Crashing: How I Busted Out of the 2007 WSOP

by Lou on July 13, 2007

For me, the World Series of Poker is over, and I’m just beginning to climb out of my suicidal phase. I hate losing. It’s a blow to the gut, and I’m doubled over. What’s worse is that I hate the walk of shame out of the tournament area, where I feel like every eye is on me, watching me leave in silence, shame, and despair.

In reality, no one is looking at me, and that’s even worse. They are consumed with their own hands, what they think their opponents’ have, and what they think their opponents think they have—a never-ending cycle of analysis. When it comes to figuring out poker, there are wheels within wheels.

As I exit the Amazon Room at the Rio, my WSOP in shambles, I am merely ignored, just like all the other bust-outs, another loser heading to the door.

I made a run into the second day, but it was far from good enough.

It wasn’t always that way. Day 2A began with 1,034 players, with approximately the same number scheduled to play on Day 2-B. I was 421 out of 1,034 who were playing on Day 2A.

Things started nicely enough. I was the big blind on the first hand played and won on a walk when no one called me. Just a few hands later, I raised $5,000 with J-J and picked up one caller. I bet $10,000 into a 9-9-8 flop and my opponent folded.

At 10:40 Alan Smurfit, who won a bracelet earlier in this year’s WSOP, is knocked out at my table when his pair of sevens loses to A-A. The guy with the pocket rockets flopped a set, turned a full house, and to add insult to injury a third seven fell on the river, giving Smurfit a full house too, but it was too little, too late for the native Dubliner who now lives in Miami.

A minute or two later, Nolan Dalla announced that TV personality Montel Williams, who was the chip leader for quite a while on Day One, was just eliminated. At the end of the first hour of play, another player at our table is eliminated. I take a beat too and am down to $45,000.

At 1:15 Dalla announces that 2005 WSOP champion Joe Hachem was just knocked out. The remainder of the second hour was uneventful for me. I was treading water and entered the break with $43,600.

When we returned from the break, I was moved to a new table. The blinds were $600-$1,200 with $100 antes. It’s not the blinds that eat you alive, it’s the antes. It is a nine-player table and there is now $2,700 to shoot for on every hand. Just about every pot is raised, and many are reraised. That pot is an attractive target, and everybody with a decent hand seems willing to take a shot at it.

At the new table, the player to my immediate right has a lot of chips and is making small raises just about every hand.

I’m not dealt anything, and if I want to come over the top of one of his raises, it will have to be on a pure, naked bluff.

Finally, I reraise $15,000 with Ad-4d. I’m hoping to win the blinds and antes, and his $3,600 raise, which would give me a nice $6,300 pot. He calls. I don’t like that at all. But I’m saved when the flop is three clubs, giving me the nut flush. He checks, I make a large bet. I’m hoping he will think my large bet is really a bluff and that he will call me with something like top pair or an overpair.

But he doesn’t even think about it. He folds.

By the time the third level comes around, I am down to $37,000, and wondering if I will survive until the dinner break, never mind hoping to make the third day. I lose two more hands and I’m down to $18,000, which is not at all where I want to be.

I know I have to make a stand and I’m looking for a hand to play. The trouble is that I’m not finding anything, no pairs, no Ace—not a thing. I’m still facing raises by players to my right, and one player is raising almost every hand. I know his range of raising hands is extremely broad unless he’s being dealt the best run of big hands ever dealt to any player, anywhere.

The fact that he’s raising with a wide variety of hands give me substantial folding equity, because he is very likely to release the majority of his weaker raising hands to a reraise, particularly a reraise from someone like me, who has not played many hands. Finally, with the blinds $800-$1,600 and $200 antes, he raises and I push my remaining $18,000 to the center of the pot. I have Qc-Jc and I’m really not looking for anyone to call. But I’d rather reraise with this hand than a weak ace because I am essentially out of domination range, unless he has A-Q or A-J. If he has either of those hands, I’m looking for a three-outer or a flush or a straight. They’re all long shots, and I’m hoping he folds. But he has been raising with lots of hands, and I might even have the best hand right now.

My reraise gives him pause. He stews over his decision for a long time. Perhaps if I made that raise with a load of chips in reserve, he would have folded. But he can’t be hurt beyond the chips I’ve already wagered and he has me covered with plenty of chips to spare, and if I win, he’ll only damage his stack by about 15 percent or so.

He calls and turns over 9-8. I do have the best hand. The flop is T-9-3 with one club. He has a pair of nines, I have a straight draw, a backdoor flush draw, and if I catch one of the three remaining jacks or three remaining queens, I’ll win unless he improves to two pair or trips. When you count it out, I have 14 outs. I’m now favored to win this pot, though it’s as close to even money as you can get. With 14 outs, I have a 51.2 percent chance of winning, which makes me an odds-on favorite.

Even though my fold equity went right out the window when he decided to call, I still have a shot. But the turn is a trey, the river is an ace, and I’m done for, finis, eliminated, and knocked out. My goose is cooked.

For me this feels like the air has been let out of a balloon and all at once I am incredibly tired—I could fall asleep right on the spot—very hungry, and in no mood to stick around the Rio any longer than necessary.

I drive out of the Rio lot, down to the Strip, turn left and pull into the Wynn parking lot. I grab a sandwich in the bakery right near the poker room, and sit there staring off into space as I eat.

I’ve been staying the past week with fellow poker writer Jim Brier. I go back there, turn on the television in the guest bedroom, fall asleep within minutes, awaken at midnight, get undressed and get into bed. In the morning Jim and I have breakfast and by 9:00 I am on the road back to Palm Desert, a 240 mile drive that takes me about 3 ½ hours going the back way, through Kelso, Amboy, 29 Palms, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, and Morongo Valley before dropping down from the high desert into the Coachella Valley for the short ride through Palm Springs and Cathedral City to Palm Desert.

The thermometer in my swimming pool reads 88 degrees, so I grab a floating chair, jump in and stare up at the palm trees swaying in the afternoon breeze while thoughts of hands played and misplayed swirl through my head.

I beat about 5,000 of the 6,000 players who entered this event. But it wasn’t good enough to suit me. I’ll have to do better next time. But that’s a year away.

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