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2021 Year in Review – WSOP Edition – Part One

March 12, 2022

I never wrote about my 2021 World Series of Poker so I guess I’ll start there. I was ecstatic to be back fighting it out with the best players in the world. 2020 was a depressing one for my poker career. I had my least profitable year since 2014 (and I didn’t go full-time pro until the fourth quarter of 2016) and if I wasn’t eligible to collect unemployment I probably would have had to get a job somewhere. So being able to lock horns at the WSOP after an absence of over two years felt really good. I don’t care that everyone had to be vaccinated. I don’t care about the hypocrisy of the staff not needing to be vaxxed. I don’t care about having to wear a mask while walking around. I was just happy to be BACK and able to compete in the most prestigious tournament series in the world. 2018 was a horrible WSOP for me and 2019 was mostly uneventful outside of a 12th place run in the $2500 Stud 8/Omaha 8 that was a nice reminder that I’m capable of doing things like that. But I definitely had a chip on my shoulder for this series.

My first event of the 2021 series was the $1500 Omaha 8 or Better and I was pretty thrilled to bag a decent stack on Day 1. I don’t remember much of Day 2, but (spoiler alert!) I didn’t have any good Day 2s, so I’ll just assume I dwindled for most of the day while winning a small pot here and there – enough to hang around long enough to take 32nd and start my series off with a nice profit and a cash of $4116.

Next I played a small Triple Draw Mix event at Golden Nugget and did absolutely nothing in it. My next WSOP event was the $1500 Limit Hold’em and I once again bagged a nice Day 1 stack. If I remember correctly, I really liked my chances heading into Day 2, but nothing good happened for me and I busted far enough away from the money that I didn’t even bother inputting the relevant info in my app.

The $2500 Triple Draw Mix at the WSOP was next up on my schedule and I was really looking forward to that one even though I figured I was probably an underdog in that field. I practiced draw a ton during the pandemic lockdown and I was excited to see how much progress I had made even if the buy-in price point was a bit high. Hey, that’s what backers are for! (don’t worry, they all wanted to gamble with me). I feel like I mostly held my own in this event and I was at a pretty tough table. I didn’t get a lot of upward momentum and the wheels finally fell off for me at the very end of the night and I busted about 20 minutes before bagging on Day 1. But I was mostly happy with my play, pleased with the experience gained, and really looking forward to this same event in 2022.

I didn’t play much cash while I was in Vegas so I don’t have too much to say about that, but I did play a four hour 1/3 NL session at the Rio around this time of the Series and I was pretty shocked when Jamie Kerstetter sat down on my immediate left. I’m generally not a talkative person at the poker table and I prefer to keep to myself, but I decided to engage Jamie and she couldn’t have been more personable. She wasn’t just answering my questions but asked me questions about myself, gave me recommendations for my upcoming trip to Zion National Park and was generally hilarious. I was already a fan of her poker commentary but this interaction made me feel like she’s someone I could actually be friends with. I really wanted to play mix that night, so it pained me quite a bit to leave her table and go do that… and considering I only made $17 in that game, I probably should’ve just stayed and networked. Oh well. Jamie did end up giving me an indirect shoutout during her Main Event coverage by mentioning me on the broadcast (awesome), although not by my name (lame).

One thing I did this series that I’ve never done before was lug my personal computer to Vegas with me. I don’t have a laptop and I don’t want to play on my iPad, and since I was driving anyway, it made sense to bring it with me in case I wanted to play online. Plus, it makes tracking my finances way easier and allowed to me do some solver work on the road if I was so inclined. I had Sunday, October 10th, earmarked for a couple of online events, so that’s what I spent my day doing and it ended up being a really good decision. I played the $215 NLH WSOP online circuit ring event and ended up taking 8th of 576 entrants for a solid $3200 score. I also played the $400 NLH WSOP online bracelet event and finished 17th of 1024 entrants for $3078 in that one. I’m past the point where I can remember anything about the circuit event, but the bracelet event will be unforgettable for two reasons: 1) I finally played at the same table with Daniel Negreanu and I beat him in the only pot we played together; and 2) I had a top 5 stack with 18 people left when the small blind decided to limp in with a 30bb and trap me with AJ. I had AQ suited in the big blind, so I was happy to raise his limp and snap-call his 3-bet jam. Unfortunately, he rivered a jack and instead of being 1st in chips of a WSOP bracelet event with 17 players left, I was short stacked with 18 left and busted out shortly after – an absolutely crushing blow when my adrenaline was riding sky high from an awesome day of online poker. I had a lot of my own action in these two small buy-in events, so it was great day for me personally and it was nice to see all the practice I’ve put in for no limit Hold’em immediately pay off.

