Luck of the Mohawk
Forget about the thousands of hours I've put in grinding, training, and studying to improve my game. It doesn't help. It turns out that style is what really counts, as my lucky Mohawk propelled me to a fifth-place finish in the WSOP $50,000 Player's Championship.
This was my third year playing the $50k. The first two times I made Day 3, which isn't that special in this tournament since it takes five days to finish. It has a really good structure and you have to get really unlucky to bust on the first day. On the second day, the field really starts to take shape as everyone tries to build their stacks and on the third day things really start to get interesting. You don't even hit the money until Day 4 and it's a really tough bubble. This year it was $111k. I really didn't want to make it to Day 4 with a short stack and end up busting before the money, so I tried to play more aggressively on Day 3 than I had in the past. It ended up really making a difference. That day I ended up winning a lot of pot-limit Omaha and no-limit hold'em hands. The big bet games can help you chip up fast and on Day 3, the blinds are still pretty low so you have a lot of play. On Day 3, the NLHE and PLO rounds see a lot of multi-way pots, whereas on Day 4, the play tightens up a lot as the stacks get shorter relative to the blinds.
I was also fortunate enough to get some good table draws on Day 3 and 4. My girlfriend was railing me the entire time and during one of the redraws she asked me who I wanted to have on my next table. I started counting the players I wanted to have at my table the most down to the players I wanted to face the least, and of the five players I wanted the most, four showed up at my table on that redraw. Getting a good draw makes a big, big difference in a tournament like this. Everyone in the $50k is a very good player so things like having position on aggressive opponents is important. In addition to running well in terms of draws and position, I also found better spots to amass some chips, so it worked together perfectly.
I was never at the top of the chip counts but for the most part I always had a stack that was above average from Day 3 down to the final table. Although I could always bust in a NLHE or PLO hand as long as there was one bigger stack at my table, the pressure was off during the limit games. I was never in danger of busting in one or two hands. I always had enough chips for four or five hands, which is a lot in a limit tournament. Usually in a limit event, the average stack is about 1.5 hands, so I was in good shape. In the end, though, I ended up busting on a PLO hand. I got my stack in on a 8♣8♦3♥ flop holding AK98 and was called by KJT8. I had trips with a better kicker, but he hit a jack on the river to boat up and I was out in fifth place.
I was pretty tired after the $50k. It was five days long and those are hard days. You can't sit back and relax and wait to shove your 20 big blind stack--you have to fight for every chip against the best players. Even though I was exhausted, I played the $10k pot-limit Omaha event directly afterward and made it to Day 2. That's a fighting tournament as well and I ended up bubbling it. Now I was even more tired and the next day I had to play the Main Event. Instead of bringing my A-game, I played my B or B+ game. I also had some pretty poor table draws. Some of them were worse than tables I had in the $50k. In a tournament with over 6,000 players I always seemed to end up at a table with seven no-limit hold'em pros. At my very first table I sat down at to my direct left was the guy who finished second in the 4-max SCOOP tournament I won back in May! Can you believe it? It started like that and it was all downhill from there.
After I busted, I flew home to Salzburg and took some time off to relax. I'd been grinding and traveling nonstop since April and needed to decompress with some sun and trips to the sauna. I also made plans to take my girlfriend to the FM4 Frequency Festival. It's a huge music festival in Austria with 100,000 people coming. I'm a big fan of a German band called Madsen and they're playing there along with acts like System of a Down, Tenacious D, Franz Ferdinand, Bad Religion and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The only problem is I don't know where we're sleeping yet! I'm over 30 now and the time for randomly sleeping in tents is over, plus my girlfriend has never been to a festival like this before. I tried renting a camper or an RV, but it's been pretty difficult to find one on short notice without spending a fortune. So we may have to pitch a tent after all.
Right now, I'm in Belgium for the BPC Spa, where I am running a deuce-to-seven workshop. It's my favorite poker variation and I want to get more people interested in the game and teach them some basics. We'll have a $215 tournament afterwards and I'll be staying on to the next day to play the Main Event. I'm really excited because I've been assured I'll be allowed to play the WCOOP on the side. The casino has a very good wireless connection and I'll be able to bring my laptop to the live tables so I won't have to miss out on any events. Hopefully next time I can write about how I made two final tables at once!
George Danzer is a member of Team PokerStars Pro