Before I start chronicling Day 1 of my 2006 WSOP Main Event experience, I hinted during Part 1 of this story why I thought there will never be a WSOP like the 2006 edition. Allow me to elaborate.....
2005 was the first year that the WSOP had switched from Binion's Horseshoe to the Amazon Room at the RIO hotel. 25 years of history on Fremont Street had packed up and moved across the 15 freeway and 2005 seemed to be the year that they got acclimated to their new home. If 2005 was the moving in period, then 2006 ended up being the housewarming party. It was like a POKER ORGASM!!!! The "Poker Life Expo" was like a giant playground for adult poker players. Every online poker site had a booth (Bodog's was two stories) and they were all trying to out do each other. Free gifts, drawings for prizes, celebrity autograph sessions....it was one giant party. There was an aura of invincibility within the poker community as lots of people were making LOTS of money and the UIGEA was nowhere on the horizon. It was clearly the "Best of Times" for both live and online poker. Having been there both the year before and the year after, I don't believe they will ever be able to replicate the atmosphere of 2006.
Upon my arrival in Las Vegas, I checked into the Gold Coast Casino which is located directly across the street from the RIO. It is the classic "old style" Vegas casino with $2 blackjack, a 24-hour diner, and shabby rooms with smoke-lined curtains. But with that in mind, I have stayed there many times during my adventures as you can't beat both the price and the location.
As I awoke for my Day 1 experience (I was playing on Day 1C), I don't recall feeling especially nervous. After my success in 2005, I'm sure I had a certain level of expectation that it would be as easy this year as it was in 2005. After all, I started with $1500 in chips last year and now I have $10,000 in chips with 2-hour blind levels (weeeeeee!!). As I sat down at seat #10 at Table #192 (There were over 200 tables in the room), I tried to take quick stock of my opponents at the table. Directly to my right was a middle-aged Middle Eastern man...Directly to his right was a rather "portly" female that we would later learn was Sabyl Cohen, the highest finishing female in the 2006 Main Event (51st place).....Random Euro dude in Seat 6....Random guy wearing a Full Tilt jersey he got from winning his seat online in seat 4....and a younger gentleman in Seat 1 that I would come to learn was a fairly good player. The anticipation began to climax as the clock neared 12:00. I had reached my destination in my young poker career and I was ready to go for a ride. SHUFFLE UP AND DEAL!!!!
I got the BUTTON!!!!! I remember joking that I had already won something as seat 10 was awarded the button (I knew this was an omen....I was destined for great things). I squeezed my first hand ever in the WSOP Main Event.....a 7......and......a....2! The HAMMER!!! My first hand ever in the Main Event was 7-2. There was a raise in front of me and some distant voice in the caverns of my soul screamed, "Re-pop him and show the table." I quickly gagged that voice and promptly slid my cards to the muck. As the second hand was dealt, I again squeezed the plastic rectangular jewels in my hands and looked at....Q-Q. Mr. Middle East raised to my right and I decided to smooth call in position. The flop came a yummy Q-10-2 rainbow. He meekly checked and my 1/2 pot bet was practically beaten in the middle by his cards. Top set down the drain. A short time later, the blinds were still 25/50 when I raised to 200 with 8-8 from middle position. The SB, random Euro dude, re-raised 800 more and I decided to call in position and hope to hit a monster. The flop came down 10h-8c-4h. It didn't take him long to lead at the pot for $1,300 into an approx. $2,100 pot. I didn't take too long in raising him to $3,100 and he went into the tank. I now remember thinking that I didn't know what I was going to do if he 4-bet all-in. I laugh about it now because I would beat him in the pot with middle set but when you've waited so long to play in the Main Event, you start concocting scenarios where he has 10-10 and really don't want to bust out in level 1. After a couple of minutes, he folded and I began to chip up rather nicely.
I was the table captain for the first three hours and was really controlling the play at the table. I had chipped up to around $20,000 when I began to sense that the guy directly to my left (Seat #1) was getting annoyed at my aggression and was looking to play back at me. A short time later, it folded to me on the button and I raised to $300 with 10-10. He re-raised me from the SB to $1,050 and again I just sensed that he was really trying to slow me down. I decided that he really didn't have a hand and I 4-bet him to $2,900. He thought for about 3 minutes before mucking his cards. A short time later, our table broke.
