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Old 07-13-2010, 06:41 PM   #1
KurtSF
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COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

OK, obviously the title is tongue in cheek. We're doing something a little different this week; this will be a trip report of my experience at the WSOP last month. I found out I have the COTW a little late this week, and since I suck at poker its easier for me to whip up a few pages about something fun to write about, compared to whipping up some good strat real quick. That, and while I'm self-conscious of braggin', I have gotten a few requests for a TR. So here goes.

I'm going to serialize it because I think that'll be fun, and because I'm not done writing it.


BACKGROUND

I never played much for tournaments. Back before I found 2+2, in the days when I saw WSOP on TV and thought it was cool, I played maybe a dozen $5 MTTs online. But once I started studying the game I focused on the games I studied: Texas Holdem cashgames. I literally would never play anything I thought I was -EV at, and since I hadn't studied tournaments, I didn't play them.

I was a poker enthusiast, and beating the online NLHE cashgames. I moved up from 25nl to 50 to 100 to 200. Then I experienced "the downswing". No need to go into details, but at a mix of stakes I dropped 120 buyins. It completely gutted me in every way possible; my roll was in tatters and my mental state was worse than useless. I basically quit poker, and I didn't play a single hand of online poker for 6 months.

The only poker I played was the one game where I had fun: a live $0.25/0.50 cashgame played in someone's garage out in Oakland where the whiskey flowed freely and you had to spot your cards through a cloud of pot smoke. It was good fun; and possibly the only reason I still play poker.

Anyway, the guy who ran the game told me he was running a WSOP league, a series of 15 tournaments where the top scorers got a $1500 seat to the WSOP. I'm a cashgame player, not a tournament player, but heck, it sounded fun. And besides the buyins were only $60 so I could probably finance it from the cashgame that was still running concurrently, and if I bellyflopped like I expected, I could always quit playing the tournaments.

But the second week of the series I binked a win and was now a points-leader! Oops! Now I was locked in. I played every one of the 15 games and ended up coming in second overall (behind another 2+2ere in the game) and won a seat. Holy ****.

The lot of us "homegame heros" trekked it out to Vegas, swapped percets with eachother, and for one day played with the pros in the World Series of Poker. I busted in the 5th hour, and none of us cashed. But it was a ton of fun.

Fast forward a year and I've become good friends with the host of the game, pfapfap on 2+2. He ran another WSOP leage this year, but due to time and space constraints it wasn't a full 15 game series that let the better players rise to the top. There were just 4 MTTs, and they gave you points to play in a freeroll for a single $1500 ticket. For the second year running the top spot was taken by one of the few 2+2ers in the game. And pfapfap won a $1500 seat of his own in someone else's league. So now all my local friends were heading to Vegas to play in the WSOP and I wanted to go too!!
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Old 07-13-2010, 06:43 PM   #2
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

PREGAME

I obviously can't afford $1500 tournament buyins, so for a couple weeks I was considering posting in the marketplace for some backing, or just hitting up some of the long-time FRuNL regulars who might back me. But I didn't do anything.

Now, a few months previous I quit my job to play poker fulltime. It was difficult to understand for my family, but I kept my parents in the loop as to what I was doing and they were coming around to accept it and accepting me as a professional gambler. I was heading to Vegas with my local friends whether I was palying in the WSOP or not. My mom asked me a bunch of questions about how backing works, and about a week before the event, as a symbolic gesture of support, she gave me $300 to "gamble" with in Vegas.

First of all, how cool is THAT! Second of all, I now had the start of a backing package for a WSOP event, and that lit a fire under my ass. I hit up the folks most likely to back me like mpethy, El Nino, springsteen, and they all bought pieces. Then the FRuNL regs came out and pele, cangurnio, cbtruck all bought pieces. It looked like this thing was happening so I broke out a pencil and a calculator and did some maths.

