Homeless Poker Player’s Cherokee: NC Trip Reports

WSOP Circuit Event at Harrah’s Cherokee.

I recently took a trip to North Carolina for the WSOP Circuit stop at Harrah’s Cherokee. This was a highly anticipated stop for me because it is only three hours away from my office in Atlanta and has non-stop single table satellite action which I love.

Cherokee is where I first began to make a name for myself in the poker community back in 2013. It will always have a place in my heart in spite of the fact that my 2014 and 2015 trips there were the worst of any in my poker career thus far. Let’s start by remembering the good times.

Cherokee 2013

In April of 2013, the WSOP held it’s first circuit event at Harrah’s Cherokee. This was just a few months after I quit my job as a teacher and was my first WSOP circuit event. I drove up from Atlanta for the weekend and slept in my 1999 Ford Explorer between poker sessions. I enjoyed doing this so much that I wished I could do it full-time one day. Funny how life works out isn’t it?

On that trip, I brought $2,000 with a plan to play single table satellites. I made about $2,000 over the weekend doing this and blew half of it in ring events. I decided to save the other half so that I could take $3,000 to Vegas that summer and play the single table satellites there. This Cherokee trip was also the first time I met Tournament Poker Edge owner Derek “Killingbird” Tenbusch.

Later that year in Vegas, I met TPE pro Andrew Brokos who interviewed me on the Thinking Poker podcast and the rest is history. Taking a chance on that first trip to Cherokee in 2013 led to everything else and changed my life, so I couldn’t wait to do the same thing again in 2014.

Carlos and TPE owner Derek “Killingbird” Tenbusch in the “loser’s lounge” above the tournament area at Harrah’s Cherokee.

Cherokee 2014

The next year, Cherokee wasn’t so kind to me as far as results go, but I try to make the most of every poker trip by networking with other players. By this time, I was reasonably well known in the online poker community as that crazy cheap dude and got to hang out with several friends I’d met over the past year. One of them was kind enough to let me ride to Cherokee with him and crash in his hotel room so that I wouldn’t have to sleep in the truck.

He and I had a blast talking poker strategy and I couldn’t wait to get on the felt. I’d had so much success with single table satellites on both the previous Cherokee trip and in Vegas that I fully expected to do the same this time. Big mistake! I played 8 of them and 2 ring events without ever making the money. I did make a day two, but busted on the bubble. I left that day saying to myself that this was some crazy one time fluke and that I’d get my revenge next year.

Cherokee 2015

This brings me to 2015. Earlier this year, I won the Bovada major for $27K and cashed the WSOP Main Event for $15K, so I had a much larger bankroll than in previous years. On top of that, I’d been working with some of the best poker coaches in the world and my game was better than ever. I was primed to bust Cherokee wide open.

When I sat for my first couple of single table satellites, I quickly realized that the play of my opponents was worse than in past years. It was only a matter of time before I won one…which I finally did after 16 losses in a row. To make matters worse, I was doing $100 heads up last longers in most of these. This was the most brutal run of coolers and suck outs I’d ever seen. At times, it didn’t even seem real. After chopping lucky number 17, I decided to play one more single table satellite before switching to ring events. I lost the last one with set over set and felt good about using up my last bit of runbad.

Sike! Apparently, I had a bit of runbad reserves. The ring events did not go much better. I actually managed to lose two of them in one day. At this point, I was pretty much over it with live poker until I spoke with some of the new players I’d met on this trip. As bad as I ran, at least I met some guys who I hope will become life long friends, which seems to be a reoccurring theme of my poker trips. They talked me into selling action for the main event because it would be super soft. The question that sold me on it was “What do you think the fish who won your money in the satellites are gonna do with the lammers?” This made perfect sense to me. It was pay back time, and by now, I was really fresh out of runbad and Sklansky bucks to give.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the benefit of sitting with the satellite fish I was promised on day one of the main event. This was the most aggressive table I’d ever been at as evidenced by the 6-bet bluff with A7s I witnessed. In spite of this, the first day went well since I was able to make a few hands that these aggro guys could not resist trying to bluff me off of. The runbad was finally over and I made enough hands and well timed bluffs to bag a decent stack for day two. I retired to my free penthouse suite on wheels to research the players at my next table and get some sleep for the day ahead.

Beautiful morning from my free penthouse suite high above Harrah’s Cherokee.

When play started the next morning, I had 30bbs. Soon after, I lost a flip which cut me down to 23bbs and was down to 16bbs after the blinds increased. Fortunately, I’d observed the table dynamics enough to identify a great any two cards reshove spot against the aggressive big stack, but alas my table broke just before I got the opportunity to make my move.

Now I was stuck at a new table with no reads, very few chips, and another impending blind increase. This tilted me more than it should have. In hindsight, I think the pressure of the main event bubble and possibly some residual tilt from the satellites caught up with me as well. I busted shortly after the move by shoving Q3 over a big stack’s small blind open based only on the assumption that he looked the part and theoretically should be aggressive in this spot…and you know what they say about assumptions.


With the amount I lost in the single table satellites and ring events, I left about 20% of my bankroll in Cherokee. This was a major hit that has me re-examining my game and my future travel plans. My next trip is PCA in January. I’d considered playing some of the smaller events, but now I’m just going to take a cruise there just to scratch it off my bucket list and do some networking for a day. This is an incredibly inexpensive way to experience this event. Besides, after my Cherokee ordeal, I can use a poker free vacation.

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