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WSOP 2019: The Adrenaline Rush and Heartbreak of a Deep Run

June 25, 2019

When it comes to playing poker there is no greater feeling than making a deep run in a WSOP event. I’ve done it a couple of times before.

My third place finish in the Industry Event was a lot of fun, but the fact that it’s not an open bracelet event combined with the fact that it’s the luckiest I’ve ever been in a live tournament makes me feel like it will always come with an asterisk in my head. On the other hand, my big suck outs in critical spots felt like a lot of justice for all the brutal beats I’d taken super deep in all the tournaments before that one that had prevented me from making a real run at a major title.

In contrast, my fifth place finish in the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. in 2017 was just a surreal and amazing experience. By the time we got down to three tables, almost everyone left in the tournament was a known poker star.

This $2500 Omaha 8/Stud 8 felt pretty similar. Like, I know I’m capable of making runs like this and I think I can play most of the games at a high level, but another part of me is like wtf am I doing here with 15 left in a World Series of Poker tournament playing with the Shaun Deebs of the world?

It’s crazy.

I broke down a hand history with Phillip Hui on break and he was very happy to talk with me about it. I absolutely loved his table presence and I knew he would be approachable.

I spent all Day 2 locking horns with Andrey Zaichenko to the point where he finally lamented: “I can’t beat you.” He was on my direct right with an unfathomable amount of chips, looking destined for a final table appearance (he would take 4th), while I was on the bubble of this thing feeling the maximum amount of pressure about it.

Seriously.

After cashing 7 of 10 WSOP events with two top 5 finishes in 2016-2017, I was on an 0-11 WSOP stretch heading into this one and that’s overlooking the fact that I’ve been tossing up bricks all year everywhere else too. I really, really wanted to cash this tournament.

It was looking like I was going to sweat it out the entire bubble, but then I caught a little rush and suddenly found myself way above average, a lock to cash, and thoughts of having a real deep run.

Ironically enough, I ended up finishing Day 2 with more chips than Zaichenko. He was a total pain in the ass all day though. Every pot went through him. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say he played around 60% of his hands. Is that really possible? He was a beast. A borderline maniac. I was impressed though.

Here’s a sick hand with two tables left:

Thompson completed on 3rd with a ten up and got called in four spots!

I led out on 4th when I made open aces and Shaun Deeb, Danny Ratigan and Denis Stebkov all called.

On 5th, I honestly didn’t know what to do. This is where lack of experience can be costly. I’m not sure what my best line is here. My hand is 65-AA7. Deeb and Ratigan both had good looking low boards, so I ended up checking and it checked to Ratigan and he bet. I gave some thought to raising here to try and get heads up with Ratigan, but I didn’t think it was likely Deeb would fold to a raise, so I just called. Denis folded and Deeb called.

I checked again on 6th and it checked to Ratigan. He bet, I called, Deeb raised, and Ratigan 3-bet. I had a strong feeling I was getting squeezed here. Deeb looks like he can have a flush but if you look at the upcards reported above, it’s actually not likely at all, as the ace, 4 and 5 of diamonds are all accounted for on other boards. So he basically needs to have exactly some combo of the 2, 7, and 8 of diamonds in the hole to have a flush here. Also, how likely is he to check a made low with a four flush on 5th street? Not fucking likely.

Still, it seems like I’m drawing dead to the low half of the pot here, so calling off three more big bets to maybe win half seems precarious. I folded.

Ratigan ended up having 75 in the hole and caught an 8 on 7th to make a straight, so I would have got scooped on 7th anyway (I was in last position so the cards would be the same on 7th).

Deeb was making a play. He had a pair and a six low draw and got me to fold the high half of the pot. He would have looked like a genius if it worked and Ratigan bricked the river.

I hated letting him get away with it and I’m not going to lie… I was happy to see Danny scoop that pot and Deeb bust in 13th a short while later. I didn’t want to deal with Shaun at a final table, plus Danny Ratigan is from the Seattle area!

