Daniel Negreanu – Poker Articles
My First World Series of Poker Bracelet — Part IIPoker article written by Daniel Negreanu and published in Card Player Magazine
In Part I last issue, I related how much of a struggle I’d had at the 1998 World Series of Poker — zero success and diminishing confidence, coupled with running bad (or so I thought) and a short bankroll.
Then, I finally got my shot. Todd Brunson gave me the boost of confidence I needed (not to mention the equally important additional $500) to play in the $2,000 pot-limit hold’em event at the WSOP. Up until then, I’d never played an event. They were just too expensive.
So, there I was in a big-time tournament with all the great players I’d read so much about in Card Player and watched on the WSOP videos. I honestly didn’t have visions of winning the tournament; I would have been ecstatic to just make the money. I couldn’t wait to see how I stacked up against the big-time players.
Be Careful What You Wish For
If it was experience playing against the best that I wanted, I sure got an overload of it that day. During the first two hours of the tournament, my table was comprised of: Erik Seidel, Men “The Master” Nguyen, Humberto Brenes, Johnny Chan, Dan Harrington, Dan Heimiller, Steve Rydel, some other guy, and me. As I said, be careful what you wish for. Well, it was too late to cry about my bad luck. I’d have to give it my best shot and learn the lessons I needed to learn.
I lost a few minor pots here and there, but basically stayed around even for most of the first three hours. My stack was up to about $2,700 when the following hand came up:
The pot was raised in front of me and called in two places. I had A-K on the button and it was $200 to me. For some reason, I was too afraid to reraise, so I just called and hoped to hit the flop. Men The Master also called from the big blind. Hit the flop I did! The flop came A-A-2 rainbow. All four players checked to me, so I bet about half the size of the pot. I figured they’d all put me on an ace and likely fold anyway, but that would be OK, too. Then, to my surprise, Men reraised the pot and put me all in.
Could he have two deuces or A-2? Possibly an A-K, as well? I really wasn’t sure what he had, but I was pretty certain that he wasn’t bluffing. This is it, I thought, and called. Men turned over A-Q, and my A-K held up. Phew!
Later, Men told me I had trapped him by not reraising before the flop. I thought, I did? How? He said it was tough for him to put me on A-K when I didn’t reraise before the flop; he thought I may have A-J or A-10.
So, I’d doubled up and was booming with even more confidence after Men decided to swap 5 percent with me. Wow, I thought, he must think I have a shot, so I should, too!
Before I sat down, I decided I wasn’t going to try to bluff these great players, because they’d figure me out. But being young and foolish, I just couldn’t help myself. The following hand wasn’t for a big pot, but its importance to me was paramount:
Johnny Chan raised my blind to $150, and I called the extra $100 with 7clubs 6clubs. The flop came Jclubs 9spades 8clubs. I had flopped a flush draw with an open-end straight draw, although I didn’t really want a 10.
I checked rather quickly, and Johnny checked behind me. After watching him check the nut straight three times against Erik Seidel at home on the WSOP video tapes, I wasn’t secure that his check meant that he had a weak hand.
The turn brought another jack. I should bet and bluff this hand, I thought. Then the little voice of fear in my head said, ”No, no. Remember, you aren’t going to try to bluff these guys. They’ll see right through you!” OK, OK — check. Johnny then bet $300, about the size of the pot. The little voice in my head said, “Throw it away, you could be drawing dead.” Ah, shut up, I thought. “I raise; make it $800,” I said.
I put my head down on my hand and stared blankly at the flop. Of course, the little voice in my head was saying, ”You idiot, look what you’ve done now; he’s going to raise us for sure!”
Well, it was too late; what was done was done. If he raised me, I’d just have to fold. Just as I was thinking that, his cards went into the muck. The little voice of fear said, ”Hey, great play, buddy; way to go. I knew Chan wasn’t going to call.” Well, screw you little voice, I’m on my own now!
Getting away with that play gave me even more confidence that maybe they didn’t see right through me. Maybe I was actually playing pretty well. Of course, the little voice didn’t go away for good, as you’ll see in the following hand:
Everyone folded to me on the button, and I had pocket jacks. I raised it to $150 with Erik Seidel in the big blind, and he called.
