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Almost 3,000 players from across four flights converge today for Day 3 of the Main Event. We’re down from 8,663 entries, the second biggest field Main Event field in history — falling a few hundred short of the record set in 2006 at the height of the Moneymaker boom. 1,300 of us will make the money, which might happen late in the night. One lucky player will collect the $10M first place prize a week from today.
I’m fresh from my day off, energized from spending time with family. I got a decent amount of sleep last night, and enough time for a run and meditation session.
I’m letting go of any expectations for today. I’ll play my best, and whatever comes will come. I have a respectable 42 big blinds, but I’m again the second smallest starting stack at my table. It’s a long day, and anything can happen.
In the first hour I pick up stellar hands and run over the table. I’m opening a few times each orbit, three-betting, four-betting, getting folds. I build my stack up from 106k to 280k without ever going all-in. My opponents have me pegged as a maniac, and I’m eager to take advantage of the image to get maximum value when I have strong hands.
I open from the cutoff with pocket queens and it folds to the big blind who throws in a three-bet. He’s a longtime pro with two WSOP bracelets. In this spot, I know I should mostly call his bet, or four-bet jam about 20% of the time. My randomizer comes high, and I push him all-in.
He instantly calls, turning over pocket kings. I don’t hit a miracle on the board, and my stack is cut down by 60%.
The Daily Calm today was “Non-Attachment”. I shake it off. Those chips were never really mine anyway.
About an hour later I open under-the-gun with pocket jacks and am called by the button and big blind. The flop comes seven-five-three with two clubs. The big blind checks to me and I make a pot-sized bet. The button gets out of the way and the big blind calls.
The turn is the six of diamonds, giving my opponent a straight if he has a four in his hand. He checks, and I check behind.
The river is the three of spades, now giving him a potential full house or trips. He deliberates, then puts me all-in for the rest of my chips.
I hate this spot. He’s either bluffing, or has one of those obvious hands I was afraid of. I stare him down and run through the hand history.
He turns over king-two of clubs for a missed flush draw. “What gave it away?” he asks as I stack my chips, now over 230k. “I’ll tell you later,” I say in response, though I have no intention of doing so.
My momentum shifts again over the next couple hours. I have good, but not great hands, which means I'm opening pots and calling bets, but can't win anything. I'm down to 61k before dinner break.
I open in early position with queen-ten of hearts and get called by players in the lojack and big blind. The flop is ten-eight-seven rainbow, giving me top pair. We check to the lojack, who puts in a small bet. The big blind calls, and I decide to squeeze all-in to put pressure on straight draws or smaller pairs. The lojack calls and the big blind gets out of the way.
The lojack turns over pocket eights for a flopped set. I drop my head — I have an 8% chance of winning. I'm drawing dead on the turn, and out of the Main Event.
I head to Paris to register for the $1k One More for One Drop, an unlimited rebuy tournament that donates $111 of each entry to One Drop. The tournament is known for being wild. As players bust the Main, it’s common for them to play the One Drop tilted, letting out all their frustrations by playing erratically, firing multiple rebuys.
A tournament official checks my ID in the registration line. “Indiana! Long way from home. Must be really serious.”
I don’t pick up any hands the first couple levels. I manage to get all my chips in with king-jack on a king-four-three flop, but am behind my opponent's four-three. The turn is a five, and the river is another five — giving me a runner-runner better two pair.
I'm up and down the rest of the night, and hovering around half a starting stack by the final level. It's a consolation that my table is fun and talkative. We jump between deep conversations about family and careers to lighthearted joking and teasing. I don't want any of my single serving friends to bust.
Some of them have started drinking, which I never do during tournaments. But, well, I need one. The sting of busting the Main is still there. And here I am, short-stacked yet again. (My deep run a few days ago at the Venetian forgotten — poker gods, what have you done for me lately?)
Nine of the ten of us at the table order beers. There’s only about thirty minutes left in the day. We make toasts, wish each other good luck.
Not far away, in the Bally’s convention center they’re playing hand-for-hand in the Main. The bubble bursts. Everyone left will get paid.
Here, at Paris, we get to the end of the night, some of us wondering what could have been. I bag up my chips for Day 2. I’m still alive.