April 24, 2004

Take Me Out to the Poker Game: 2004 WSOP $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Sliced and diced

Harrah's Entertainment had bailed out the failed Binion's Horseshoe and tidied up the place a bit for the 2004 World Series of Poker. Today was the first event open to the general public (the first was limited to casino employees), a $2000 buy-in No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament. They got 834 entrants, just shy of the number who entered last year's World Championship and more than double the number who entered this event last year. I drew a table with no one I recognized other than a guy I had played with in Reno who went by the name of Hog sitting on my right. I did well early, busting one opponent when I flopped a Set of Fives and he moved in on the Turn with top Pair and a Flush draw that didn't materialize. Then I called an opening raise with Jacks on the Small Blind. The Flop came King-King-Nine. I bet and got called. I was prepared to Check-Fold but a Jack came on the Turn, filling me up. I made a small sucker bet and my opponent moved all in. I beat him into the pot and busted his pocket Aces when no Ace or King came on the River. At the first break I had more than quadrupled my starting stack of 2000 to 8650.


They broke our table and moved me to the table ninth-to-last in the break list, so we would be there for a while. Fortunately there was still no one I knew at the table. A short stack on my right had moved all in before the Flop two out of the last three hands and when he did it again I found pocket Jacks on the button and called for 1625. I didn't know what he had the other two times but he had Ace-King this time and spiked a King to beat me. I seesawed a bit and was down to 6300 at the second break, still in very good shape. When I returned from the break, though, what had been a nice, safe empty chair three seats to my left turned into one of the most feared opponents in poker: Phil "Number 11" Ivey, wearing his Full Tilt Poker basketball jersey and carrying three racks of chips totaling over 15,000. I had done well against him in Reno but I was sure he would adjust, find my weaknesses, and exploit them. I avoided him and instead concentrated on the guy to his right, With the Blinds 150-300 and a 50 ante, I opened for 900 with pocket Nines and he made a tiny raise of 700 into the 2700-chip pot. I looked into his soul and decided he had a big hand but for 700 more I had to call, just in case I caught a miracle flop. The Flop came Nine high. I checked my nuts and the guy moved all in with his pocket Aces for 3350 more. I called instantly and survived his two outs, busting him and giving me a high-water mark of 9900 chips.


A Brit named Gary with a short stack reraised me all in before the Flop when I opened with pocket Aces. I called of course but his Ten came on the River and he doubled up on me to the tune of 1925. Once again Tens got me in trouble but this time I had them where I wanted them, just lost a four-to-one shot. Fortunately I still had chips but unfortunately the seat of the guy whose Aces I cracked was now filled by Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren, the nicest guy in poker but also one of the toughest opponents. He sliced and diced me and Phil stole my blinds and soon I was down to around 3000 chips. With 200-400 Blinds and a 50 ante I moved all in with pocket Sevens and got called by Ace-King. My Sevens held and I doubled up. But I was forced to tighten up since I didn't know how to outplay E-Dog and Ivey without a hand. Finally I got Aces again. The former short stack to my right now had some chips and he made it 2000. I reraised all in and the player two to my left re-reraised all in. The player to my right folded and the guy on my left showed pocket Jacks. My bullets held up and I more than tripled up to 11,500. At the dinner break the guy with the Jacks told us his wife had just gone into labor and he abandoned his few remaining chips. I had exactly 10,000.


After dinner I tried to get frisky, opening in late position with King-Five of Hearts. E-Dog called on the Blind and the flop came Nine-Four-Four rainbow. He checked and I checked behind him, knowing a bet here was useless because he would call with anything. The Three of Hearts came on the Turn, giving me a Flush draw. Erick bet 1500. I thought a bit so it wouldn't be obvious I was on a Flush draw and then called. The River was a blank. Erick checked. I bluffed 2500 and he brilliantly called with Ace-Queen, his Ace high beating my King high. I was down to just over 5000. Blinded down to 4000, I pushed in with pocket Nines and got called with Tens. The door card was a Nine, though, and I doubled up once again. I told E-Dog I had another 5000 chips to bluff off to him and he flashed the shark teeth behind his boyish smile.


Gary the Brit opened and I called on the Blind with pocket Nines. The Flop Came Jack high. I bet 2500 and he raised me all in for 2425 more. I thought for quite a long time and tried to see into his soul. I didn't see anything so I called but he had Aces and I was back down to 4100. With the blinds and antes now at 400-800/100 I didn't have many options left. I opened all in with King-Deuce suited on Phil Ivey's Big Blind. "OK," he said, and called with Queen-Ten offsuit. His Ten came on the Turn and I was out of the contest, finishing a respectable 99th to add to my double-digit record but missing the money by 18 spots. I was feeling good playing against weaker players but it was still magic and wizardry how to play any two cards and get people to lay down better hands, or call people down with no Pair and win a pot. I needed to learn those mystical skills to get to the next level.


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