Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Memories of Ireland

Back in June Poker Stars was kind enough to invite me to play in the World Poker Championship in Ireland. They paid my airfare, hotel room, and entry fee - ship it! I had a wonderful time and since I'm too lazy to come up with anything new I am reposting a thread I made back in June after the tournament. Here it is.

After a fun 20 hours of traveling I got to Dublin very early on Tuesday morning (tourney started on Wed.). At the airport I ran into Chris Moneymaker and talked to him a bit. It's a huge thrill to get to talk to the big names - just another added bonus.

On Tuesday evening there was a players reception at the casino and the heats were announced. Once I found out that I wasn't playing until Friday it was off to the pubs. I was really surprised how small the casino was though. I guess it's different in Europe but the casino was basically a 4-story townhouse. I originally was kind of disappointed but it turned out to be one of the cool parts of the tournament. The smaller casino almost forced everyone to talk to one another and it was neat to strike up relationships with the other players, the dealers, and the staff running the tournament. I had a friend from Ireland who took the train to Dublin so we went drinking along with a young player from London, Adam Matusiak ('Twos') and ran into Blair Rodman - a big tournament player from LV. For the next few days I didn't go to the casino much but did do a lot of drinking. Kilkenney is a nice freaking beer. Guinness ain't bad either.

Finally on Friday I played my first hand of poker on the trip. If you don't know who was in my heat (or are curious about the format) you can go back and look it up at www.worldpokerchampionship.com. Everyone started with 100,000 in chips.

I got down to 74,000 early but started to get some cards and was at around 96,000 when a huge hand came up. Playing 8-handed still I raised on the button with KT. Gary Bush, who was on Late Night Poker and also finished second to Gavin Griffen at the WSOP's pot-limit hold 'em event, reraised from the BB. This was about the 4th hand I had played out of 6 and Gary had been watching me. I had a read that he had a hand but it wasn't big enough to call an all-in so I pushed. It would've crippled me to lose. He had 24,000 invested and 60,000 left but folded AJ. I told him I had QQ - sorry Gary.

It may not seem like much but I was now the chip leader at the table and I played like it. Most of the players at my table knew who I was so I hoped they had heard I played tight (I played scary tight at the WSOP). In fact 2 players at my table had played with me at some point at the WSOP. I think they must have gotten word because with the exception of one guy (Jerry) I picked up lots of pots without a fight.

An hour later a woman raised my big blind but I woke up with KK and popped her back. I checked a KQ8 flop and she moved all in. She showed AT which was about the worst thing I could hope for. I'm not whining but visions of a bad beat were running through my head. No jack though and I was the chip leader at my table.

When we got down to 6 players from 16 they conducted interviews with all of us. We were miked at the tables and the TV cameras were on. I was much more relaxed than in LV and thought to myself, 'This is the life'. The final 6 consisted of some very good players, Jeff Shulman, Paul Phillips, Joe Beevers, a guy they call Nick the Greek, that Jerry guy, and little old me.

Joe and I had a lot of chips though - about 2/3 of the total number of chips on the table.

On one hand Shulman and Phillips went all-in with AK against Beevers QQ. Just like that we were down to 4. When the two short stacks butted heads Nick the Greek was out and Jerry had a little more to work with. He was super-aggresive though and he got into trouble a couple times with Joe.

His last gasp was when he raised me from the SB and I just called in the BB with QT. QT was a freaking monster against this guy. When I say I just called it should tell you how aggresive he was. The flop came 2 3 10 and Jerry bet pot from the SB leaving him with about 20,000. I put him all-in and he went into the tank. There was over 250,000 in the pot and he considered folding for 20,000 more so I wasn't too worried. He had to call and showed me 2 8 giving him five outs twice. The turn was a 10 meaning I was in the money again and I couldn't believe it.

Joe Beevers is tough.

He also picked up JJ, QQ, KK, and AA against me in about 30 hands. I didn't last too long.

The final hand I raised with A3 of diamonds and he called with KK. The flop came 3 9 10 with 2 diamonds and I bet out. When he put me all-in it was an easy call with so few chips left and two blanks put me into the semi-finals.

When we got down to 6 I mentioned to one of the dealers that I liked his watch. He let me wear it but when we got down to 2 he had to leave so I gave it back.

I think that did me in.

Anyways, the semi-final heat was two days later. There were some great players there including Carlos Mortenson and Erick Lindgren.

During the interviews before the semi-final the interviewer asked me if I thought I was the favorite coming off my WSOP performance. Are you kidding me? Haha - one of many highlights.
Long story short I played great according to me. It's hard to be objective but I think I do an okay job and I played pretty damn perfect. I got my stack from 100,000 to 160,000 without playing one hand past the turn and I was thinking I might win the thing when I found KK in the hot-spot.

I raised and got called on my immediate left. I checked the 5 7 9 flop and check-raised all in (blinds were enormous and thus the pots were too). When my man turned up 7 9 I still had outs but they didn't turn up. I tried to second-guess myself on that one but it was a 'had to be there' play and the guy on my left could have bet that flop with a lot of different hands including trash.

Overall, I was extremely happy. I proved that the WSOP wasn't a fluke, if only to myself.

I know this is long so I'll try to wrap it up but I want to express how much fun it was. I had never been outside of North America so it was cool just to go to Ireland. I had no pressure on me also so the tournament was almost like an added bonus. I really liked the format and I was so relaxed. The staff, dealers, and players were so friendly. What great people!

I guess I was expecting people in Europe might not necessarily like Americans but that was not even close to the truth. I actually enjoyed myself more at this tourney than the WSOP. Admittedly, it was hard to enjoy myself at the WSOP with it being my first tournament and playing for freaking 60 hours but the Ireland experience is one I'll always cherish.

I also got to go out to dinner with 'Miami' John Cernuto and his daughter, Jade after the tournament and that was a thrill. It was neat to pick his brain and talk poker.

It turns out that we played the WSOP completely different in terms of stategy. His ranking in the world is 7 so it's hard to argue but I guess it just proves that there isn't just one way to win in this game. I'm so sick of writing I'm not going to check this for errors.

By the way, I ended up getting the watch from the dealer in a trade for my lucky sunglasses. Bartering is kind of cool.

Sorry this is so freaking long.

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