Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Part X: Enjoying my day off...WSOP 2010 Event #3

During tournaments on occasion I like to tweet and update facebook to keep my friends, family, and any others interested posted on my progress. I find that when others are keeping an eye on me my performance is much better and I am less likely to have a Mike Matusow type meltdown. Poker Stars has a $12 - 180 entrant NLHE tournament that I won twice and placed 2nd in once. All three times I accomplished this my father was behind me watching my play. Even as a successful adult, my father seems to be the main person who I am still looking to for validation.

Posting to facebook during this WSOP event was a blast. I had alot of friends, family and even patients cheering me on. My cousin David, who is also an avid poker player, was my biggest fan and kept it especially fun for me. When I awoke Sunday morning and checked my account I saw that David had already looked up the chip counts and rankings and posted them. I knew I was doing well, but was astonished to see that I was in 15th place. When the group from day 1b finished I was only bumped down to 22nd place.

It was nice to revel in this for the day. I was proud of myself and felt that I earned this. Although I had some nice opportunities I never really went on a massive rush of cards or felt that I was abnormally lucky (I don't count beating the flush by rivering a full-house since I had my chips in as a favorite). I was patient, played my opponents tendencies (was lucky to be right most of the time), always had all my money in with the best hand, and was fortunate that my hands held.

The best part was my father's reaction. To understand why his validation is so important I need to paint a picture of growing up with him. My dad, a retired NYC firefighter now in his 70s, is a stoic old school conservative Italian. His foreign father was tough as nails, barely spoke English and eeked out a living in America doing numerous jobs. When my father and his brothers had children they were determined that the next generation was to be progressively successful. My father pushed excellence in school and for someone who was not very educated, he had a very high standard for me. He almost never expressed that he was proud of me and often I felt like I did not do good enough. If I got a 95 on a test it was why didn't I get 100. He never complimented me, and it wasn't until later in life I found that his motives were not only for me to excel but to keep me humble in my successes. Things changed when I was older, and when I graduated medical school for the first time he openly expressed his pride for me.

Luckily my father respects the game of poker and the skill it entails. After my tourney ended he commented about the Mizrachi brothers both being at the final table of the 50k event in an attempt to suggest that he knew this was not all about luck. He flat out said he was impressed with me as he knows many of my competitors played poker far more than I did. For me, this was the best part of my WSOP experience.

That day I also learned that one of my patients, Deepak Bhatti, who is a local cash-game pro, was also still in the tournament (I have Deepak's consent to disclose that he is a patient of mine so I am not violating any privacy). Deepak seemed to have been doing quite well early on Saturday but was coming into day 2 relatively short stacked with a little over 12k. I'm not sure what happened to him but his evening could not have gone well.

One of the cooler moments on Sunday was after I had breakfast at the Rio cafe with my wife and son. My wife had gone to the bathroom after we finished eating and I was on line waiting to pay my bill while my 4 year old son was swinging on my arm. Dan Harrington just happens to get in line behind me. In all honesty Dan Harrington is my biggest poker hero. I know it sounds cheesy but sometimes when I play I imagine I am channeling his energy through my play. I am really not one to start talking or imposing on celebrities, but to me Harrington was a big deal. I introduced myself to him and told him how well I was doing in the 1K event. I proceeded to give his books the credit for my success. He was clearly flattered and we had a brief discussion about how some felt the approach in his books was not aggressive enough for today's competition. Dan did not feel his books were meant to teach a particular "style" of play, but rather teach how to think like a poker player. I agree. It was Dan Harrington who taught me how to think like a poker player. When my wife returned she asked if that was Dan Harrington. It was hard for her to not notice him since his books have been next to the toilet for the last 2-3 years.

Sunday was a relaxing day. Spending time with my family was centering and refreshing. My wife and I periodically poked our heads in the pavilion to scope my competition. I was curios to find out if I would be starting day two on the bubble or in the money. With 480 players left after day 1b and 441 to the money it was going to be a quick bubble. I spent some time strategizing how I would take advantage of this and planned to have a good night sleep.

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