Andre’s WSOP Main Event Experience – Some Obvervations

Hi, Bob.  I meant to write something extensive last night but ended up going to bed early.  It’s about 105 degrees outside and I think too much of the sun and heat tapped me out! I feel fine now after a good night’s sleep, though.  Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

- I begin play later this morning with 7 pros including two bracelet winners – Justin Pechie and Mike Ellis.  I am VERY excited about this opportunity and I am drawing on my competitive drive and experiences as a coach and Wall Street professional to make this a good day.  If I can’t be excited about this, then I shouldn’t be here.  This is what it’s all about. Bring it!!

- Having said all of this, every table has its own distinct personality and play is a bit different at each one.  Some tables are aggressive, others more passive.  I have given this a lot of thought and I have had conversations with others here at The Main Event, and we all agree that it is critical to understand this before getting too crazy at the table.  I was very frustrated after my Day One because I couldn’t ‘chip up’ through anyone; no weak players, all chip stacks were within the same narrow range all day and nobody was calling large raises (we had only three all-ins all day).  It was my goal to get to 45k chip stack or better and I was initially upset that I didn’t reach that milestone.  Then, I talked to others who had similar situations, and who have more tournament experience than me; and they all seem to agree that finishing at starting stack level isn’t so bad because impatient or inexperienced players would ‘force play’, and may suffer dearly.  Just hope for a better table on day two, they say.  Giving it some thought, they’re probably correct.  In fact, I don’t need to be at The Main Event to appreciate this point as we see this at “The Boblagio” regularly, too. Bottom line: I have a new table with a new set of players.  Things will likely be much different today on Day Two and this brings me new opportunity.

- An interesting observation I made and discussed with others is that aggressive play practiced merely to appear aggressive is usually punished.  You have to back it up because EVERYONE is looking to trap or is waiting to catch their ‘all-in’ spot. Then again, if you have a ridiculous chip stack, you can over-bet every hand and likely take down most of them, so what do I know!! But that’s a really, really big stack and not a 2x or even a 3x stack.

- To my earlier point about aggressive play and knowing your table/opponents, the only player to have a low chip stack at my table at the end of day one was, in fact, a young, brash and arrogant wanna-be professional who completely misread matters. I won’t reveal his name but I’ll provide it to Bob to e-mail anyone interested in looking him up later. Everyone is ‘googling’ each other for the fun on day two and its not my style to be disrespectful to anyone, particularly of someone I really don’t know. Let me set the scene: he arrives 5 hours late, just before registration closes, in a loud almost Phil Helmuth-like manner. He high fives a few other players in the area, yucks it up with a few WSOP officials and dealers and then apologizes to all of us for his late arrival. He demands to have drink service and his chip stack provided immediately because he has been on trains and planes and automobiles to get there in time to play. He usually doesn’t play the first blind level or two, but this was a little too close for comfort, he announces. The table could care less. Mistake #1: the kid didn’t read the players and table style. He could have immediately made a determination that we were likely tight and conservative just by looking at our equal valued chip stacks. He caught this about 20 minutes later, interestingly enough. First hand dealt: a 3x raise to me in BB and I let him have it with A-3 off suit. I am in seat 1 and he’s in seat 10, by the way. Thankfully, there’s a dealer between us! He does this a few more times before getting re-raised pre-flop.

Everyone except the kid sees the trap set by the EPT pro from Finland.  Once again he raises on the flop and another re-raise.  The kid folds and says: ”Your ace had a better kicker. Nice hand.”  The Fin’s response was classic and set the tone for this poor guy’s slow demise.  He responds, “I didn’t have an ace and I’m quite sure you’ve never folded an ace in your life!” Everyone but the kid laughs and the train wreck begins. He continues to push and collects a few blinds and antes, but slowly loses chips.  After I chipped down on one of my two poorly played hands, I get pocket aces I took him for a nice pot.  Two hands later, I took him again with two pair and then one more time 30 minutes later on a semi-bluff with pocket 6′s.  Ugly board and he was so predictable at that point he might as well have been playing with his cards face up.  I show the cards after he folds to my aggressive turn bet and then leaves the table for 10 minutes after is show him my 6′s.  He is on tilt and down to about 8k in less than 90 minutes.  The next few hours are not much different although he stops talking, much to everyone’s relief, ending the day at less than 12k stack.

- Say what you want about Phil Helmuth, but one has to acknowledge that he is impressive.  He started day 2 with less than half his starting stack and built it up to over 55,000 by the end of the day …… never going ‘all-in’.

- Several chips stack leaders have been eliminated. Several of the best players in the world didn’t even make it to day 1 dinner break.  We all know this already, but here’s the statistic I like: several chip leaders after day 2a started their second sessions with chip stacks shorter then mine!

- Sitting in the Amazon Room with over 1000 poker players shuffling their chips sounds like you’re stuck in a field of chirping crickets from hell.  It’s both funny and annoying late into play.

- The standard play is to bet 2x or 3x the big blind pre-flop, then c-bet (continuation bet) post flop.  If there’s still action after the flop, the turn gets a minimum bet of 1x pot on most hands.  Seeing a river card is rare.  If you get there, ya better have it!

- On day one, my table saw less than a handful of straights, flushes and full houses, and only one ‘ace high’ winning hand. Three of a kind and two pairs were the power hands, but high pairs with high kickers were usually good, too. Lesson: you don’t need to have a monster hand to win a hand so much as you need to know how to play it.  Of course, getting to the river isn’t common.

- We did see quads once, though.  Interesting hand: A standard 2x pre-flop bet with BB and a caller.  Flop comes with three Jacks.  We’re all excited because quad Jacks means free beef jerky for the winning hand for the year, courtesy of our WSOP sponsor. Nobody wants to touch this flop, of course, and both players agree that the free beef jerky would be equally split by all table members.  Now, we’re all really, really excited!  The dealer turns an ace and everyone grows silent.  Who has an ace to complete the full house?  Who might be so lucky to have the fourth Jack?  The BB value bets the pot and gets a call.  The River is a rag and irrelevant.  BB bets large and gets an incredible fold after a long wait.  It’s incredible because he has a pocket ace!  How do you throw that away after such a big bet was made on the river?  He later said he felt it was reverse psychology bet, which it was.  Everyone is impressed and the folder was a very good player all day.  The BB shows his Jack to win the pot and everyone is happy for the truckload of beef jerky delivery.  Where are the cameras, someone asks? Well, it turns out that this year; quad jacks get you no such prize. That was a one year thing.  Our quad holder didn’t even get a buffet comp out of it, although he did win the pot.

- Everyone is trying to ‘read’ their opponents and, likewise, send opponents misleading signals.  This is known as ‘Hollywooding’ and everyone does it to some extent, even me.  Funny, but none of us believe each other, but we continue to do it anyway.  I really think an amateur has a better chance for success than a pro, but maybe I’m wrong. I’ll let you know how it works for me when I try to look distraught after a re-raise while I’m holding the nuts! :)

Onward,

Andre

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