The week leading up to event 25 was filled with a lot early busts and frustrations, due in part to shallow structure, a few bad beats, and of course some bad play on both my opponents’ and my end. Normally this could be a confidence killer, but my confidence could not have been higher going into this event, the 2k NLHE.
The 1st two levels of the event did not go so well. I saw a lot of flops, but it seemed to be Opposite Day. I was dealt AK-AJ about eight times, JJ twice, and about ten small to mid pocket pairs. If I had big cards all baby cards would come, and when I held the pocket pairs, all paint would fall. I got to the first break with 1,375 of my original 4,000 chips, winning maybe 2 or 3 pots in 2 hours. Coming back to 100-200 blinds, I was ecstatic to pick up AQo in the cut-off, and I shoved to steal the blinds the 1st hand back. Since everyone was not back from break yet, I decided to show my hand to let the players know I wasn’t pushing trash.
Two hands later, I played the biggest hand of my tournament so far. With two limpers ahead of me, I looked down to 9d7d, and in a spot where I would normally be tempted to shove my 1,675 to try and win the extra dead money, I chose to limp and hopefully hit a big hand to chip up. Definitely not a recommended play, but I was frustrated and trying to make something happen. The button limped behind me, the blinds completed, and we saw a J-J-X rainbow flop 6 handed. It was checked to me and I really took my time before checking, trying to get a read on whether any of the other players liked the flop while also trying to make it look I had a Jack myself. The button checked, and the turn came a beautiful Ace. This was the perfect bluff card for me, I felt I had sold my Jack well and when it was checked to me again I took my time before betting 500 of my remaining 1,500 chips. This screamed of a Jack trying to get value vs. ace, the button thought for 2 minutes before folding (he said after he had A-10), the blinds folded as did both the limpers, and then the last man left took forever before folding, saying he had A-Q.
This was huge for me, and while I still didn’t have the original starting stack, I had gone from 1,375 to 2,675 during the 1st few hands back, and I finally I had some chips to work with. I played patient poker and chose my spots well, and I managed to chip up to 5,000 with zero showdowns going into the last hand before the 2nd break. The last hand before the break, I busted a short stack with A-Q vs A-9, and I headed into the 2nd break with 6,500 which had to be close to average now.
During the next level of 150-300 25a, I had chipped up to about 10k without any showdowns or flops seen when I put myself in an awkward spot. UTG opened to 800, and UTG+1 folded. I decided to smooth call with QQ. It folded to a guy two off the button, who made it 3k total with about 8.5k behind. I was pretty sure he was squeezing, and I made up my mind that if UTG folded or just called, I was going to shove pre-flop and most likely take the pot right there. UTG shoved for like 9k total, and I tanked for about 4 minutes before finally folding, which was followed by the squeezer insta-mucking. It was a really weird spot, because I was 100% positive that UTG had the same read on other guy as I did, but I ultimately decided that the table was really soft and I was chipping up so nicely without having to take any of my hands to showdown.
About twenty minutes into the next level, I was up to 11.5k, and right after posting my blinds, the table broke. I was moved into the blinds at the new table, played a full orbit and was moved once I posted the blinds a 2nd time at the table. I got seated right into the BB at my 3rd table, and 3 hands later, I was moved to a 4th table where I was seated UTG, ready to post the blinds again. The next thing I knew, my stack was diminished to under 7k going into the dinner break, facing the 300-600 75a level when we returned. At least this table would end up being my home for the next two levels. I also had the company of Shannon Elizabeth on my right, which motivated me to stay patient and grind.
Going into the last 2 hands of the 400-800 100a level, I found a creative way to steal the blinds. At the end of the level, we would be going on break and coloring up all of the green $25 chips. Nobody likes having to stay at the table after being designated the player to buy the rest of the tables green chips, and given my natural obsession with collecting the smallest denominations of chips in play, I was likely to be the man. So the last 2 hands, I raised to 2,500 in attempt to steal the blinds and antes, but I did so using 5 stacks of green chips to discourage the players from trying to re-steal from me, because then they would become the color-up person. It was successful both times, though the 2nd time I thought Eric “Basebaldy” Baldwin was going to re-raise me on principle. During this time, I had increased my stack from 12.5k to nearly 17k.
Shortly after break I was moved again, and I just grinded my ass off for the next 90 minutes. Though I have never played a tournament to “just cash,” we were approaching the bubble, and cashing was very important to me given my past WSOP debacles. I was in push/fold mode, picking my spots very well and appearing to be pretty tight. At one point, I folded down to 12.5k before shoving K6s UTG with the blinds at 800-1600 200a.
I managed to chip up to about 25k during this level by simply shoving all-in at the right times and stealing the blinds and antes, and about five from the money, it folded to me on the button, and I decided I could finally make a standard raise. With Q8o, I made it 4400 and wanted to kill myself for not realizing how short the BB was. That said, the price I found myself getting forced me to call his shove for 7.5kish more, and I suddenly had half my stack in the pot with queen high. I ended up turning an 8 to defeat his A9o, leading him to berate me for making the call. That was the 1st time I had a hand go to showdown since my AQ beat the short stack’s A9 way back during the last hand of level 4.
Now I was up to 40k, ready to rock the bubble at my relatively weak table. A few hands after the Q-8 hand, I raised pre-flop with a bad ace and actually got flat called. I made a standard continuation bet of 5k on a J-9-9 flop, which got min-raised, and even though everything in my heart told me to shove since it was the bubble, I fought temptations and folded. Not much of a hand, but amazingly this was the 1st flop I had played since way back at the beginning of the 100-200 level before the antes were even in play. A couple of hands later, that same player opened for 6.6k, which was a very large raise and the second consecutive pot in which he had done this. I decided he knew what he was doing and was trying to rock the bubble, so I shoved all-in with 8c7c for just about 30k. I ended up putting on a huge ordeal in order to get him to fold, and eventually he did. That put me at about 40k, and then I proceeded to raise every single hand and steal the blinds until the bubble burst, taking my stack all the way up to 70k.
Once we were in the money, with the blinds 1k-2k I ended up busting the only guy at the table I had been allowing to bully me. In a battle of the blinds, I limped from the small blind with A-8o, which is pretty standard as I rarely raise from the small blind unless the player in the big blind is very weak. This was the 4th time I had done this, and for the 4th time, the big blind raised me, making it 8k. The previous 3 times I had folded, but this time I announced I was all-in. He insta-called me, and I yelled out a few curse words in my head thinking I was crushed when he called a little over 30k more so quickly, but he had KJ, and my Ace high held to bring my stack up to 110k. I ended up busting a few more short stacks, and finished the night with over 135k, which was good for a top ten stack. After railing Gavin and Bax a bit in the 5k horse, it was back to my hotel for some sleep. I was definitely a bit wired, like a kid in a candy store, ecstatic over my 1st WSOP cash and the thoughts of big things for the next day.