VentureAce - Professional Poker Player

WPT Paris 2005

Having had 2 unsuccessful attempts at €500 MTT re-buy satellites, I eventually won my place in to the World Poker Tour Main Event by beating 9 competitors in a €1000+50 Sit ‘n’ go. This all occurred on the day the actual tournament started, fortunately this years event had two opening days, allowing me to register well within the closing time. Unfortunately, my poor discipline disabled me from leaving a very deep stacked 5-10 NL Hold’em game until 6 am the next day. The guilt on my conscience of waking my brother up between the hours of 6-8 am for the past week played on my mind (yeah right). I couldn’t sleep, the real reason was later that day I would play the biggest poker event of my life and I was excited beyond imagination. It was time to finally test myself, to mix it with the big guns and gage how far up the poker food chain I had come.

Players received T15, 000 starting chips; blinds started at 25-50 and were scheduled to increase every 90 minutes. A reasonable structure in comparison to €1000 PL Hold’em event, which had T1000 starting chips and a 45 minute clock. I selected seat 3 on table 22. Recognisable opponents at my table included Simon Trumper in seat 2, Andy Black (who I didn’t recognise until he was congratulated for his 4th place finish in the WSOP main event) in seat 5. In seat 6 was a French guy with a ripped cap, who impressed me greatly in an S’n’G with his aggressive short handed play. The remaining players were all new faces whom I’d never played with before.

1st Hand, folded around to Simon Trumper in the small blind, he raised to T150. I had 46 off suit and called the extra T100, in essence making the statement that my blind would not be freely stolen. It also gave the opportunity to loosen up and relax; the Heineken hadn’t quite kicked in to the system by this time. The flop produced A47 with 2 spades. Trumper bet T200, which I called. The turn brought another spade, Trumper checked and I checked as I believed a call or check raise was guaranteed. The river was the 8 of spades, Trumper checked and I bet T450 on my pair of 4’s. He called with the nut straight after I announced ‘4’s’ whilst turning round to gather my drink. “I don’t know why people try to bluff me.” said Trumper, who had a large shaving cut on the left side of his face. I laugh this off, as I did with the irrational play of the first hand of the day.

A few hands later, I limped with 89 spades, Andy Black had the button and raised to T200, clearly trying to isolate the novice fish (that’s me, or should I say my image???). I recently read an interesting article about the Irish man, who I’d never heard of prior to his WSOP final table appearance. The article claimed that he was previously a Buddhist monk, and his card stopper, a giant brass whisk-like ornament was supposedly something to do with Buddhism. Disregarding his peaceful state of mind I called the pre-flop raise. The action was checked to river which was an Ace. I checked and he bet T100, I called solely for information purposes and he showed A9 off suit.

Three hands after this, Simon Trumper raised under the gun to T250, I flat called with Ace King off suit, not wanting to build a large pot in the vulnerable early position. No other players entered the hand. The flop came AJT with 2 hearts, 1 being the Ace of hearts. Trumper speedily bet T500, I had inclination that this was a ‘please go away’ bet. I called. The turn was a small black card, Trumper checked and I checked (instinct, no thought process). The river was the 2 of hearts. Trumper fired out T1500, I glumly looked at my chips and wondered how I could have played the hand so poorly and passively, at the time I think I was afraid of being outplayed on the turn. I asked, “Did you flop the straight?” He turned towards me and produced a Cheshire cat smile, BAMMM! I got you! “Call”. He mucked instantly. I handed my cards face down to the dealer, a pack of hyenas snapped, “What did he have?” I gleefully explain that as he mucked his hand I didn’t have to show, not knowing whether this was correct but I was determined to convince them that I knew what I was talking about. The Tournament Director was called over. The makeshift TD was Andre, who had taught WSOP Bracelet winner Brian Wilson and myself the basics of Chinese poker the night before. Surely he would sympathise with the cause? No. I flipped over Ace King; the table area grew as all interested parties leaned back in to their chairs, content with the newly acquired snippet of info.

After about 30 seconds, Simon Trumper commented that having to show my hand would cost me around T10, 000 chips. I asked him how he was privy to this information and if I could borrow his crystal ball. His retort was something a long the lines of, “I’ve been playing for 15 years, I know. I’m the better player.” This got me riled up and the testosterone flowing, everything he said, I came back, a little louder each time. The bantering continued for another 5 minutes, Andy Black sarcastically joked, “The table of Love.”

One round later. Under the gun in seat 1, a gangly man sporting a T-shirt with the Union Jack flag raised to T150. I made it T450 with J9 of clubs attempting to isolate the weakest player on the table. He was incredibly nervous with watery eyes, I sensed weakness in his raise in the way he slapped his cards down on the table and fidgeted in his chair. This player was never hesitant in making his decisions; sloppily he chucked the extra T300 on top of the original raise. The flop produced Q83, with 2 clubs, giving me a flush and inside straight draw. He checked and I bet T400, he checked raised to T1200. He stopped fidgeting and focused intently on my chips. I have tendency to fall in love with these big draws, but I thought I’d try and convince him that his Q was no good. “I raise, 3000 more.” My telepathic messages suggesting that I indeed did have an over pair were received, he looked as if he was about to have an emotional breakdown and slapped his mucked cards down in disgust.

