I’m feeling a current of anxiety, interwoven with a premonitory dread. I try to tell myself this is just another of the few dozen live tournaments I’ve played this year. But the Main Event is always special.
I work through the emotions. A hard run. Meditation. I review some of the spots I spent a few hours studying yesterday on my day off.
My Uber driver takes me to the Rio Convention Center. In a heavy accent he sends me off, “Good luck and always positive!”
I have some extra time so I find a dark corner and get in an extra session of meditation. Then I join the horde of 3,000 players jockeying to get their seats in the Pavilion, Kendrick playing in my headphones.
By the time I sit down I am confident. I am composed.
I’m seated by the wall under the giant monochrome banners of some of the previous Main Event winners. Bobby Baldwin, teacup in hand, the young phenom who went on to build a lengthy career as a casino executive. Doyle Brunson, who at 88 years old, is today playing a few tables away. And the late Sailor Roberts, with the receiver of a phone to his ear, presumably calling in a sports bet while checking his cards.
I’m the short stack at my table, with about 35 big blinds. But with two hour levels I have plenty of space to take my time, wait for the right spots.
I’m cut down from 28k to 16k when I fold my AQ after heavy betting on an A768 board. My opponent later tells me he had trip sevens. Blinds grind me down a few thousand further before I double up with QQ versus AQ all in pre-flop.
I climb the next couple levels. 26k to 51k to 65k to 99k. No all-ins, just stealing blinds, playing strong poker, and hitting boards when I need it the most.
And then six hours into the day, my stack goes in the wrong direction again. Opponents wake up with strong hands at the wrong time, I can’t hit flops, and habitually have the second best hand at showdown. 81k to 67k to 55k to 44k.
The blinds are climbing, but I stay patient, focused. I slowly build my way back up to 71k.
A new player is seated directly to my left, bringing a giant stack with him. He doubles up when he’s all-in on the turn with a flopped set of kings versus pocket aces. Of the 1,500+ people left in the tournament he’s now the overall chip leader. My stack dwindles in his shadow, unable to aggressively steal pots or see flops cheaply.
I’m down to 12 big blinds with 30 minutes left of play for the day when I open jam AQ. It folds to the big blind who takes some time before calling with KJ. He pairs his king on the flop, my Main Event hopes are dashed. I deliver a round of fist bumps and well wishes for my neighbors at the table, and make my exit.
I’m standing outside, waiting for my ride. A few other players are trickling out also, sharing their bad beat stories over phone calls.
I’m disappointed, but at peace. I played as well as I ever have, my mind in top shape for almost ten hours of play.
I’ll be back to try again.
Obnoxious players, possibly drunk, acting out to try to get attention from the poker media/cameras: 2