Why Vegas matters to me

Last year I ran so bad at the World Series of Poker. One of the very first events I played was the $5,000 Seven Card Stud. There were 145 entries and 16 set to make the money. I finished 19th, right near the bubble. That was the story of my summer. I bubbled so many events and didn't cash once.

Overall I lost more than $120,000 on my trip to Vegas last summer. That memory haunted me as I was getting ready to go to Vegas this summer. All I could think was, "What if I play 29 events and don't cash once?"

It's tough when the variance is on the wrong side, when you just can't win a hand. When it happens to you online it's easier to reduce because you can play so many more hands. But in live events it's tougher because they take longer to play and you play fewer of them. Playing every day for six weeks without a cash, never mind a final table, will mess with your head.


Nacho Barbero at the WSOP

I was in the right mindset at the start of June though. I went to Panama for another tournament at the Veneto Casino. I had some things to do over there anyway, like take care of my driver's license. I only accomplished half of the things I meant to and I ended up getting 8th in the tournament again. It was frustrating to miss the top spots, just like I did last time I was in Panama, but it was still a small win.

After that, I went to LAPT Medellin, where I made Day 2 but busted soon after the money bubble burst. It was very disappointing in one way but in another way I was happy. As soon as I busted I was on my way to Vegas to try to get last year's monkey off my back.
Don't get me wrong. I would have loved to win LAPT Medellin. First place was about $90,000, which would have freerolled my World Series. But I was anxious to get to Vegas to try to win a bracelet and to break my streak of not cashing. For me it's not only about winning LAPTs or having good results down south. I want to do good in Vegas also. Everybody's there.

My first event was Event 18. It didn't look like it was going so well on Day 1. I made the dinner break with only eight big blinds, but after a nice dinner with my friend I rallied and finished the day above average. The next day I made a run of it and got to 97th place out of more than 2,000 players before Phil Ivey knocked me out.

A week after that I made the final table of the $1,500 NLHE shootout. It was disappointing not to win (I finished 5th for $ 67,732) but I was still happy. I felt awesome actually. I was so focused. I would wake up each morning around 9am and working out at 10am, have breakfast, and focus on playing good poker at the World Series. My mindset, and my body's physical condition, were both perfect. After that it just was going to depend on the cards I was dealt and how I played them.

For me, playing good in Vegas isn't really about the money. I pay 30% taxes as a foreigner so the money isn't going to be huge. It's about being a champion there. It's about standing there and winning. That's the only thing that keeps me motivated.

Jose 'Nacho' Barbero is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.

Jose Barbero
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