WCOOP: Joe Sebok speaks

Editor's note: After making a WCOOP final table, Joe Sebok, two-time 2005 WSOP final table finisher, professional poker player, and son to Barry Greenstein agreed to let us know what it's really like for a pro player at a WCOOP final table. The following is his account.

VIRTUALLY ALL THE RIGHT MOVES...ALMOST

by Joe Sebok

My gaze turned just slightly more intense. I flexed and unflexed my knuckles in anticipation of what was to happen next. Did this fellow have the stones to move into me? I had been raising almost every hand, mercilessly taking down pot after pot, but was now to be the moment when someone finally stepped up to end my reign of terror? Was it possible that all those uncontested pots were just a set-up for my eventual downfall? "Pass me a piece of pizza," I asked my dad as I settled on my decision and lowered the boom with one final...click?




Joe Sebok (center)

That's right, it's that time of year again. Poker championship season. What's that you say? The World Series is already over? Well, right you are, but the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) is in full swing and if you think the action there is any less fast and furious than the real thing at the felt, well you clearly haven't been check-raised by an opponent named AAUfoldNOW from Springfield, Ill yet.

The competition at the other prestigious brick and mortar tournaments has absolutely nothing on the WCOOP, and I should know, as I just finished up play at the final table of event #5, the $200 re-buy no-limit hold'em event. It was an amazing 13 hours which, unfortunately, culminated in my being knocked out first of the nine participants at the final table. Still, an unbelievable ride which I would like to share.

I sat down in front of my monitor at 12 noon, high noon may perhaps be a more appropriate description here, and settled in for some tournament poker. The day started off well enough. I moved up pretty quickly at my table and certainly was one of the aggressors. I have really kicked the hostility level up in my game ten-fold since the World Series ended this year. It is starting to really make sense to me how to be the one always picking fights, but also always to be picking fights at the right times. As most of us know, poker is a game of selective aggression. You need to be willing to attack at any time, but must be sure that that time is right. In my poker infancy I would often get confused and run right into a buzz-saw occasionally. Unfortunately I didn't have the card-sense yet to be able to smell when the trap was being laid for me, and not the other way around. Well, I am starting to figure it out a little better now.

I got so aggressive in the early going that the players began calling me "Desperado" at the table. As in, "Jeez, you play like a freaking desperado," as one of my opponents said. The real difference in my game from the other players' at my table that day was simply that I was willing to put all of my chips into the pot at a moment's notice, and willing to be knocked out if it came to that. As Amir Vahedi has said, "You must be willing to die, in order to live."

Life on the "felt" was very comfortable those first few hours. I was playing well, and hitting plenty of cards when I needed to. My stack kept rising ...30,000...50,000...70,000. "Come and get me, you desperado," my name-giver typed to me during one hand. Now, when someone baits you into calling their all-in raise it usually inevitably means that they have AA or KK. It is just that simple. Here was my dilemma though, I held JJ and had about four times as many chips as my opponent. Still, it was probably a bad call. I made it anyway, and he flipped up his aces and confirmed my fears. It was my day though, at least in the early going, and I flopped a J and sent him packing. I have to be honest with you. It bugged me for about 15 minutes after that I had made the call after my read had been dead on. An issue of not following my reads would plague me later on in the tournament as well.

When I reached 90,000 in chips my dad came in and decided to sit down and watch me play. This was about six hours into the tournament. Now I can't deny that it certainly isn't bad to be able to have Barry Greenstein come in and take a seat next you, counseling you through the later stages of such a big tournament. Let me assuage your fears though, as he did not actually play for me, as you may think. We would occasionally talk through hands when things got a little dicey though.

At any rate, our partnership became one with the feel of student driver/instructor. Every time I was driving fine and parallel parking like a pro, we would have a conversation like this:

"Joey, you really need to raise in here again."

"But Bear, I have a 9-4 off. Come on, you are being ridiculous."

"I'm telling you, these guys are so scared of you that you should be raising every hand. If they refuse to stop you, then you shouldn't stop yourself."

It was basically a situation in the car that Bear felt the need to jam his foot over mine down on the accelerator. Now remember, I drive fast, real fast, on my own already. Apparently though, Bear fires up his car with rocket fuel. In this way the real component of my game that was affected was my aggression level.

Things went great until my pocket 9's ran into my opponent, genoa st's, pocket 10's. Genoa st took a huge pot off of me and things were looking grim. I was back down to 200,000 in chips and had to fight for my very life. Once again, however, the poker gods saw fit to send me some hands. We went to the final nine with me, luckily, having fought my way back to second in chips, with 2.3 million. It was a nice comeback, and I was proud that I didn't just throw in the towel.

From there on it was all downhill though. I picked up some nice hands, but they were greeted by even nicer ones. I had, in succession, 10's v. A's, AQ v. AK, and then the real killer JJ v. KK. This final hand is worth mentioning because I made a nice read and didn't follow through in tune with my instincts.

Genoa st raised in under the gun. Now he had been playing very well the entire tournament and picking his spots perfectly. I looked down at JJ and made a decision to just call. I had a feeling that I was up against a big hand and didn't want to be raised out of the pot. All the action folded back to genoa st and we saw the flop. It came 10 8 7, with two diamonds. genoa st made a standard bet, and I had a big decision to make with my overpair. Now this is where it gets dicey...

"Jeez, I don't like it. I think he has aces or kings," I said. "I think you need to move-in here," I was answered by my dad. "No way. I put him on a huge hand, and I think I am right on here. He has been playing cautiously all day."

"I don't think it matters. You have odds, an overpair, plus a gutshot. You gotta do it." Bear said.

The rest is history. I deferred to Bear and my day would all but end there. I went against my better judgment and moved in. Genoa st immediately called and showed me KK. The board bricked out and I was left to take one final desperate shot with a weak ace. That shot failed and I was out in 9th. Extremely disappointed would be an understatement to describe how it felt.

I have to say though, the whole experience was completely thrilling and I have developed a newfound healthy respect for the online game. It was full of so much action, and enough differences from the felt game to warrant its own strategies and it's own excitement. There is also something to being able to say, "Fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, damn it, for the love of all that is sweet on this earth, FOLD!" out loud during a bluff, which is very freeing.

Hopefully some of you will take a shot in a few of the final WCOOP events. I look forward to seeing you out there on the virtual felt...

Take Care,
J (fidallio)

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP