The 2007 World Series of Poker has come and gone, and it will be next year before I have another chance at a bracelet and the main event. Every top pro waits impatiently for the start of the WSOP. Everyone has different goals. It's the most exciting time of the year for a professional poker player. Besides the tournaments themselves, a number of pros have fantasy leagues where they place all kinds of prop bets on who will win the most bracelets to who cashes the most. I didn't let down the players who had me on their team for most cashes -- I cashed eight times, which tied one other player for most cashes at this year's WSOP.
Let's start with the two weeks before the WSOP began. My goal was to win at least two bracelets, and I set the bar high. I'm a goal-oriented person and know that setting goals gives me the best chance to succeed. Goal setting forces you to focus on all the things you need to do to prepare to achieve those goals.
For starters, I was working out diligently every day for the three weeks prior to the start of the WSOP. I know from experience the grueling hours I will be putting in over a six-week span, so endurance was one of the things I would need to help me with my goals. Once the WSOP starts, I accept that I will not be working out on regular basis, but on the days I get knocked out early, I will take advantage of that time to squeeze in a workout.
What's next? Well, it's Vegas and there are many tempting things to do there. There are always many social activities, as well as the dice table, blackjack, etc., but I had to make a commitment to myself that the next six weeks would be all business.
The first event that I cashed in was $2,500 buy-in no-limit hold 'em. There were 1,013 players who entered this event and we were down to 75 players when it was time for me to make my move. I had Mike the Mouth (Matusow) on my right, and he had just won two big pots, making him the chip leader at this point. I believe the blinds were $1,500-$3,000 with a $500 ante. Mike was in the cutoff and raised it to $8,500. I had A-10 suited. My stack was below chip average at $48,000 and I pushed in. The blinds folded, and Mike had a decision to make. He thought for a long time and then called, turning over pocket threes. It was a bad call by him, in my opinion, but I was happy that he did since I was at a tough table and this was an opportunity to have above-average chips. Mike's threes held up, though, and I was out in 75th place, winning $5,126.
The next event I cashed in was the $5,000 world championship heads-up no-limit hold 'em. There were 392 players entered in this event. When we were down to 33 players, my match was vs. Alex Bolotin. We had played for about two hours and were almost dead-even in chips. I raised on the button with A-K and he called. The flop was K-6-2 rainbow. He had check-raised me on the flop and I just called. I put him on a king, but did not reraise him because I knew that he was capable of laying down the king with a bad kicker. A five came on the turn and he bet and I pushed all-in. He called having hit the five on the turn, giving him two pair and the lead in the hand. I didn't get help on the river and was out 33rd, winning $9,212.
The next event I cashed in was $3,000 limit hold 'em, which had 296 players. With 27 players left, I had an above-average chip stack. I took two bad beats from Greg Mueller. One key hand I had top pair -- kings with a queen kicker and Greg bet into me and I raised him. He made the call, drawing to the gutshot queen, and hit the three-outer on the river. The very next hand I played I had a set of kings and Greg had slowplayed his aces. We put three raises on the turn, getting Greg all-in and when we flipped up the cards, Greg showed that he was drawing to two outs and he hit it on the river. This put me short in chips, but I managed to hang around until we got down to 11 players left. At that point, a player in the cutoff raised and I reraised on the button with A-8 offsuit. The small blind called and the player in the cutoff called as well. The flop was Q-2-3 and they checked to me so I could put in my last chip. They both called and I received no help on the turn or river. The player in the small blind had pocket sevens and the player in the cutoff had K-8 off. The sevens held up and I was eliminated in 11th place, winning $10,212. If I hadn't taken those beats, I think I had had a good chance of winning a bracelet in that tournament.
The next event I cashed was pot-limit Omaha high-low. This was an interesting tournament because I had never played this game before and it was another tournament in which I had a great chance to win a bracelet. With just five players left, I was second in chips -- only $30,000 less than the chip leader. A big pot had developed between the chip leader and myself where he had position on me. With one card to come, the pot was about $325,000. There was no low yet and two flush draws. I put him on a heart draw and a bad low. I had the nut spade draw and an A-4 low draw with jacks up. I pushed in on the turn with my last $280,000. After a minute or so he called with a flush draw and a 2-3-4 low draw. He was about a 3.5 dog, but he hit the queen of hearts on the river and I finished in fifth place, winning $43,606.
There's still time for me to achieve my goals and I kept telling myself not to have a letdown. The next event was one of my best, stud eight or better. It was a $1,000 buy-in and had 668 players. At some point right before we were in the money, I was in a hand heads-up with my good friend Tom Schneider. Tom was having a terrific WSOP. He had already won a bracelet and made another final table.
I had a set of nines on Fourth Street, hidden. He had split kings with a king already out. I raised him on Fifth Street and I had two suits showing. My board was 5-9-J with two spades and he reraised me, thinking I was on a flush draw. I reraised and he called. I caught a blank on Sixth and he bet into me once more. I raised him again. He only had one more bet left and decided to raise all-in. We turned up the cards and he was drawing to one out in the deck –- and that was only if I didn't fill up on the river. Well, he hit the one-outer and I didn't fill up and he went on to win his second bracelet and also to win the best overall player for the 2007 WSOP. Congratulations to him. For those of you who don't know Tom, he is one of the classiest guys around. I managed to make it to 33rd and win $3,890.
The next event I cashed in was the $1,500 no-limit hold 'em, which had 3,151 players. With 140 players left, I was a little below chip average. A player who was playing loose made a big preflop raise, and I pushed all-in with A-K suited. He was in for $9,000 and it cost him over $50,000 to call, but he did anyway with A-Q offsuit, and spiked a queen on the turn. My winnings: $4,731.
Well, now time was running out for me to achieve my goal of two bracelets, but I still had faith I could do it. The $5,000 championship no-limit 2-7 lowball with rebuys event had 78 entries and 226 rebuys. This was the cream of the crop of the who's who of poker. I might have been the only one not to make a rebuy or an add-on in this event. After a long and hard battle I made it to heads-up with Erik Seidel, who already owns seven WSOP bracelets. I had my hands full, but was up to the challenge.
Erik loves to play aggressively against any opponent who shows passive play. I wanted to set the tempo of the match by showing the first hand I stayed pat with and revealing the bluff. This was to let Erik know that I was willing to gamble in different spots, and as a result of that I value bet a jack low twice and got paid. I had a 2-1 chip advantage over him. The first time he went all-in, I had raised on the button and he pushed. He drew two cards and I drew one. I was a 2-1 favorite and I looked first as a common courtesy. I paired up fives and he did not and doubled up. The second time he pushed, again I was drawing one and he was drawing two. I again looked first and showed that I made a jack low. He looked at his first card and said it was a good one and now he was even money. The second one was also good and he once again doubled up. This can make even the Player of the Year talk to himself, but this was no time for bad beat stories -- I still had a bracelet to win.
After winning a few small pots I managed to take the lead again. This time when I raised on the button, Erik pushed all-in and I called. He was pat, but I was only drawing one, to an eight. This time he turned over his hand to show me what I had to beat and it was a jack-10 low, making me about even money. But a queen came on the draw and now Erik had a 2-1 chip lead. Wow, this bracelet was elusive, but it's not over 'til it's over.
The next hand I played, I raised on the button and he called. He was taking two cards and I was taking one, drawing to a 9-7. I had $600,000 left when he came out betting $250,000. I had made my 9-7 low. I raised him all-in $350,000 more. This would make me even with him once again. But no, Erik calls my all-in and turns over a rough eight. I was disappointed, but not too bad. I played the very best I could against one of the toughest players in the world and I had a lot to be proud of for finishing second and winning $320,000. Not too shabby. Erik, being the classy guy he is, said to me that he had to get lucky to beat me that day. I congratulate Erik on winning his eighth bracelet. Oh well, at this point it was now impossible for me to achieve my goal of two bracelets, but if I won the main event, it would be a good consolation.
OK, so that's now the new goal: Win the main event. I went into the main event with a lot of confidence. I also believe in the cards breaking even and feel that I'm actually due to get lucky. I have a lot going for me. Day 1 we started at noon and would be playing until 3:30 a.m. At about 2:30 a.m. I'm one of the chip leaders and I'm looking to finish the day as the chip leader. Well, I had my opportunity. I'm in a three-way pot and I flop a set of threes. I have position on the preflop raiser. He bets the flop and I just call. There are no straight or flush draws. The third player calls. The turn puts a second suit. The first player now checks, I bet about two-thirds of the pot. The next player calls and the other player raises. I come over the top and push all-in. The first player mucks and the player who raised called all-in. The pot is about $150,000 and he turns over kings. He is drawing to two outs in the deck. He is a 21-1 underdog.
Finally looks like things are going my way. I mean how could I possibly lose this? I already have gotten unlucky to Greg Mueller when he hit the two-outer on the river and to Tom Schneider when he hit the one-outer on the river. There was no doubt in my mind that this time my hand would hold up and I would go into Day 2 as the chip leader. Ha ha ha -- not so fast, as the king hits the river to the screams of the crowd. I thought I had used up my allotment of bad beats, but I was wrong. Oh well, I go into Day 2 still above chip average.
My goal in Day 2 was to grind my stack up. Things are looking good once again. It's a new day and I'm playing well. I have about $150,000 -– well above chip average. I'm in the big blind and it is folded to the small blind. He is a 21-year-old Internet player from Sweden and has shown to be very aggressive. He makes it $5,000 to go with nearly $70,000 at the start of the hand. I wake up with queens and reraise him $16,000 more. He pushes all-in. I call and he says, "Oh, no," and flips over 10-2 off. He has obviously read Doyle's book. Well, another golden opportunity to be in the top 10 in chips. The flop was pretty good for me: K-J-10, all hearts. I have the queen of hearts. The two of clubs hits the turn and somehow I blank out on the river. Another $150,000 down the drain. Boy, my allotment of bad beats was bigger than I thought this year, but that didn't stop me as I finished Day 2 well above chip average.
Day 3 was just steady poker for me as I made it into the money. I went into Day 4 well above chip average, maintaining good chips throughout the day, but late in the day, I took a couple of tough beats against the same player. First hand was when I raised on the button and he pushed from the big blind. He had about $100,000 and I made the call. I had A-J off and he had A-7 off. He hit a 7 on the turn and that doubled him up.
Then this would come back to hurt my stack late near the end of Day 4. Lamar Wilkinson raised to $35,000, Nick Salem folded, and I reraised with pocket 10s on the button to $100,000. The big blind pushed all-in for a total of 300,000. Lamar mucked and I called $200,000 more. Big blind showed A-Q off. Lamar said that's what he had, too, and Nick told me he had Q-5 off. Well, that left the big blind with only three outs to beat me. The flop was good, as was the turn; but the river once again was torturous as he hit the three-outer with the ace of spades on the river. If I had won that pot, I would have gone into Day 5 in the top 10. Instead, I wound up going into Day 5 with $860,000. Chip average was about 1.1 million.
Day 5. The player who sucked out on me twice the day before gets drawn to my table once again and in exactly the same position, two seats to my left. All the players still in can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. We started the tourney with over 6,300 players and now just a little over 100 players are left.
One key hand occurred when I raised preflop in middle position to $60,000. The player two to my left pushed all-in for $285,000 who is followed by the button, who has me covered, cold calls. After the small blind folded, the big blind, who has a total of $470,000, deliberated for quite awhile. He finally makes his decision –- the one that would be the least likely -- and calls. I put him on a middle pair from eights to queens, and thought that he decided preflop that if an ace or king didn't appear, he would push.
Now it's on me. I'm getting about 4.5 to 1 and already know the player who went all-in said to the person next to him that he has pocket threes, so I make the call with my pocket nines. The flop brings K-2-4 rainbow. The big blind checks. I have $650,000 left and there is over a million in the pot. I bet $200,000. The button lays down pocket 10s. Now it's on the big blind. He was on the fence, and he could have gone either way. He had $170,000 left and finally decides to make the call, flipping up jacks.
Now the pot is about $1.5 million. As you all know I have gotten unlucky so many times that it was my turn to get lucky, right? Wrong. The turn and the river didn't help, and I was down to $450,000. After a couple of rounds of no cards I was down to $170,000 with the action costing $60,000 a round. I was under the gun and moved all-in with K-7 of hearts. The button called and everyone else mucked. He had pocket eights. The flop brought me a flush draw, but the turn and the river didn't help and I was knocked out in 97th place, winning $67,000. I didn't achieve my goals, but because I focused on trying to accomplish them, I didn't do too badly winning over $400,000 and tying Michael Binger for most cashes at the 2007 WSOP.
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