There’s very little else that can torment your body and mind, but also be as much fun as heading to Vegas for the World Series of Poker. Each summer, I try to make the trip out to the land of bright lights and cold rooms on what typically feels like the center of the sun. This year has been interesting, as usual.
I arrived on June 3 and had a good schedule of WSOP tournaments I planned on playing. So far, that has included the Colossus, the Millionaire Maker and the Marathon — all Texas Hold-Em events — as well as one Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. I started off with a cash in the Colossus, but not much more than a minimum payout. I bricked the Millionaire Maker and Omaha events, but the Marathon was by far my favorite.
With super deep stacks and long levels, it’s the summer’s most similar tournament to the Main Event. If you have dreamed of playing the Main Event, but for a cheaper price, I highly recommend this one. However, it’s grueling and an incredibly tough field because the structure suits the pros and highly-skilled players.
There were 1,637 entries and with 100-minute levels, the money bubble wouldn’t be reached until the very end of day two, after literally over 20 hours of play on the felt. The event is certainly named properly, because patience is ultimately rewarded.
I had a great table on day one and managed to chip up little by little. I was a little disappointed in my final tally, bagging 46,000 chips up from the 26,200 starting stack. It seemed like I left a few opportunities on the table and I wasn’t likely to have as many good spots again. But, it’s all about survival and I was headed to day two.
The gauntlet of the second day on Tuesday was the most intense I’ve ever encountered in my poker career. To name just a few players that were on the three tables I was moved to throughout the day, there was Martin Jacobson (2014 Main Event champion, $16.5 million career earnings), Chris Moorman (over $20 million in online and live winnings), Jesse Sylvia (2012 Main Event runner-up, over $7 million career earnings) and Bruno Politano (2014 Main Event final table, $1.5 million career earnings).
I ran one big bluff early against Politano and got him to fold, bumping my stack up to 57,000 chips. I peaked for the day at about 88,000 but I never got into big stack territory. A few tough hands knocked me all the way back down to 30,000 at the dinner break and it was starting to look a little bleak. But in one of my first hands back at the table with a stomach full of quickly ingested Wendy’s drive-thru, I found a much needed double-up.
I cold four-bet all-in with pocket tens and got called my Moorman, who tabled king-jack suited. It was a “race” situation, which comes up very frequently in tournaments; a pair against two over cards. The dealer began to turn the flop and a jack of diamonds showed right in the window. I began to mentally gather my things, but a ten of hearts peeled right behind it and I would survive with some more ammo.
The money bubble took more than 90 minutes for just two players to bust out and get us all in the cash with 246 players left. Our table was very gregarious and joking during this time, having some drinks and enjoying the least stressful but most monotonous portion of the day.
We finally hit the money at about 1:45 a.m., but I was not going to have much to work with on day three. My stack was back down in the danger area of 18 big blinds, so I needed some good spots on Wednesday to spin it up.
That didn’t happen. It was a quick day three as I open shoved 15 big blinds with pocket fours but ran into pocket kings. The 2-3-6 flop gave some additional outs, but neither the turn, nor river kept me alive.
The WSOP is always a weird place, but a pretty interesting one. Since I sat down to write this, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu have walked by me heading to their events. Norman Chad is meandering around looking for his next interview. James Woods just passed by, looking as manic as always. Anyone can play with anyone, which is part of the draw.
I’m still here for another 10 days, so I think I’ll have some more tournaments on tap. But for now, after this true marathon, I think I’ll take some rest and relaxation.
Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll send this column and then check out the schedule at the Venetian.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.