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Daniel - Poker Journal

My Back's Against the Wall

15 Dec 2004

As some of you may already know David Pham picked up 1440 points for winning a no limit hold'em event at the Bellagio event the other day (congrats David.) It's ironic really that I was focused solely on Juanda and totally forgot about the always dangerous “Dragon.”

After I got the news that David won the event I knew that there was just the pot limit Omaha, and the main event left to catch up. So what did I do? I took a day off… huh? Why in the world would I skip a tournament with only two remaining?

Well, I’m going back to what’s made me successful all year. A simple rule really: only play in a tournament if I REALLY want to. I spent the day doing a few interviews with several magazines, a couple radio interviews and a photo shoot for Toronto Life Magazine. I was in bed at a decent hour and looking forward to the WPT event.


I can honestly say, that I have never played better than I did today. I grabbed every chip I was supposed to, and saved chips when I was beat. My level of focus has never been higher and I truly feel like the “Dragon” is in big trouble.

Of course there were 376 entrants so I’d need more than focus to make it to the final nine. IF I make the final nine I’ll recapture the player of the year award and also have an excellent shot at 1.8 million… it’s going to happen. Call it over confident, call it cocky, call it what you will… I’m going to get the job done.

Day one could not have possibly gone any smoother. My chips were never at risk, I was playing “in your face” poker all day and had confidence in my reads. With 230 odd players left, I now stand second in chips with $217, 175 in chips. (There are a few key hands I’d like to share with you at the bottom of the journal).

Totally stoked I decided to get out of the Bellagio and head to my couch at home to hang out with my little buddy Mushu. Then I remembered that I had the finale of Survivor Vanauatu on Tivo. Of the remaining four were Scout and Twila, Chris and Eliza who I didn’t care for since episode one. I don’t like women like that, what can I say.

For most of the show I was rooting for both Chris and Twila so I was really happy to see them make the final two. Talk about having your back against the wall, Chris was one man against a six woman alliance and won it all! How is that possible. I was in awe of the way he played his opponents and the way he played the game. Just when it looked like he had no chance at all the tables turned and took the million dollars home.

Watching that was further inspiration for me tomorrow. Once David passed me with just one tournament left the odds are obviously stacked heavily against me. Afraid? Not at all, how’s ecstatic! I love the pressure, I love the challenge, I love being the underdog. If things don’t pan out and I end up missing the final table I’ll know that I gave it my all when my back was against the wall and gave it everything I have.


Some key hands from Day one:

Hand One:
The blinds were now 100-200 with a 25 ante when Blair Rodman raised from early position to 600. The button called and I defended my big blind with 10-6 of hearts. The flop came Jc-9s-6h and I checked to Blair. Blair bet 1500, the button called as did I.
The turn brought the 10c and I decided to seize the moment and bet out strong, 4000. Blair hesitated then folded and the button called. That worried me a great deal. I felt as though there was a VERY good chance I was already behind.
The river brought the 5s and I checked. My opponent bet just 4000 which seems like an automatic call for me. 4000 to win a little over 16000. In other words I needed to be at least 80% sure that my opponent had me beat to make folding correct. I felt about 90% sure, but only after I got him to start talking. After studying his body language and dialogue for about a minute I finally decided to make a tough lay down. I later found out that the button had me dead on the turn with KQ for the nuts straight.

Hand Two:
With the blinds now up to 300-600 with a 75 ante, the last limit of the night Kido Pham raised from early position to 2500. The button (same guy from last time) called and I defended my big blind with 7-3 of hearts. Before you go telling me that “the books” tell you not to do that, let it be known that I’d throw most of those same books in the trash!

The flop came down Ad 5h 7s. I checked, Kido checked, and the button checked. The turn came the 3d giving me two pair but putting a back door flush draw out there. I nonchalantly threw out one 5000 chip. Kido raised it. Originally it looked like he wanted to make it 20,000 but then decided to throw 25,000 out there.

Now this could be trouble. I started the hand in great shape with over 120,000 in chips and only Kido had enough chips to really hurt me. I called the raise. The river was the Qc missing all draw entirely. I checked and Kido quickly fired out 50,000!

Yikes. If I call this bet I’m down to 38,000, if I fold I’m ahead of the game with 88,000, but if I call and win… I’m way up there in chips. So I start to process the action. I’d already seen Kido (who’d been playing great) win a huge pot with 2-4 of spades earlier, so the idea that he could have 6-4 to me was very real. In fact, that’s what kept flashing in my mind. If he didn’t have that hand I thought he was bluffing. I didn’t put him on a set or aces up.

So then I looked at him- he looked stiff. Very stiff. He looked nervous and it didn’t look staged. With my chip position on the line I threw the 50,000 out there. “Straight” he said… as he threw his hand in the muck! Yes!!! I caught him bluffing. He was kidding about the straight obviously and was visibly frustrated. Which lead to hand three.

Hand Three:
I raised it to 1500 from early position with 5-8 of spades (yeah, yeah I know, the book, the book) and Kido re-raised me to 6000. I sensed that he didn’t need that big a hand to raise me and called 4500 more.
The flop came 9-9-4 with two spades and I checked to Kido. Kido bet out 12,000 and I surveyed his stack. He had about 40,000 more so I decided to take a gamble that he didn’t have an over pair and moved all in with my flush draw. Kido folded and I ended the day with 217,175 in chips.

Kido later called me to ask, “Why did you call me that hand?” I thought about saying, ‘All you pay is the looking price kid, lessons are extra” but I thought better of it. He is a gentleman and let me know that he respected my call and wished me luck the rest of the way. He did say that he’d played his best poker all day and that call broke his spirits, but I told him that I’d been in worse shape chip wise and come back before, no reason he couldn’t either.

Others with big stacks:
Tony G. 224,000
Johnny Chan close to 200,000
Jennifer Harman about 80,000
Erick Lindgren with about 20,000
John Juanda about 65,000
David Pham about 15,000