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My 2007 World Series Of Poker Experience

After playing poker regularly for 4 years including online, home games and casino tournaments, it was time to try my skill against the big dogs at the annual World Series of Poker tournament.

My home tournament changed its format in September 2006 and began accumulating money to send our champion to the WSOP. We knew the most we would be able to save was $1500 making our target obvious, the $1500 No-Limit Texas Holdem tournaments.

During the tournament year, each member accumulated points based on their finish each day and by the end of the year, I was fortunate to find myself in 1st place after 14 tournaments.

The WSOP has 9 different tournaments that fit our requirements, however, we did settle in on Event #3, June 2nd and started making plans. One of our members decided to pay his way into the tournament and 8 others came along to enjoy Las Vegas and the WSOP experience.

Pre-Registration (Online)

First order of business was to register which could be done online or in person. Being a computer nerd myself, the online registration seemed a logical choice. The first few times I visited the WSOP website in April, I found the pre-registration links were not completed as the registration buttons simply didn't work. After a few weeks of trying, the website started working and I was able to complete the simple online form to pre-register.

A few days later, I received confirmation in the form of an email that listed the tournament I registered for along with payment instructions. The options were wire transfer or cashiers check. I held onto the form until early May and ran down to my bank to get the required cashiers check and mailed it off. Once the check was received and cleared I received payment confirmation, again in the form of an email thus completing the pre-registration process.

I could feel the anxiety building every day as the event neared. On the day I acquired the cashiers check I started dreaming. I was at the Rio and couldn't find the event. I'd go from room to room and found nothing. I'd wake up in a sweat. Luckily the dreams quickly subsided and the balance of the waiting game passed quickly and uneventful.

Registration (On Site)

Friday, June 1st finally arrived and after attending some very important work meeting for both me and my traveling partner and co-participant, Wayne, we departed on our drive to Las Vegas.

Now the drive from San Diego to Las Vegas is just over 300 miles and passes through Los Angeles, over the Cajon Pass and down into the desert basin. Through Victorville, Barstow and Baker before entering Nevada and finally Las Vegas.

I remember as a young boy, driving into Vegas was a much different experience. There was nothing between the state boarder and Las Vegas and as you made that final left turn, we'd go from the near pitch dark of the desert to the bright lights of Las Vegas. Today, there are several Casinos along the way making the entry into Las Vegas much less exhilarating. This time would be different from all the others. This time I’m playing in the largest poker tournament in the world, the World Series of Poker and the childhood excitement had returned.

We had already decided to go straight to the Rio and complete the in person registration before going to the hotel and it was a good thing. We arrived at around 7:00 PM Friday night and entered the casino and walked end to end and didn’t see a single WSOP sign. Nothing. Oh my gosh, I’m now living my dream. Where is the tournament? Certainly there would be at least one sign.

We finally broke ranks with the male code of conduct and asked directions. Of course it was in the convention rooms. They pointed the way, off we went.and quickly found what we were looking for. As we rounded the corner we were confronted with a line that Disneyland would be proud of and it was moving Sloooooow. We were told there was just one line and it didn't matter if you pre-registered so in line we went.

We needed to get a Harrah's Total Rewards card to play so we took turns heading over to the desk to get the card. There was no line at the desk so 2 minutes later we were back in line, met some interesting people and watched as pro after pro walked by.

There was Doyle Brunson, Phil Gordon, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson and Greg Raymer. There were many more that we recognized but couldn't remember their names. Later we would find Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow.

I measured the line, by footsteps, and estimate it to be 100 yards long. It started in the registration area of the poker room, out the door and to the left down the hallway then turned right down the main hallway.

After over 3 hours, we finally made it into the registration room where we could see 10 windows open registering future poker stars. As we got closer we couldn’t help but notice the very short line adjacent to the line we were in. Maybe two or three people deep. When asked, we were told that’s for those who pre-regestered. Arrrrg. We had asked and were told there wasn’t a pre-register line. So now we waited in line for 3 hours, for nothing.

It was finally our turn and we went up to the window, signed the release form and they verified our payment and registration information. We were given a card to show the dealer that included our table and seat assignment along with a $10 food voucher to be used at any of the Harrah’s restaurants. I’m at table 47 seat 6. Good, in the middle of the table. Boy do I hate seat 1 and 10 as the dealer blocks your view of some of the players. Seat 6 gives me a clear view of everyone.

By the time we get out of the Rio, it’s almost 11:00 PM. We are tired and decided to check in to our rooms and get a good night sleep. We have a lot of poker to play tomorrow. With a little luck, 14 hours worth.

The Chips

We arrived at the Rio Saturday Morning around 10:30 finding no traffic at all. The tournament doesn’t start until 12:00 noon so we stop off for an eye opening jolt of coffee at Starbucks and tried to relax. We had already walked the tournament floor and knew where our tables were so we just waited. The doors opened at 11:45AM and we made it to our tables quickly and sat down. Most of the other players were already there along with our starting chip stack of 3000 tournament chips. 8 - $25’s, 8 - $100’s and 4 - $500’s. We were playing with brand new Paulson Top Hat and Cane chips with the WSOP logo on the label.

There was a bit of a problem with the larger denomination chips as the $5000 and $25000 chips were very similar in color.
The Cards

The cards we will be playing with were fanned out on the table. Immediately, we can all see there is something different with these KEM cards. Evidently the WSOP and KEM got together and invented a “Better Card” with a small image of the number and suit located in the corner on a diagonal. They are calling them Peak Cards as they are supposed to be easier to peak at.

