It's Day 2 of the $10k 6-Handed Championship. I realize I'm nervous in a way I haven't been all summer. Maybe it's because I know it's the last tournament. I want to end on a high note. Making the money here will be meaningful.
There were 394 entries in total, and 168 of us remain, with 60 players getting paid. I'm one of the shorter stacks at the table, and with 6-handed play I'll need to make something happen before the blinds grind me down.
Not long after we start, I defend my big blind with ace-eight off-suit and call two streets with second pair. The river is checked down, my opponent turns over ten-seven for a better pair, and I'm down 40% of my stack.
The next hand I jam from the small blind with pocket fours, and the original opener calls me with ace-jack. I dodge the remaining aces and jacks in the deck to double up.
I win the next hand in a 3-bet pot, taking it down on the turn, and am now up to a healthy 60 big blinds. I'm in a good position to survive the next couple hours to the money bubble.
But I lose a couple more big pots — I fold the river with third pair on a board where my opponent has too much value that has me beat and not enough bluffs. Then I call a river check-raise where I have top pair and my opponent made a backdoor flush. I'm back down to a short stack and need some help.
The blinds increase and I'm down to 13 big blinds when the player in the lojack opens and the hijack 3-bets. It's my turn in the cutoff and I'm eager to muck my hand before looking down at pocket jacks.
It's a troublesome hand, especially in a spot where two other players have shown strength. But I'm too short to give up the equity of this hand, so move my chips to the middle.
It folds to the small blind who deliberates before making the minimum possible raise. This isn't a good sign for me.
The original opener folds, and it comes back to the hijack who moves all-in. Ugh.
The small blind is in agony and thinks for several minutes before reluctantly folding his hand.
I'm heads up and hoping it's a coin flip against ace-king. With all the dead money in the pot I'd more than triple up.
But my opponent turns over pocket kings and I'm way behind. Only a miracle jack can save me.
The original opener says "I folded ace-three of diamonds" a microsecond before the dealer turns over the ace-three-three flop.
The turn is a blank, but the river is a face card. For a moment I think it’s my miracle jack, but instead find the stoic visage of a queen. The small blind shouts, leaping away from the table. He had folded pocket queens.
I collect my things, sixty people shy from the money bubble.
I'm at the WSOP cage, cashing out my payout cards and closing out my account for the summer. The teller counts out $100 bills and asks me, "was this a good score?"
I shrug, noncommittal. "Pretty good. Could've been better."
"I just cashed someone out for four million dollars. He was upset."
The Main Event is down to heads up play, a winner will be crowned in the next hour. There are a handful of other WSOP events underway, but they'll all come to a close in the next couple days. Crowds have thinned. Staff have begun removing tables from the convention center. Vendors have packed up and gone home.
I look back at my time here with gratitude and pride. I played fifteen events, battled against some of the best players in the world. I cashed five times, above expectations, even adding into account my seven rebuys. I made it to three Day 3s, six Day 2s and one final table.
I won, I lost. I succeeded, I failed. I came, I saw.
The podium will come in time.