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WSOP 2011 Trip Report WSOP 2011 Trip Report

07-28-2011 , 02:08 PM
Day 5 Continued: A Short Strange Commentary on a Long Awesome Day

In the last post I didn’t write everything I wanted to about day 5. There was, for example, a big hand against Enon—here’s what I wrote about it in a MTTc thread while the tournament was still ongoing:

Quote:
2+2'er hand from day 5: Enon raises the CO+1 and it folds to my BB. I defend 76s. There's 65k in the pot, Enon has 400k behind, and I cover by 75k or so. Flop is 652 with two diamonds, and I check-call a ~30k bet. Turn is the 7d. I decide to bet 81k and Enon jams. I call: I don't love it, but I don't think I should fold there. Enon has the nuts but I hit a 7 on the river. I couldn't help but remember that Enon's undertitle (if I recall correctly) used to be "BRAAA raise the turn." Enon played very well from what I could tell, which admittedly isn't much, but everything he turned over was well-played, and the one time I thought "gee, Enon should raise all-in on this river with most of his range here" he did indeed raise all in. For whatever that's worth, which might not be much.
When we got back from dinner, there were forms at each of our seats, so that we could each give information to ESPN. Many players just filled them out normally, but many others tried their best to hide them from view so that their opponents couldn’t read them. At this juncture the guy immediately to my left had recently busted, so I was trying to deal with an unknown medium-stacked European. I discovered that he was Spanish and that he played online as “_Mephisto_.” My most memorable hand against him was when I raised 99 in middle position and he reraised me. It folded back to me and I thought for a while. My eventual decision was very easy: he screamed strength—neck vein, posture, the indecision with which he raised—and I didn’t have the price to setmine. When I folded he showed me AA.

I remember that hand fondly not only because I’m happy with the decision I made but because it’s a good way to think about all some of the event’s challenges. It’s easy to see that there are more bad players in the Main Event than in any other big-buyin event; it’s easy to overlook that there are more good players in the field, too. I’ll go the next 11.5 months without being in the same room as so many players who have superior technical skills to mine. All sorts of full-time tournament pros know more about four-betting ranges and sizes than I do. Keeping this fact firmly in mind motivates me to get my edges elsewhere: I have to beat them at picking up on physical information, focusing harder, and exploiting the bad players. I’m grateful for the fact that in this tournament there are remarkably few standard situations. People are stalling; people are playing badly; people are exposing cards and receiving penalties and practically falling out of their chairs when they check their hole cards and find something they like. All of this shifts the game from John Q. Online’s home field to mine.

Matt Maroon, whose name I haven’t seen around poker in a long time but who wrote an informative and thoughtful blog back in the Party Era, once said that his favorite kind of opponent is a bad player trying to play well. I think his reasons for that had to do with how straightforward and frightened such players tend to be; my own little addendum to Maroon’s point is that those players tend also to give away information for free. It can be easy to conflate sensitivity to the facts, on the one hand, with causing facts to make a difference, on the other. If you are writing or dancing, you want—roughly—all the relevant facts to make a difference; you want your words or your movements (I’m guessing here; I don’t dance) to be very finely tuned to the reality of the situation, and that means different words for different situations. In poker, however, fine-tuning (or sensitivity to the facts) does not dictate that differences in the relevant facts always make a difference to what you do. You have to hide information. But for many weaker players, fine-tuning means doing different things in different situations, and that means doing different things with different hands. They make so much information available to you because they are so desperate to make their behavior intelligible to themselves.

That was a long and theoretically speculative way of saying: weak players have lots of bet-sizing tells in the Main Event. And they have lots of other tells too.

Digressions aside, there isn’t much more to say about the hands I played on day 5. The last level was as satisfying as the last chapter of a good book, though. The online guy in the 8-seat—the guy who had run the horrible bluff against Lars, lost a blind battle, and then started drinking and harassing the staller in seat 5—eventually shoved his last 18 big blinds with with A8 against a button raise, got called by KJ, and lost. He’d said that he would be angry to have to come back with a short stack the next day—he didn’t have to, but I bet he was angry about other things. That staller eventually stopped pretending that he was deliberating every hand. He started grinning as if he’d gotten away with a clever scam or a good prank. A Mediterranean cardroom manager with real diamond earrings, who was so happy when Jack Effel announced that there would be just four more hands that he left the table for two of them to celebrate, and who had desperately stalled and then rubbed it in our faces: halfway between the day’s villain and the fool.