To be properly rolled for $1500 tournaments you need a bankroll in excess of $150,000. My bankroll was $8000. I was bankrolled for $80 tournaments???? Faak. But this was the WSOP; this was "taking a shot". Even for shot taking I can't allow myself to put more than 5% of my roll on a single "bet". So I could put up $400 of the $1500 myself. So the target was to keep/put up 25% of myself in the tournament. I didn't have that much sold.

We drove out to Vegas and I was splitting a cheap room downtown with pfapfap and another guy from the homegame. The event was in 2 days. Now, by my BRM maths I can't put up more than 25% of myself. But what I could do was take smaller pieces of other people!! The important thing is to spread the risk around and reduce variance. So at this point I started swapping %s with other people I knew playing in the WSOP. I swapped with pfapfap, gedanken, *split*. Mission accomplished, I had only 25% of myself now. So I headed over to the Rio and bought my ticket. For a couple hours after I bought the ticket I was a little regretful I moved so much of my action... you see, when your roll is $8k its almost impossible to put down $1500 on a single bet, but after the money was spent, and my roll was under $7k regardless, it was easy to accept. *shrug*

I went and played a Binions $60 10pm tourney the night before the WSOP because it was that or watch TV, and what am I going to do, not play poker? pfapfap insisted it was good "practice". Meh. I busted and went to bed.

The morning of the event I organized a little breakfast with other FRuNL guys playing in the event and guys from the 1month1micro grindhouse. El NIno, split, dabomb, me, and a couple others all had the buffet at the Rio. There was some really really good poker conversations going. But eventually noon rolled anoud and we split up and headed to our tables.

As we were leaving we were talking about how to spot the online players at the tables. You know: iPods and hoodies and whatnot. Split mentioned that he was easy to pick out because he brought a backpack with him. Someone said "Kurt, you could pass for a live player." I loled and said "I hope so; I mod their forum!"
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Old 07-13-2010, 06:49 PM   #3
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

first
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Old 07-13-2010, 06:49 PM   #4
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Where TF was this COTW when I needed it last month?

I was supposed to be at that breakfast you mention, but I ended up going to bed at 8am that morning and by 9.15am breakfast a couple of miles across town didn't seem all that tempting, although if someone would have told me I'd be meeting a WSOP final tabler, I'd have been there in a shot!
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Old 07-13-2010, 06:56 PM   #5
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

I would have loved meeting you Ron.


EARLY GAME

I knew right where my table was; I had peeked at it a couple times in the days previous. Every time I checked it had a $100 per point game of Chinese running. Apparently table 203 is the designated spot for Chinese when not being used for an event. I took my seat at about two minutes to noon and cards were in the air.

Now, I hate early tournament play! On the one hand, stacks are deep and as a cashgame player this is where I should be most comfortable. But the whole varrying value of chips and $EV vs cEV thing messes wtih my head. I'll just say that I completely understand why Phil Hellmuth shows up late to tournaments (rediculous showboating aside). I think I played 2 hands in the first level of the tournament. One to setmine, where I folded after I whiffed. And I picked up a big pair once, and I took the blinds and a limp and didn't see a flop.

But the bustouts were starting already. Some guy busted out with 2 pair against a straight. ("He should have been able to get away from that" I said inside my head.) TPTK busted out to a flopped set ("He should have been able to get away from that" I said inside my head.) One guy busted out with flopped top set against a flopped stright ("That was really gross" I said inside my head.) But I was completely card dead! It wasn't that I was playing AA only or anything. Its just that that was one of the only playable hands I saw in the 2 hours.

Tom Dwan was sitting at the table next to me. I have to admit, he's pretty dreamy! I caught myself peeking over at him to check his stack a bunch of times. I picked up AA and got a caller this time. I cbet the raggy flop and got called. As I'm trying to figure out what this guy might have Durrrr gets a phonecall and stands up from his table to take it. He stands right behind me. I can hear Durrrr's phonecall! I check the hand down, show my aces and take the pot. Damn! I totally missed a bet because I was distracted by Durrrr.

