Although we had bricked all our side events, myself and my two Firm mates Daragh and Jason went into the main event feeling pretty optimistic. Although we all know how to play the faster events, like most players we believe our edges to be considerably bigger in slower better structured events, and the WSOP main event is the best structured live tournament there is. We all understand the nature of variance and know that when you are on a bad run all you can do is concentrate on playing your best and not think about how you are running. I reminded myself that I had only played 5 slow structured live events this year, and had gone deep in three of them (the last three UKIPT main events). Also I had been very careful not to overplay and in fact took more days off in my three weeks in Vegas than in my entire career to that point, so I went into the main feeling rested and focussed.
Day 1First three levels were quite frustrating as I had a great table (one good German pro, two decent American amateurs, and 6 weak amateurs) but couldn't get anything going. You pretty much had to make hands against the amateurs (three of whom were bad loose aggro meaning they didn't fold much), something I failed to do in the first 6 hours, meaning I went to dinner with 23k (and would have been 17k if I hadn't hero called with 99 on a AJ567 runout). First 6 hours were all about keeping disciplined and patient and not spewing through frustration. Marathon not a sprint etc.
After dinner I finally made two hands (aces getting two streets on a K44 board, and AT making a house and getting called down by an unbeliever with king high, I overbet river thinking he would see it as more bluffy). That got me to 39k. I was card dead again then for a few hours and drifted back to 32k but had a great last hour (without cards) as I cashed in my tight image at a time when all the amateurs had clearly locked up (they were openly talking about how much they wanted to make day 2). Table had gotten tougher with the arrival of a decent London based online pro, and an American online pro, so I was pretty happy to bag up 48k (average would be somewhere around 40k).
So, gruelling day one with very little help from the deck but acceptable outcome, and I was pretty happy with how I played.
Between day 1 and day 2 my daughter arrived into town with some friends. She is spending the summer in Santa Cruz and they drove over for a couple of days. It was great to see her and get my mind off poker for the rest day: Fiona is a real livewire and great craic to be around.
Day 2I made a quick start, getting up to 78k in the first level. 8 frustrating hours of card death and getting snapped off when light saw me drop back to 35k. I rallied in the last level to 50k before getting the full double to over 100k AK v AQ all in pre. Moved up to 130k with 45 mins left, but then had to fold tens twice on nine high boards (pretty sure I was correct both times), and was down to 80k when I lost a 75k flip (ak v tens). That put me back down to 45k. Picked up a little at the end to finish with 55k. Obviously felt pretty disappointed at the end given I had 130k 45 mins earlier, and would have finished on 130k had I won the flip, but again I was happy with how I played.
Day 3I was totally card dead in the first level and tread water by stealing blinds. The only semi decent pot I won was a successful river bluff.
That meant I came back with 27 big blinds after the first break. In the small blind I was dealt tens (my bogey hand of this tournament: I was dealt it three times and was up against it in a race once, and lost over 200k total in the 4 pots). In this spot, and with 27 big blinds, tens is strong enough to want to get all in before the flop. It's too strong (and too many chips) to just shove over his raise, as this will just fold out most of the hands that I crush such as smaller pairs. So I 3bet to 11k. He instashoves. I'm not loving it now as I think I'm now racing most of the time, but I obviously can't fold getting over 6 to 4 on the call, so my chips are in almost as quick as his. I'm relieved to see AJ, which while not a hand my tens crush still means that in 57 of 100 universes I double up and stay alive.
Unfortunately this is one of those other 43 universes where instead I'm shaking his hand and walking away. The window card is a safe rag, but when the dealer spreads the flop an ace and a jack appear. A king on the turn means I pick up a picture card friend (in addition to a ten, a queen on the river will keep me alive), but the river is a rag and I'm walking through the Rio, out the front door and back towards the Jockey Club in a bit of a daze.
Tournament poker is a cruel game at times, and one that forces you to flip for large amounts of money (or to be more precise equity). Late on day 2 I had lost my only other flip of the tournament (a 75k pot), so I was 0/2 in flips. In WSOP tourneys you get 3 times the buyin in chips, so my two lost flips were for approximately $60,000 in equity. You can't think in these terms in running (otherwise you might get gun shy, afraid to stick your chips in when you're supposed to). All you can do is cross your fingers and hope to win those crucial flips.
As I got into the elevator back in the Jockey Club, a soul singer was singing "After the dream has gone". The dream was indeed gone, for another year at least.
(Part 2 covering where to from here to follow)