There is a new rule this year stating the dealer has to verify the chip count of the biggest stack at the table. When the biggest stack at the table is Lars, this involves counting a mountain of ante chips. So there’s time to talk. That was good news for me, because I enjoyed his company but personal policy had prevented me from saying much of anything to him all day. We wished each other luck; the next day, we had a good laugh when in the first level he was moved right back into the 2-seat at my direct right.
Coming up (hopefully) soon: Day 6, and anything else I might remember from day 5.

Thanks for reading.

All my best,

--Nate
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07-28-2011 , 02:19 PM
Thanks to everyone who has written nice things, or posted anything at all, or read the whole report.

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Originally Posted by jimbobwe00
bump
Great TR Nate looking forward to reading day 6!
Thanks! Hopefully I get it up tomorrow. With some luck it might happen tonight.

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Originally Posted by tragdoc
Great read. Very enjoyable. Just a thought on the Monte Carlo...very good location-wise, but the elevator movies constantly playing the Jabberwocky and Frank Calliendo ads tilt me. Look forward to reading more!
Good call on the elevators. I got way more of those ads than I wanted to; I was on the 30th floor. Another random Monte Carlo note: there's a very small cardroom that spreads a 1-3 game with good action.

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Originally Posted by PokerDisciple
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Can't wait for the rest. In addition to sharing our passion for poker, I'd say you're a pretty talented writer.
Thanks!

All my best,

--Nate
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07-28-2011 , 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Rapini
Still excellent. Very much looking forward to Day 6 and the conclusion!

The way you captured the atmosphere at the Amazon Room in your OP was so amazing. Reading it instantly transported me to June 2010 when I was there. It's such a strange, chaotic silence.
That's great to hear. There's really nothing like it--other cardrooms are big, but they all have regulars. They've improved the management of ring games, but it's definitely still chaotic.

All my best,

--Nate
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07-29-2011 , 11:04 AM
thoroughly enjoying this
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07-29-2011 , 01:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate.
That's great to hear. There's really nothing like it--other cardrooms are big, but they all have regulars. They've improved the management of ring games, but it's definitely still chaotic.

All my best,

--Nate
Hi Nate,
Excellent post! For me, you've captured and re-told in an interesting and entertaining way what playing in the ME must be like for an obviously highly-skilled player...I feel like one of the amateurs playing in a PGA Tour Pro-Am event after reading this; learned a bunch about the mental aspect of high-level play, seems a lot like the mental aspect of high-level golf.....
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07-30-2011 , 12:21 PM
Please complete the tale soon! Very insightful into the multi-day journey of a deep run . . .
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07-30-2011 , 02:04 PM
this is incredible
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07-31-2011 , 11:39 AM
Bump, for a great story!
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07-31-2011 , 11:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by bogeyeliot
Hi Nate,
Excellent post! For me, you've captured and re-told in an interesting and entertaining way what playing in the ME must be like for an obviously highly-skilled player...I feel like one of the amateurs playing in a PGA Tour Pro-Am event after reading this; learned a bunch about the mental aspect of high-level play, seems a lot like the mental aspect of high-level golf.....
This is so flattering! I'd actually love to know more about the mental aspect of high-level golf...

Thanks to you and the other commenters.

All my best,

--Nate
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07-31-2011 , 11:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachman42
Please complete the tale soon! Very insightful into the multi-day journey of a deep run . . .
...and, yes, Day 6 coming today.
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07-31-2011 , 04:08 PM
Day 6: One Million Bet!

Day 6. Wake up at the Gold Coast. Did I sleep well? What time is it? 10 AM? Thank God. Thank God I slept well. It has been three full days of play since the last day off: more than enough to require me to completely structure my daily plans around the tournament. On day 1 you can simply show up, get focused, and play. By now there’s no leaving the poker behind—when we bag up and I leave the Rio well past midnight on day 5, nothing is done. Rather, I have 11 hours to eat twice and sleep and shower, and those things all feel like more moves in the game, the way getting home without getting robbed is just another move in the game if you play underground.