So we get to the first break and I run outside for a smoke. God damn its hot! Update twitter: 5k stack at first break. I return to the table and of course I'm early because I'm like that, and I assess the stiuation. I look at the 10k and 20k stacks around the table and think about the effing horrible hands and luckbox rivers they won them with. And here's where the jealosy starts. WHY CAN'T I LUCKBOX A BIG STACK!!! Jesus do I have to run bad forever? Why can't I be the lucky idiot one time! I just sit there patiently folding the crap hand I'm getting dealt watching. KJ aipf 40bb deep and the guy is stacking a mountain of chips. AJ hits 2nd pair on the flop and gets 3 streets of value and the guy is stacking a mountain of chips. And me? I'm just patiently folding, getting blinded off.

I steal the blinds a couple times with suited connectors and big aces. But my stack is slowly going to pay my blinds. After more than an hour of seething jealously like this, I undergo a mental shift. **** them! I'll let them play their game, and I'll play my game, and I'll just let the chips fall where they may. I can't controll anything about other people's chipstacks, so why am I letting that affect me? I stop watching other people's stacks and just start watching mine. I keep my mind busy by constatly calculationg my M, noteing player tendancies at the table, and working out ranges before I look at my hand. Then, obviously, spotting 96o and folding. But I am now a zen master. Fold. Fold. Not the right spot, fold. Good hand but I'm OOP, fold. Yuck multiway, fold. Fold fold fold.

My table breaks and I'm moved to a new table, so I have new players to think about and keep my mind busy while folding. I've been folding like a madman for over three hours now and I have less than my starting stack, only about $4k chips. Level 5 is about to expire and and its just an hour until dinner break. When this situation comes up:

Open raise from MP. Villain has "online-ish" tendancies, very agro, but a little loose. Has over 12k chips. It folds to me and I look down at JJ. OH yeah, I'm definitly ahead of his range! But I don't do very well against his calling range... do I really want to put my tournament life on the line here? But my M is under 10 and I start thinking about the number of hands I will get to see if I fold and the puny stack I will have. After a bit of thought I decide that my survival is better ensured by shoving here than by folding, so I do.

Villain tanks. This is a good thing! Villain calls. This is a bad thing! I turn up JJ, villain swears. This is a good thing! Villain turns up 88 and I hold to double up to 8k chips.

Soon after villain shoves with AK and busts out losing a flip, and soon after that I get moved tables again. This hand was key in setting up my mindset for the rest of the tournament. I would evaluate every descision in terms of SURVIVAL. Hours ago I went into zen state, and this was just an extension of that. EV be damned, every time I looked at cards the question I asked myself was "Does putting money in the pot help me survive?" I am a machine.

I fold my BS crap hands for an hour and just watch the table. There are a number of notable players at this table. There's "internet kid", not that young, probably in his mid-twenties, but a tiny little guy that came out to Vegas for the series and got a grindhouse with a bunch of his friends. He's talking about playing live 25/50 PLO and draggin $14k pots and sitting 2 to my right. And there's "the live pro", a middle aged guy who in appearance is average in every way. he was sitting in the 25/50 PLO game with internet kid last week and obviously plays mid and high stakes poker every day and he's 3 to my left. Directly on my right is "baller guy" with a tight shirt and immaculatly trimmed facial hair and one of the largest watches I've ever seen. His brother stopped by the table at one point and he pulled out a wad of hundreds to setlle up a prop bet with his brother. There's also "soccer pro" who I think is actually Italian, but either way is wearing an Italian soccer jersey and plays like a typical 2+2er. And there's "the douchebag". Nothing personal against this guy, he seemed nice enough. But he's decked out in Ed Hardy gear hear to toe so he automatically gets pegged as a douchebag no matter what he does or says.

