Cherokee WSOP: Part 2

The big board told the story after the end of level 15. All I had to do was outlast one more player to get my first official cash in a WSOP Circuit event, and it took just two hands of hand-for-hand play to find the bubble boy. Hint: It wasn’t me!

In my last installment, I wrote about my experiences playing in event No. 1 at the WSOP Circuit stop at Cherokee. When we left off, I had made it to the dinner break with about 36,000 chips, which was slightly below the chip average with 108 of the 461 runners left.

Changing Strategies

After the break, levels increased from 30 to 40 minutes. For the next three levels, my chip stack fluctuated only slightly. I suffered a long stretch of being card dead, but I picked up just enough pots to stay within shouting distance of the chip average. By the time level 15 ended two hours later, my chip stack was around 55,000, and we were down to 55 players – bubble time.

When we regrouped to begin level 16 (big blind 3,000), the tournament director announced we were hand for hand. It only took two hands to find the bubble boy, and play loosened up considerably after that. I had worked my stack up to about 80,000 with around 45 players left when a player two to my right began shoving all-in on most every hand. He was down to less than 20,000 when he started his shove-fest. The first two times he did it, nobody called, and he picked up the blinds and antes. The third time he did it, I was in the BB and he was the button. It folded to him, he shoved for about 35,000 and I looked down at A-9.

I knew he was being a little loose, and he was probably emboldened that nobody was calling his all-ins, so I decided to call. He turned over K-8, but of course, he flopped a king, turned an 8 and then rivered another king for good measure. By the end of the night, this dude was the chip leader. He eventually wound up fourth. It just shows how quickly your fortunes can change.

First Big Win

That hand took about a third of my stack, but I had slowly chipped back up to around 80,000 again when there were about 30 players left. I again got A-9 in the BB. UTG+2, a youngish guy who looked like many of the pros who frequent these events, I heard him say he had played at Choctaw and Southern Indiana circuit stops, had just been moved to our table with a huge stack of chips. He raised to 15,000 (big blind was 4,000).

It folded to me, and I decided to test his mettle and shoved all-in. He snap called and showed pocket 10s, but I turned an ace after a dry flop to win my first huge pot. I now had more than 170,000 chips and was above the chip average for the first time in a long, long time.

Unfortunately, I again went card dead for the next hour (and also chased a nut flush I shouldn’t have), and my stack slowly dwindled to less than 100,000. We were now on level 20 (big blind is 8,000), had been going at it for more than 12 hours and mental fatigue was starting to set in. I got pocket 4s in an early position and bumped it up to 20,000. It folded to the button, who re-raised to 40,000. The blinds folded, and I decided to shove all-in.

I didn’t want to just call, knowing that my 4s would almost have to hit a set on the flop for me to have a chance to win the hand, so I decided to shove and see if I could either win a coin flip if he called, or possibly, get him to fold. Of course, he had pocket aces and didn’t hesitate to get his chips in the middle. He hit a set on the turn and a full house on the river to send me packing in 19th place.

Observations

Overall I thought I played well. I didn’t try many bluffs and was never all-in until after I was in the money. The only hand I really regretted playing was shortly after my big win, when I had A-4 suited in the BB and called a pre-flop raise. I hit two more hearts on the flop and decided to try a semi-bluff. He raised my semi-bluff and then bet the turn after I checked. I called again hoping for that elusive fifth heart on the river, but it was a brick and I wound up folding to his river bet (he showed me he had flopped a set). I lost about 35 percent of my stack on that hand and should have listened to my gut, which was telling me to fold pre-flop with my ace-rag (but it was suited!!!).

Perhaps my biggest mistake was the final hand. The pay jump was about $250 from 19th to 18th place, and it jumped another $300 at 15th place. I should have folded to the pre-flop re-raise and milked my stack to get one more pay jump. I could have even made it to 15th by going into short-stack mode.

My payout slip. I briefly thought about taking it home and framing it, but decided cashing it would be the better option.

My next installment will cover my experiences in event No. 2, the massive $365 re-entry tournament that drew more than 3,000 players and saw me accomplish one of the goals on my poker bucket list.

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