My next event was the WSOP $1500 8-Game mix tournament – one of my favorites, but also one that I haven’t been able to get past Day 1 in. I had a great starting table and I was excited about my chances of building a big stack and bagging when I got high-carded to a new table and put on Shaun Deeb’s immediate right. I was already annoyed that I got moved, but this was a brutal spot to be in and I couldn’t help but mutter, “are you fucking kidding me?” as I sat down in my new seat. Shaun was amused enough to say, “not what you were hoping to see?” and we ended up chatting a decent amount throughout the day but he lost enough pots early on that he didn’t wind up being much of a nuisance for me. It looked like I was going to finally bag this thing, but the wheels fell off for me in the last level and I found myself hitting the rail with exactly 20 minutes left in Day 1 for the second time of the series.

After busting out around 2 AM and probably not going to sleep until much later, I decided to play the 11 AM HORSE tourney at the Orleans the next day anyway. I showed up about an hour late and absolutely torched my first bullet in record time for a limit tournament. I re-entered and ended up lasting 6.5 hours overall, but busted far from the money and felt like I was dead money all day. I was playing tired and I was in no mood for running bad and just had no patience for unfavorable variance. I should have skipped this one entirely because I was in no mental shape to be playing that early after such a late night.

Next up was the WSOP $1500 HORSE – the event I earned my all-time best cash in all the way back in 2017. That doesn’t feel like that long ago, but if you told me back in 2017 that five years later that would still be my best achievement in tournament poker, I probably wouldn’t believe it. But here I am. Still searching for a $50K+ score. I think I flirted with the Day 1 overall chip lead at some points and ended up bagging a top 10 stack at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, I may have prophesized my own demise by warning my followers on Facebook that even though I was top 10 in chips, I still only had just over 21 big bets – or the equivalent of $170 in a $4/$8 limit game. I’ve dusted two racks in a few hours of limit poker many times, so while my stack size relative to the field was really good, it wasn’t all that massive compared to the limits we were going to be playing.

Sure enough, I ended up moving off a good starting table to be sat on David Williams’ immediate right. Long time readers of my blog may remember that David knocked me out of the Millionaire Maker on the very first hand of the very first $1500 tournament I ever played, so… I already had some crazy history with him. Naturally, we locked horns in a very memorable Stud Hi hand where I completed with the ace and queen of spades buried and the six of spades up and David raised me with a queen up and I called. I caught the 7 of diamonds on 4th and he caught a brick, so I check-called. On 5th street, I paired my 7 with a spade, giving me a four flush and an open pair. David caught another brick, so I decided to lead out and he ended up raising me. I thought that was a bit strange. If he just had a pair of queens, I wouldn’t expect him to raise very often here. I called again. We both caught bricky-looking cards on 6th street and I check-called again. It feels like he probably has two pair so when I caught the 7 of the clubs on 7th, giving me trips, I decided to lead out like I would if I had made a flush. Maybe he bet-folds with two pair, but I was concerned he was going to do a lot of checking back. To my utter shock and amazement, he ended up raising me! This man didn’t have a pair on his board and it was impossible for him to have a flush with his door card! I had a goddamn queen in the hole! My head exploded. But I paid it off and he showed me queens full of fives. He said he started rolled up. Unreal. That was a huge pot that derailed all my momentum and I never recovered from it, busting 20 spots out of the money.

