I’m at the Venetian for the WPT $5k Main Event. It’s a big tournament, with a $4M prize pool guarantee that’s likely to get smashed.
A player at my table busts on the third hand of the day, making an all-in overpot bet on the river with five high. The winning player gets nicknamed “sun run” as he starts playing most pots, often turning over garbage hands that win all the chips. He starts straddling under the gun, which in tournaments functions as a dark bet. This will be fun.
The table fills up with crushers. High stakes pro Dylan Linde takes the seat of the five high bluffer. Maurice Hawkins, holder of the most WSOP circuit rings, is to my left. Two time WSOP bracelet winner John Phan is across the table.
I lose a big pot to another player when I call his all-in bet — the turn card that gave me a straight also gave him his flush. Then I’m moved to a new table, and I don’t pick up a hand for an hour, eventually grinding down to half a starting stack.
I open from early position with ace-king and get four callers. The flop comes king-queen-three with two spades. It’s checked to me and I bet 70% pot, getting folds from everyone but the small blind, who makes a smallish raise. I call to see the jack of clubs on the turn.
It’s a 30k pot now and I only have about 15k behind. He bets a taunting 12k and I don’t have a good feeling. After a couple minutes of tanking I move all my chips into the middle, his king-queen making the call. I need an ace or a ten to survive, but whiff with the nine of spades. I rap the table, then stand in the long line to rebuy.
I'm in some tough spots right away. I 4-bet under the gun with pocket tens and am called by the player to my left. There's a king and queen on the flop, shrinking the value of my pocket pair. He's not scared by my continuation bet, and I have to give up on the hand when I don't improve by the river.
Not long after, I try to bluff a player off his hand on a jack-jack-eight-ace-ten board — scary cards that hit my small blind range for potential full houses or straights. He tanks, then finally makes the call with pocket kings.
I'm below 20 big blinds when I open with ace-eight from the hijack. I hit top pair on a double suited flop with an ace and a king. I make a bet and my opponent calls to see a second king hit the turn. We both check, and I'm gutted when he moves me all in on the river. He has a lot of missed flush and straight draws he could be betting with. Or he could have a king. I finally make the call, and he flips over king-queen to knock me out.
My head’s not right. I’m hard on myself, saying unkind things about my questionable decisions. I’d felt like I was playing better and better each day of this trip. Today, it feels like I crashed and burned.
I’m in an Uber, heading to Bally's. Sudden storms have rolled into Las Vegas, side streets are flooded. The water is black with the grime of The Strip, trash from inconsiderate tourists wash along the curb.
I take some deep breaths, apologize to myself.
Maybe I didn't get enough sleep last night. Maybe I haven't eaten well. Maybe I was excited about playing the WPT Main Event and put too much pressure on myself to go deep.
I review my big hands, and some of my decisions don't look so bad in hindsight. Sometimes my opponent will have it. Sometimes my bluffs won't go through. I can't always fold. I can't let up on the trigger when I know my opponent is weak.
I late register the $800 8-Handed Deepstack event. My luck goes worse. I don’t win a hand the first two levels. The best hand I pick up is pocket jacks, but I chop with pocket fives on an ace-ace-queen-queen-king board. Before long I’m at 10 big blinds and in push/fold mode.
But I feel fine.
We get back from dinner break and I move all-in with jack-ten of hearts. The player to my left re-jams with ace-ten of clubs. Two clubs hit the flop. Only a jack or a runner-runner straight can save me. A jack comes on the turn, but it's a club to give him a flush and I'm done.
I realize I’m exhausted, and am in bed by 10pm. I sleep better than I have the entire trip.