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Monday, September 6, 2010

FINAL TABLE here we come!!!!!

after posting this I found a very helpful link for those of you wanting to follow the action from home. Brian Heptinstall has been doing live reports on the Beau Rivage Poker page which is on Facebook, that I just now noticed. Just click HERE to go there and subscribe (for free of course.)

WOW! To begin to describe the emotions I am experiencing right now would be next to impossible. And we haven't even begun the Final Table yet for the 2010 Gulf Coast Poker Championship.

It is almost 10am. Monday morning. Labor Day. I have been tossing and turning all night. I might have slept a total of 2 hours. I got home at around 2am, took a 2-hour bath, and read my latest Baldacci novel...trying to come down from a tremendously emotional, and mentally exhausting day of poker.

What a day! Driving home the previous night, and feeling glum...I suddenly got a shift in attitude...and told Squirrel, "You know what, if that river card hadn't hit...and I had bagged up $70k, I would be feeling right now like I am supposed to make the final table. Everyone else would be expecting it too. This way...the expectations for me making it are very low. So there is no pressure on me at all. And with the structure being so good...I should know as well as anyone, that this thing isnt over. I'm going to do this. And if I dont...well, its fine. We had a great week."

After a couple of minor pots went my way to get me up to 16k...I made my first mistake. A guy who loves to prey on small stacks min raised me...and got another caller...with me holding AJ. And for some reason, I didn't shove on them. He had 10-8. And when it checked all the way to the river...I finally bet 6k. To which he called with bottom pair on the board.

MEMO to SELF: Do not make any future attempts to bluff this guy. Several other players learned this painful lesson with this guy.

I was now down to 8500 and desperately seeking help. I would get it in the form of a double up with Ad3d vs KJ. Then a few hands later, Ben Gordon...a lawyer from Pensacola, who I've played with in the past...calls my fairly loose raise utg (holding QJ) with his own KJc...and we go to a flop heads up. The flop comes Q-9-7. Pretty good flop for me. I lead out pretty big. He calls with his gutshot. Oh no....

The turn is the five of giving him a flush draw with his gutshot. I go all in for the rest...about 8500. He calls. I see his cards and gasp. It was the same hand the guy rivered the flush with the previous night. Justina is dealing...she of the numerous murderous river beats this year. I close my eyes....

BRICK on the RIVER!!!!! And we double up!!!! I get up and take a walk around the room, trying to get my breathing to go back to normal. We are back! 32k and breathing again.

Later I get a huge pot...when this guy who was simply, well, a terrible tournament player...he had 'cash game guy' written all over his face, and played way too many hands, called way to many raises when he was way behind, and would eventually pay for it....raised in early position with A8. I wake up with AA in the BB. Now a lot of players...good players mostly, I don't mind flatting right there with AA and letting them build the pot for me before I hammer them on the turn or river. But this guy? I knew he would call any re-raise if he had already why not get some added value early? I re-raised him from his 3k to 8k. And as advertised, he snap called.

I can't remember who the dealer was...but I flashed him my hole cards. Sometimes...if I like the dealer, and I know they play on the side...I like to include them in the hand, merely for their own entertainment. So when I saw the ace in the window, and glanced at the dealer I could see a little gleam in his he was obviously wondering how I was going to play it. Flop came out A-3-8 rainbow. We shall call that heaven!

I check the flop. He leads 10k. I smooth call. Turn is the 7 hearts...which makes for two hearts and a remote straight draw. I check again. He bets another 10k. I call again. Now here is where it gets good. The river is the 4 of spades. Do I check again and run the risk of him not betting, and getting zero value here? Do I go ahead and bet, say...15k, maybe 20k into the pot of about 60k? And hope he pays me off with whatever he has? Or do I maybe do a desperation heave of 27k all in and make it look like maybe I missed a draw and am trying to steal it? Me and several of my table mates talked about this hand for awhile later...and no one really had the ironclad, surefire answer to how that river should have been played. I went with option C and moved all in. To which he folded. I showed him my hand.

