Taking My Seat at The World Series of Poker

CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAYS POST: #FindMyself60 Challenge – Day 48: A Dream Realized

Before I tell you what went down at my first World Series of Poker event, let me tell you that the game of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em (the type of poker I play) can be soul-crushing. Sometimes you can make every right move, and still lose. Sometimes you can get all of your money in with by far the best hand, and still somehow lose. This is because there are four rounds of betting, and new cards are introduced each time, any of which can drastically change anything. Someone who is seemingly impossibly behind, can suddenly find themselves monstrously ahead. This is why math and reads are so important in this game.

Ahem. So with that in mind, where did we leave off?

Oh, yes. Rocking my very first WSOP tournament.

This photo was secretly taken by one of my poker buddies who by some very small chance ended up seated directly across from me.
This photo was secretly taken by Rob, one of my poker buddies who by some very small chance ended up seated directly across from me.

I sat down at my first table, and I felt like I was going to swallow my own head in nervousness. But do you know what? It only took about twenty minutes to realize that I would be just fine. I could hang. It took another twenty minutes to feel dialed-in. Within the first hour, I had control of my table.

I pounded away and made seemingly all the right decisions. I folded when I was behind. I put money in when I was ahead. I pulled off some smart bluffs. I knocked out two players in the first two hours. I kept adding to my chips, and building my stack. Halfway through the day, I had a big chip lead at the table, and of the 2,076 players, I was in the top 5 or 10 (at that stage there’s no real way to know for sure). By the end of the night, I had suffered a couple minor casualties, but had a very big stack when an hour before the end, they announced that everyone left (200 or so of us) were “in the money.” That means we were guaranteed at least double our money back.

At that point, I was probably in the top 20 or 30. I was in a very good place to start Day 2.

And as everyone who was left in the tournament cheered loudly, I quietly (and this is the truth) wiped a small tear away. This tournament was still pretty small compared to some of the bigger ones at WSOP, but it was huge for me. And I just might have a shot at taking this thing.

That first day was grueling. It was 12 or so straight hours of intense focus and concentration. After all, one wrong move, one wrong read, or one wrong anything can wipe you and your stack out in a hurry. I left so happy, yet barely able to walk to my car. Sleep was begging me to give-in already.

Day two was intense. I had to be in my seat at noon, and since my goal was to never miss a day of this Insanity workout, I had to get up early enough to do that, shower, mentally prepare myself, eat a proper breakfast, and be ready to go.

dan-pearce-workout2I’ve never had a workout so intense where I pretty much didn’t think about the workout at all while I was doing it. My mind was on the day before and the day ahead. The workout felt like it took four hours, and when I was done, I practically sprinted around my room trying to gather everything to go. I just wanted to be there already!

I finally got to take my seat. They had moved us to a different room. It seemed everywhere I looked, I saw the face of someone I have seen on televised poker, many times. This was where it got real.

And then what every poker player fears most happened. I went “card dead.” For the first two hours I was dealt the worst imaginable hands. They were hands I couldn’t play at all (doing so would certainly bring a premature end to my tournament), and this made it easy for the people at my table to steal my blinds. Now, without getting into too much explanation, just know that “the blinds” are a required number of chips you have to put into the pot every time the cards move around the table. Tournaments force an eventual winner by making the blinds bigger and bigger, thus forcing you to dwindle away to nothing if you wait too long to play. Being card dead deep in a tournament is a very crappy thing.

I started the day in such a good spot, and in two hours hadn’t won a single pot. I hadn’t even played in a single pot that I can remember. I just watched my chip stack get lower and lower and lower and there was nothing I could do about it. Things were not looking good.

I was down to almost nothing. I finally saw the best starting hand I had seen yet… An ace and a 9. It wasn’t that good of a hand. The suits weren’t even matched. But, with my little stack I had no mathematical choice but to shove all my chips in and hope for the best. I got called by the chip leader at my table, who had a hand that will beat mine about 45% of the time, and a miracle happened. Two 9s came on the flop. I more than doubled my stack.

A couple hands later, I was dealt another decent hand. Pocket 9s. I shoved all my chips in again, which was the right move based on how much I had left, and was called by another big stack who had an Ace and a King. This one would be a coin flip. No ace came and no king came, so I more than doubled up my stack again! I suddenly looked down at a decent stack sitting in front of me. One I could actually play with.

And then, only a couple hands later, the best thing in the world happened. I ran into a dream scenario, and I trapped another player for his entire stack with it.

I had pocket sixes (two sixes). One player bet, another player raised, and I called with my pair of 6s. Only one in 8 times will another six come on the flop (the flop is where they put the first three cards out), but if it does come, it is a very hidden hand that is well-disguised and very hard to lose with.