After taking a couple days off from tournaments, it was at this point of the series that I decided I was just going to go for it this year. My backers were on board with whatever I wanted to play and I just shifted my focus to only playing WSOP events and pushing my financial comfort level. Aside from the Main Event, I’ve only played one tournament in my life that had an entry greater than $1500, but I hopped in the $3000 H.O.R.S.E. and made a pretty good run. I didn’t make a Facebook post about this tournament until I was in the money so I don’t have a thread of hand histories to report here, but this was a really fun tournament to play. The field was substantially tougher and smaller than the $1500 H.O.R.S.E. so I was playing with notable pros at my table pretty much the whole time.

I had a key hand on Day 1 against Michael Trivett, a Vegas-based pro that I’ve had a couple of run-ins with over the years where I’ve beat him in big pots and he proceeded to verbally berate me about it. It’s always made me think he’s kind of an asshat and here we were butting heads in a pot late in Day 1 of this $3K H.O.R.S.E. I can’t remember the exact dynamics of this hand, but we were playing Stud Hi and he opened with the 4 of diamonds up and I raised him with a buried pair that was smaller than his door card. I ended up catching an ace on 4th so I was able to take the betting lead and he raised me after catching the jack of diamonds on 5th street. I figured he probably had a four flush here so I wasn’t prepared to fold just yet – even though I only had a pair of deuces at this point. I ended up pairing my ace on 6th and leading out, he called. I didn’t see much point in betting unimproved on the river, so I checked it over to him and he checked back. I showed him aces and deuces and that was good for the pot. But he was not impressed at all and said, “wow, what a punt” and possibly some other not-so-nice things. I mean, it doesn’t hurt my feelings any, but it also doesn’t make me like the guy.

It’s funny. I kind of feel like Michael has become my tournament arch-enemy over the years. He’d left enough of a sour impression on me that I’ve always followed what he does and actively rooted against him. But he had really leveled up since the last time we played together. I could tell he’d hit the lab hard, put in the work, and has networked and made friends with plenty of elite players. He had a hell of a 2022 WSOP, finishing in the top 15 on five different occasions. He didn’t capture a bracelet, but he will soon and I was really impressed with how good he has gotten. But I wasn’t impressed with his inability to lose with grace, so, like, fuck that guy.

Plot twist. Fast forward to post-WSOP and I was pretty shocked when I got message from Michael apologizing for anything negative he’s ever said to me over the years. I accepted his apology and we started talking on a regular basis and quickly discovered that we actually have a ton of things in common and would probably be pretty good friends. Now, we talk daily about rap mostly, sometimes about movies, and definitely about poker (turns out he had jacks and fours on that Stud hand I beat him in) – and he’s even offered to let me stay with him any time I’m in Vegas. Crazy how life works sometimes.

Well, back to the $3K H.O.R.S.E… I had another solid Day 1 and bagged a nice chip stack, but once again, I didn’t do jack shit on Day 2. I just sat and watched Scott Bolman play like a maniac/wizard all day and never got any hands to play or found any good spots to chip up. I did win ONE pot. I made aces up versus Maria Ho and she literally stared daggers at me for the next orbit like she couldn’t believe this nitty little nobody had put a halt to her absolute steamrolling of the table. That one pot was enough to get me to the final three tables redraw and playing live with Daniel Negreanu for the first time in my career. I said hi to him and he said “cheers” and then I promptly busted on the first hand dealt when the cutoff opened in limit Hold’em and I 3-bet to get it in with A7 suited on the button and lost to whatever hand my opponent ended up showing. Yet another mega disappointing Day 2, but a pretty decent showing in one of the tougher mixed events of the schedule, finishing 24th for a $6500 score.

I was initially going to write my whole WSOP trip report in one post, but I’ve already been working on this for a few months and this is only half the series, so I’ll divide it into two parts. I’m actually flying to Houston today for the tournament series that former LAPC co-tournament director Justin Hammer put together so I might be blogging about that or at least posting updates on Facebook. I suddenly find myself with a lot of extra time on my hands, so I’ve been thinking about making the poker blog a priority again. I always enjoy sharing my adventures, but if I’m being honest, I find the process of typing them out to be a bit tedious sometimes. When I get back from Houston, I’ll finish my WSOP trip report with a second part and eventually post up my final 2021 numbers.

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