Taking WSOP tournament shots

As I stood there watching the poker room, waiting for closing time. I realized something. I have a gaming license now, and I am employed in the casino industry. I could take a shot at the WSOP employee event. How hard could it be? If you saw the way that some of these “casino employees” played poker, you would think that I would be a shoe in to make the money. That was the moment that I decided to play a few events in the World Series of Poker for 2023.

Leading up to the series, I was still playing a lot of cash. There were some big swings. At one point I had won a couple grand only to give it all back and start crawling back to my peak of the year. As I grinded it back the days started to pass by quickly and before I knew it, the WSOP was about to start. I realized that I probably should do some preparation for the WSOP. How should I prepare myself? I have spent months going down the rabbit hole of game theory, but would any of this be useful for tournament poker?

The first thing I decided to do was to spend some time playing online tournaments. I know it isn’t the same thing as a live tournament, but I figured it would be useful to get some mental reps on how to deal with the increasing pressures of rising blinds. I decided to play on America’s Cardroom, I had some tournament tickets that needed to get used. After blowing through the tickets, I started to use my bankroll to buy-in. I ended up finding a multi-day flight tournament and started to fire away. A few times I made a deep run. I started to feel good about my tournament play. My skills would be challenged, but I was gaining confidence. I fired again at The Dime and made day two! That is when I realized that day two was scheduled on a Sunday, when I would be working. I never logged back in until now to check how much I cashed out for. I made $9.20 for my troubles.

The next thing I decided I needed to review was my push-fold ranges. Ya, ironic, isn’t it? I just got off my soap box telling the world that your ranges didn’t matter and there I was looking up charts to study ranges. The idea behind it was to better familiarize myself with what players might be shoving once they became short stacked. A lot of the ranges that I saw made sense to me. Early position would be stronger and in later position could call lighter. My overall strategy from what I saw would suffice. I just had to cut out some of my cusp hands that I like to play in cash games. I spent time comparing ranges and calculating my EV to determine how loose I could get with my calls. It felt productive and I learned a few things about my play that I needed to look for.

Finally, the day had arrived! I made sure to get plenty of rest the night before and woke up early so that I could eat breakfast and get my mind in the game. One thing I had done to make sure that I wouldn’t be late was complete my registration the night before. I was ready to go play! I was dropped off at the Horseshoe around nine o’clock in the morning. I had music playing in my headphones and I was pumped.

I walked back to the Paris convention ballroom to find that there was a really long line, and Kevin Mathers standing behind the retractable belt stanchions answering questions that players were asking about the WSOP. Since I already had my seat assignment I decided to go back to the casino and gamble while I waited. I found a crapless craps table and bought-in while I waited for my tournament to start at ten o’clock. I made $225 while I waited there. The run good had started!

As I walked over to my table, I realized that I didn’t have small bills to tip the server for when I ordered a drink. Las Vegas is unique in that everything is “free”, but you always pay for service. I decided to quickly go to the cage and get change before the tournament would start. The worst thing that could happen is that the tournament would start but since I had not sat down yet my stack would not be in play yet. Little did I know that I was wrong about this. This year, the WSOP had changed the rule. Now if you register for a tournament before the start of the tournament, your chip stack is put in play and your stack will be blinded out. Luckily, I made it to my table with a couple minutes to spare. There were three other players already waiting for the tournament to start.

Play began, I started to make my mental notes about the players at my table. I would be sitting here with most of them for the entire day. I needed to figure out something so I could gain an advantage over them. One of the first things that I noticed is that there was not a lot of three betting happening. This indicated to me that they may be playing very value heavy. The next thing I noticed is that there were a lot of calls. The last thing I noticed is that they weren’t bluffing very much. To be honest, I didn’t think these players were very tough, but I had to find the right spot to try and extract chips from them. This mostly happened in the form of getting called preflop followed by a fold to my continuation bet on the flop. Of the original four players that started the day, there were only three of us left at the table. We began to see players come and go as they played their stacks and went bust. I was confident that I could beat these guys. I would later find out that I was sitting at the table with a player who would go one to finish in third place.

The most frustrating thing is that I lost my nerve to try and steal a pot. May be there was something in the back of my mind that I had observed about the player to my left. Something that told me he wouldn’t fold that easily if I tried to steal the blinds when he was on the button. We had two dead stacks donating 500 in chips every six hands. Instead, I found myself looking to play pots when I would have position. Nothing big happened until level three of the tournament when the blinds were at 200/300-300. A player in late position ripped it all in for 2,900 and it folded to me in the big blind. I had over 30,000 in chips and called him off with pocket threes. A pair of Queens came on the flop and then the rest of the board bricked out for my pocket pair to hold against this player’s off suit Ace. A couple of levels later I got pocket Aces and got action from a player. That was a much-needed pot at the point in the tournament. Eventually I ended up going bust in level seven of the tournament when the blinds were 400/800-800 and I jammed twenty-three big blinds with the nine of diamonds and the nine of spades on a ten-four-six board with all diamonds. Looking back at this hand I think it is still debatable on if I should jam or fold. One thing for sure is that I don’t think I should ever call when villain makes a 10,000 donk bet.

After busting, I went and registered again. It was time to give it another try. I saw one of my friends who I had bumped into while on one of our breaks. I gave her a signal to let her know that I was on bullet two and she gave me a sad face. I found my table and tried to move on mentally from what had just happened at my previous table. There were only two levels left until dinner break. It sucked that I made it this far in the tournament only to have to start over but that didn’t matter. It was time to run up a stack and make a deep run in the tournament. I started to mix it up fast by losing 10,000 of my chips stack. Soon I found myself jamming with pocket tens, they held. My stack was growing! Unfortunately, I managed to lose most of what I had won just before dinner break. There was an early position open and a call before it was my turn to play in the high-jack. I made a three bet with the Ace of clubs and Jack of clubs. The button called and we see a flop of six of diamonds, seven of spades, five of clubs. I check and the button makes a big bet leaving me with about half my stack if I called. After thinking it through, I folded my hand. I was back down to starting stack when we would get back from dinner break.

While eating dinner I looked up some push-fold charts as I tried to come up with a strategy on how I would be playing my stack. The blinds would be 1,000/1,500-1,500 when we came back from break. This would leave me with about sixteen big blinds to play with. This means I had some room to peel a flop or if the pot was big enough, I could just rip it in and try to take it down. As the big blind went around the table, I folded. Soon I was the big blind and I had to put in two precious blinds from my chip stack. The under the gun player opened for a little more than a min-click. Three players called in the field and my turn to act came. I look down at Ace-Queen off suit. Could I call? Should I jam? What is my play here? With only fourteen big blinds left, I decided to rip it in and hope for the best. With three callers to the original raiser, I thought I could jam and possibly just take the pot down. The under the gun player had different plans for me. He jammed making sure to isolate me and when everyone else folded, he tabled pocket Queens.


Bizzy’s 2023 Gains: -$1,992.49

Bizzy’s WSOP Cashes: -$1,000

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