Last year at this time, looking back on the 2012 WSOP, I had just finished easily the best 6 week stretch of my poker career earnings-wise, but was absolutely physically/emotionally demolished. I did pretty much nothing but grind big mixed cash games - was always in the best/biggest game - and killed it. Playing around the clock in Vegas is tough work though; my appetite went to shit, I barely got any sleep, and I rarely took so much as an hour off for dinner, much less a full day off to just kick it with my friends. I made good bank but sitting in San Diego breathing in the salty ocean air in mid-July after the series had wrapped up, it all hardly seemed worth it. The money in poker was always going to be there; good games were always going to be around (it’s all relative, games get tougher, but they stay good) and it was just silly sacrificing health and ultimately a few months of happiness to increase my earn. I told myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Fast-forward more or less exactly a year, and I’m happy to say that I followed through with my thoughts. Going into the series, I offered around a few WSOP bets but the only people that bit were Jason Mercier (no thanks) and a few guys that only wanted to make mutual events bets that I was realistically going to be a dog in if I wound up playing a heavy schedule. I mostly declined and decided to wait around for the 25k annual fantasy draft, see if I’d be able to get myself for a good price, and plan out my tournament/cash session from there. Well, I went to the draft with one of my buddies, we got probably more drunk than we should have, I almost certainly overpaid for myself (35/200 total pt spending limit), and not wanting to embarrass myself, decided to sack up and play some tournaments this year! For those unfamiliar with the 25k fantasy draft: http://www.25kfantasy.com/ (spoiler: my team finished 2nd woot woot)
Quick aside here, wanted to give a really random shoutout to Daniel Negreanu. He for whatever random reason took me really early in the annual ESPN fantasy draft earlier in May, one of my friends linked me the article (http://espn.go.com/blog/poker/post/_/id/6/wsop-2013-espn-eighth-annual-fantasy-poker-draft) and it really motivated me to play tournaments this summer. It felt like a huge media freeroll in case I happened to have a huge summer, and with US online poker legislation around the corner, it felt foolish to not take the plunge and hope to make a splash.
As it turned out, I actually did wind up having a good summer. While my overall cash/tournament played ratio was pretty terrible (2/22) I made my cashes count. I somehow won Event #5 $2,500 Omaha 8/better, Stud 8/better Mix and then had a deep run in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship ultimately finishing a somewhat dissappointing 9th and bubbling the final table. But it’s tough to complain about much of anything after you win a bracelet.
Winning the bracelet was a legitimately surreal experience. I was chip leader for the majority of the tournament and when I suddenly got short 3-handed/HU at the final table, I’m happy to say that I remained disciplined and played well throughout the rollercoaster ride. It’s funny, winning a bracelet was never something that I had really dreamed about, but in retrospect, if someone had put a gun to my head and made me list the 20 things I wanted to do before I died, I have a feeling that ‘winning a bracelet’ would have made its way into the top 20, hell, probably even snuck its way into the top 10. One thing’s for sure: I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face for a few days after the tournament. It felt like my birthday. All these phone calls from people I hadn’t heard from in years; all the social media congratulations; the random ‘congrats’ from guys I’ve been playing with for years as I walked through the Rio hallways and the Aria/Bellagio cash games. It all felt really good. Joining the ‘bracelet club’ in poker is great but I think that the most gratifying part of the experience for me was this win in many ways legitimizing my career for the people that know me from before I was a poker player, and obviously don’t have a fully accurate picture of what poker/the lifestyle is. Whereas realistically for me, I do better financially playing cash games year in and year out than what one tournament win represents, it feels childishly good to get the public recognition.
What’s really funny is that I actually got murdered this summer playing OFC and wound up barely having a profitable WSOP despite two tournament cashes totaling just under $400,000 and my second place cash for $80,000 in the 25k draft. Swingy game that Open Face! By the end of the summer it definitely got a bit old having everybody needle me for running great while I was barely winning after rise and grinding every day for 6 weeks, but I tried hard to not be the guy that bitches after winning a bracelet.
Ultimately, I think I would’ve been far happier this summer regardless of my results as compared to 2012. For all the younger guys that might randomly be reading this and are heading out to Vegas for their first full summers in the years to come, my advice would be as follows:
Live with your friends as opposed to by yourself in a hotel room; it’s amazing what companionship can do for your mood especially when you go through a cold stretch.
Take plenty of breaks from the grind. I took every chance I got this summer to go rock climbing, grab fancy dinners, or just lounge with a drink by the pool. Realistically, one tournament/cash session isn’t going to make or break your summer so don’t stress missing out on a great spot when you could be indulging.
Counter to the last point: GRIND. I go to Vegas with the mindset that I’m there to WORK. I take plenty of breaks but that doesn’t mean that I’m not playing a tournament or getting in a quick cash session almost every single day without fail. It’s important to be professional.
Anyways, it’s easy to give advice when you run hot for 3 days and salvage an entire summer :)
Realistically, this WSOP was great. I checked a life event off of my bucketlist, made some new friends in the poker world, and otherwise successfully put my everyday happiness over my earn, which is definitely something that I’ve needed to work on in past years. All in all, great success.
Just for shits and giggles, here’s a full list of my WSOP events played this summer:
$5,000 8-Handed NLHE
$2,500 Omaha/Stud 8/Better (BOOM)
$2,500 6-Handed NLHE
$5,000 7-Stud 8/Better
$1,500 Omaha 8/Better
$3,000 6-Handed NLHE
$2,500 7-Stud Hi
$5,000 Omaha 8/Better
$3,000 Mixed Max NLHE
$1,000 Turbo NLHE
$1,500 NLHE Shootout
$1,500 7 Stud 8/Better
$5,000 6-Handed PLO
$10,000 2-7 No Limit
$3,000 PLO 8/Better
$2,500 10-Game Mix
$50,000 Poker Player’s Championship
$10,000 NLHE Main Event
All things considered, a pretty good schedule for me. I probably played a few too many small buy-in events that I didn’t take very seriously, especially near the end of the series, but ultimately, not too many complaints. Ideally, I’d like to see the buy-ins go up for the championship events in years to come, and a few of the weekend NL events replaced with some $1,500 mixed events. It seems like the people running the WSOP are actually pretty open to player input, and I think that a lot of well-known players have been articulating similar thoughts to these, so hopefully next year a few of the changes are implemented.
…That’s pretty much all the random rambling I’ve got for this blog. I’d lie and say that I’ll try to post more of these but realistically I’ll probably stick to my bi-annual schedule. ‘Til next time, thanks for reading!