It’s true! I won my first live tournament on Tuesday. It wasn’t a WSOP event, it was the Bellagio Cup. After booking the win…I could only think about how I came so close to not playing it.
I decided to play the tournament in the first place as a change of pace from the WSOP. I was really tired of playing in fields of 2000-3000 players…so I decided to try out this series instead. I woke up on Monday and felt like shit. I was in absolutely no mood to play in a tournament. But then I remembered the last time I felt this sick before a tourney…last year in the 2k NLHE event which I ended up going super deep and finishing 12th. With this is in mind, I figured the Poker Gods might give me a luck boost for deciding to play.
I was slow to get ready and left the condo only 15 minutes before the tourney was to start. There were no cabs outside my condo so I walked down the street to catch a cab at Circus Circus. I get in the cab, “Bellagio please”. The driver warned me the traffic would be horrible because they were doing major construction right outside the casino. Within only a few minutes, traffic was moving very slowly. By the time we got to the mirage, we weren’t moving at all. The cab driver drove off the strip and onto Industrial Road. We were moving great again and I would just make it on time for the tourney. Then we got onto Flamingo to take the side entrance into the Bellagio…that’s when traffic became horrific. Vegas construction is the worst…they seem to keep repairing roads on the strip which look perfectly new. And in a city that only has transportation via car, traffic jams can cover the entire strip and all roads that connect with it.
We were literally moving one block per minute. And I was just starring at the cab fee…15.70, 16.10, 16.50, 16.90…this was suppose to be a 9 dollar cab ride! After another 10 minutes being stuck, I decided that this was all a waste of time. Finally when we were within about a few blocks from the side entrance, the taxi driver was able to pull to the most right lane and I just got out of the car and walked…passing every car that was stuck. I get the tournament late…but to my surprise, there were only about 20 people registered at that point. The Bellagio preliminaries are very under-shadowed by the WSOP during days that have a NLHE event. Also, people who planned on attending were probably still stuck in traffic!
The players at my table were terrible. Mostly older guys in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who were probably just playing for fun while staying at the Bellagio. They were talking about sports betting and their wives. They played way too passively. As long as I didn’t get unlucky I could make a good run in the field. Within a few hours, however, more players started showing up…many of them probably came after getting knocked out of the WSOP $1500 event early. I recognized a few of the younger players…they were tough online players and they were going to make this tournament twice as hard to win. After registration closed, the tourney had total field of 73 players (buyin of $1080). Perfect. With a moderate amount of luck you can make the final table compared to the World Series where you have to be the Chosen One of the Poker Gods. I was no Chosen One, I’ll take the smaller field any day.
I was put in a several good spots. I had QQ on a KQJ board and got all my money in versus my opponent’s KJ. With the luck I have had over the previous 2 weeks, I was completely prepared for another King to land and be walking out of the tournament. Being 91% to win has meant so little lately. My hand held of course and I was able to start using the big chip stack to my advantage. Several hands later, I had a guy re-raise me all in on the river of a J937T board (no flushes possible) when I was holding J8. I knew by the way he played the hand it was impossible for him to have KQ. I called pretty quickly and he turned over A9 and stormed out of the room. I like receiving gifts.
I was able to keep grinding with my stack before moving to a table with one of the online players I recognized…and of course he had a big stack equal to mine. He was now the big rival at the table. We got involved in a few battles, all of them small or medium pot sizes and I was able to come out on top for most of them. Then, fortune hit me. My fortune came from my rival’s misfortune. He got involved in a huge hand with a weak player who pushed all in preflop to his re-raise. The rival quickly called and happily turned over QQ. The other guy dumbfoundedly turned over 55. With a AJ7 flop, my rival was about to be the biggest stack left in the tournament…but the turn brought a 5 which brought sickness to his face…pain that I can relate to from previous tournaments. The river brought the case 5 just to add insult to injury. He lost the majority of his stack and was soon eliminated in a coin flip a few hands later. Having him out was excellent for my chances. Sorry bud.
The day ended when we got down to 9. I was the only American at the final table. So you know what that means…the IRS was rooting for me to win big time. I played very aggressively at the final table while most players played overly tight and trying to move up the money later from having someone else get eliminated. This tournament wasn’t life-changing money for me, so hell, I’m playing to win. If I get knocked out early because of it, so be it. The cards continued to run hot for me as I picked up a lot of quality starting hands to raise with. When were 3-handed, I won a huge coin flip with AK suited vs 88… I knocked out my opponent and then had almost a 3-1 chip lead heads up. The final hand saw all of our money go in with JT4 board, 2 diamonds. I had J6, he had T6 of diamonds…scary! But he missed his draw and I was announced champion…..yay!
To wrap up the tourney…I almost didn’t play from not feeling well. Also, if I hadn’t been trapped in traffic, I would have registered earlier and been seated at a different table which would completely change my cards and all the luck. I also didn’t text anyone for superstitious reasons…not going to say that is the reason I won, but hey, it can’t hurt.
Winning a tournament is nice. I highly recommend it. It was great timing too because it was my last tournament before the main event. I’m heading to LA tomorrow to visit friends. I will also be stopping in San Diego for the 4th of July. Now if I can just cash in the main event I will go back to Boston very happy. I just said cash, not win.
Picture shot will be added shortly.