It turns out these cards didn’t go over very well during tournament that were held the day before, namely the $5000 World Champion Mixed Holdem. In practice, most players had to expose much more of the card to get an accurate read so there was a lot of complaints. I had a few problems where I wasn’t sure of the suit after the 1st peak and had to go back a 2nd time.

A bigger problem was with the 6 and 9 cards. They were unusually difficult to tell apart.

We had one hand were a player was dealt KK and the player he was heads up with had 66. The flop came 99? and checked to the showdown. When the player with 66 showed his cards, the whole table, dealer included thought he had quad 9's. The player with KK started to muck his hand when he realized he was only up against 2 pairs 6's and 9's and claimed his pot.

Cover up the center potion and look at the peak and number images. What card is it? Yup, these cards stink!

The Start

Well the 12:00 start came and went and we are just sitting there, waiting.

It wasn't until 12:30 that the WSOP Chairman, Jeffrey Pollack, addressed the crowd. When he was introduced, what would normally have been applause, instead was boo's. The general feeling was the event was so poorly organized; praise to the man responsible was out of the question.

Once the booing settled down, Jeffrey simply stated, "That was deserved". Even though I agreed with the sentiment of the crowd, you have give a man props when he stands up in a room filled with thousands of angry people and admit his fault.

Jeffrey continued by discussing the problems with the cards and that they were driving in every available deck of standard cards to replace them and they should be expected before the end of the day.

He announced that with nearly 3000 players, we were making history as the largest, non-main event tournament in the world and the 3 largest overall and apologized for the slow start and starting players as alternates. To accommodate the larger than expected crowd, the event spilled over to a tent outside.

Play finally began, 1 hour late, at 1:00 with starting blinds of 25-50.

My plan was too play extremely tight to begin with until I learned the table. This turned out to be easy as the 1st several starting hands I had where junk and easily folded. Even when on the blinds, facing a raise, into the muck goes the card.

Once around the table and I hadn't seen a hand I could play but I did notice the whole table was playing very tight. Rarely was there a flop with more than two players and on a few occasions, the hand was folded all the way to the big blind. I didn't expect this. What I thought would happen is raise and re-raise on nearly every pot.

Since I hadn't played a hand, my stack is only short 1 set of blinds or 75 chips. I'm in good position 1 spot to the right of the button and the hand folds to me. I look down to see 5-2os and looking at the button who had his cards in his hand ready to toss them into the muck, I decided to take a stab at it and tossed in a bet of three times the big blind or 150. My heart is racing but I do the best I could to look calm and stay motionless. The button mucked as expected and so did both the blinds.  I slide my cards to the dealer and gathered up my 1st pot win, small as it was.

After replenishing my stack to the starting level with garbage, I was thinking wow, that was way too easy. For the next hour, I really never had a good starting hand. T-Jos was the best, but I was able to pick my battles and keep my stack from shrinking.. I had won 4 pots in that 1st hour and only once did I have a pair of any kind and that was a pairs of 8's I connected with on a rainbow, 8 high flop. Other than my heart beating out of my chest, I was feeling pretty good.

Hour 2 begins with the blinds doubling to 50-100. I soon look down to the best starting hand I've had so far, A-K(Hearts). The table folds to me in middle position and I kick in 300 chips. The player on the button, two positions to my left raises to 800, the blinds folded and I'm heads up. He had made a few aggressive moves earlier but never had to show. I felt he was capable of making a big raise with a small pair or possibly just an Ace. I make the call, committing another 500 to the pot leaving me with 1800 chips and a pot of 1750. The flop comes a rainbow of rags. My opponent has me covered, it's barely 1 hour into the tournament and I'm confronted with a hand that could end my tournament. I know if I check, he will bet and I will be forced to fold. Facing my tournament life so early, I checked and he follows as expected with an all in. I folded and the hand played out exactly as I knew it would.

This hand will probably haunt me at least until I get a chance to play with the big dogs again. Did he have a hand? Was he simply taking advantage of his position and my weak play? Could I have doubled up on him and taken the chip lead for the table? All I know is this hurt, cutting my chip stack down considerably to just 18 big blinds. Many pros teach 20 big blinds is the beginning of being short stacked with 10 big blinds despiration time.

After a few more stolen pots and some lost blinds, I found myself in good position with 9-T (Spades) facing a raise of 200 chips. The bet is a total of 300; I call with my suited connectors and the table folds so we are heads up. I have 1200 chips left at this point and the flop comes Q-T-5 giving me middle pair. My apponent checks. The pot is 750. I feel I need to make a pot size bet to move this guy off the hand but that would leave me with only 550 so the beat is really check or all in so I make the play and move the balance of my chips into the pot. My opponent nearly beats me in and turns over his pocket queens giving him a set.

I loose the hand and have just a single 25 chip left and I'm on the small blind so I'm all in again. The cards are dealt and there are a total of 4 players including myself. I look down to find A-A and ended up quadrupling up to 100 chips.

I'm the big blind now so once more time my meager chips go into the pot, all in. The cards are dealt and the only player is the small blind, but this time I find 9-3 waiting in my pocket. He turns over his cards to find a K-5. This isn't looking so good. The flop pairs my 3 giving me the lead and my heart skips a beat. Can I double up again? Not this time, the turn gives him a pair of K's and my tournament is over after just under 2 hours.

There were two others at my table that went out before me but that doesn't seem to help as I make the slow walk over to Wayne to see how he is doing on the way to leaving the tournament room.

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