Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pain is So Close To Pleasure; WSOP Main 2011

Sunshine and rainy weather go hand in hand together
- - - -Queen

Khoa Ngyuen , to my left, has been much more active in the last 30 minutes. He was not a threat earlier and started the day as the table short stack. Just a few hours earlier I had him 8:1 in chips, and now he is 3 betting my 15k open to 45k from the big blind with a stack size slightly below mine. Ngyuen survived a number of coin flips and was able to quintuple up.

I'm on a roll too. The shit roll. You know the one that rolls down hill, cause shit certainly isn't rolling up. I'm down more than 1/2 the stack I started with on day 4. My hole cards have been disgusting for the most part, and the opportunity to open at this table is not often. The Ah6h, after everyone folded to me on the button, feels like the nuts.

Lets back up....Just a few hands ago, in the big blind, I flatted into a multiway pot that Ngyuen had opened under the gun. The flop came with low cards and a flush draw. With complete air I check raise his c-bet, hoping that he has two big cards and will be forced to fold. He calls. Okay he has a pair, and I'm not getting him off of it. Thankfully my imaginary flush hits the turn. With out hesitation I go all-in. Quickly Ngyuen folds.

I certainly have not been making a habit of these kind of risky plays. In fact one of the things that have gotten me to this point was my strong emphasis on pot control. I can think of just a handful of times that I have willingly put my self at serious risk like this. It appears to be my newer form of tilt...and although it's not a good thing it is far better than my calling station tilt. Even though in chips I am up, closer to 400k, the reality is that my cards are still shitty and my play is getting even shittier. I don't think I ate much on Day 4 and certainly I am not use to playing poker tournaments that run so long that you are at increased risk for bed sores and blood clots.

Why am I on tilt? The day started great! I was happy with my table draw, I had my friend Denny Robinson, my father, and my wife on the rail. I was getting no cards but was making some serious pots with some strong post-flop play. I brought my stack from 580k to 680k within 90 minutes.

Things first went south when I 3 bet a pot in BB with AQs. I c-bet the turn with air and get a call. Pot gets check down to the river, and pocket 10s beat my AQ. Sometime later I get into a multiway pot with A4 suited and flop a pair of 4s with a nut flush draw. The smallest stack of 35k shoves into an 80k or so pot. Everyone else folds and I call, he turns over QQ and I hit no Aces or hearts. Later on, a 50k stack shoved into my blinds when I had 33. I called and he had A6. The 6 hits.

Despite all of this I am holding my game together at this point. Here is where things really change.

About an orbit later I call an open raise by David Docherty with J10s in position. I flop an open ended straight draw and hope to represent the Ace that is on it. He check calls the flop, turn and river, after I fire three-barrells. He shows AK. Ooops. Down to Around 450k now. Another two orbits later, Docherty raises into my SB where for the first time all day I see a decent pocket pair.


I flat call and the flop comes 10 high. I lead out with 2/3 the pot and Docherty begins to think. I start to imagine what I would do if I were he, especially after I just failed to bluff him down to the river. If I had air or a weak pair I would probably raise 30% of the time or I would fold the other 70%. Almost never a flat call unless I was planning to bluff a later street. If I was very strong I would flat and try and see how much my very aggro opponent would be willing to give me. He raises and I have already mentally pigeon holed that move as weak. I shove back all-in and he shows a set of 10s. I drop down to close to 200k and inside I am emotionally devastated with what has just happened.

It definately sucks because this happened right before we entered the money. I let the excitement of breaking the bubble get ruined by all this.

Swinging back to the hand I opened this blog with... I am now facing a decision by Ngyuen's 3 bet. I know he has a fairly tight range. I know he thinks I have been pushing him around. I feel he is trying to take a stand, and even if he has me beat I know he wont call a big re-raise. Especially not one that puts him all-in. Unless of course he has Aces...

...and he does.

Afterwards I sat and stared at my 30k starting disbelief. Before it sunk in the first suited AK of the day came up the very next hand. Still in denial I gleamed of a triple up after I got one caller and an all-in. All-in turned up AK and we chopped. A few hands later with less than 30k I called an open raise with J10 and the raiser had KK. The World Series was officially over.

It was tough going down, especially that way. I would prefer any day going down with the best hand, as you are at least left with continued comfort and confidence in your decisional ability. Going down with the worst hand leaves a bit of a deeper hole.

I have not told anyone until this blog how it went down. I left the table feeling somewhat humiliated and defeated.

Why did this happen? Was it run bad? Absolutely, I know I could have gotten him to fold any hands outside of Aces, Kings and Queens. It was run bad that he had Aces. It was run bad that I never won any important coin flips. Honestly I feel the cards ran average for me the entire tourney.I had a few key pots, but if you look at my stack it was loaded with smaller chips. I knocked only two people out of the tourney, and they were both on Day 1. After that I made my bacon with strong pre and post flop play in small ball pots (aside from my Mike Sowers encounters).

But listen, I am not an idiot. My demise was more play bad than run bad. I busted around #500 because I lost patience and I didnt continue to work on pot control. I was living in the past and my desire to stay a big stack blinded my ability to manipulate my gears. In retrospect I should have tightened up a bit more and continued to work on pot control.It is a lesson learned. Would I play my Jacks again the same way? I don't know. What was the value of putting him all in? Did I hope that he had 99 and would call? Should I have check-called to the river with my Jacks? I can't see doing that. Am I going to fold my Jacks after he three bets me on that flop? Call him down to the river? Does he eventually put me all-in anyway? Wouldn't I rather he be in that spot where he faces a tough decision instead of me? Is it bad luck that he didn't have a tough decision after flopping the nuts? I don't know what the right answer is. I felt strong about my play and was honestly shocked to see his set. It is rare that I am shocked when I see someones hand...I thought this pot was mine. Losing this pot was shot to the gut, and blowing up afterwards was a kick in the balls.

I remember seeing an interview with Dutch Boyd where he was discussing the emotional
extremes of poker. He describes how he believes the extremes of happiness and dissapointment in poker are not equivocal, and that the worst pain is far worse than the best pleasure.

In my experience they are not only equal but remain quite close together. This WSOP Main Event was a thrilling ride for me. Especially since I became an early chip leader and stayed within the top 60 players for 3 days in a row. It was a long fall from being a chip leader in just a few short stung deeply and I am not fully over my dissapointment.

The evening I busted I was comforted when I saw a tweet from Vanessa Rousso discussing how she deals with her dissapointment by zooming out and seeing a bigger picture. I really liked that concept because for the last 4-6 weeks I have been hyper-focused on poker and life is so much more than that.

Yes I am dissapointed, but I am proud at the same time. I played some of the best poker of my life and clearly feel like I can compete at a very high level of tounrament poker comfortably. I cashed my very first WSOP Main Event and know that I have earned the trust and respect of enough people to pay my way in on a yearly basis. I am very lucky. Tournament poker is just beginning for me.

Having all of my friends, family, employees, colleagues, and even patients to rail me was an amazing feeling. All of the guilt I feel when I am out playing poker on Thursday afternoon melts away when the people you love the most are right behind you cheering you on. I am certain that having that kind of love and support made me a play even better.

Most of all I have to give it up to my wife, who was there for nearly every second of every hand I played. She was an amazing support and earns every bit of her spousal variance! :)


  1. I am glad that you had a good run. Well done.

  2. Thanks Laoch. It was alot of fun...I need to stay critical of myself if I am going to improve.