Again, after seeing him on the WSOP videos, I knew him to be a great player who was capable of making a big bluff. The flop came Q-7-2 rainbow, and Erik checked to me. Hey, that’s a pretty decent flop, I’ll bet it for sure. Then, as I was reaching for my chips, the little voice said, ”What? Are you crazy? He could have a queen and check-raise you! Worse yet, if you bet, he’ll know you don’t have a queen and will bluff-raise you!” I checked.
The turn brought another brick, an offsuit 4. Now, Erik bet $325, the size of the pot. “Throw your hand away, Daniel, Erik’s got a queen,” said the little voice of fear. Put a sock in it, little voice, I can’t throw this hand away. I called.
The river brought nothing, an 8. Erik again made a big bet, about $675. Well, I’d come this far, and thought that maybe he was trying to move me off a hand, so I called the bet. Erik turned over Ahearts Jhearts for ace high, and I won the pot.
So, I’d survived my first battles with Men “The Master” Nguyen, Johnny Chan, and Erik Seidel, and had built up a pretty decent stack of chips.
Hours later, I noticed that my buddy Rob Gingras was still in, and it was comforting to have someone I knew still around. By the dinner break, it looked good for both of us to make the money. Shortly after dinner, thanks to Mike Sexton getting pocket aces cracked one out of the money by two sixes on the river, I was in the money. Sorry I had to remind you, Mike.
At that point, I didn’t see many of the big-name players left in the tournament. There was Berry Johnston, Dan Heimiller, Crocodile Bill, and Luis Santoni, but nobody else I knew.
We broke tables, and I was sitting at a table with some guy named Jesus (Chris Ferguson, of course). Across from me was some quiet kid named Allen (Cunningham).
By the time we broke down to two tables, my buddy Rob had gotten knocked out, as had my future buddy Allen Cunningham. At my new table was a nemesis from my first table, Dan Heimiller. Dan was to my right at the first table, and didn’t miss a raise of my big blind. It didn’t seem to matter what he had; he must have noticed how tight I was playing and decided to consistently rob my blind.
Well, down to two tables, things were worse. Dan was now on my left, and every time I raised, he reraised me, knowing that I’d fold. It was taking a toll on my stack, and I’d become a short stack after being in good shape all day. Then, the following hand came up:
I picked up 9-9 in late position with 12 players left in the tournament. So, I raised the size of the pot, and Heimiller reraised me from the button enough to commit me to going all in if I called. It was decision time for me.
I really wanted to make the final table, but it had been a dream day for me, anyway. I never expected to get that far, so everything from there on in was a freeroll for me. I hadn’t done much talking up to that point, but for some reason I said, ”I know I got you, Dan. I know I have the best hand.” I still hadn’t called yet, nor was I sure that I was going to call.
Dan had just had two aces the hand before and had busted somebody. It’s not that that should make a difference, or anything, but for some silly reason, I thought the odds of him having a big pair again were unlikely. In reality, though, my final decision was based on the many number of hands that Dan had reraised me. He couldn’t have aces all the time, could he? Well, I was going to find out. I called.
The flop came Kspades 8hearts 2clubs. Dan turned his hand up; he had A-K. I was dead. The turn brought the 4clubs, and the river the 10clubs. Oh, so close, I thought, the 10 looked just like a 9. Oh, well. I actually walked about two steps away from the table when I decided to turn back and look at the board and then again at my hand.
A miracle had occurred; the Kspades that I was sure I had seen had miraculously turned into the Kclubs. There were now four clubs on board, and Dan didn’t have a club. I didn’t know if one of my nines was a club, so it was time to look back — 9hearts 9clubs. I was alive again! Not only that, I’d doubled up and was now in contention.
I was able to make the final table the next day in second chip position with $73,500. My next problem was trying to figure out how I was going to get to sleep. Or, was I in fact already asleep and dreaming this all up?
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With over one hundred poker articles spanning the last five years and a new poker article written every two weeks and published in Card Player magazine, Daniel Negreanu brings the world of poker to the tables of countless poker enthusiasts and poker players alike.
As a regular Card Player columnist, Daniel's poker articles have helped many readers learn the game of poker from the early days of an upcoming professional poker player to the realization of a true poker champion last year as Daniel became the 2004 Card Player Player of the Year, as well as, one of the most successful tournament players in history with 36+ worldwide wins and bragging rights as the WPT All-Time Top Money Winner.
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