As my budding poker "hobby" blossomed throughout 2004, it became abundantly obvious that a trek to the holy land (WSOP) was the next step in my evolution. At the time, I was the supervisor of a Federal gang task force as well as an undercover surveillance unit. We had just had our third child in mid-2003 so to say my "extra" time was limited would be an understatement. I still found time to squeeze in MTT's when I could and made enough nice scores to keep the wife happy for the time-being. My two friends from work (Scott H. & Scott W.) and I picked Event #22 ($1,500 buy-in NLHE) as the target location for our ascendancy to stardom. This was the first year that the WSOP had moved from Binion's to the RIO Hotel so no one really knew what to expect. Our trip was normal for around......5 minutes.
Upon our arrival at the RIO, we were greeted with a smile and a "By the way, in spite of your reservations, we have no rooms for you." Now that might work for Mary and Joseph, but I was f-in pissed!!! Thus began a 20-minute negotiation process which began with them offering discount rooms at another hotel and ended with a FREE, 4-night stay at the PARIS Hotel. SCORE!!!! We were basically on a freeroll for the week since 2 rooms for 4 nights was running around $1,600. After checking in at the PARIS, we walked next door to the ALADDIN Casino which was having a $75 MTT in just a couple of minutes. We all jumped in (around 75 players) and Scott W. subsequently won the damn thing for a $1,500 first prize. ANOTHER FREEROLL!!! We had a good time celebrating that win with some cocktails and 3-card poker throughout the night.
I will never forget the first time I ever walked into the Amazon Room at the RIO. I had never seen so many damn poker tables in my life. Even more amazing was the sound.....very little chatter that was overwhelmed by the immense auditory impact of thousands of chips being riffled simultaneously. It was like dying and going to heaven!!! I felt like a Muslim might feel when finally getting the Mecca (Did I just completely mix-up a couple of different religions? I'm not sure....) We walked the room and soaked in all of the atmosphere before the start of our event. Basically, it was a poker orgasm for a lack of a better term. Our event ended up being the 3rd largest live MTT (2,013 players) in history at the time (this has since been broken many times). We eventually took our seats and were lucky enough to all be sitting within about 30 feet of each other considering the gargantuan size of the room.
In 2005, you still started with only 1,500 chips and the blinds began at 25/25. Throughout the duration of the tournament, I never really felt that short despite the starting stack sizes. In hindsight, I contribute a majority of that feeling to the fact that I really had no idea what I was doing back then. Over time, I have developed a fairly strong case of "fancy play" syndrome but in 2005, I was fairly straightforward. The first few levels were fairly methodical. The only real interesting thing that happened was that James Van Alstyne got moved to our table, he got sucked out on the river to bust out, and threw a kindergarten rant before storming from the table. I thought it was pretty funny. I did hold A-K on an A-10-10 flop against another guy who had 10-10 and I somehow avoided going broke on the hand. In fact, I remember him getting very little value out of the hand. If you can't get value from quads when your opponent flops TPTK, I reckon you suck.
My first table break led me to what I affectionately called the "Table of Death" (at the time). I think, at the present time, I wouldn't be nearly as intimidated by this line-up but my 2nd table included Mark Seif (eventual winner who already had a mountain of chips), Toto Leonidas (who would eventually bust me on Day 2), Paul "X22" Magriel, and Minh Nguyen (runner-up). This was what I would consider a fairly shitty table draw for early in day 1 so I put the brakes on and hardly played any hands. This, of course, included a hand in which Toto raised and got flat-called and I looked down at 10-10. My stack was at an awkward size where a shove was an over-bet but flat-calling basically turned my hand into a set-mining situation. I (stupidly) folded and of course the flop came 10-high. This got me pissed off for a long time and I played virtually no hands until our table broke again approx. one hour later.
My third table placed me on the direct right of David Singer. I knew who David was at the time although I'm not sure anyone else really knew who he was. He had final tabled the 2003 Main Event w/ Moneymaker and being the degenerate, poker idiot savante that I am, I pretty much knew everyone in the poker world. The tournament payed out the top 220 players and the money bubble was fast approaching as we reached 9:00. Although I don't remember the exact specifics of the hand, I did play a hand for my tournament life with Singer in which I got it in with a flush draw against his flopped two-pair. BING! Flush on the turn and I was real healthy again and he was crippled. Singer would go on to be the first guy eliminated in the money. I already had me a story as to how I had "crippled a pro!!" I started to play more pots after that hand and would eventually make a K-high straight flush to eliminate a player inside the money. My table got broke for a third time and I got sent to my final table of the day.
My 4th table included Farzad Rouhani, Asher Derei, and Krisha Augerrot. It also included a guy named Peter Lee who was down to 750 chips with the blinds at 200/400 and would eventually go on to finish 5th (making quads against the Fossilman at the final table). I splashed around a little bit at this table but never played any huge hands. Although...within around 20 minutes of arriving at this table, I did double up on a K-2-2-9-K board with K-J when I was all-in on the river and my female opponent called and asked, "Do you have a King?" The entire table, the rail, the chefs, the maids, etc. knew I had a King but she apparently did not. I would laugh some years later when I saw her on ESPN playing a hand in the main event against Raymer. Do you remember the crotchety old lady screaming "I've got a straight" to someone on the rail? That was her....
Day one concluded with 71 players left and I was around 40th in chips. It was very surreal to say the least. Looking back, I really had no comprehension of the gravity of the moment. I was excited to make it through Day one and was already guaranteed a $4,000 payday. After tagging and bagging, we went back to the PARIS and celebrated by playing 3-card poker until 4:00 in the morning (What a way to properly prepare for Day 2). I really didn't give a shit!!!! I was just excited to make it there and had zero expectations for the next day. I never thought about winning.............man, if I could have that slice of time back. Believe me, my views would be drastically different 24 hours later.
Stay tuned for Day 2....Thanks for reading.