I took the day off yesterday given my final table run at the Venetian. But my insomnia sinks it’s claws in me, tearing away all night. I get up late, frazzled, left with an abbreviation of my typical morning routine.
Traffic is backed up on Las Vegas Boulevard, I need to be at my Main Event Day 2 table in three minutes. I ask my Uber driver to pull over. He cuts through some parking lots and I jog through Bally’s to get to the convention center.
The tournament start is delayed — three chip bags are missing, and it takes 15 minutes of desperate searching to find them. It gives me time to compose myself, focus on the task at hand.
I have a respectable 38 big blinds, but am the second shortest stack at the table. To my right is Nick Marchington, who in 2019, playing his first Main Event at 21 years old, made the final table. The rest of the table is made up of American and European pros. As far as I can tell, there's only one player at the table who doesn’t do this full time.
Four hands in I pick up ace-king in middle position and am called by the table chip leader in the big blind. The flop comes king high with a flush draw. I make a small continuation bet and he calls. I make a big bet on a blank turn, he calls again. The river is another blank, and I’m a little concerned about sneaky sets or two pairs, but I push the rest of my chips into the middle. I’m called by king-queen, and double up, back to a 60k starting stack.
Phil Hellmuth walks into the tournament wearing a Darth Vader costume, cheesy sound effects piped over the sound system. A mix of boos and cheers echo across the room. The boos will find vindication an hour later when the former Main Event champ busts the tournament.
I battle it out at my table all day. Every pot is a fight, nobody gets a walk. It’s never checked down to the river. Every chip is hard-fought earned.
Despite the fray, I implausibly don't see any more big showdowns through the ten hours of play. Most hands are won or lost before getting to the river.
I oscillate around the 60k mark for half the day. Then I climb up to 100k after winning a few pots. Then I’m ground back down to 74k over a few more hours. And in the final hour, I pick up some pots to end the day at 106k.
I’m exhausted. But I’m alive.
My family landed in Las Vegas a couple hours ago, here for a weekend visit. I have another day off tomorrow, and I’m excited to spend the time them.
I’ll be back the day after for Day 3 of the Main, ready to battle again.