The Big Dance with Dogger9 (Part 5)

Note: One of the greatest PokerStars stories to come from the World Series of Poker was that of Bernard "Dogger9" Lee, a Frequent Player Point qualifier who caught everybody's eye as the real deal. Lee has agreed to chronicle his journey for the Official PokerStars Blog. His trip report will be published here over the next several days. Enjoy.

Part 1--Before the Storm
Part 2--Goal Keeping
Part 3--Shuffle Up and Deal
Part 4--A picture is worth 105,800 chips

Part 5--In the money
by Bernard Lee

Day 5: Monday, July 11th
After sleeping my requisite five hours, I initiated my pre-tourney routine: I called my wife and told her, "I'm sorry. I love and miss you and the kids to death. But, I truly hope that I have to reschedule my flight home tomorrow morning." To do this, I would have to make it out of the day. Once again, survival was my primary focus. Afterward, I spoke with my two buddies from home to get inspiration and analysis of my table. Max, my analyst man, told me that my 105,800 chip stack was 205th of 566. Slightly above average -- not great, but not bad. Today, I had to survive the elimination of only 6 more people in order to make it "into the money" (560th made $12,500) and bring home the largest cash prize of my poker career. My only previous cash prize was in January 2005 at the WSOP Circuit Tournament $500 NL Hold'em where I placed 22nd out of 650 for $1570. Six more people -- I knew I could do this. Making the money was my second goal of my WSOP week. Max analyzed my table in much greater detail than yesterday since, clearly, the stakes were getting higher. Both of us felt that I had drawn a pretty good table again. Not many big stacks at the table and mine would actually be the third largest. Additionally, no famous professionals. But, Max did Google everyone's name and gave me as much information on each player as possible. (By the way, thanks again, Max, for all this support -- I am incredibly lucky to have such great friends at home.) After taking copious notes, I shoved my "analysis" sheet in my back pocket and prepared to head off to the Rio. Overall, I was pretty happy with the table draw and I felt I knew each player pretty well. Finally, Max warned me that my strategy should be to play hand for hand until I got to 560 -- and did I ever!

When I entered the main room, I could feel the antsy anticipation among the players. This feeling turned to impatience. To eliminate six people, it took over an hour. After each hand, the dealer stood up to indicate that the hand was over. Only when all dealers were standing could we play the next hand. You can only imagine the chaos and the time it took for us to get through just one hand. The deal only made it around the table once. Fortunately, during this round, I got a few hands to grab the blinds and take down a pot to increase my chips to around 120,000. Finally, the "Bubble Boy" (the last guy to not make the money) was eliminated and the room broke out into applause and joy. We had all made it to the money. Goal #2 -- CHECK! I congratulated all the players on my table and especially the gentleman next to me who had said as we started the day, "All I want to do is finish in the money and I can go home happy!" Well, congratulations my friend, you just did it! However, I did feel for the 561st finisher, even though I didn't even know the person because I have personally felt the pain. I was "Bubble Boy" at the New England Poker Classic's Main Event back in April (finished 36th and they paid 35 spots). It was one of the most devastating feelings I've ever had in poker. However, he or she shouldn't feel too horrible; it was announced that the 561st place finisher would receive a free entry into the 2006 WSOP Main Event. Well done, Harrahs! I hope this will start a trend.

Well, let's get back to playing. I was off to a nice start and ready to resume play. Just as I was rereading my "analysis" sheet, the floor person asked for the big blind at our table. I looked down and realized it was ME. UGH! I had felt thoroughly prepared for my particular table, and now it was for nought. Oh well, the best laid plans...

In the time it took me to walk to my new table on the other side of the room, a few more people were already knocked out. It was truly amazing! Now that all of us had made the money, "all-in" announcements flew from every corner of the room. I knew that this happens at tournaments, but I never imagined it this fast. In the same amount of time it took to eliminate the first 6 people of the day, the next 100 players were dismissed! At the end of the first level, the WSOP was already down to 461 and that meant $14,135.

As for the cards, Monday was the day I knew had to come sooner or later. After two fairly positive days, a see-saw day arrived. Based on my past tournament experience, I knew I had to keep my head on straight. I could not lose patience or control on a day like today. Overall, as I reflect back, I'm very proud of the way I handled myself. I started out the day by knocking out one player with KK vs 33. Then, I was re-raised by the Big Blind while I was holding AK (I was in mid-late position). I thought he had either JJ or QQ, and since I had a lot of chips, I decided to take a flop. Of course, the flop came Q J 7 and after he bet, I had to muck my hand -- he told me later he had QQ and flopped a set. Then, I won a decent all-in pot with AK vs AQ. Then, lost another small all-in (he was very short stacked) with AK v AA. And then, I took out a short stack with my only true suck out of the tourney TT v AA when a ten hit on the turn. Overall, a crazy wild ride. And, I accomplished my goal for the day -- I survived!

During this roller coaster Monday, I actually had some fun, meeting some really neat people. At my new table, the gentleman to my right used a unique card protector -- a small globe. As we got to talking, I learned that his name was Steve Dannenmann -- he was a very friendly and funny guy. I kept telling him that I was focusing on getting out of the day. He kept telling me to focus, not on the day, but on each level. Thanks, Steve for the advice. It helped a lot. I also met Johnny Howard (real nice guy, we had a lot of great conversations during the tournament), who got on a roll and finished the day near 1 million in chips. Both these gentlemen were involved with my most memorable hand of the day, and I didn't even play in it. Let me explain. I was in the small blind with Qd 2d and five (yes, that's right, five) people had called the big blind. I thought about calling, with great pot odds and only half a bet to see a miracle flop, but thought better of it and mucked. Big Blind checked his option and we had a six-way pot! Then, it happened. A miracle flop - Q Q T. ARGH! All I kept hoping was that someone had the case Q with a better kicker to make me feel better about my fold. Turn 8. Only two players were left, Johnny and Steve. River was a blank and Steve pushed all-in and Johnny called (he was a huge chip leader at the table). Steve shows TT for a Tens boat and Johnny shows J9 for a straight. This was great for Steve at this stage of the tournament. Thank goodness I mucked! I would have been gone from the tournament.

Additionally, during the dead time (hands are played a lot slower during this stage of the tournament and I did not play a lot of hands after the dinner break), I got to know more of the Rio staff (Nolan, Greg, Sara, Beverly), the tournament directors (Johnny and Jack -- both of them did a phenomenal job!) and ESPN's Norm Chad and cameraman Adam. All of these people helped me through this stressful, yet enjoyable day, and, for that matter, the entire week. Thanks to all, I can't wait to see you again!

Finally, the night came to an end around 1:30am. I finished with 143,000 chips and there were only 185 players left. I scanned down the payout sheet. We had all guaranteed $39,075! WOW! That was a lot of money. As we start bagging our chips, Tommy Vu, who had become somewhat of a mentor to me and was at my table for a second day, gave me some extra encouragement, telling me that I played "real solid." He advised me to keep focused and thought I could go far in the tournament. Thanks, Tommy, for the encouraging words.

I'm off to sleep.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker