Las Vegas, NV
The highlight of my evening. 2:40am. Amazon Ballroom. I was pecking away at the keyboard penning parts of this post when I heard a screech. Followed by a slurred giggle. That could only mean one thing in Las Vegas...
Three or four Asian girls were on the rail of Day 2 of the donkament. I had no idea who they were sweating or why they were even inside the Amazon Ballroom at 2:40am. They had made a ruckus during a solemn moment with three tables to go and a half a mil on the line. Security gave them the evil eye and made steps towards the disturbance. One of their boyfriends say what was up and tugged at the drunk girl. She shrieked. The chorus giggled in almost perfect harmony. He tugged her again, she whirled around, and faceplanted on the floor.
More giggles. The second girl slid off her shoes. The boyfriend attempted to scoop up his lost luggage and her skirt flew up. I had my very own Vegas showing of Guess Her Muff.
At that point they all tumbled out the door, the same doorway where David Levi took a suckerpunch from an old guy who claimed he was owed $16,000. Times are a changin'.
At that point, I tweet'd the highlight of the day. That's where Change100 picked up the traveling ruckus as they headed toward the ladies room. Two of the girls stood in front of the bathroom, one was barefoot and laughing her ass off like she drank two cups of mushroom tea and watched Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The other was struggling to pull her shoes off but too sloshed to get it done. Change100 walked into the bathroom and spotted a security guard. She was about to say something when she saw one of the shitfaced railbirds puking into a trash can.
At least they broke up the monotony and tedium of a never ending back-and-forth insomnia-curing four-hour heads-up limit hold'em battle.
Oh, and in case you were wondering.... landing strip.
The third week of the WSOP officially ended and we passed the midway mark as far as preliminaries go. Part of me feels like time rushed by -- I mean has it really been three weeks already? Have I been in Las Vegas for almost a month? Yes and yes. At the same time, it definitely feels like it's the end of three weeks. I'm exhausted, drained, beat down, sleepless, sometimes hallucinating, often grumpy, titled by content thieves, jaded by the drama queens, and mentally fried after 21 straight days at the grind.
I'm not used to this. I admit that last summer was a breeze for me because I skipped 20 days. I decided to skip 8 days this year, and now I'm regretting that decision because I should have done 15! 2008 was a blur because I got into a car accident halfway through and spent the second half in an opiated dreamlike daze.
If anyone has done an entire WSOP, they know that this (Day 21) is the most crucial point. The WSOP sort of like a regular sporting season with a regular season (divided by two halves) and a post-season. The post-season is obviously the Main Event. At this juncture, we're at the halfway point in the season and it's time to take a break and conduct a personal audit of the series thus far.
A couple of players are running hot... Jameson Painter, David Baker, The Grinder, Vladimir Shchemelev, and Dan Heimiller... which is no coincidence that they are leading the pack in this year's POY race. Sizzling starts at the WSOP equate to a heightened confidence at the tables, which is an essential element to a profitable summer. Obviously, their primary objective is to continue their run good and pad their bankrolls.
I don't know the exact number, but there are hundreds of players who have a goose egg after 21 days. Even the players in the front pack of the POY only have 4 or 5 cashes at the most and we're more than 30 events into this year. I know a few pros who played in almost 20 events and have nothing to show for it, aside from a food comp. They are constantly praying to the poker gods, Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, Buddha, Vishnu, and to Chip Reese. Perhaps their prayers will be answered and they will finish on a high note, otherwise they're going to be working off a debt for the rest of the year.
One of the biggest pitfalls in poker is leaving the WSOP in deep debt trying to chase the dream. The stories all seem to begin the same... a player rolls up an online stake in the winter and spring, then moves to Vegas for the summer, going busto in the first two weeks, and then having to hustle to find staking. Even if you do go deep with backing, you're still giving up 50% (or more) of your equity minus makeup. It's almost like trying to run in quicksand. It could take years to finally get unstuck and instead of a professional poker player, you become a professional horse for one of the big time pros or staking syndicates.