At one point "baller guy" gets a table massage. Durring his massage he makes a raise from the button and gets called by one of the blinds and a limper, three ways to the flop. Check check and its on "baller guy" who just sits there getting a massage. We wait for a bit then the dealer starts prompting him "sir its your turn to act. Sir..." lol he's totally fallen asleep at the table. I lean over and shake him awake "Dude. Its your turn!" lol
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:02 PM   #6
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

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... I look at the 10k and 20k stacks around the table and think about the effing horrible hands and luckbox rivers they won them with. And here's where the jealosy starts. WHY CAN'T I LUCKBOX A BIG STACK!!! Jesus do I have to run bad forever? Why can't I be the lucky idiot one time! I just sit there patiently folding the crap hand I'm getting dealt watching. KJ aipf 40bb deep and the guy is stacking a mountain of chips. AJ hits 2nd pair on the flop and gets 3 streets of value and the guy is stacking a mountain of chips. And me? I'm just patiently folding, getting blinded off.

I steal the blinds a couple times with suited connectors and big aces. But my stack is slowly going to pay my blinds. After more than an hour of seething jealously like this, I undergo a mental shift. **** them! I'll let them play their game, and I'll play my game, and I'll just let the chips fall where they may. I can't controll anything about other people's chipstacks, so why am I letting that affect me? I stop watching other people's stacks and just start watching mine. I keep my mind busy by constatly calculationg my M, noteing player tendancies at the table, and working out ranges before I look at my hand. Then, obviously, spotting 96o and folding. But I am now a zen master. Fold. Fold. Not the right spot, fold. Good hand but I'm OOP, fold. Yuck multiway, fold. Fold fold fold.
this...this is the entirety of MTT poker imo. shifting back and forth between aggro mindset, jealously mindset, and zen mindset...and finding the balance of them

(enjoying this like hell right now Kurt =) )

Last edited by iSHORTSTACK; 07-13-2010 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:08 PM   #7
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Awsome read so far Kurt I like it
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:12 PM   #8
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

After that one hour of jealousy mindset I left it behind permanently and entered zen mindset for the rest of the tournament.

When I phoned up *Split* to ask for a swap I told him "you're getting the bum end of the deal, but its variance reduction." He agreed to swap and I was thrilled. lol donkaments
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:15 PM   #9
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

this is a great read
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:20 PM   #10
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

MIDDLE GAME

So dinner break rolls around at about 7pm and I'm exhausted. I've done nothing but fold so I have just 6k chips, an M well under 10. Meh. Time to get some food.

I return to the table and most players are there, but not "baller guy". A couple other players are talking about him and calling him "Mike", so I ask "you guys know him?" And they're like "Who, the grinder?" I figure it out and "baller guy" is actually Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi. The reason he's so tired is because he was up until 6am the day before WINNING the $50k Players Championship event for $1.5 million!!

ZOMG I shook The Grinder awake at a poker table. I don't care what happens now; my WSOP is MADE!

So the cards are in the air again and on about my 3rd hand back from dinner its folded to me in the CO and I peek 66. My M is about 5. Effit. I'm all in.

Two folds and its on "live pro" in the big blind. The call would be about half his stack - not the end of the world but he'd be pretty crippled if he lost. I'm not happy about him thinking about this, because I have little doubt he'll make a correct decision whatever it is. He thinks for a minute then he seems to get in the same place as me: effit. He calls and turns up AQo. The board completely bricks out and I win a flip to double up to 12k chips.

I mean seriously. I won a flip. I'm not lying. It actually happened. I'm super psyched and think to myself "this is how you win tournaments" as I stack my chips.

"The douchebag" 3bets and calls a shove with AA to bust someone. He announces to the table that its his 7th time getting AA today.

In quick succession "soccer pro" loses a big flip and gets into a pretty major cooler spot to bust out.

About an hour later I catch AA from UTG and make a little raise then stare at the middle of the table. Guy 2 to my left goes into the tank but I can't see what he's doing. I hear him playing with chips but I'm staring at the middle of the table and can't see if he's calling or raising. Please be raising please be raising please be raising please be raising please! He finishes his action and I can't help but look up.

He shoved! He shoved OMG he shoved into my aces!!!! I snap call and hold against AQ. I'm up over 20k chips. Deep breath and back into zenfolding mode.

