Back To Vegas...

I'm.... Back!

I've been to the World Series a few times.  The first time I covered the event for a now defunct online Poker site when that whole poker media/poker industry were in their infancy and there was just an explosion of companies blooming around the poker boom.  It was an exhilarating time.  I watched a number of final tables.  I saw movie star Jennifer Tilly win her bracelet.  I also saw her with about fifty players left in the same tournament get up to leave when she had hit a miracle card to win the pot but didn't see it.  The ladies called her back to the table.  I wrongly thought to myself she's not going to last too much longer if she can't read the board.  Yeah...
she won that tournament.  Nice read.

I also saw her man Phil Laak and Johnny Chan battling at a final table.  I watched a final table where Chip Jett was in contention and talked to his (I think) father-in-law and then later he introduced me to his daughter Chip's wife Karina Jett.  At that point, these people were folks I had only seen on TV.  Because of ESPN's programming they felt about as far away from my skill level as a weekend duffer and Master's golfer.  I wasn't quite a fanboy, but on the inside I was geeking out a little bit.  ESPN had done a feature on the Jetts the year before so it was cool to see they (even as far down as they were on the poker pantheon) were down to Earth.   Now, that I've played poker for a while, I can't believe I ever revered some of these people or put them on a pedestal.  (Btw, not slighting the Jetts both seemed like good people).

My reporter's pass allowed me to roam in between the ropes and I watched every pro you can think of; and I remember specifically stopping to watch Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth, Phil Gordon and Chris Moneymaker himself.  Back then I didn't know enough to know to rank those guys correctly.  Moneymaker had to be the best he won the WSOP right?  I kind of just took in the experience as a reporter but absorbed it as an aspiring poker player.  I wanted to be back to participate.  I was hooked.  I played a little around the fringes of the WSOP and did alright, but at that point the players on the other side of the ropes were literally a world away, though I felt I desire to jump in.

I came back and played a 1500 a year or so later.  That was brief, as it also was for three or four of my inexperienced friends that dipped their toes in the water too.  None of us came close to the dinner break.  With only 1500 in chips back then you really couldn't afford to lose a pot.  I also took what to this day is one of my worst beats.  No, it's not a typical bad beat story.  (I know I've repeated this on this blog before so sorry for the rehash).  I made a read on a guy that he was bluffing the river and called.  He wanted to muck.  I was happy for him to muck.

He started to and then at the last moment,  he sheepishly said something like "I missed" and turned over his busted straight draw.  Course, he hadn't missed the backdoor flush draw.  The dealer looked at me and shook his head.  I lost most of my chips to a guy that wasn't able to read the board.  My opponent didn't understand why the pot was pushed to him, and his first instinct was to push it toward me which made it even grosser... me having to explain to him that he won the hand.  So even though I was briefly in that world it was not for long enough.

A couple of years later, I came back for the National Championship and a short run of tournaments and I ran about as badly as you can.  I kept getting big hands and they kept getting cracked.  Or, these guys would get it in bad against me, I'd call and the dealer would just lower the boom and bring the pain on the turn or the river.  It bundled together in one long bout of agony.  Still, I knew enough about sample size to know that as gross as it was, I just happened to deal with a pitfall in variance at the WSOP.

While I was going through it, I couldn't even go outside to catch my breath.  That year there were fires in the mountains in the distance and whenever you stepped out you could taste the acridity from the smoke.  It's Las Vegas so it's hot.  You run bad, you are roasting, you literally taste fire and this place can feel like hell.

In retrospect, that was an interesting year, and should have been no surprise I ended up in hell.  I had written about Tunica as I was chasing Circuit points and that it reminded me a bit like the play Waiting For Godot, a purgatory in the middle of nowhere (that was a pretty good post you can probably find it with the search function).  Everyday I'd go deep in those massive fields and then lose a flip.  Wake up and repeat.  Later, I landed in Chester, Pennsylvania still in need of points, and that Harrahs casino was located in an area that can be at best described as blighted.  At worst, the first level of hell.  They had a gas leak and we all had to leave the tournament area.  The smell of sulfur was intense.  I was getting closer to hell.

I still experienced some success and broke the Groundhogs day effect in Tunica and went deep in two Chester tournaments to get me the points I needed to qualify.  In Vegas, though, success was but a dream.  Some call it Paradise, but it was Paradise Lost for me.  No, hell is getting it in good over and over again and it not holding.

This go around, I'm determined to have a positive mindset.  I feel like the blows I've suffered here previously, while not out of the ordinary in terms of variance, have to turn.  The Beau Rivage was like that and then finally things went my way in the last Main Event this year.  Tunica, I persevered.  Chester I pushed through it.  Granted saying "I'm due" is wasted thought.  Each tournament is it's own battle, each table, each hand an even smaller battle.  None have any bearing on the other.  At the same time, we all know these things go in streaks.

Yesterday, I landed and was a little tired.  I had considered late reging the 1k but thought better of it and just played the deep stack.  I have three of these $235 events on my package.  Thought it would be a good way to get back into the groove.  That didn't last long.

On the button I flop a set and a guy gets in a raising war with me, and I'm pretty sure he just has a flush draw.  I'm a big favorite 73% or so to win.  We get it in.  Board doesn't pair on the turn and then he hits his heart to win on the river.  That was fun.  My mind raced back to the lingering pain from the last time I was in Paradise.  I reminded myself I want to take these coolers in the small events.

I played the 185 on my own dime.  Survived more than half the field and got to the point it became a shove fest for most of the table.  I had no hands.  Then got it in good with King Jack on the button vs. a guy who got out of line with 97 o/s and called off after I shoved over his preflop raise.  He hit.

to be continued...

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