A shitty WSOP can ruin the rest of the year. No one wants to chase a loss into the holiday season, get desperate and play in less than optimal events (shitty structures, flat payouts, mediocre prize pools), only to get sucked into the worst possible scenario in poker -- a slave to the circuit because you're stuck so much that you have no choice but to go deeper into debt and hope you hit that elusive big score.
That's why the start of the fourth week of the WSOP is "make or break" time. Anyone who is not taking time out to rest or pace themselves is heading down a road to disaster. That's a sure fire way to fizzle out before the Main Event begins.
Veterans of the WSOP have different approaches...
1. Play everyday. Volume. Volume. Volume. Usually WSOP rookies want to attempt this feat. It's much easier for young guys and anyone who is top psychical condition because the grind will get to you. The pros who are playing every day are most likely involved in prop bets on bracelets, number of cashes, and overall winnings.Then again, I know some folks who manage to go through five or six different gameplans during the WSOP. Heck, some folks go home and come back two or three times. Some folks go busto and you never see them for a couple of years when they show up on a list of final table entrants at a $500 deepstacked Borgata tournament.
2. Just the Main Event. On the flip side, some players opt to skip the preliminaries and only play the Main Event. They might come in much more focused, but it's still a crap shoot playing only one event worth $10,000.
3. Specialty events. Shirley Rosario's best game in Omaha 8, and prefers to play as many Omaha 8 events on the schedule. She recently won (another) HORSE tournament in SoCal, which is why she added HORSE to the small list of games that she plays in when she comes out a couple a times a summer. The same goes for "Razz" fetish freaks and guys like Chris Fargis who made the sojourn for Triple Draw.
4. Half and half. Some pros opt for a reduced WSOP schedule and only spend three weeks here. They will either come early for a couple of weeks and return for the Main Event, or they will show up at the start of Week 4, and grind it out until the Main Event.
5. Weekend Warriors. These are the average joes with everyday jobs who take vacation time to fly out to Vegas on the weekends to play in one of the 13 "affordable" NL events, or to take a single shot at a bigger event.
6. Half... and maybe the Main Event. I also know a few guys who come out to play in preliminary events and only play in the Main Event if they have a good series or if they can satellite in. Otherwise, they play their dozen or so events and then bail.
7. Cash game ghosts. You never see them at the Rio, because they are grinding cash games. The Aria and Bellagio have been running nonstop. Ilya told me about a bunch of Russians who landed at McCarran and headed straight to the Bellagio's poker room. They are here to fleece drunken tourists.
8. Hybrid grinder. This player is not-exclusive to the WSOP and will play in events around town either at the Venetian, Binion's, Ceasar's or which ever way the wind blows. You also probably won't see them at the Rio on Sundays, because they are most likely grinding Sunday tournaments.
9. Degen gambler. These are the guys who grind out a decent living -- consistently mid six figures every summer -- yet they nuke it away with their most devious life leaks -- fancy cars, strippers, Pai Gow, betting on the WNBA, staking the wrong guys, falling for the wrong girls, speed, booze, rare comic books, and investing in a mail-order vitamin pyramid scheme.
* * * * *Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 21...
We reached the end of the third week on one of those busy Thursdays as the weekend crowd starts to trickle in...
Event #28 $2,500 PLO Final Table: Like most of the start of Day 3s, the final table was not set and they had to play it down from 12 to 9. Miguel Proulx started out as the chipleader with Joe Serock being the biggest name remaining. Serock missed the final table when he exited in 11th place. Proulx went wire-to-wire and won the whole fucking thing over at the beef jerky final table.