The flop came out 6-3-3. Two of them were hearts. I had flopped a full house. The person who bet before the flop bet again, and decently sized. Based on the size of his bet, I knew he had a very good hand. Probably pocket aces or kings. Maybe something like Ace-King of hearts. And so, I didn’t play it the way someone normally would when they flop a monster, which is to just call the big bet and try to trap them for more and more money later on in the hand. Instead, I played it the same way I would play it if I had a big draw. I immediately shoved all-in, trying to make it look like a draw trying to steal the pot.

And it worked. The other player instantly called, and his face went white as he turned over two jacks. He had two pair verses a full house. He was doomed. With only two cards to come, the only card that could save him was another jack which would give him a bigger full house, and since there were only two more in the deck, the chance of him getting it with only two cards to come was a mere 8.69%. There was a 91.31% chance I would win this hand and almost double-up again. It would put me toward the top of the leaderboard, and with 119 players left, I should be able to go very far into the tournament with it.

I’ll save the suspense. The next card to come out was a jack. Only the last 6 in the deck could save me with one card to come. I had only a 2% chance of getting it. I didn’t get it. And suddenly I was more or less wiped out.

But, hey.

I had played in The World Series of freaking Poker!

I had done amazing throughout the entire thing!

I had knocked out several pros by the end, and I had trapped a pro with by far the best of it! I simply got super unlucky. It happens. But I trapped a pro like a pro. Hahaha. And that was an awesome feeling.

I still laugh. When his jack came out, he gave me this look and a little head shake that seemed to say, “you are such an idiot; you deserve to lose for playing it that way.” I just smiled, and thought, I gotcha.

I walked away feeling like a million bucks, even though I earned the minimum. It was my first WSOP and my first tournament. I won my money back plus twelve hundred bucks. Wooohooo!

A couple days later I entered another tournament and sat at a table with a couple of very familiar TV faces in the poker world. I was doing my thing and had one of the biggest stacks at the table. One of the women I was sitting with is very famous in the poker world and has won some really big tournaments. I got her trapped for her entire stack in another winning hand. She had only a 4.55% chance of getting one of the two cards that could beat me, and as bad luck would have it, she got it. Again, I just felt amazed and proud of myself for outplaying some of the best in the world. I don’t know if I could describe that feeling.

I played at several cash games besides those tournaments, and again sat next to many familiar faces. On two different occasions I put pros I’ve seen on TV on tilt, which is where you get super flustered and start playing poorly because something triggers your emotional game. All three times it was because I saw right through their bluffs and took big pots with mediocre hands that usually should be folded. At one point, one of them (whom I had built a good laughing rapport with) looked at me and said halfway seriously, “I don’t know who you are, but you scare me more than anyone at this table right now.”

God, that felt good. In fact, it was that statement right there, that made me feel completely humbled and thankful, strangely enough. It was that statement alone which made me feel like I had what it took. To find myself in 60. That has been my goal. This trip to The World Series of Poker has been a big part of that. I am just happy, and thankful, and feel like life is so good.

And I promise you, promise you, promise you… No part of me thinks I am better than all the amazing pros. Many of them taught me a few hard lessons at other games, and I didn’t even sit down with the mega-best (side note: my buddy did knock Antonio Esfandiari out, who is one of the best of the best ). No… this post is me celebrating finding myself and validating all my hard work. It’s not thinking I’m better than anyone, only that I suddenly believe I can hang with any of ’em. And that’s a big deal to me.

The funny thing is, I suddenly really wish I could play in the WSOP main event in a couple weeks here, but it’s ten thousand bucks to buy-in which is money I don’t have to risk at the moment. And since I don’t know any rich people who understand poker enough to sponsor me (which I found out is what most of the pros do), it can just be yet another awesome thing to put on my “someday” list. The main event is the event of all events. They have it every summer. It will give me something to work for. It will give me something to strive for.  I will do it someday. After this amazing week, I have to do it someday.

And I kind of love that I suddenly know that I can. Only a few days ago, I thought it was way out of my league. Strange how life brings you perspective.

60 Days. Today is day 49. This little plan to find myself is working. I feel on top of the world. Now to go have a ton of fun with my kiddo. He’s been on a long vacay with his mama, and we’re overdue!

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

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Dan Pearce is an American-born author, app developer, photographer, and artist. This blog, Single Dad Laughing, is what he's most known for, with more than 2 million daily subscribers as of 2017. Pearce writes mostly humorous and introspective works, as well as his musings which span from fatherhood, to dating, to life, to the people and dynamics of society. Single Dad Laughing is much more than a blog. It's an incredible community of people just being real and awesome together!