"Boy oh boy, I sure wish an 8 had hit....I had two pair and would have got ya!"

To which two or three of us had to inform him that he really didn't want another 8 to hit. Wow...this guy really was as bad as I thought he was. He would go out later...actually taking a pretty bad beat at the hands of Ben Gordon. But it was again him raising with another non-raising hand out of position...raising with J9 UTG...and getting flatted by Ben Gordon with AA in the SB...taking my advice on that move from an earlier discussion regarding playing AA out of the SB against an aggressive player. The BB also called, he was holding J10. So when the flop came J-10-9...Ben checks, which prompted an all in from the BB...followed by another all in by the UTG raiser...and how Ben calls both of those all ins right there none of us could figure out...but he did...and the dealer goes runner runner him two pair...and sending the other two players packing...and freaking out. Ben could barely disguise his giddiness as he stacked up his huge stack of chips...which was easily around 300k.

We went to dinner break with 20 players still remaining. There was a lot of talk about how long we would play. Word was, we were going to play down to 18 and call it a night. This was not something I was in favor of. Nor many other players. I went to Memphis Q by myself and had a nice bone-in ribeye. I was joined by floor guy Shaun Johnston, and we talked about a variety of things, including the awkwardness surrounding how long we would play on Day 2. In case it goes without mention...Shaun...who has been a floor guy on the scene for quite awhile now...also plays a little poker himself, and a couple weeks ago won one of the FTOPS events on Full Tilt. How sick!

So when we went back we were just kind of focused on knocking out two players...which we did relatively soon. So then the shenanigans started. Shaun finally had to call Ken Lambert at home and tell him the situation. Ken then called Johnny Grooms and Eric Comer and a decision was finally reached. Let the players vote. If yes...they could potentially be playing til 4am. They would play down to 9...or the end of Level 16. Or if they voted NO...they would come back Monday with 18. I went to the bathroom. As I was exiting...another player told me "Monkey...they voted yes and are getting ready to play again...better hurry." Sweet! And it was on!

In the interest of not making this entry any longer than it needs to be...I will just tell you that I hovered around 200k for about 3 hours...among the top 5 in chipleaders. Kai Landry...a guy you all know is my buddy, was at the other table having a nightmare of a struggle with another buddy of mine...from 20 years ago when I lived in NYC and we played baseball together, Chad Brown. I was fortunate in that I was on a table I considered to be pretty soft in comparison. Rusty Moore was about my biggest obstacle, but as we are pretty friendly and respect each others game quite a bit, we manage to avoid a major calamity....until!

Rusty likes to raise the button. People think I am a pansie on my big blinds, and like to raid it a lot. But in the past year or two, I have really started to defend it a lot more. And sometimes, I even like to flat with what I am almost 90% sure is the better hand, in hopes of trapping them. Well, that situation arose...when he raised me and I looked at AdQd. I smooth called his raise. The flop came out Q-3-6. I probably should have check-raised him here...but I think because we both had a lot of chips, I decided to play it safe and just come out firing. Which I did. And he called. The turn was another 6. I bet 15k. He tanks. And raises to 40k. I put him on a move. I re-raise it to 100k.

"Ohhh....Monkey, nooooo....did you really do me like that man!???" And after contemplating for awhile, he finally pushes all in. Its another 37k for me to call, into what is now a pot of around 250k+. Holy crap what a spot. But I now KNOW that he has like A6...maybe even K6...and I am drawing very thin to the river. But that pot! However, making this call will knock me down to around 48k. Folding will leave me still relatively healthy at 87k, albeit below the average for the first time in a while. But despite the pot odds to call, I felt like I needed to fold there. I did so, and showed my hand.

Then started trembling inside. That cold, hollow feeling you get when you feel it all slipping away. 15 left...and I just lost over half my stack. Oh no...another 2010 curse hitting me smack in the face.

