Chalk this blog up to something that I thought I would never write; a personal live tournament report. I’m an amateur poker player who stopped playing no limit hold’em regularly a couple years ago. I’ve concentrated my play on low limit PLO cash games online. With that said, I specifically planned my WSOP Main Event trip so that I could participate in the media event as it’s a nice opportunity to interact with all the WSOP staff and assorted media involved. I had only played the media event once previously, back in 2007, when I arrived late, blinded down, and didn’t win one of the 3 or 4 hands I played.
This year, I believe there were 17 starting tables - 10 handed. Each player started with 10,000 chips and rapidly increasing blinds every 15 minute levels. Naturally, any play in the game would have to be early, with winning flips and push/fold the dominate mode for the tournament the further we went. The entire tournament was played in a very fun environment with a lot of table talk and razzing on big hands. All tournament participants received a free pair of Dearfoam slippers and a copy of Annie Duke’s “Decide to Play Great Poker.”
My starting table included the ever-talkative and aggressive David Tuchman. He is well known for commenting on Live at the Bike and now is a WSOP commentator on ESPN and ESPN3. He dominated the early action as he was using regular pre and post flop aggression to win a number of pots early. With his extra chips, he was able to make a loose call of a push by our table bounty (winning some $290 headphones) when his Q,2 hit a two against the bounty’s Q,J. The more chips he had, the more pressure he applied to the table, seemingly playing over two-thirds of the pots. Only Jess Welman from Bluff Magazine seemed to tangle with him and she suffered some hits and was eliminated by Lizzy Hairston. Lizzy was constantly running in and out as she was handling ESPN interviews going on in a nearby room.
I was knocked down to about 6,300 early by Lizzy when I flopped two pair and led out from the big blind. I got two callers. The turn completed a flush, and I led again, getting one fold, but an all in shove by Lizzy Hairston. I folded and went into a patient mode since I no longer had any real play left.
Although I don’t recall the exact order of hands, I did get lucky to win some races or being a slight dog when I was the smaller stack and lost ones when I had the bigger stack. I was able to double through David Tuchman a couple times, once with 9’s vs. his 2’s and once with Q,J vs. his A,8. I lost Q’s three-way to A,6 and K,7, shorter stacks all in. I also was forced to call a reraise all-in with K,Q and was shown A’s.
After a couple hours of play, there was a dinner break where a limited buffet was served of pizza, pasta and salad was served to all media and top WSOP staff. The camaraderie was quite apparent as most of the assembled media and staff had been working closely together for the last 6 weeks.
Taking over Jess Welman’s seat was an Australian PokerStars team pro who was quite freely expressing his knowledge of the game by his play and talk with David Tuchman. Fortunately he was on the opposite end of the table and I was able to avoid tangling with him. The other seats of bustouts were filled by a couple Italians and a nice Frenchman. I was able to win a number of pots uncontested to build my stack with the ever growing blinds.
After about three hours, our table broke when we were down to three tables. At the next table I had WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel on my left, Lon McEachearn two to my right. Lon chose the surprising approach to blind down to nothing, going all in with 1.5 big blinds and I happened to have A,K that hand. The eliminations were coming fast and furious now and I never got called on my selective shoves, building my stack significantly. At eleven players, there was a three way all-in where David Tuchman essentially tripled up with 6’s against 8’s and Q’s when he hit his set to eliminate two players and bring us into the final table and into the money/prize arena.
At the final table, Annie Duke was there with a nice stack. I’m not sure of her media role, but she kindly donated the free books and had been promoting Epic Poker League during the WSOP. There were a couple PokerNews interns and reporter who were being loudly cheered by their many co-workers with Kristy and XXX posing for camera etc in background. The final table moved swiftly and I picked my spots carefully to chip up with uncontested shoves. I chose to lay down a couple A,X hands to smaller shoves when it seemed smarter to not risk losing significant portions of my stack. I even lay down A,10 suited in the blinds with a shove and call before me. David Tuchman busted in 6th when his 4’s that he shoved pre-flop were called by Annie Duke’s A,Q that hit the flop.
When play got to three handed a local guy named Boomer shoved his stack with A,Q and Annie who was busy complaining about being late to a dinner reservation called with K,10. She won that hand and had a 2.5-1 chip lead over me heads up. I had had a very nice and informational conversation with her only the night previously at the Rio hooker bar, so I joked with her about that encounter. Although she had seemed disinterested at the final table, playing on her iPad most of it, she took the heads-up seriously and laid down several hands to my pre-flop shoves. A few hands later, she moved all in and I made the tough call with A,2. She turned over K,7 and won the hand to take the trophy.
The second place prize was a 32” Vizio flat screen TV. Knowing that she had been playing on an iPad most of the final table, I tried to arrange to swap prizes, but she insisted she wanted to donate hers to a charity poker event of hers coming up. The TV was going to be difficult to get home and I had really wanted to get something my kids would appreciate, so I started to negotiate with the third place finisher. He was thrilled to take the flat screen and give me his Xbox Kinect, which was pretty close to the same value but much easier to get home.
Although it was a bit of a lucky blur to make it through the five hour tournament and finish in second, I was proud of how I played and didn’t really question any of my moves. It feels really nice to know I am returning home with a good story to share with my family and something to give my kids that represents the hard work I put in that they sometimes have a hard time appreciating.
A special thanks to @Kevmath, @Marie-Lizette and @Casinocityvin, media friends who stuck around to support me in the event. We headed over to the Gold Coast for bowling and pitchers of beer with many of the same media and WSOP staff. Nolan Dalla was in rare form giving away hundreds of dollars in freerolls for people trying to pick-up difficult splits. Thanks to @pokerlawyer, @dmoongirl, @writerjen and @pkrgssp for your twitter congratulations as I really enjoyed meeting you all, if briefly, in Vegas this year. This was the first year I got to know a number of the established poker media, even if I was only there 10 days. I met @pauly, @f-train, @shortstackshamus, @whojedi, @alcanthang, and a host of other very established members of the poker media who’s work I’ve enjoyed over the years.
It’s now 5 a.m. and I’ve finished packing and about to head to the airport. I’ll be back home in a few hours and back to my more normal WSOP coverage and blogging soon. Goodnight all.