The 2nd day of the $1,500 event found me in around 40th place out of the 71 remaining players. We got to the RIO a couple of hours before the 2:00 start time and ate lunch in the cafeteria that is along the 50-mile walk from the casino to the Amazon Room. As we sat there discussing the coming day and any potential gameplan I might have, I was shocked when up walked......my wife, Carrie. She had left the kids and, without my knowledge, flown to Vegas to watch me. I was stoked to see her and thought maybe that was the inspiration I needed to TID!
I got to my table and found Billy Gazes and David "Devilfish" Ulliott. This made for a very entertaining first couple of hours as they were constantly bantering back and forth and involved in hands together. I didn't play a ton of memorable hands; busting one or two short-stacks and playing just one "memorable" hand. A similar stack raised from middle position and I re-raised with Ad-Qd from the button. He thought for sometime before smooth calling my 3-bet. The flop came down Jh-Jd-5d. He checked and I shoved it all-in. He thought for around two minutes before finally folding. Based on the pre-flop and post-flop action, I have thought about that hand hundreds of times and I figure him to have one of three hands: A-K, A-Q, or 10-10. This got me some chips and kept me alive as people began to get whacked left and right.
One random note: The "Devilfish" seemed to take a liking to my wife and would talk to her on every break. Later, after I busted and returned to watch a couple of hours later, he sought us out to talk to both of us. He was very cordial and polite but it was funny to see him drooling over any good looking ladies.
We eventually got down to 27 players and we did a re-draw for seats. This field of 27 included Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Greg Raymer, Toto Leonidas, Mark Seif, Minh Nguyen, Billy Gazes, and the Devilfish (Fairly stacked for over 2,000 players). I drew a table with only one of these pros (Toto) and no really huge stacks. I think I had around $115,000 with the blinds at $2,000/$4,000 when the UTG player to my right opened for $12K. Just to illustrate the anatomy of a poker tournament and how past events often impact your thinking later in the tournament, I looked down at 10-10. Vividly recalling the 10-10 hand that I had layed down yesterday, I decided to smooth call from UTG+1. In hindsight, I really should have either re-raised or folded there. After just calling, I probably can't call a raise from a player in late position and I have virtually turned it into a set-mining situation. No one else called and we saw a flop of Q-9-8. Check-Check. Turn-7. Check-Check. River-8. He led for $20K and I reluctantly called. He showed Q-10. Clearly, he probably can't call a re-raise from me pre-flop but hindsight is 20-20. This hand hurt my chip stack and would eventually lead to my penultimate hand...
With 24 players left and only 10 minutes from the dinner break, the blinds were $2,500/$5,000. Toto Leonidas opened UTG for $15K and I looked down at A-Joff in the hijack. I had approx. $65K left and hastily decided that it was a good spot to shove. I did and it folded around to Toto who instantly called with K-K. The board bricked and I was eliminated as the last player before the dinner break in 24th place for a little over $13,000.
Believe me when I tell you that I have thought about that A-J/K-K hand hundreds of times over the last couple of years. I knew so little about hand values and end game strategy back then that it is so clearly a fold against a UTG raiser now but I just wasn't good enough back then to understand that concept. I've often wondered if that was one my shot....was that the one opportunity in my life to get to a WSOP final table and play for a bracelet? We never know when an opportunity lost will ever be presented to us again. Dan Marino made the Super Bowl in his 2nd year and never returned. Is that what is in store for me, Willing2Die? Will I ever get another shot to compete at the highest levels of poker competition?
Luckily, I would find out just one year later...
Stay tuned for my 2006 WSOP experience.
Thanks for reading,
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