Then the comeback begins. I start picking up little pots here and there. Then it happens! I put the 'El Diablo' smackdown on a guy!

When Ron Romano from Georgia couldn't stand it any longer and ran to the bathroom, he left his big blind deserted. I pick up K10 utg...and decide at 1200/2400 to take a stab at it. I raise, very I can fold to any 5000. A guy with a shortstack of 37,000 decides to just smooth call me. The others fold. The flop comes out K-10-3! But all diamonds!

Yikes! Check raise here? Not very smart. Why? Well, if the guy bets about 10 to 15k...he will be committed to the rest. If I bet out...and he has no diamond, he likely will have to fold. I would rather not price the guy in to putting a beat on I bet out 17k...with him holding 37k. He goes all in. Shit! Well...the odds on someone FLOPPING a flush are pretty I have to just hope he only has one diamond and misses, or that I fill up. I call. He turns over TWO ACES! Whoa! And no diamond! The turn is a him a straight draw now with his ace still live and the 3 or another J to beat me. He whiffs the river and leaps out of his chair and bolts for the door. I cringed for him...knowing the pain and suffering that comes with being 'el Diablo'd' but still loving the outcome.

The next monster hand would come at 1500/3000...when Rusty would again raise...this time at cutoff. I sat holding 44 and asked the dealer Collins if he could flop me a set.

"Can I? Or will I?"

"Will you please?"

"I'll see what I can do Monkey."

The flop comes out 4-K-K. I had to look at it twice. Holy crap! Rusty bets out 10k. Now I start thinking. Flat call? What if he has AK? Do I want to let him hit another heartbreaking turn on me? But if I smooth call...won't that kind of signal to him that I have made my hand? I think so...and Rusty is a good I decide to raise to 25k. With him holding sent him the signal that I was merely TRYING to represent a he called. The turn was a 7. He checks to me. I bet 25k again. Now he starts talking out all the scenarios in his head. At one point...he says, "I can't believe I am thinking about folding these," which lets me know he has a large pair, and definitely NOT I am fading a two outer....or also another K...which would be another terrible beat in this year of terrible beats. He calls.

The river is what I hope is a harmless 8. After a mere moment or two...he announces "100k!" I don't even know what I have left in my stack, but I am pretty sure I don't have that much. I can't fold. If he has me he has me. I call. Turn over my cards and he moans in disgust. I have just won the biggest pot of the tournament...which has put me over 250k.

A little while later, at 2000/4000....I erroneously MIN RAISED...which you all know I do NOT ever do. I made it 8000...thinking I was making a raise based on blinds of 1500/3000. But after doing so I said, "No, its cool, this might actually work out better for me, anyway."

Well, Rusty completely misread me...because he moves all in on me for about 60k. I call, and as soon as I did he says he has nothing, that he was just making a move hoping I would fold. He turns over 79s. I flop a set of queens. He does pick up some outs on the turn, but misses them on the river, and he was out 12th. I was now rolling.

We combined at 10 players. I made an informal proposal to the table that we shave a bit off of each spot and reward the 10th place finisher something...but it was quickly vetoed by Chad. Which didnt really surprise me. He suggested that we instead, "Shake the person's hand and tell them they played great and better luck in the next one." Ouch. Chad is one of the nicest people I know...and that just didn't seem like Chad, but then again, he is a professional poker player who has been in this spot many times, and he thrives on the opportunity to pound on players at the bubble to maximize the opportunity. I fully respect that. And frankly, I have gotten a lot more tenacious lately about not chopping and/or awarding the bubble people for that very reason. Just felt like this was a little different situation. But one vote of 'no' was all it took to shoot that idea down. The other players, well....the short stacks, appreciated my attempt.

