Well, there’s been a change of plans.
A few weeks ago I was writing about the World Series of Poker and about all the sights, sounds, smells (good and bad) happening at the Rio in Las Vegas. Though I hadn’t personally made much happen in any WSOP bracelet events or deep stacks, there were some great showings for Kauai in the Seniors Event and other tournaments.
If things go well today, I’ll still be hoping to add my name to that group.
I was supposed to be on a plane this morning and arriving at Lihue around noon, but the final stop of my Mainland trip brought me back to Las Vegas on Sunday for one last run. I reached my hotel around 2 p.m. and headed to the Rio to play in a 4 p.m. “mega-satellite” for a chance to play in the Main Event. There were 835 players in the field with just the final 39 earning a seat into the most renowned poker tournament in the world. I played and ran well and when the field had reduced to around 100 players, it began to seem like a real possibility. The numbers kept diminishing and I kept playing.
Things slowed dramatically when we were down to just 50 players. Everyone left knew they were close, but the blinds were so big at that point that even the big stacks had to play tight and protect their chips. A satellite bubble can be quite stressful. It’s unlike any other poker scenario. You’re not trying to accumulate chips, you’re simply trying not to lose all of them. With right around 42 players left, a short stack was all-in in the big blind and I had pocket kings in early position. I folded. Partly because he was a good guy who had just taken a brutally bad beat and I was pulling for him to still win a seat, but mostly because to even call the big blind would have meant about 30 percent of my chips. I was going to have to pay the blinds very soon and the reward of winning that pot wasn’t worth the risk of losing it.
Shortly thereafter, the tournament director grabbed the microphone and gave us the awesome news. We were down to 39. I was going to play the Main Event.
This is just my second year at the WSOP and the goal for each has been to play my way into this particular tournament. I booked this return to Vegas knowing full well it was unlikely I’d have already played my way in. Sunday was essentially my last chance.
The excitement in the room when the 39 won our seats was still running through my veins when Monday’s Day 1C got underway. It’s always the largest of the three separate Day Ones and ended up hosting more than half of the 6,683 total players.
I had a pretty tough table to start with, including a few aggressive pros. I was hoping for a more relaxed seat, but the table broke in the second level and I was moved into the Amazon Room, which can be as rambunctious as the name suggests. My day was up and down, starting with 30,000 chips and moving up early before dipping to about 16,000. I rebounded nicely and got back to my initial count before a great fourth level. I made a couple good plays and got lucky in one pot to reach a high-water mark of 54,000 entering the night’s final level.
In the Main Event, each level is two hours long, so every five-level day includes 10 hours of play. I would have been happier with eight, because the final level was a rough one. I lost a little more than 20,000 chips on a couple of tough hands to dip back to down to 32,200 when play was called for the day.
But in my first ever Main Event, I survived Day 1 and got to bag chips for a Wednesday return. The goal for today will be to remain patient and chip up when possible without putting my tournament life in danger. Though my chip stack is now back below average, I’ll still have more than 60 big blinds when the sixth level begins, which is miles away from the danger zone. My table draw is good and bad. There is only one big stack with over 100,000 chips and nobody else has more than 38,000, but the one big stack is two seats to my left, which could be problematic.
I feel like I’m on a freeroll to be playing at all, so I’m going to make the most of this opportunity. If the ESPN crew rolls by my table, I’ll throw the camera a shaka. Kauai, I love ya, but don’t take it personally that I’m hoping not to see you for a few extra days.