"Douchebag" busts another player with AA. That's 8 times. The grinder busts out on some BvB violence. "Internet kid" has caught some cards and is up over 100k chips. He is now COMPLETELY running the table! He's playing about 80/70 just annihilating everyone with agression. Douchbag raises from LP and everyone just folds. He takes the blinds and shows his NINTH pocket aces of the day.

Did I mention that "internet kid" is running this table? Yeah he's losing pots here or there, but largely he gets away when he's behind and he's playing every hand and making so much in redline winnings it doesn't matter. He's a couple seats to my right, so I mostly just stay the eff out of the way and consider playing only during the 2 or 3 hands per orbit that he folds. Douchbag busts holding 2 pair with 4 to a straight on the board - I guess getting AA nine times didn't work out.

I've lost all track of time. All I know is its really late. I'm so deep into zenmaster fold mode I have no idea what going on outside of my hand, my stack, my posiotion. Its here where I go through my second mental shift: I get DETERMINED. I'm just absolutly 100% determined not to **** up. There are 2 ways I'm getting busted out of this tournament: first if I run into the top of a range (like if I shove and BB calls with AA), and second if I get bad beat. That's it. I'm just going to play super solid poker, never ever get it in behind, and I'm not going to let anyone beat me. I'm in the zone.

I started taking my time to make every decision. I don't know how to describe it other than I was completely determined. And I made some sick ass folds.

I remember folding 99 on the button to a MP limp. Why? Because stack sizes were awkward. OK, there was a little more going on. Notably I didn't get a telegraph from the SB that he was going to fold. And a limp??? Seriously? Who the F limps? It didn't smell right, stacks were awkward, and I folded 99 IP facing a limp. *shrug*

After internet kid folds, a shorty shoves and I pick it off with AK and hold. I have nearly 30k in chips now.

Internet kid folds, so I riase JJ. I flop an overpair and pick up a nice pot when they fold to my double barrel. I've got close to 40k chips.

Then came one of the more memorable hands of the tournament, in my mind anyway. The seat between me and internet kid hasn't been filled yet so he's on my immediate right. It folds to him and he raises OTB. I'm in the SB and I look down at 55. His range here is about the top 80% of hands. I crush his range. Now, he is folding to a 3bet here once in a while. And there's a small part of his range that only has one overcard to me. He's got about $160k chips, I've got about 40k, blinds are like 400-800 or something and everyone's making those little tiny PFRs people make in tournaments, so we're actually playing pretty deep (relativly), as in if I 3bet there's room for him to 4bet and still not put me allin. I'm OOP. He's got more poker talent in his pinky than I ever will. Obviously by now I've completely gone into the tank.

He looks over at me and says "You know I do have a 4bet button."

I laugh and say "Yeah I know, that's exactly what I was thinking about." This guy knows exactly where he's at. And he's got the stack and the attitude to put me allin with ATC here just for the laugh.

I fold.

I am so so far from cashgame land! 55 against an 80/70 button raise? This is a super-duper auto 3bet in cashgame land. I can't believe how redic weaktight I'm playing. Oh well. Seems to be working. I move on.

The blinds go up and someone mentions is the last level of the day. Holy crap! Like I said, I've lost all track of time, and I suddenly realize I can fold my way into day 2. I don't want to be weaktight, but I don't catch any cards anyway, and that's essentially what I do.

When there's 10 minutes left in the level they draw a random number between 1 and 10 and play that many hands at each table, then play is over. They do this to keep people from sandbagging and playing slowly in an attempt to let people at other tables bust. They pull a 4, and I fold the first 3 hands. It fold to me on the 4th hand and I look down at AKo. I can open-fold AK right now and be in day 2. Or I can raise, put my chips at risk, put my stack at risk, put my tournament at risk. I decide there's no way I can fold this and respect myself in the morning. I raise and take the blinds.

