May 13, 2004

Just another $5k tourney: WSOP $5000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Half Vulcan

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Phil Hellmuth, Jr., had baptized me by fire but my current poker teacher was WPT champion Barry Greenstein, brilliant, unflappable, and calculating with nerves of steel. I drew seat two for today's $5000 "warm up" No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament at the Horseshoe and Barry drew seat one. If I had to have him at my table, I was happy once again to have him on my right, teaching me lessons from there. I didn't think I was ready for lessons on my left yet. The toughness of the table didn't stop with Barry, though. Tam "Tony D" Duong, who finished eighth in the 2002 World Series Championship, sat to my left. Hilbert Shirey, a WSOP bracelet holder, had seat five. Rick Salzman, who had cashed in a few WSOP events, had seat six. Alex Brenes, brother of Humberto, occupied seat seven, and Ngoc "Jimmy" Tran, who made eight final tables last year, had seat nine. There were 254 entries, making a prize pool of just under $1.2 million after the 8% juice.


With that lineup against me I decided to play conservatively and pray for the table to break. Meanwhile, Barry busted seat four with a cruel, calculating play and yet another tournament pro, Fred Berger, sat down. I asked Barry if he was half Vulcan and I thought I saw the beginnings of half a smile – the human half, no doubt. I entered a few pots and had to bail out and quickly lost half my chips before winning a couple pots from Jimmy Tran and Tony D. I was down from my starting 5000 to 3650 at the first break.


I fiddled and diddled in the next level and then the blinds were up to 100-200 and I only had enough chips left to make one shot. Jimmy Tran limped in early position, something he did frequently. Since I hadn't played a hand in an hour I decided to raise/steal with King-Jack. Everyone folded to Jimmy and he called. The flop came Ace-King-Ten. I decided to move all in with my second Pair, thinking it unlikely that with his limp/call the flop hit him hard and if he had a weak Ace he'd have to lay it down. Unfortunately he called with Ace-Ten for Two Pair. I still had six outs – the two Kings for trips or the four Queens for a Straight – but they didn't come and I was out of the contest. I turned to my mentor, Barry "Spock" Greenstein, for advice. "How'd you like the way I played that one, Barry?" He raised an eyebrow. "Well, you're supposed to catch a King or a Queen," he said. I grimaced and wished everyone good luck. Today's entertainment had cost only $1700 an hour.


An assistant producer from ESPN found me wandering around and asked me to come up for an interview. I asked why they didn't interview the good players and she said they were all still playing. I said I wasn't dressed for TV and what about my hair but she said, "You're a poker player!" I couldn't argue with that so I went up and did the interview. They taped me doing my chip trick, which I don't want to give away, but it's basically dropping the whole stack all over the table. Set your TiVos and ReplayTVs.