I couldn’t decide if I would play any tournaments while here at the World Series Of Poker, particularly the $1,000 buy-in event, which draws a field of thousands of players. I played in it last year and didn’t like it because they only give you $3,000 in chips, so if you get involved in a hand early and lose, half your stack is gone and you’re crippled.
So, I wasn’t going to fall for it again. I would just play in the cash games, which are always lucrative for me, and perhaps go over to the Venetian or Caesar’s for one of their MegaStack tournaments.
Then last night, for some reason, I decided I can’t come to the WSOP and not play at least one bracelet event. Besides, I told myself, I’ve done fairly well in tournaments this year, with four cashes thus far — although they all had much deeper starting stacks. I walked over to the registration area and signed up.
Today at noon, I reported to my assigned table, looked around at the other players and promised myself I’d play mistake-free poker. They’d have to beat me, because I wasn’t going to beat myself.
The whole table played conservatively for awhile, until Tom Dwan sat down in one of the empty seats. Durrr, as he’s known, is one of the most talented newcomers on the poker scene in the last couple of years, with a playing style that strikes fear into his opponents. His range is so wide, and he plays so cleverly, making it very difficult to figure out what cards he’s holding. I noticed the other players at my table tense up at Dwan’s arrival, but his presence didn’t bother me because I wasn’t going to make any mistakes against him.
It took about 3 hands for Dwan to start raising every pot. I watched him watch the other players as he bobbed and weaved a few times, but didn’t pick up a lot of chips because no one wanted to play a hand against him.
After about a half-hour, with blinds still at 25-25, he made his typical raise to 75, I looked down at a pair of jacks and re-raised to 225. Everyone else folded, but Dwan called. This was fine with me because I had position on him. The flop came out 9-high, with no straight or flush draws. He might have a 9, but I wasn’t worried, so when he checked, I bet 325, and he called. The turn card was an ace and he checked again. Positive I had the best hand, I made a near-pot-size bet of 1,000. He looked me over and folded.
That helped my stack and dented his a little, but it was clear that this tournament wasn’t all that important to him. The buy-in of a thousand dollars means nothing to his bankroll (he’s won and lost millions at a time in online games and has won a ton on “High Stakes Poker,” too), but with no other tournaments scheduled today, this was just something to kill time.
He continued his raising ways for another hour or so, taking down some pots, losing others. Finally, he tried a three-barrel bluff for all his chips against the guy to my right, who hesitatingly called and sent Dwan to the rail. I’d enjoyed talking with him at the table, and hope he’ll come up to the suite to sit down with Dennis Phillips and me for our Final Table radio show, but his exit made the table a little easier.
Just before the first break, two hours into the tournament, with blinds now at 25-50, the guy on my right raised to 125. I looked down at two queens and re-raised him to 275. Everyone folded back to him, and he re-re-raised to 600. I’d seen him play a few odd hands (like raising with jack-two on the button a little earlier, and calling Durrr with ten-nine), so I figured he could have aces, kings, ace-king, ace-queen, or ace-jack here — maybe jacks or tens, too. I wasn’t ready to throw my queens away quite yet, so I called.
The flop came out jack-ten-five. He bet 675, just about half the pot. I thought for a few seconds then decided to raise it to see where I was. Too big a raise would commit me to the pot, since I only had 2800 left, so I raised about the minimum, making it 1400.
He instantly announced he was all-in. That’s not good, I thought. He had said it pretty quietly, which made me think even more that he had a really strong hand. So, what could I beat? Not aces, kings, jacks, or tens. I didn’t think he’d do that with ace-king or ace-queen. So the only thing I could beat was ace-jack, or a smaller pair, and his previous play indicated he was unlikely to shove with those.
Agonizingly, I laid down my queens and left for the break. When I came back, I got involved in another big hand almost immediately — again with two queens. With blinds at 50-100, I raised to 250. The only caller was the shorter stack, who shoved. I called, and he turned over ace-queen. That meant I had him dominated but, sure enough, there was an ace on the flop (how do they do that so often???) and I was crippled even more, left with only about 500 chips.
Now I was under-the-gun and I was going to go all-in with anything decent. That turned out to be king-ten suited, so I pushed my meager stack forward. The guy on the button called with ace-seven of spades. He didn’t need it, but an ace came on the flop again, ending my tournament.
I handed out a few promotional cards for The Final Table, wished them all luck, and walked out of the Amazon room. Now, I’m off to the cash games to win back that thousand bucks I just threw away.