Play ends for the day. I try putting my chips in a bag but accidentally destory the bag. My brain and hands are good for nothing but thinking about poker hands. Despite strict instructions from the floor that players must bag their own chips I make the dealer bag mine. Its 2:30 in the morning. WTF do I do with myself now?
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:32 PM   #11
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

OMG I love your story and your attitude I am like going to kill someone right now haha

Quote:
That's it. I'm just going to play super solid poker, never ever get it in behind, and I'm not going to let anyone beat me. I'm in the zone.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:38 PM   #12
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

zomg epic
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:42 PM   #13
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

REST

I take a couple minutes to study the tournmanet status on the screen before I leave. It says there are 277 left, but I know its probably not that accurate. 240-somthing money. I go out to the parking lot and wander around for about 15 minutes trying to find my car. Eventually I find it and head back to the Golden Gate downtown where we're staying. pfapfap has stayed up until 3 in the morning to greet me. He gets a goofy picture of my zombieface after nearly 15 hours of the most intense poker I've ever played.

A little history now about me and pfapfap. I'm the "cashgame guy" and he's the "tournament guy". I grind the online microstakes cashgames for a living, and he crushes the online microstakes tournaments. We constantly go over hands with eachother, and he asks me about the cash hands, and I ask him about the tourney hands. We have a long hostory of him giving me good trounemant strategy advice.

Now I'm heading into day 2 of the WSOP and I can see he wants to say something but is kinda torn about it. He says "Dude, I want to give you advice on how to play, but I don't know that I should mess with whatever's going on. Whatever you're doing is clearly working."

I reassure him "I may not know what proper tournament strategy is, but I can tell you this: I've definitly got some things working for me. First, I've played millions of hands of poker. Whatever the structure, I kinda know how to play a hand of poker by now. And second, I've spent years finely tuning my body into a well honed machine for sitting in one place and doing nothing."

He lolled and didn't offer any strat advice, which was fine with both of us. It was a joke when I said it, but even given how exhausted I was there was a kernel of truth in the statement. The fact was I was still DETERMINED, and physically and mentally I was prepared to sit in that chair making correct poker decisions for as long as it would take. Weeks if need be. I didn't care. They would have to lay a sick beat on me to get me out of that chair.

I called my wife and told her I hadn't made the money yet, but I hadn't busted out yet and was still playing tomorrow. Then I crawled into bed and slept like a baby until 8am the next monring. Yeah, I'm physically incapable of sleeping in. Grabbed some breakfast, killed some time, and headed back to the Rio for the resuming of play at 2:30.





I'm heading out for the night, so that'ts it for today. I'll pick up the narrative tomorrow. Also, please leave comments.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:58 PM   #14
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

An epic TR in the making. Looking forward to reading the rest tomorrow.
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Old 07-13-2010, 07:59 PM   #15
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Love it
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:14 PM   #16
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

KUUUUUUUUUURT
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:32 PM   #17
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

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I'm heading out for the night, so that'ts it for today. I'll pick up the narrative tomorrow. Also, please leave comments.
****

outstanding read - just enjoyable all around

thanks for this - will be back to read the rest fo sho
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:07 PM   #18
Lx12
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Tell me the rest of the story Kurt pls!!!!
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:52 PM   #19
o22
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

wtf don't leave the story hanging
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:25 PM   #20
AnAnonymousCoward
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

So epic. Really don't want to wait until tomorrow for the rest but I'm looking forward to it - and don't really have much of a choice!
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:50 PM   #21
venice10
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

EPIC.

I'm sure pfapfap was going to tell you, "Protect your hand."
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:17 PM   #22
Men"the master"fan
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Kurt you're a douche for leaving us hanging.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:44 PM   #23
rafdogg2000
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Quote:
Originally Posted by Men"the master"fan View Post
Kurt you're a douche for not posting in stars regs thread to fill action.
fyp
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:01 AM   #24
Scooter1982
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Cliffhanger!! Can't wait for the end tomorrow. Very well written, I love the nicknames for the people at your table
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:17 AM   #25
crtsports
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Re: COTW: How to final table a WSOP event

Great piece so far. Can't wait for more updates!
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