Tuesday, June 24, 2014

To Have and Have Not: Grinding the $185 WSOP Deepstack, Dreaming of Monster Stacks, & Railing the Stars

Today offers a relative lull in the action, with only a $1,500 NLHE event filled with lesser known players moving to final table action. Actually, these are often my favorite events, with players vying for glory in its purest sense––for the chance to become part of WSOP lore and earn some serious cash. I was seriously rooting for unknown Darius Studdard, who does not Twitter, to take home the PLO Six-handed bracelet yesterday. 

For me it is a welcome respite, as I begin to get in shape for the four-day $1,500 Monster Stack NLHE starting on Thursday. With about one more $1,500 bullet to spare in my bank account, I have decided that this represents the best chance of leveraging my buy-in into cold hard cash. Same structure as the $1,500 side events we see every day, which offer one hour levels, starting at 25-25. Only difference is, you get 15,000 chips instead of 4,500 chips––essentially it’s a mini-Main Event for the value conscious and the minnow hunters. My hopes, like many others’ are riding on this particular event––if I do somehow reach the final couple tables in a tourney likely attract 4,000 or more runners, I will parlay a percentage of the winnings into taking a shot at the ultimate glory of the $10,000 Main Event. 

To be honest, I think that those who reach the final table of the Monster Stack will be deserving of a larger degree of recognition than of the other side event tournaments. Say what you will about too much play (read work) relative to the buy in (I've heard a few snide comments from high rollers), the deep structure means that this is the equivalent of the Main Event for many players who simply do not have $10,000 to risk on a single event. It is the everyman's version of the Main Event and why the hell Monster Energy Drinks is not sponsoring it is beyond me. 

I am going into my last shot at WSOP glory fairly confident, realizing that any given deep run involves a combination of sick reads, critical lay downs, huge bluffs, and calm, collected play. My first and only WSOP event so far was Event #12: Pot-Limit Hold'em, earlier this month. I cashed 48th of 550, basically doubling my buy-in. I found the event to have more play than expected in a tournament with so few starting chips. This was partly due to the pot limit nature of the game, which made it easier to get away from train wreck flops. I did play fairly tight to the vest, which benefitted me when I needed to make big all-in or “pot” bluff moves––I find it happens 4 to 5 times, on average, in the first 10 rounds of longer tourneys. Despite this forward momentum, I lost a big coin flip toward the end of Day One and came into Day Two six spots from the money (63 players were paid), sitting on about 10 big blinds. 

The Day Two table included Marvin Rettenmeier, Joseph Cheong, and two of the largest stacks in the tournament (who ultimately placed second and fourth). Fortunately Cheong was two to my right, which allowed me to come over the top of his inevitable button raises with far from premium holdings and get him to fold. Unfortunately, the final time this button raise move happened (comfortably inside the money) he woke up with A-J and I had A-5. I think my shove was standard, being significantly ahead of Cheong’s raising range, although I should have been wary the second time he tried the move. Having the experience of playing a WSOP side event and getting relatively deep definitely gives me a boost of confidence going into in a Monster Stack tournament that will require mucho patience and resilience.

To prepare mentally and get into the rhythm, I play in the daily 6pm Deepstack this evening, finishing 65th of 350 runners and tantalizingly outside the money. I make some inexcusably careless moves––it has been a while since I’ve played a tourney, being immersed in this volunteer media gig. Still, with the structure escalating as if on steroids, I get my last 30,000 in good A-10 against 8-8. Unfortunately, the cards do not go my way in this classic race and I am out. 

I wander over to the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, which cycles between a daunting array of games, and am suddenly in poker heaven––surrounded by the likes of Jason Mercier, Doyle Brunson, John Juanda, Stephen Chidwick, Jonathan Duhamel, and Phil Ivey. I snap pictures like a kid in a candy shop, all regrets about busting out in the daily tournament completely vanished. To have this opportunity to witness the best––those whose styles I've studied and books I've read––my first time in Vegas––is truly a privilege. As tournament chip leader Jason Mercier takes out his good friend Rast, Doyle Brunson comments  "Brian Rast plays PLO like he sees your cards." Mercier has a slightly different take, "he might have raised a little smaller––I don't think he wanted to put in 48K."

Jason Mercier & Brian Rast-–buddying it up

Mercier about to eliminate Rast––"I don't think he wanted to put in 48K."

Brunson in fine fettle

Stephen Chidwick and dealer––mutual admiration society

Jason Mercier & Robert Mizrachi

Chidwick takes on Ofir Mor

Juanda eliminates Mor

Ivey––grinding toward his first 2014 WSOP final table with Macau friend Rono Lo.

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