The last 15 or so tables were tucked into just one quadrant of the Amazon Room. The whole place was queerly lit by the bright primary colors of “The Thunderdome,” as the feature table with stage is called. For the first time, the rail completely encircled us—you couldn’t even get to the side or back doors without getting past the rope, the clusters of spectators, and probably a few cameramen. When they let us take our seats, therefore, it had the feel of 145 boxers entering a single ring.

I sat down and studied the people I already knew I’d find there: Tony Hachem in seat 1, a small European in seat 2, Chris DeMaci and other online champs to my left, along with the Czech guy I’d mentally christened as “The Velociraptor” because of his short arms and his habit of using two hands, bent 90 degrees straight down from his wrists, to check his hole cards. I’m not into dinosaurs; I have no idea if velociraptors actually had short arms. I should also point out that Martin Stazko was nothing but a gentleman during my two sessions with him, and I don’t want to make fun of him. But he’ll always be The Velociraptor in my mind (not to mention the quiet, tight guy who doubled a short stack up with JJ at the very end of day 3).

We started at 12k-24k/3k. My 900k was usable but well below average. In the day’s first interesting pot, Tony opened the small blind and the big blind called. The flop came T63 (approximately) and Tony bet. Tony looked uncomfortable in the way continuation bettors look uncomfortable when they’ve whiffed. The European called after a little thought. The turn was a 2. Tony checked and the European bet about 40% of the pot. Tony thought for a while and raised—to 350k, fourteen green 25k chips, if memory serves. Well, that looked like bull**** to me. The big blind agreed and called it with what turned out to be A3. The river went check-check and Tony shrugged his shoulders, asking what the other guy had. The other guy sat silent. Tony turned over K8 and made a lot of noise when he saw the A3. “95% of players fold there!” “Did you see that!” “[unintelligible Australian thing]” “OK, good call, mate.” “[to dealer] You couldn’t put a King or an eight up there on the river, Colleen?” He went to the rail to discuss this with his rooting section. It’s not totally clear why he did that, because (a) he was comfortable talking to them from his seat, and (b) everything he said at the rail was easily intelligible from the table—or, at least, everything that would have been intelligible from the table was also intelligible from the rail.

The first hour of the day felt great—not because I won any chips (I roughly broke even without cards, paying and stealing the blinds), but because my reads were so often confirmed by the evidence I gathered. Tony, in particular, appeared not to be the kind of player who aims for consistency in his behavior—he’d rather play the information/misinformation game. This obviously works for him overall, but against me I’m confident the information he gave away outweighed the misinformation. Just because someone wins that battle overall doesn’t mean he wins it against you.

Before long the 2-seat—the small European who had taken the pot from Tony—lost a bunch of his chips in a preflop raising war and busted shortly thereafter. A few minutes later the seat was filled by Lars Bonding, the same guy who had been directly to my right in the 2-seat the whole previous day. Again in the 2-seat, again opening relentlessly and playing lots of pots in position, again getting a long massage. He’s a tough player, but nobody who was going to drive me crazy.

At the first break I was down to 710k—I only remember stealing the blinds once the whole level, which is rare for me (or any competent player) but here only meant that I’d been card-dead for a few laps. I can remember passing up on two or three stealing opportunities because I had utter garbage and I didn’t think the play was profitable with any two cards; mostly, though, the pots were opened by the time action was on me, and I didn’t find a spot to reraise.

One perk of making it deep in the event is that it’s easy to find a bathroom. Instead of walking for 7 minutes to the farthest bathroom in the Rio, waiting in line for a minute, walking 7 minutes back, and having 5 minutes to spare, one can stretch or snack at leisure. Day 6 was also the Women’s World Cup final—normally I would have cared quite a bit about that game, but these were not normal conditions, and I didn’t care at all. I remember walking in small circles around one of the empty regions of the Amazon Room on that break and happening to see Hope Solo prepare to defend a penalty kick. It was easy to figure out what was going on by the patterns of cheers and groans emerging from the crowd around the big central television.

