So close I could taste it, but alas, it was not in the cards. I entered Day 2 feeling good. My strategy was to be more aggressive up front and try to build a stack. It worked well for the first couple of levels. I found myself at a table with Mike Wattel, a WSOP bracelet holder (who in this damn tourney isn’t!) with a big stack. We must have played 4 or 5 hands in close succession and I came away from that little exchange much healthier. By 6:00 pm, I was 5th on the leader board with close to $40K in chips, having my picture taken by a Bluff magazine photographer and spelling my name for Poker News (yes, it’s Daniel, not Dan).
It’s always fun, and much easier, to win with pat hands, and I did have a couple during the course of that early rush. The best feeling, however, is when you push with absolutely nothing and get away with it. I had one hand, after winning two pots out of three showing 7-6 and and 8-5 in succession, that was the most satisfying. In the big blind, I looked down and found a full house, 2-2-2-7-7. Now remember, this is low-ball. Any pair is useless and a full-house is an easy fold. This particular, hand, however, is ideal to “snow” if the circumstances are good.
Snowing is a strategy whereby you represent a huge hand and play it strong, hoping (and gambling quite a bit) that the other guy will not make a strong hand and eventually fold before you have to show the hand. It’s very difficult because once you start, you have to keep betting or give up.
My hand was particularly good for snowing because to make the best hand (7-5-4-3-2), a player must have both a 7 and a 2. With my hand, it was unlikely anyone was going to make a 7 or even a strong 8. Also, because I was in the big blind, I was last to act before the first draw, and then first to act thereafter, meaning I could gauge how strong the table was before committing to it and I could apply pressure from the outset after each draw. The hand folded around to the button who raised. The small blind called and I re-raised. Both the button and the small-blind called. I drew one card (an 8), while the other two drew 2. I then bet. The other two called. I stood pat. Thus, I was going to bet all the way with 2-2-2-7-8 and representing that I had a 7 draw and made my hand on the first draw. I was thrilled to see both players draw 2 again. Neither had improved their hand on the first draw.
I bet immediately (as is expected with a pat hand). One player folded, and the other called. I stood pat again, and the other player drew 1 card. I was just praying he didn’t hit anything strong. I bet again, the last bet. The other player took a deep breath and starting thinking. After what seemed like forever, he finally tossed his cards in the muck, declaring that he was sure his 8-7 was beat. Phew. As calmly as I could, I dropped my cards face down in the muck and began stacking chips.
Triple Draw, I’m learning, can be a cruel game. When the rushes come, they come fast. When bad beats come, however, they also come fast. I lost two big hands with a 7-6, and another with and 8-6, all very strong hands. Strong hands that finished second best are by far the most expensive to play. My stack dwindled as the dinner break approached and the blinds continued to climb.
In the last level before the break, I had Bill Chen (5 final tables in 2006 and 2 bracelets) to my left at an extremely tough table. All the tables at that point were stacked with pros and I was one of perhaps 3-4 amateurs left in the field. I pushed a hand hard and made an 8-6 with one draw to go and one opponent drawing 1 card. Thankfully, as I tossed my last chips into the pot, he turned over a 10-6, and I doubled up.
Coming back from dinner, even after doubling up, I was one of the smallest stacks left. 28 players left out of 208 starters, and only the top 24 get paid. The blinds were up to $1000/2000 with limits at $2K/$4K meaning I had to pick a spot and assume all my chips would go in. Three hands in, I found it with an almost perfect starting hand: 7-6-4-2. Three shots to hit a 3 or 5, with an 8 likely good enough. Before the action got to me, Chau Giang ($3 million won on tour and one of the most feared cash game players in the world) raised. I re-raised to chase out the blinds. Chau called, and drew 2. Needless to say, although a favorite from the start, my hand did not hold up, ultimately losing as a 10-7 to Chau’s 8-7 made on the last draw.
It was an amazing run and I know full well how lucky I was to get as far as I did, but it sure hurt to get up from the table 3 spots from the money. I learned a lot about tournament play and certainly felt much more comfortable with the pressure down the stretch. Once we hit the top 30, the photographers and reporters from several poker-related web sites and magazines were flitting from table-to-table. ESPN cameras, lights and mike booms interceded occasionally when big names were faced with an all-in. With those distractions, focusing on a complex game was really tough.
That said, I can honestly say I went toe-to-toe with the world’s best and did better than more than 85% of them. Hopefully I can carry that experience with me into the $10K main event next week. I’m certainly more comfortable with hold-em than triple draw. In the meantime, I’m going to get some sleep at a reasonable hour and, if I’m feeling good, take a shot a smaller hold-em tournament tomorrow at the Venetian that starts at noon.