I’ll say this though. I don’t post much on Twitter but I’m pretty in tune with the poker Twitterverse and, well, Shaun is a controversial figure and can be extremely opinionated and pretty mean. I would not have been surprised to not like him. It was the opposite. I was impressed with everything about the guy. He was nice to everyone and the floors practically treated him like he was the Tournament Director. And his focus was unreal. He didn’t miss a thing at the table. I wish I had 20% of that focus level. I was blown away. That kind of thing is scary to play against.

One more hand from Day 2:

I think it would be pretty hard to report poker hands, especially when you start watching in the middle of a pot, and I think the PokerNews team generally does a really good job, but man, this one couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what really happened:

Matt Vengrin is the bring in with the 2d and everyone folds to Phillip Long, in the effective cutoff position, and he completes with a ten up. I have the Qc up and two jacks in the hole and raise it. Vengrin defends the bring in and Long also calls.

On 4th street, Vengrin pairs his door card, Long catches an offsuit 6 and I catch an offsuit jack: a total gin card for me. It checks to me, I bet, and Vengrin raises to put himself all in. It’s enough of a raise that it allows me to re-raise if I choose to, so Phillip Long reluctantly folds and I call. Vengrin thinks he has me crushed because he has a deuce in the hole, but I show him the ultra bad news by turning up two jacks. Things had been going bad for me so I had a feeling he was going to fill up and I was going to lose this critical pot, but we both bricked through 6th street and I snap rolled my last card to give me jacks full and he only had the case deuce for a win. He squeezed the 9 of clubs and then crumpled it up, tossed it in the air, and hit the dealer in the head with it.

Compare the real hand to the hand reported above and it’s quite a different story.

Even Vengrin had his own version of events:

I mean… he was super unlucky to catch a 2 on 4th and be behind, but he definitely wasn’t rolled up here.

I finished Day 2 8th in chips with 12 players left and that was reason enough for my wife to wake up at 6am and book a flight to Vegas so she could be here if I somehow found my way to a bracelet. Blackjack even booked a flight to come sweat my Day 3 run.

When you get this far in a bracelet event it’s easy to start dreaming about what might happen. Based on chip distribution alone, my fair share of the bracelet heading into Day 3 was greater than 6%! A few pots going my way early while others bust out and that number starts to swing heavily in my favor.

What’s harder to imagine is the worst possible outcome happening.

I’ll let Blackjack tell his story:

It literally could not have gone worse for me. We started with about four hands of Stud 8 and I folded all of them, but I was super active in the Omaha round.

First, I flopped the nut low draw and a small pair on an all diamond flop. I checked back the flop but called down when the low came in and my A43x got quartered by A44x.

Then this happened:

I opened with AJ72 and no suits and Gerard 3-bet me on the button. With top top on the flop and the backdoor nut low draw, check-calling seemed best. While I’m blocking AA hands, it’s still something to be weary of when you get 3-bet in O8.

I loved the turn, as it gave me the nut low draw in addition to top pair. While I was happy to check-call the turn, I was going to lead the river if I made the nut low. If I get quartered with top pair and the nut low, then so be it. In fact, the only cards I don’t want to see on the river are a king, queen, ace or deuce. Ironically, I was still scooping if an ace came.

In fact, this is what my odds looked like heading to the river:

So I’m scooping this crucial pot 70% of the time and getting scooped 30%.

Obviously, I don’t know what he has exactly, so when the river comes a queen and he bets, all I know is this: I fucking hate it.

As noted earlier, a queen is one of the few cards where my hand feels like it gets destroyed. I have an easy showdown on pretty much every other card and now I have a super marginal one way hand. In fact, it’s so easy for me to get scooped here that I should probably just be folding when each big bet is so critical to my stack.

On the other hand, there are 7.75 big bets in the pot and if he’s bluffing as much as 11% of the time folding the best hand here would be an absolute catastrophe. Is he bluffing enough? It’s hard to say – not like I have a ton of history with the guy. What hands could he triple barrel with? A23x? Raggedy A2xx hands? A245? What if the river was a 9 or ten? Is he betting with AK53? The fact he double barreled the hand he did have leads me to believe if he missed the river, he would have to fire another bullet and that makes me feel better about my call.

