Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Day You Bust The Main

The most interesting question I was asked during my time in Vegas this year was how I react to deal with busting the really big tournaments, like the WSOP main event. The answer is that it's changed quite a bit down the years. 

There's a cliche that the day you bust the main is the worst day of the year if you're a serious poker player. This was certainly true of me in the early years of my career, and was true as recently as 2016 when for the only time in my career I didn't make it out of day one. 

But it's changed. My bust last year had a lower intensity to it, and this year my day 2 bust didn't feel very different from any other live tournament bust. I don't know why that is,even if I can think of some possible reasons. 

Maybe I'm just getting better and more philosophical with experience. At the end of the day, as unique as the main is and as good as its structure is, it is a tournament, and as such your result will be almost entirely determined by how you run. Over a sample size of one you could play flawlessly and bust on day one, or play horribly and win (if you don't believe me, google Jamie Gold). Even over a sample size of ten, you could play really well and never cash. I'm not saying that's what's happened to me, I'm pretty sure some bad mistakes were made in the early years, but I do genuinely feel I've run pretty horribly over my ten main events. 

Maybe it's the fact that I went into this year's WSOP off the back of my best six months online of my career. In the early years the buyin represented a big enough portion of my bankroll to hurt but these days that is no longer the case. 

Lappin advanced the interesting theory is that it's because I've reached a point of my career where I'm happy with what I've already accomplished and my legacy, and I no longer feel like I have much to prove. There may be something to that: while I'd still love a deep run and a big score and I work harder than ever to give myself the best chance of that happening, well it's more a case of if it happens it happens and that would be great, rather than of it never happens that would be terrible. 

We interviewed Jared Tendler for the Chip Race during the WSOP and in response to our question of how to deal with things when they're not going well in a long series, Jared said its about focusing on the process and the decisions rather than the results, about treating it as a puzzle. I'm definitely on board with that thinking, so as long as I haven't messed up, I can accept the outcome. Daiva bust shortly before me, and confirmed she felt no real upset as she felt she had played as well as she could. 

Up until recently, the day you bust the main was also the day your WSOP ended. Then they introduced the Little One Drop. The first year I played it, it felt like the equivalent of the World Cup third/fourth place playoff (surely the most pointless "contest" in all of sport). The second year I played it felt like a welcome low stress way to move on and get back on the horse. This year there were a number of events after the main, so in my case the main came a little over half way through my schedule rather than right at the end. The fact you have to power through snd play another four or five bracelet events leaves little room for feeling sorry for yourself. My surprise at how little I felt was matched by my surprise at my emotional crash when my series did come to an end when I got one outered on the river in the last event, The Closer. So perhaps the fact that the main isn't the last event on the schedule is a big part of the reason it doesn't feel quite so devastating to bust the main, and at least some of the pain is postponed til you bust your last event. 

One final factor I'm pretty sure is big is having a good support network. In my first year in Vegas I hung out exclusively with my brother. In my next few I did the typically Irish thing of just hanging out with other Irish (many of whom I didn't even like if I'm honest), but over the years my social circle has grown wider and more international, and I only feel the need to hang with people I do like. 

After busting the main this year, Daiva and I decided to blow off some steam with her husband John with a night on the town. After an In and Out burger we ended up in Bally's where Daiva decided that the cheapest way to achieve her new goal of consuming her own body weight in vodka was to enter their nightly tournament and survive long enough to avail of the necessary number of $1 cocktails. In previous years I've alternatively marvelled and ridiculed people who jump straight into a tiny tournament after busting the main, but in the company of my friends getting utterly sloshed I found myself instead ridiculing and marvelling at the fact that even in this $150 event with a horrific structure (beyond a certain point the blinds just seemed to double every twenty minutes) I was still unable to do anything other than give it my all. As drunk as I was, when we hit the final table I found myself studying all the stacks and the payout structure to figure out what my ranges should be. Daiva similarly grinded out a result in the Aria nightly in her last night in Vegas. 

One thing John said to both of us that night also resonated:
"Getting to come back every year and play this event is a victory in itself. You see all these other players talking a big game all year, but then you don't see them here". 

Poker may not be a sport that hands out participation prizes, it may not even be a sport at all, but if it is the WSOP is unquestionably our Olympics. And as any athlete will tell you about the Olympics, it's not just about winning for most, it's about getting there at all. Athletic careers can be defined by whether Olympic qualification was achieved or not. The same can be said of the WSOP main: getting there in June is usually only possible with a consistent level of success in the other eleven months of the year, which in itself is an achievement. 



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More