well, but once the fish were broke, the entire table broke. I was still itching to play so I headed over to Bellagio where there was a $25/$50 game with a $100 ante from the big blind. Although this was a tougher lineup, there was still one soft spot and he ended up giving away all his chips. When he busted, the game was four-handed and we played that way for a while because one kid was stuck a bunch. However, he was playing really badly so it actually made the game a little better, despite the fact that it was so short-handed. But just like the first table, once the kid went broke, the game broke along with him.
So the cash games are treating me well at the moment, and you could say tournaments are as well, even though it seems like I can't escape fourth place. Right before the WSOP, the Heartland Poker Tour stopped in Michigan and since the event was so close to my home, I decided to play. I ended up finishing fourth in the $1,500 main event. It was great to get a final table under my belt right before heading out to Vegas.
Since I'd been playing a lot online, I felt really prepared for the WSOP and ended up final tabling one of the first events I played, the $1,500 six-max NLHE. It was incredible to see how willing some people were to punt off their stacks in the first few levels. I think when some players approach a short-handed tournament, they get easily aggravated when they lose chips and feel the need to get right back to the stack they were at before. They get attached to hands and don't take the time to re-evaluate their situation on each street in order to make the best decision. In one early pot, the blinds were 75/150 and I raised to 400 from the cutoff with K-9. The button thought about reraising me, but ended up just calling the 400. The flop came K-9-6 rainbow and I led out for 600. He flat-called and the turn came an offsuit three. I bet another 1,500 and he jammed for 12,000! I ended up calling with top two pair and he was drawing dead with A-J. I didn't think it made any sense to jam for 12K (when the chip average was still about 5k) with any kind of hand where he wanted action. In that case, I thought a raise or even a flat-call would be a better option.
I think I played well throughout the tournament, but I also found a lot of spots where I was able to take advantage of my opponents' costly mistakes. Here's another example. With the blinds at 1,000/2,000 and the average stack around 50k, I raised to 4,500 with K-4 offsuit on the button and the small blind called. Both of us had big stacks--he had about 110k behind and I had 260k. The flop fell 8-7-2 with two diamonds and one heart. He checked, I c-bet 5,000 and he called. The turn came the king of hearts putting two hearts on the board along with two diamonds. He checked again, I bet 11,000, and he check-raised all-in for 90,000. At that point, it was a pretty easy call for me. On such a draw-heavy board I thought he would have raised the flop with a set or a two-pair type of hand. And if he did have that strong a hand, he would have made a raise and called a ship instead of shipping it in himself. I felt at this point he had some equity in the hand, but didn't want me to call. Given the board texture, he could have 9-T, any open-ended straight draw, any flush draw, and turned pair or turned heart draw. I ended up calling and he turned over J-T for a gutshot. I won a huge pot and it really helped me steamroll the tournament for a while. However, once I got to the final table, I really couldn't get much going. I had the same stack with six players left as I did with four players left. I felt like I was stuck in neutral and found myself in a lot of marginal spots.
I ended up with another fourth-place finish and a couple weeks later, made another WSOP final table. I know how fortunate I was to get another shot at a bracelet, but just take a guess at where I finished. I'll give you a hint--it's between third and fifth.
Joe Cada is a member of Team PokerStars Pro