Eventually they called us back to our seats. I got back to work. There is, unfortunately, not much to say about what happened to me after the break. I went out with a whimper, not out of fear or passivity but just because I didn’t have either cards or spots to win without cards. I called a tiny raise from EMP with 55, called a small turn bet, and checked the other streets down; my hand was no good. Other than that, it was just folding and a failed steal attempt. Eventually I was down to 385k or so at 15k-30k/4k and I shoved from late position with QT. The guy behind me woke up with AK. The cameras came, the flop and turn came JxxK, I whiffed the river, and that was that.

Even though I don’t get angry or sad when I bust from tournaments, I’ve found that I need to prepare for my body’s reaction. Both this year and last, I’ve soon found myself hungry and tired, despite the fact that I work so diligently to keep myself rested and fed. I wanted to go to Gaylord’s and order two entrees and then stumble back to the Gold Coast and crash.

Instead, I did something much better: I went to Gaylord’s with Andrew Brokos and sweated him for the rest of the evening. My memories get fuzzy here because of my condition, but I don’t remember any pain at not being alive in the tournament. What I remember is feeling vaguely frantic at the amount of information available to me. After dinner there were still roughly 85 players alive. It’s hard enough to keep track of what eight opponents are doing and thinking and feeling. I was still in data-gathering mode, and I was overloaded.

When the last 55 or so players were done for the night, I went back to the Gold Coast for another meal and a good long rest. As I waited for Ping Pang Pong to make my food, I sat down at a video poker machine at a bar, slowly playing 25-cent hands so that they’d comp my ginger ale. The last of the quasi-live coverage was airing on ESPN. Hilton Laborda had just made a straight with his 53 and was betting the river with two stacks of green.

This was pretty good television: a guy wearing a Brazilian flag betting big, a guy with top pair top kicker (AK) trying to figure out whether to call with it. All of the sudden I heard from my left: “One million bet!” It was a tall, skinny Asian man, and he was completely entranced. I was breaking even at video poker, and the ginger ale was delicious. The AK guy was still tanking and the Gold Coast was rocking—it’s great that there are hotels in Las Vegas that are budget hotels but are not complete dumps—and the only announcer I could hear was the gentleman on my left. I was semi-delirious from fatigue; he was fully delirious from excitement, calling the action: “One million bet! One million bet! Ace two three four five straight. One million bet. Ace king. Straight. Two thousand eleven Main Event.”

If Charder telling me to call him “if you bust or make day 4” while keeping an eye on his high-stakes Chinese Poker table was the perfect mental beginning to my tournament, that was the perfect mental conclusion. Six days of my best poker, many meals at Gaylord’s, hundreds of guesses at the strength of opening raises, as much sleep as I could force myself to get, six called all-ins I won, and one I didn’t. Laborda was called and ran around the table in triumph. I grinned and sipped my ginger ale. If I enter this thing every year and play my absolute best, maybe I’ll make it this far again before 2030. ESPN went to commercial and my dinner was ready. I was happy; the guy to my left was thrilled. “One million bet!” I'll be back.

Thanks to anyone who’s read this far. I’d be happy if these scattered recollections gave anyone an enjoyable read, or a small sense of what it’s like to make a deep-ish run in the Main Event.

All my best,

--Nate
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07-31-2011 , 06:44 PM
Fantastic stuff, Nate. Our dinners vastly improved both the experience of playing and my performance, and I will say again how impressed I am that you were willing not just to eat and talk strategy with me so soon after busting on Day 6 but also to spend the rest of your evening sweating me.

To everyone reading this, please read it closely. There is so much to learn about how to play a live tournament here, and most of it has little to do with the hands Nate describes, though some of those are pretty interesting to. For example, do yourself a favor and spend some time thinking about this: "learning, finally, to treat the stalling as a helpful opportunity for exercise in mental discipline and patience."

Congratulations on a deep run. As an addendum to the charder story, I was sitting next to him on Day 5 when one of his horses busted. "I had 25% of that guy," he told me. "He was my biggest sweat left in the tournament?"