Event #29 10K LHE Championship: Jameson Painter held the chip lead when the final table was set, with The Grinder as one of the short stacks. Brock Parker and David Chui also advanced to the final table. Painter already had two final tables under his belt. His fans might have been dismissed as Dutch soccer fans because of their orange shirts, but that's just part of his pumpkin-shtick. Chui went out first at the final table in 9th, followed by the Grinder in 8th. Brock Parker finished in 5th, while Painter's pumpkin was smashed in 4th. Heads-up was a battle between Matt Keikoan (bracelet winner) and Daniel Idema, who fought hard for over four hours, lasting late as night bled into day. Keikoan eventually took it down for his second bracelet.
Event #30 Donkmanet Day 2: The money bubble finally broke a few hours into Day 2, with Neil Channing leading the pack. One of my fraternity brothers, Andy Margolis, went deep and finished in 47th place.
A faint shadow of himself
With three tables to go, Carlos Mortensen was still alive and trying to evade his own shadow. Lucko21 is someone I played online poker with many many many moons ago. Along with "doubleAs", I always considered Lucko21 one of the best MTT players out of a group of bloggers that frequently played together in cash games and in tournaments. His bride-to-be LJ was on the rail for most of the night, feeding me Twizzlers to quell the late night munchies. Around 2am, Lucko rocketed to second in chips. When Day 2 ended, 21 players were left with Lucko 3rd in chips.
Event #31 HORSEament Day 2: The money bubble broke. Plenty of familiar names cashed: Cyndy Violette, Maria Ho, Jason Mercier, Brandon Cantu, George Lind, durrrrr, and RWIII. Chainsaw Kessler was still alive late in the evening along with the brother of the Grinder, Johnny Bax, Linda Johnson, and Michael Craig.
Event #32 5K NL Six-handed Day 1: This event attracted a smaller field than last year. Only 568 players were in the running for the 5K short-handed bracelet compared to 928 last year. In 2009, this tournament was held closer to the Main Event, which helped boost the number of out-of-towners like the Europeans.
I usually don't cover Day 1s, but I wandered through the Pavilion for a quick peek, more out of curiosity than anything else. I spotted Javier "Anguila" Etayo seated at the same table as Matt Graham and my buddy Ilya. David Singer got moved to that same table and he eventually knocked out Anguila on a sick beat. All in preflop with Queens versus Jacks. Anguila's Queens were brutally cracked with a Jack on the river. After bubbling off the final table in the 2.5K 6-max yesterday, Anguila was hoping to continue his rush with another cash.
Ilya mentioned that he played a lot of pots against David Singer.
"He's one of the worst calling stations I have ever played with," Ilya said. "After I kept winning a few pots off of him, her started to complain. He said that I took ten pots from him and tripled up without a showdown."
Eric Baldwin was moved to Ilya's table and he had nothing but glowing things to say about Baldwin's game. "He's an amazing player. He's strong and lives up to his reputation."
When Day 1 ended, 116 players remained with Christian Harder out in front and Tony Dunst not far behind. The thinned down field at this year's 5K event meant that there was significantly less dead money and very few weak spots. Just look at some of the names who advanced to Day 2: Phil Ivey, Jen Harman, Erick Lindgren, MrSmokey1, Eric Baldwin, Craig Marquis (original November Niner), SirWatts, yellowsub86, Ryan D'Angelo, Iassac Haxton, Anthony Roux, Thomas Marchese, Matt Brady, Jim Collopy, James Akenhead, Steve O'Dwyer, and even Devilfish has a decent stack.
Sportsbook Report: I shipped two bets; one small on Mexico over France in the World Cup, and the Celtics at +6.5 in Game 7 of the NBA finals. I watched the second half of the Mexico/France game, but less than 6 minutes of the Lakers/Celtics game. With so much on the line, I couldn't handle the stress of that sweat. But, wow... the best of both worlds happened... the Lakers won, but didn't cover. Now I have enough money to fly back to New York to see Phish for two concerts this weekend. In fact, I'm currently at the airport and finished this post in front of Wolfgang Puck's restaurant and watching the World Cup out of the corner of my eye.