WSOP 2021: Back to the Rio

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not a professional poker player. The last bracelet event I played at the World Series of Poker was in 2013. I’ve only ever played two (well, now three) bracelet events, and they were back when the WSOP first introduced $1,000 events. This year, I sunk even lower and entered a $600 bracelet event.

It’s been a long haul, folks, Years ago, I’d heard about folks grinding satellites, and even though I felt I was decent at playing them, I’d never had the discipline to sit down and just do it. So many tournaments in the summer (or anytime I was likely to be going to Vegas), so many variations. Never mind that I’d done reasonably well in the Ignition Casino Thousandaire Makers (only to blow the money I made on MTTs). Never mind that I had Dara O’Kearney’s Poker Satellite Strategy on my Kindle mostly unread.

did put my plan into action when I came down in 2018, but bricked out. In 2019, when I ‘retired’ from poker, I had to cancel the trip at the last minute because of work, and you know what happened to 2020. So I really wanted to take advantage of this revival year—and experience a WSOP that didn’t melt me when I walked outdoors.

I made my plans as soon as the schedule was announced, centering the trip around three bracelet events: #24 $600 PLO 8-Max#27 $1500 HORSE, and #28 $1000 PLO 8-Max. Plus the usual $180 mega satellites and the daily $580 mega satellite. I figured either this WSOP would be one of the easiest (with so many players choosing not to or unable to travel to the US) or really hard (with the people who were dedicated to making it to the WSOP being concentrated with pros).

Up at 4am to catch the first flight to Vegas today. Disregard the enticing $250 offers from the airline to give up my seat for a later flight—we’re on a schedule, man!

Plane lands around 8:30. Now, spite months of mental preparation for this trip, I made  a very essential error: fucking Columbus Day (I’m using that instead of Indigenous Peoples’ Day because this is a comment about how the day screwed me over). I wasn’t planning to travel with a huge wad of money, just enough to get me through the first day or so, but Friday was a bitch and Saturday I had stuff to do around the house, I old just pick up my cash from the bank on Monday, right? Did I remember that banks were going o be closed on Monday? No. And even the cheap-ass PLO game was more than an ATM puts out.

So, when I get to Las Vegas, I need to get to a branch of my bank, of which there are a number in town, one just a couple miles from the airport. It even opens at 9. I get there a quarter hour before it opens and it’s a cubbyhole inside the student union at UNLV. I just hope it has money.

Branch opens up, the very nice branch assistant tells me my specific ask is no problem, until they get to the part where they give me the money and they tell me that there’s some weird thing about the way the business account I have had for my sole proprietorship for more than a quarter of a century is set up in their system and I’m somehow not the “owner” of the account. Fie on you, Christopher Columbus! Anyway, it’s resolved by me transferring the amount I need to my linked personal account and taking it out of there. I was reminded that when I had some a paycheck—from Caesar’s Entertainment, one of the largest employers here—to my account a few years ago, one of the branches in a grocery store couldn’t take my deposit without the branch manager being there, which they were not. It was not, dear reader, a large sum of money.

So that’s all before 10am.

The Rio at 9:30 this morning was quiet. Hardly any line for the registration cage. Mid-week mornings are good. I was bought in an hour before the event and kicked around. It was surprising to see what’s operating next what’s not. There were a fe people sitting at the tables inside Starbucks, but the lights were off and I didn’t see anyone behind the counter. That’s fine, I don’t drink coffee except socially.

So, how’d my first bracelet event in eight years go? Not so great. I was in a steady drift down for most of my time in the tournament, with a couple of players—one at the far end of the table and one just to my left—picking off chips. I looked at their stacks a couple of times before anyone had been knocked off the table and was a bit puzzled at where they’d all come from, I’d lost a lot but not that many, and it seemed like other people had more than me, too. I shrank down to less than a fifth of the 30k starting stack over the first four levels, then suddenly caught some fire in Level 5.

Our little corner of the Brasilia room didn’t see any water service for a couple hours. I was damned if I was paying for some other drink. I wanted my 10oz/$1 water. Maybe the lack of hydration was messing with my game.

My stack got up to almost where it had started three-and-a-half hours before before I potted with a rainbow AA44, got called by two players, then shoved on a KQx flop where I ought to have known I was beat. Both players shoved, one with an open-ended draw and the other with a set of kings and the wrap made a king-high straight.

So naturally, instead of looking for something t eat or drink (all I’d had since the night before was airplane biscotti, which was pretty good), I went back to the reg cage to get into the $580 mega. Now the lines were a bit longer, it took about 40 minutes to get my ticket, even though the line—full of anxious PLO re-entries—didn’t reach the main hall. It’s almost enough to make me go sign up with Fastrac, which I was discussing with a couple of the folks in line behind me, only to have someone who’d just signed up have some serious frustrations with the machine outside registration.

So I got to the mega almost 90 minutes in, with 10k of chips and 400/800/800 blinds. Just the way I like to burn $580. This went a to better, even though there were a couple of large stacks. I was one of the later entries but there were only 24 by the end of registration, which was going to yield two payouts of $5k in lammer chips and one of $2k.

I was playing tight (12bb!) then less than half an hour in I had to call with AK and the guy who’d been opening a bit too much a little sheepishly turned over Q2 after raising 10x. The the big stack on my right raised a hand and I caught trip 9s on a flop with T9 which knocked him out. So I had a quarter of the chips as we went into a break and consolidated to a table of 9.

But then work interrupted. Something back home att the job was messed up. It was probably my fault, and I’m getting calls from the client who I don’t usually talk to, what with me being a worker grunt and not the face of the enterprise. I faltered and raised QJ, then called an all-in from a player at the other end of the table, who had enough to halve my stack, which was more than everyone else, but not especially deep.

The highlight of the evening was probably when I called with KxQx against an all-in from a two-time bracelet winner (someone I should have recognized, but it’s been a few years since it was my job to know these guys) and cracked his Ax hand. That wasn’t long before he shoved a small stack with tens TT, got called by T9 and the board ran out 48444 for a chopped pot, which must just have been crushing, even to a pro.

We got down to 4 players, on the bubble and K, the player on my left and I were tied at about 37k, less than 10bb. I was getting the best of it, because the other old man at the table, P, gave me a couple walks and K wasn’t getting that, so he got a little shorter than me. T, the player with the most chips, proposed a chop, with him taking the full $5K, and P and myself passing a lammer chip each to K. Who am I to turn down a deal that pus me in the red for the day (not counting other expenses.

Everyone agreed to the deal, we went through the process to get out lammers, and that’s how I got my first-ever payout at the WSOP, though it’s not technically money. All for of us waved to the payout room together, T got his chips first, went up to the window, but even though I had to wait in line for a little to get my paperwork and payout, was still at the window. Both and I hung around to make sure got his other chip (I’d flipped him one right after I got them), and paid off his part in casino chips for some reason. Everyone satisfied (except for the part where I blew $3500 in equity) we headed our separate ways. I got checked in, got some fluids, and had a nice pork-fried rice.