We got to action. Chad and I had never played at a table before. It was pretty cool. We started talking about old times, and reflecting back on friends and stories involving them. I'm not sure if this made the table uncomfortable, knowing that him and I were such good friends...I didn't really care. I was just psyched to have made the final table...after such a rough year. To have a long time buddy there with me...and then, on my right, Kai Landry! Another new friend who has also had a tremendously bad year in every way imagineable, but has handled it with the utmost poise. I could not have asked for a greater final table scenario.

I opened up the action by raising Chad in the BB with pocket 9's. Chad decided to look me up...with Squirrel's favorite hand! J10 suited. Kind of ironic. I get a very good flop for me...5-6-8...and tell him its a very good flop for me.

"Wow, Will...really? you have 4-7? That IS a great flop for you!??? I guess I better fold" and shows me the J10...which makes me laugh since its Squirrel's hand. Chad is one of the few people from my past who havent made the transition from calling me WILL to calling me Monkey. Which is just fine!

I wish we could have played the whole thing out because I was starting to drink Coors Lites, and was just having a blast...Chad and I were rehashing stories from the old days, and I could sense the tension on 2/3rds of the table...which to me was awesome. When I make a final table...its like just another sit n go, which I have played hundreds of through the years. Anyone who ever thinks I am going to get to the final table and be NERVOUS? Sadly mistaken. It is my happy place!

On the last hand of the night I pick up AhKh and raise to 12k (2000/4000) in early position. Another guy, who I had been getting pretty chummy with, tipping for his Corona after he raised and later c-bet the flop against me with 2-7 and me holding KQ in the SB...then showing me the 2-7, and who had tolerated us all gushing about his super-hot girlfriend...moved all in on me. Wow. Pretty big raise to me. But I can't see folding this hand...not with over 300k in my stack. I made the call and he flipped over KK. Ooooof, ouch!

No help on the flop. Nothing on the turn...and as I was beginning to package up about 60 or 70k in chips to send over to him I bink an ace on the river...and feel that sound that always hits when someone loses on the river in dramatic I have been losing all year. I just clench my eyes closed and share in the guys agony. I walk over and console the guy. What a terrible way to go out. No one deserves that. I felt just sick for the guy.

But it was what it was...and it got me to over 450k in chips, sitting 2nd behind Chad...and just ahead of another very fine player, Mark Rose. And just behind him is Kai. So we have us a great lineup for this final table.

Will I win? Who knows. All I know is that I have locked up $14k+ at a time when I really, really needed to make a decent hit in something, and have four big tournaments coming up that will require a lot of buy in money...and despite having a decent week at the Beau...I hadn't even come close to locking up anywhere near what I need for this fall. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I left the casino...even as I drove home...and even as I lay in the bathtub and later my bed, then couldn't sleep all night. The sense of relief that comes from grinding 14k into 452k in one of most amazing days of my poker career, at an event that I wasn't even allowed to attend last year, in my home town...just has me feeling incredible.

Then there was the incredible outpouring of support I got from you readers...and from friends on my Facebook, and from friends and family in general, sending me text messages all day. I don't care what anyone says...having that support behind you really does make a difference. No matter what happens today, I will walk away thrilled with the outcome. Do I want to win? Ohhhhh baby, you know I do. It would change me and Squirrel's life. It would provide relief, finally...for what those burglars took from us back in January. It would get me out of debt. It might even mean we can finally think about trying to have a baby again. It will mean a lot of things...all I can do is show up, play to the best of my abilities, and hope things go my way.

Wow! I really pulled this off! Still can't believe this is happening! This is when I truly love poker! Guess I will go outside and throw Jasper the ball!!!!



Stephanie said...

Congrats Monkey!!! You deserve it and I hope to be reading soon about your win!! Go get em!

Paul said...

Good for you Monkey! Didnt I say in my last comment to keep playing like you know how and it will come!!!

Well 3rd is damn good!!!!

Nice hit man! Thanks for sharing the stories with us!

Anonymous said...

Been watching from afar, Will. You deserve a break, and you got it. Gives us all the inspiration to hang in there. Great job!