When only your A-game will do

The WSOP this year was a winning series for me. When I last checked in with you guys, I had just made 5th place in the $1,500 NLHE shootout for $67,000. It really sucked not getting that bracelet - winning is so much of what tournament poker is about for me - but at least it was enough money to fund more tournaments.

I felt like another big score and maybe a bracelet was within reach. Being in Vegas for 40 days can drive you crazy, but I've learned how to deal with it. The first years I went to Vegas were terrible for me. I wasn't focusing. I was partying all the time. Now I get to the point that I know what I'm doing over there.

I was focused and determined, and right before the Main Event I found myself in position for another final table. I was doing good with a lot of chips the whole way in the $10k PLO but then I played one hand poorly, the first hand of Day 3.

The short story of the hand is that I flopped set under set and lost about 60% of my stack. That kind of sucked, and it's easy to call it a set-up hand. But the truth is I feel bad about how I played the hand. I made a bad mistake.

You see, I was kind of sleepy when we unbagged the chips and started play. This was the first hand of the day and I wasn't feeling in my zone. Sometimes this happens. You get to the tournament and sit down, but you're not quite there yet. Personally, I try not to play too many hands sometimes at the beginning of the days because I know myself. I take time to get going.

I just wasn't in the zone for that hand. I called a three-bet out of position, then got stuck in a spot where I couldn't fold even though I had a strong feeling that I should. It's the type of mistake I never would have made if the hand would have taken place one hour into the day and I blame myself for it.

After that the only WSOP tournament left was the Main Event. It's the tournament everyone anticipates the most for the whole year, but once again I wasn't on my A-game. I had some problems sleeping the night before my Day 1, so when I showed up to play I felt tired and like I'd only brought my C-game.

That won't cut it for the Main Event. You have to be ready for that tournament. It drains you so badly. You have to be in perfect shape. Somehow I made it out to Day 2 with about 16,000, half of what we started with. I thought, "Perfect. At least I made it through the day. Tomorrow is going to be a different day."

But it wasn't. I lost a couple of hands early, then I got in a spot against a weak player with the second nut flush... and he had the nuts. My World Series was over. It was extremely disappointing.

I took a few days off to recuperate. There was one last tournament I wanted to play, a $5,000 Open Face Chinese event. For that one I finally showed up ready to rumble. When I got there I asked Mike Schwartz if he wanted to swap a small piece. He's pretty good in Chinese and we always play the app on our phones. We swapped 4% and then I swapped another 5% with Victor Ramdin.

Guess who finished 1-2-3? Victor, me and Mike. It was hilarious. Victor and I chopped the tournament for about $60,000 each and Mike came in 3rd.


Now I'm looking to get my discipline back. I spent some time in Panama and Peru before returning to Argentina for the first time in 2 months. I want to get back on track with the non-poker things that are important to me: my cross-fit training, my businesses, and my friends. I spent a week at Bariloche snowboarding with some friends, just taking the time to re-charge my body and my mind.

I feel great.

Jose "Nacho" Barbero is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

Jose Barbero
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