Regardless, an absolutely sickening runout and, essentially, my knockout blow.

A hand or two later, I’m in the small blind and Phillip Long opens the button, I 3-bet all in with the AK53. He showed the QJ52 and the A87 rainbow flop meant we were going to chop 80% of the time and each of us had about 10% scoop equity. Somehow, he managed to realize his scoop equity when the board ran out 9-T to give him the nut high along with a better low and just like that… I was out.

I’m not going to lie… I was pretty shellshocked to be out in 20 minutes and sad that my wife flew out to sweat me and this is what happened. On the other hand, I got to spend a whole day with her on the weekend before her birthday so that was really nice. She gave me the go ahead to play the $1500 Razz – even urged me to play it – but I was feeling a bit demoralized and I wanted to spend time with her since she was here.

So we went and saw Ka at the MGM Grand.

Here is how Dina felt before the show:

And here is how she felt after the show:

In fact, she gave the show a 3 out of 10, which I thought was super harsh. I can’t say I really enjoyed the experience either though.

First, they wouldn’t let me bring my backpack in, even though I carry all my diabetic supplies and emergency items in it. I’ve never had anyone forcefully turn me away after I pull out the debilitating disease excuse, but they wouldn’t let me in. So we went to the bellhop to check our bags and that took 20 minutes to happen and in the process, I lost my Contigo water bottle because I’m not used to carrying it around as it is normally slotted on the side of my backpack. So that was cool.

Then, with 5 minutes before show time, our bags checked, all my items in my wife’s purse, we get our tickets scanned and they tell us her purse is too big to bring in. The same purse they saw earlier and didn’t say anything about. Well, I wasn’t having that and I didn’t get to throw much of a fit before they just waved us in.

I’ll give Ka a 6 out of 10. It is my least favorite show I’ve seen in Vegas. If it was the first one I saw, I would probably think more highly of it. I thought the music was really good and the stage was very impressive, but the show was the least interesting I’ve seen and while the stunts were pretty cool, they were also the least spectacular I’ve seen. Even Absinthe has better physical performances.

Updates Vegas Show Rankings

1. Absinthe

2. Michael Jackson: One

3. The Beatles: Love

4. O

5. Penn & Teller

6. Ka

I played the $600 No Limit Hold’em WSOP Deep Stack today and I had about 35k when this hand came up during the 300/600 level. An older white gentleman opened from MP to 1600 and I decided to flat with AQo. I think this is a fine hand to mix flats and 3-bets with against this player type. I think it’s an easy fold if he 4-bets and I don’t mind playing AQ in position in a single-raised pot either.

The small blind, a younger, capable-looking Asian guy 3-bet to 6200 and the opener folded. I’m not about to fold AQ in a squeeze spot against a player that seems capable of pulling the trigger, and I think there is serious merit to just stuffing it preflop at this point, but I elected to call.

The flop was QJ5 rainbow and he checked to me. I down bet 5500 into over 15k and he stuffed it on me. This sent me into the tank for a good three minutes. Obviously, I don’t love this spot, even with top top. On the other hand, I’m blocking queens and aces and I have ~20% equity if he has KK. I’m fucked if he has JJ, but I also think he can have some KQ, QT, KT, and maybe some spazzy Qx or Jx hands. I probably can’t have AA or KK here, so AQ is one of the best hands I would even think about folding here and that means I probably have to call with it.

I call. He tables KT, the turn bricks, but the river is an ace and I was busted.

Also, saw this guy in the Rio hallway yesterday and I have to wonder if I even have the right to be The Dark Knight when this guy is playing poker in this outfit:

That’s a level of commitment I will never reach.

Now I’m at the Bellagio playing some $40/$80 Limit Hold’em.

Spotted FanBoy doing work in the $80/$160 game:

Maybe I’ll post some hands here. Maybe I won’t.

Either way, I will post my end result after my session.

Result: +$3157

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