WSOP 2016: Goal No 1: Last longer than 70 minutes...Tick!


No aces < kings this time for Celina Lin

For as long as I have known the rules of poker, I can remember discussions that began: "You have aces in the first hand of the World Series of Poker, another player moves all-in, what do you do?"

These discussions (which started for me around 1997) would often feature at least one person advocating the fold. The argument ran that skilled players wouldn't want to put their $10,000 so quickly in the hands of fate. You should fold this hand and keep things small-ball from then on; make complex plays post-flop and outwit the kind of "amateurs" prepared to risk it all with a minimum of 76 percent equity.

These days, this kind of reasoning would be dismissed as bunkum. Got aces pre-flop and someone else is all-in? Got to get it all-in too. It's always too good a spot to pass up*.

In this very tournament last year, Celina Lin, the Team PokerStars Pro from China, was faced with a decision very similar to the one outlined above. It wasn't quite the first hand, but only 70 minutes into the first level of the day, Lin found aces and got into a raising battle with Gavin Smith. He seemed to want to play for it all.

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Lin still remembers the bet sizes--it went 300, 1,100, 2,700, all-in (blinds were 50-100; starting stacks 30,000)--and Lin called to put her tournament at stake. Smith revealed pocket kings and although Lin had better than 80 percent equity in this one, a king appeared on the turn. She was out.

It's a story she related on Twitter this morning in the last moments before her return to the World Series. Most people have pretty specific ambitions for their Main Event, ranging from winning the thing to lasting the first day. Lin's was even more modest than that:

Happily, with the clock now ticking past the hour mark in Level 4, Lin has achieved this first aim. She has about 73,000 in chips, an increase on this year's 50,000 starting stack, and is apparently enjoying life. She is texting away between hands, flashing the Team Pro China patch around for everyone to see, stuck to the back of her smartphone.

But Lin still bears the scars of that skirmish last year. She explained today that prior to the 2015 Series, Lin had not been to Las Vegas for eight years. She came for the first and only time in around 2007, but since she turned pro had focused her attention primarily on Asia.

"I couldn't believe it," Lin said. "I thought, 'Oh my god, this is the worst thing I was expecting.' First time in eight years and it lasted 70 minutes."

She added: "You want to see that [someone shoving when you have aces], but it was brutal."

Even worse was the fact that she then had to suffer a barrage of abuse on social media after revealing the details of her demise. The same people who, back in 1997, advocated a fold with aces in the Main Event told her that she had played it badly. "You're supposed to be a pro," they said.

Lin, however, now has the chance to put the record straight. Like a true professional, she has got back into the saddle and is looking for redemption. Her World Series has already lasted more than three times as long as her last attempt, and the two-time Red Dragon champion will now look to add a first WSOP Main Event result to her list of achievements.

The first goal--lasting longer than 70 minutes--is already ticked off.

*With the possible exception of bubble play in specific circumstances.



George Danzer was down to his last 11,000 earlier today, but had bounced back to about 33,000 by the time the dinner break came around. He reached for a football analogy to describe the early portion of his day. "I feel like I was 2-0 down, but I've got a goal back before half-time," he said. "Two-one is not as bad."

WSOP photos by