My first World Series of Poker event was the main event in 2004, which I played immediately after stepping off the plane having come directly from my graduate school commencement ceremonies. I didn’t cash in that tournament, but I cashed at least once in every WSOP from 2005 to 2009, with 14 cashes overall in that time period over 56 events. I made two final tables, but no really big scores. Still, I maintained a 97% ROI for those 56 tournaments and had no complaints about those results, save one. I wanted the bracelet.
I started my 2010 WSOP with a quick bustout in a NLHE event, followed by a long run in a PLHE event. On Friday June 4, I played another NLHE event that started at noon, and gathered a bunch of chips quickly. I then decided to four-bet all-in with 55 on a flop of 664, because I thought my opponent was three-betting light. He thought for a few seconds before calling off the rest of his chips with two queens. Soon afterwards I was out, and I realized I still had time to enter the $1,500 Limit Hold ’Em, albeit an hour late.
I didn’t make many hands on Day One, but I loved the value of the event. There was a guy at my first table who open-limped from early position with 43o, and another guy who didn’t know you were allowed to raise bets in Limit Hold ’Em. (He apparently thought the big bet was the most money you could put in on any street.) Clearly this was a good tournament to enter, but I still found myself with only eight blinds at the end of Day One.
I started Day Two by defending my blind with J9o, check-calling a bet on the A93 flop, and then check-folding to a bet when a queen hit on the turn. I’m not really in the business of folding pairs in Limit Hold ’Em, but I felt strongly enough that I was behind that I chose to lay the hand down and solider on with five blinds in my stack. I’ll never find out if my read was right on that hand, but I doubled up on the next hand when I reraised from the small blind against the button, and flopped top pair. From that point forward I roller coastered up-and-down the rest of the day, making runner-runner full houses, flopping the nuts and losing, making a set against a pair of aces, making a full house blind-on-blind and losing. I ended the day with 272,000 against an average chip stack of 216,000. There were 13 people left.
I ran really bad to start Day Three. I put in five bets preflop with JJ against AJ and 88, and had to fold on the ace-high flop. I got rivered when my QQ couldn’t beat A3, after I’d raised the turn and my opponent took the heat with just a three on board. I entered the final table in eighth place out of nine. My comeback started when Mark Burford had AK on an ace-high board and I made aces up on him. Mark busted shortly thereafter, but I increased my chip count fairly steadily as we stayed eight-handed for a long time and some of the other players were jockeying for position, trying not to be the next one out. It wasn’t without its downturns. I lost three big pots to Limit Hold ’Em terror and longtime friend Terrence Chan: once when I barreled the whole way with king-high and he called me with ace-high, once when I lost a set-over-set hand, and once when my pocket sevens couldn’t fade the overcards against his AJ. But I won enough pots to make up for those, and I was in decent shape when we got four-handed.
The turning point came when I three-bet Georgios Kapalas from the button with A7o, and Terrence woke up with two aces in the big blind. I hit the miracle flop of 773 and we got a lot of bets in—20 percent of the chips in play in fact. I took over the chip lead for the first time after that, and held onto it all the way to heads-up, at which point I had a 2-1 advantage over Ahmad Abghari.
Ahmad plays a conservative style, so I liked the spot. But he won almost all the pots for the first 25 minutes, and I soon found myself at a 2-1 chip disadvantage. Of the entire tournament, I’m most proud of the way I played for the next 45 minutes. After playing 15 hours on Day One (between the NLHE and the Limit), and a long Day Two the day before, I was able to take a deep breath on Day Three even after conceding the lead when heads-up for a bracelet. I focused, played as well as I’m capable of playing, and slowly retook the lead. Ahmad eventually got down to six blinds. I opened with Q8o and he three-bet me. When the flop came Q44, I knew I had a chance to win the tournament on this hand. We got it all-in on the blank turn card, and Ahmad tabled AT. An eight fell on the river, improving my hand to queens and eights, and more importantly, giving me the victory.
It is hugely gratifying to get this victory after so many years of playing tournaments. I thank all of you readers for all the well-wishes I’ve received in the past few weeks. Some good articles have even been written about me and the tournament. Here’s one of them.
Now I’m moving on to other things, most immediately to watching the Algeria-U.S. match set to kick off in a few hours. Then it will be back to the WSOP grind, as I have a few more events to play before the Main in two weeks. No matter what happens the rest of the way, however, I will always remember the 2010 WSOP with a smile.