I’m happy to say I survived Day 1 of the Main Event of the World Series Of Poker. While this is my first time playing the world’s largest poker tournament, I wasn’t nervous or anxious because I’ve been around the WSOP for several years and have played in several others with big fields here and around the country. As in any poker tournament, the key is to remember that the thousands of other players don’t matter — you only have to concentrate on the ones at your table. I did that.
My table wasn’t all that tough. The only really good player I recognized was Dan O’Brien, a well-respected pro with over a million dollars in tournament earnings. He was fairly aggressive, and we didn’t play any big pots. The other player I knew by reputation was Victoria Coren, a British writer and broadcaster who has hosted several poker TV shows in England and now emcees a BBC game show called Only Connect. She’s a member of PokerStars Team UK, and sat directly on my right, which was a good thing, because she was the only player interested in any kind of conversation. Considering that we were at this table for upwards of 12 hours, it was nice to have someone to chat with and joke around with. In contrast, the Australian guy on my left barely said ten words all day. Sure, we’re playing for big money, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy ourselves along the way.
I’m always happy to have female poker players at the table, because there’s such a dearth of them — only 5% of the WSOP field. Toward the end of the day, after a couple of players had been eliminated from our table, we were joined by another woman, Sissy Murphy, who runs the Nevada Poker League and, like Victoria, was happy to talk.
I was very happy with my play throughout Day 1, in which I increased my stack from 30,000 chips at the start to 63,650 when play ended after 5 levels. There are plenty of players with much bigger stacks, but that doesn’t mean much now. Far too often, those who get lots of chips early do so by being reckless and getting lucky, or constantly playing aggressively without changing gears. The pros with lots of chips know how to adjust, while the amateurs who’ve been hit by the deck think they’ll keep running over everyone, but instead start bleeding chips away. The monster stack at our table yesterday at the dinner break kept the pedal to the metal through the evening, and was gone halfway through level 5. History shows that the early chip leaders only make it to the money (which isn’t until the middle of Day 4) half the time.
I wasn’t involved in any hands that make a great story, but I used a combination of good cards at times and good moves at other times to chip up, playing smart, patient poker. I felt particularly good about my reads of the other players, two of whom had tells so obvious it was like they played with their cards face up.
There are three starting days. Saturday (1A) had 1,066 entrants, while Sunday (1b) had 2,144 players. Today (1C) will be the biggest of all, with likely around 3,500, which would bring the field close to last year’s total. Each day, about a third of the field is eliminated. My Day 2 isn’t until tomorrow, so I’m spending today relaxing, writing, reading, going to dinner with friends, and not playing any poker or going anywhere near The Rio.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter for my updates from the Main Event, with the caveat that I’m not tweeting while I’m playing — only on breaks.
One note: if you look at the results posted on the World Series Of Poker website, you may notice they have my hometown listed as Alexandria, Virginia. That’s where we lived in the 80s and 90s, which is probably when I first got a Harrah’s Total Rewards card, and it’s been stuck in the system ever since. I just asked WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla if he can fix that, and he’s going to try, so hopefully it will list me as a St. Louisan from here on out.