End of Level 1-$17,000 End of Level 2-$21,050 End of Level 3-$33,350
I got moved across the Amazon room to table #26, seat #9, and began an 8-hour experience that I'm fairly sure I will never experience again. This was simply the softest, worst playing, horrific table I had ever seen or heard about. For the most part, everything I tried seemed to work. Shortly after the table change, I raised to $600 with Ac-Qc and got a call from the Big Blind. The flop came 9-7-2. The BB checked, I bet 900, and he quickly called. I had seen him play some horrific hands and knew he was terrible but after his call on the flop, I was pretty much done with the hand. The turn was an 8 (3rd spade) and it went check-check. The river came another 8 and this time he checked again. Now I began to think that he simply had two overs and thought he also may lay down a small pocket pair to a bet. I bet $1,500and he quickly called. I sheepishly turned over my Ace high and the dealer began to push the pot towards me. I saw that he had tabled the ever powerful Ks-Qh for King high with no pair and no draw. I (along with most of the rest of the table) was flabbergasted.
I would eventually bust this K-Q player when he came over the top of my UTG raise with K-4 and I tabled A-K (you gotta love live donks). A couple of hands later, I completed the SB with 4-4 and three of us saw a flop of A-Q-4. I led at the pot for $400 and the BB raised me to $1,000. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesn't have A-A or Q-Q in an unraised pot so I'm hoping he has two pair. I 4-bet to $3,000 and he quickly comes over the top all-in. I snap call and he shows A-Q. Turn-6...River-7. GG, nh, vul, wp. Welcome to Coolerville.
Later, I limped UTG with 5-5 and both blinds saw a flop with me of 8-8-4. I bet 1/2 pot and both players call. Turn-7. I bet 1/2 pot and both players called. River-2 (8-8-4-7-2 board). I bet 1/2 pot and both players called. MY POCKETFIVES WERE GOOD!!! What the hell did they have to call three streets? This was typical of the play all day during Day one.
End of Level 4-$54,500 End of Level 5-$69,300
This table continued to be a fun table to play at. The guy from Seat #1 at my original table was moved there and I found out that he was a good friend of Greg "FBT" Mueller and a professional player (My original read was spot on...I knew he was good). I also got to sit and chat with Dan "BOKE" Bokesch who I knew from the online sites. He was an incredibly classy player and lots of fun to talk to. During Level 6, I was playing about 1/2 the pots and winning a large majority of them. At one point in the level, I had over $120,000 and no one else in the room had over $100K. I was the chipleader of the WSOP Main Event. Pocketfives.com reporters were taking my picture and providing constant updates of my chip stack on their site. Cardplayer.com was also snapping photos and listing me as the chip leader in the tournament. I was literally living out a fantasy for all to see. Other players were coming to our table just to see my chip stack. It's a moment in time that I will never forget. (The above picture is at one of my highest points of the day. It's my favorite picture of all-time).
At last, the fun would not last forever. A southern gentleman was moved to the other end of the table and seemed to be a fish ripe for the taking. I had seen him misplay some hands and was really looking to skin him up and send him on his way as the day came to an end. I raised from middle position with 7-6off (of course) and he called me in the BB. The flop came down A-5-A. He checked and I bet. He smooth called me and at this point I was both tired and completely full of adrenaline thinking that I could not lose a pot. The turn came a rag and he checked again. This time I quickly said, "I'm all-in." He thought for around 5 seconds before giving the speech you never want to hear, "I guess I have to call" as he tabled A-K. I had picked a wonderful time to completely naked bluff right into a monster. Here's the best part....he had considerably more chips than I thought he had (to the tune of around $25K). I threw my cards in the muck before the dealer even dealt the river which caused quite a furor from other players at the table. The floor was called and I was chastised for not showing my cards after being called. Frankly, I really didn't give a shit. I was in a daze (it was well after 1:30 in the morning) and had just dusted off a considerable amount of chips. I lost a few more minor pots and as we bagged our chips, I was dissappointed to see that I only had $72,600.
While the average stack was around $28,000, I could not help but think that I had blown a huge opportunity. I know that tournaments aren't won on Day one but it seemed like my reckless abandon had really gotten out of hand after the clock had tolled midnight. I had got caught up in the mystique of being chip leader and being the center of the media attention and thought that I could run everyone over. It was as surreal as it gets to be amongst the leaders after Day 1 of the Main Event and somehow be dissappointed. Unfortunately, it was pushing 3:00 in the morning before we got out of there and I had to go back to my room, pack up, and head straight to the airport without sleeping. I ended up catching 2 hours of sleep in the airport gate area waiting for my flight home. I had to go home and work one day before flying back for Day 2B.
There is no doubt that I will never forget my experiences during day 1. I went on quite a heater and really played well at most junctures of the day. I set myself up great for Day 2 which is really all you can ask for. I had three all-in preflop confrontations and I won every one (A-K v. K-4; Q-Q v. 8-8; A-K v. 7-7). Stay tuned for Part 3 as I chronicle the roller coaster that was Day 2 of the WSOP Main Event.
I'm a 38-year old law enforcement professional with a wife, 3 kids, and an English bulldog. I juggle friends, family, and work with an obsession for poker and a borderline degenerate gambling habit. I hope you enjoy my adventures!