"Nate told me you had 30% of him. He's still kicking ass."

"Oh yeah, I guess I do. Sweet."
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07-31-2011 , 06:45 PM
A great run and a great read.

Thanks
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07-31-2011 , 07:18 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foucault
Fantastic stuff, Nate. Our dinners vastly improved both the experience of playing and my performance, and I will say again how impressed I am that you were willing not just to eat and talk strategy with me so soon after busting on Day 6 but also to spend the rest of your evening sweating me.

To everyone reading this, please read it closely. There is so much to learn about how to play a live tournament here, and most of it has little to do with the hands Nate describes, though some of those are pretty interesting too. For example, do yourself a favor and spend some time thinking about this: "learning, finally, to treat the stalling as a helpful opportunity for exercise in mental discipline and patience."

Congratulations on a deep run. As an addendum to the charder story, I was sitting next to him on Day 5 when one of his horses busted. "I had 25% of that guy," he told me. "He was my biggest sweat left in the tournament?"

"Nate told me you had 30% of him. He's still kicking ass."

"Oh yeah, I guess I do. Sweet."
Andrew--

Thanks very much. I'm glad there's something to be learned from the non-hand-history parts of this report--I actually don't think the hands are all that informative. Mostly they're reports of live reads I had, or how I got them. I was worried that it would come across as lying or bragging if I reported only accurate reads, so I made sure to include some hands I completely butchered.

And our dinners vastly improved my experience too, even after I'd busted. I'd have been crazy to pass up the chance to talk poker with you. I've read that your trip report is coming up in the 2+2 magazine--I'm looking forward to it eagerly.

Finally, thanks for passing along the Charder story. Hilarious. Another vivid memory of day 6 was waiting for him after he busted with a sweaty handful of Rio chips--I'd received my payout just minutes earlier. Some people I'd hesitate to approach right after their ESPN exit interviews, but I was pretty sure Christian could handle it.

All my best,

--Nate
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07-31-2011 , 09:20 PM
wat a thread
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07-31-2011 , 10:31 PM
Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. It was a wonderful read, congrats on your success.
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07-31-2011 , 10:32 PM
Fantastic stuff!

Thank you.
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07-31-2011 , 10:42 PM
+1 to all those praising this series of TR posts. Great stuff, Nate. Thank you for the read, and good luck with the dissertation.
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07-31-2011 , 11:47 PM
Please accept my nomination of this thread for the category, "Best Trip Report Ever."
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08-01-2011 , 01:04 AM
Thanks for the praise, everyone. (I've actually recently wondered what happened to Steamboatin--glad you're still around here!)

Two edits:

From day 1: Big O is _five-card_ PLO8, not just any old PLO8. I forgot to mention that.

From day 6: I called an EMP raise with 55 out of the BB. My initial description made it seem as if I'd called an EP raise from EMP with 55, which I didn't.

All my best,

--Nate
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08-01-2011 , 02:16 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate.
Thanks for the praise, everyone. (I've actually recently wondered what happened to Steamboatin--glad you're still around here!)

Two edits:

From day 1: Big O is _five-card_ PLO8, not just any old PLO8. I forgot to mention that.

From day 6: I called an EMP raise with 55 out of the BB. My initial description made it seem as if I'd called an EP raise from EMP with 55, which I didn't.

All my best,

--Nate
Old Steamboats never die, they just slow down.

I don't post very much and don't check the forum everyday but I am glad I checked it this evening. It was fascinating being inside your head, thank you very much.
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08-01-2011 , 09:52 AM
tyvm for the terriffic report. I don't know about anyone else, but I will be re-reading this thread next May as I prepare for my return to the WSOP. I have not read a better essay on the non-technical side of MTTs.
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08-01-2011 , 12:07 PM
Nate,

Congrats on your deep run. Massively enjoyable read!
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08-01-2011 , 12:11 PM
Hi Nate,

I was happy to see you made it very deep in the WSOP but was unhappy we weren't given a heads up in your old stomping grounds of Medium Stakes so we could sweat you. Looking forward to reading the trip report.
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08-01-2011 , 12:53 PM
re-read this again still amazing
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