Soaking it All In

After a 17 hour final table, a commercial shoot, and a flight to LA, I’m finally back in the US. The initial shock of finishing second has worn off for the most part and had given me a chance to reflect on my career, my life, where I am, where I was, and where I want to end up. The final table started out better than I could have ever hoped. Despite starting the final as the short stack, I was quickly able to become a contender by the end of the first level. I knocked out 7 players on my way to the heads up match against Barry Shulman and I think it will make for exciting television when you see how the key hands played out: Hand #1: 3 handed, Barry was a short stack and went all in from the button and because of a dealer error, ended up doubling through me. I was supposed to have Q-2, an easy fold, but the dealer launched my card too high, and flashed. So instead of a 2, I got an Ace for A-Q. I called Barry’s all in and lost the hand to his J-10. If the dealer hadn’t made that error, I would have folded the Q-2 and Barry would not have won that hand.
It’s a major pet peeve of mine. I obviously know that dealer didn’t do it on purpose and that the outcome can be either positive or negative, but those kinds of mistakes generally irritate me, because the outcome is directly connected to a dealer error. Yes, I could end up with a better hand and win the pot, that would be good for me, but it would have been a sick beat for Barry! Point being, if the dealer doesn’t flash the card, the hand that was SUPPOSED to be played no longer happens.
Lifetime those situations have always seemed to kill me. A flash card changing a players holding has always seem to screw me one way or the other. Nothing at all I can do about it, I surely can’t just fold the A-Q there, but I just have a really bad history with those situations and I feel like I’m owed a few breaks on dealer errors.
The dealer later came up to me to tell me how awful he felt about it, and I certainly didn’t blame hm in the least. It’s an annoying pet peeve of mine, but I don’t feel like the dealer should be chastised for it, it “happens.” Hand #2: Early in the heads up match with the blinds at 40,000-80,000 I min raised to 160,000 from the button with AA. Barry re-raised me to 460,000 and I just called. The flop came out K-8-3 with two hearts. Barry bet 500,000 and I moved all in. He immediately called me with Ah 5h. The title was on the line right here. If I fade the flush, I win my 5th bracelet. The turn was a heart, the river a meaningless Ace. That knocked me down to 2 million in chips to Barry’s 8 million. Hand #3: I’d fought back numerous times and after hours of play I finally regained the chip lead with a 6 million to 4 million lead before the following hand: Blinds at 60,000-120,000 with a 15,000 ante Barry made it 250,000 from the button. I called with Qc Jd.
The fop came Js 8d 5d. I checked, and Barry bet 300,000. I check-raised to 900,000 and he went all in. With such a draw heavy board and so much money in the pot, a fold here would have just been a horrendous play. Once I decided to make the check-raise, folding was just not an option. I either had to just check-call the flop, or check-raise and call and all in. There really isn’t a middle ground there. I called, and Barry had AA.
The turn was a Jack!!! Now I was one card away from winning the title and Barry had to catch one of the remaining two aces to beat me. The river was an Ace. Poker can be so mean sometimes! On the last hand, Barry made it 250,000 and I went all in for 2 million with 44. He called with 10-10, and that did it. Second place. I so hate second place and really can’t ever get used to it. I never used to finish second, winning the first 8 tournaments I’d final tabled, sick run for sure, and I guess thing even out in the long run.
The WSOP in particular has been rough in that regard. I have 4 bracelets, 4 seconds, and a 3rd where I was a monster chip leader against two amateurs three handed. I could easily have 6 or 7 bracelets right now, but I’m stuck at 4. I’m not at all happy with that number and feel like I should have more. I’ll get more, but still, I feel like I should be at 6 by now at least. The second place finish did put me on top of the all-time tournament money leaders list at over $12 million in career earnings which is something I’m proud of, but I think Ivey will crush that in November! He need a 5th or better and I think he’s going to win it all. He’s the best player in the world and he has plenty of chips to play with. He’ll need some luck, but if he gets to 20 million in chips- look out!
Back in January I was asked what were my goals in poker for the year, and my #1 goal was surpassing Jamie Gold on the all-time money leader list. Check. After the tournament, I was a tad emotional. I was asked, “Every time you got knocked down you kept fighting and fighting and never quilt…” It made me think of my mother. I said something like, “I don’t quit. I never quit. I guess it comes from my mother. She’s a real fighter and I must have learned it from her.” Not like dealing with a stroke and playing a poker tournament is at all similar, but the fighting spirit, the will to survive, some people have it, and some don’t. My mother, by all doctor accounts was supposed to be dead right now, instead, she’s making progress. It’s slow progress, but it’s slow and steady. She’s sooooo close to talking again.
My brother was with her while I was playing and he saw her mouth the words, “He’s gonna win, he’s gonna win.” He would relay the good news as I’d move up the ladder and it brought a smile to her face. I know she’ll be happy that I came second, but winning would have been a lot cooler! The tournament ended at around 5:30am and I had a car picking me up at 6:15am to go to the studio to shoot a commercial for PokerStars. I literally headed straight back to my hotel, packed my bags, got in a car, and had to spend the day on set with no sleep after playing for 5 straight days, the last night, with no sleep.
It went better than I expected, although my left knee was in some serous pain from my Thai boxing debacle with my buddy Sam. Right after filming
whisked away to the airport, because I had to be in LA for the new FOX show “PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge” which we’ll be shooting in the am and will be airing on Sunday, Oct. 11th after the football games. I love the concept for the show and think it will be a fun and exciting project. Tune in and see for yourself…
I’m in LA for three days of shooting and then will head back to Vegas. My home course in Vegas, TPC Summerlin is once again hosting a PGA event to benefit the Shriners hospital and this year I plan on playing in the Pro-Am which should be a lot of fun. I think Hellmuth may also be playing, and yum yum, I’d like to get some bets down against him on the golf course! My swing might be awful, but he makes me look like Jack Nicklaus. Right after the golf event, I’ll be playing in the WPT Bellagio event and I couldn’t be more excited about my tournament play. I know when I play well, and I know when I could do more. At the WSOPE in London, I played as well as I ever have. It helps me when I face top competition because it simply forces me to play my A-game. Against lower end competition, I think it’s a bit of a mistake to play too sophisticated because that will be lost on your opponents. So yeah, I’m in my hotel room now, just got back from sake and beers with my two very best friends from high school, Regev and Oren, who live in LA and we remain as close as ever. Two of the best human beings I’ve ever met in my life. Macabee!!! (they are Israeli and that will make them laugh, inside joke.) ]]>