Main Event Day 1d

After low turnouts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, almost 3000 people start the Main Event on Monday the 8th July. Every table and dealer is in use across the Rio. There are tables in the hallways.

Thankfully the organisers keep the games nine-handed. I get to know the other eight players at my table quite well over the twelve-hour day. There are more strong players than weak ones, but fortunately the weaker spots are situated to my immediate left. In seat 9 is an inexperienced internet qualifier from Wales, who plays really tightly. In seat 1 is the owner of the Asian Poker Tour, who is playing for fun and likes to play many hands. After a couple of levels he will get bored and stack off more than 100 big blinds with AK. He is replaced by a shorter stack who does not waste much time before busting with TT v KK. He is replaced in turn by a loud Slovakian man with whom I will play a very big pot later on.

Seat 2 is occupied for the first half of the day by a very young Scandanavian who is a little aggressive but in an exploitable, transparent way. He likes to three bet from his big blind and then bet any flop. I get some chips from him early on when I raise my button, call his three bet, float his flop bet, and bet the turn. Later I win a few thousand when I raise my button with air in anticipation of his three bet. I put a large re-raise in and watch him tank for a couple of minutes. I get a little worried when I realise he must have a hand this time, and if he should call I will have to bet the flop! Thankfully it doesn’t come to that.

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His laydown was in keeping with the flavour of the day. Throughout the first four levels I played the most aggressive poker of my life. I played more hands than anyone at the table, and re-raised many times. When I felt I could put someone on a close range of hands, and felt that I could represent strength, I went for it. Not running good in terms of the cards I was being dealt but running good in terms of situations. I was not playing wildly, but kept cropping up all over the table like a bad smell. It worked beautifully. My timing was spot on, as time and time again players would lay down hands to me.

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Remember this is the Main Event. $10,000 buy-in, 300 big blind starting stack, two hour levels. Players are trying to avoid playing poker, to survive that much longer in the tournament they have been looking forward to all year. This attitude was vocalised by Charlie in Seat 3 (Dusk Till Dawn staff will remember Charlie, a big american guy dealer/floorperson, from Norweigan Open 08). He trotted out the ‘would you fold aces first hand of the main event’ hypothetical question and said, yes, of course he would fold aces, because he could find a much better spot to get his money in later on in the tournament. (????)

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So, in this context, it made perfect sense to me to raise KJo under-the-gun during the first round. I wondered what the button in seat 5 might be raising me with when he made it 1000 to go. QQ+? JJ+? Hmmm, OK lets find out, and turn this KJ into a bluff. If he doesn’t have Aces or Kings he won’t call. I make it 3000 to go and he thinks a little then flat calls. The flop comes jack high, but my pair of jacks is kind of irrelevant. I continue the bluff with a 4000 bet and he folds Kings face up! He folds Kings face up on a jack-high board. He put me on aces when I four-bet and called to try and flop a set. This, my friends, is the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.

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By the end of the first level I have 45,000 in chips. By the end of the second level I have 60,000 chips, double the starting stack and almost double the average. Halfway through level four I have 90,000. Then, this hand comes up.

With blinds at 150/300/ante25, the Slovakian makes it 1200 under the gun. He is the weak spot at the table and has been overplaying his hands. He called the young Scandanavian all in for lots of chips with a pair of nines and won. He calls with draws and makes large obvious bluffs on the river. He and I are the larger stacks at the table. I make a large re-raise with AhKh from the small blind and he calls. The flop comes down Qh 9h As. I lead out, he makes it 16k, I shove him for his remaining 30k, he snap calls with a set of nines. Bollocks. Thats one of three flops of a gazillion possible flops where he can get it all. He doubles through me and suddenly I’m down to 37k. Gutted. On the bright side, the average stack is only 39k!

On the down side, half an hour later I make an ill-conceived move with QTo with which I lose 7.5k AND I am forced to show it to the table. After that I’m like a neutered terrier, without the chips or the confidence or the cards or the image to continue my glorious assault.

The last hour of the day is a struggle, but I do manage to control my emotions and keep my stack intact. Its hard not to feel bad after losing a pot that would have put me in the top 10 chip leaders in the biggest tournament in the world, but I simply cannot afford to let it get me down.

I pick up Aces when Sam Simon (co-creator of the Simpsons) raises his cut-off. Surely Sam, I think, you have to shove when I re-raise you this time. Of course he doesn’t.

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We bag up the chips and I have mixed emotions. I have played the game of my life but ended up with 5k less chips than I started with. I have ran over a table comprising of tough professionals and rich amateurs all day, then took one wrong step and ended up with my tail between my legs. I remember the buzz of trotting to the dinner break as the big stack. I wonder what it would have felt like if that nut flush draw had come. I feel deflated.

The story doesn’t end there. I’m going to play day 2 of the Main Event. I have 50 big blinds, more than enough to play poker with. I will start again, setting out with the same attitude that got me this far. I will have a new table with a new set of players to face. It will be more difficult, as until I accumulate a lot of chips I will not have a lot of leverage against the other stacks. I may have to change gears and spend time waiting for a hand. If things don’t go my way, I might get really short, and then I will have to get lucky.

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