The Darth Sidious (Star Wars) look a like in seat 8 joined the party. Numerous limpers, blinds still 25-50, the flop came 933. Andy Black was on the button, I noticed his posture completely changed as if all of his upper body muscles had contracted; his facial expression became stiff and serious, before the action arrived to him I knew that his hand contained a 3. Darth Sidious made a pot sized bet and only Andy Black called, revealing his hand to the more astute players at the table. The non-believer Darth Sidious check called pot sized bets all the way until Black showed his trip 3‘s. Evidentially seat 8 had a major problem in laying down big pairs.

An incredible hand occurred a few deals later, blinds had increased to 50-100. The gangly man in seat 1 raised to T400, only called by the small blind, he was the large Australian guy in seat 7, I’d seen him playing high stakes cash games for amounts of €30K+ a few nights before. The flop was 67T rainbow. The Aussie led out for T600 and was raised to T3000, which he called. The turn was another 7, the action was checked around. The river was a 3, once more both players checked. Before the Aussie could turn over his hand, seat 1 flipped over pocket tens, for a full house and the second nuts. There were a few astonished glares and raised eyebrows, certainly I was baffled!

The next memorable hand. I picked up pocket tens in the small blind. There had been 3 limpers prior to my turn to act, which I raised to T500 and only Darth Sidious called. The flop came 852 with 2 diamonds, I continued the aggression by betting T1000 and was quickly called. This narrowed the range of hands he could have possibly held greatly. The turn was a black 4, and I wanted to keep him interested with a bet of T1200, he thought for a few seconds and called once more. I believed at this stage he most likely had a scared pocket pair, perhaps 6’s or 7’s or less likely a high flush draw. The river was a black 6. I checked, planning on calling any bet. He checked as well. First to show, I turned over my tens thinking that they were good, he lifts out of his chair, squints his eyes and then turns over pocket 3’s for a straight. While he raked the pot, I sat content counting the extra chips that I should have lost.

Over the next 2 hours I started bleeding chips, the majority whilst making positional raises with semi-junk only to find the very tight American in seat 4 or Andy Black coming over the top. Blinds by this time were 100-200 and I was losing T600-800 per blind steal. The bad puppy within couldn’t contain itself as I continued to make these stubborn raises knowing that it would be more than likely that someone would defend their blind. The dinner break began at 9 pm; my chip stack had dwindled from a decent T17, 000+ down to a playable T12, 125.

After devouring a filet of beef I returned to the table, predetermined that I would play more aggressively. Blinds remained at 100-200 and an ante of T25 was introduced. Play was cautious, generally with one player raising pre-flop and taking the blinds and antes uncontested. I feel queasy writing about the next hand because it was probably the worst sequence of choices I made throughout the 2 week trip (with the exception of mixing some unknown soup with tiger shrimps). The table folded around to me in the small blind, I limped with QT, wanting to see a flop against the tight American. At the time I felt I could outplay him, mainly because I associated his ultra-tight play to that of opponents I have played against on the internet, that tend to be very predictable and have limited set plays. Also, I thought I had picked up a bluffing tell earlier, the player’s increased heart rate was visibly noticeable through his T-shirt. In retrospect, I should have approached this situation subjectively and not have typecast my opponent. He checked and the flop was dealt. The flop produced 8T5, for some obscure reason I didn’t lead out, allowing my opponent a free card. He bet T400, now I know that he has a piece of the flop as he would have checked any draw. At this point I should have raised to find out where I was and define his hand more accurately. Of course I flat called (Sklansky’s eyes on the back cover of The Theory of Poker have slanted further downwards ever since). The turn was a 7, a scary card for my opponent, his fears diminished as I revealed I didn’t hit a straight by leading out T800. This was probably the single worst bet I’ve made this year, by leading out I opened Pandora’s Box, allowing my opponent to make any move he choose with any 2 cards. He min-raised, at the time I thought this was weak but didn’t capitalize upon it! I attempted to build the puzzle that had many pieces missing. (Note: If your opponent is weak, raise instead of call). The river paired the board and also brought a flush. At this point I honestly felt my hand was good but just in case it wasn’t, I threw out an insignificant T2400 bet, once more an awful bet which would only get called by a better hand. My opponent stews over whether to call, after approximately 30 seconds and multiple sighs he called. I showed my QT, he flipped over KT to take down the pot. I could have got a free check on the river and saved a large portion of my stack, but stupidity dictated by tunnel vision enforced the meagre bet. In reality, I did not have the capacity to put my opponent on a ten with a better kicker.

There had been a few casualties at the table, notably Simon Trumper and the big Australian, who I now know to be Jeff Lisandro. Ken Lennaard had taken seat 7 and replaced Lisandro, seat 3 was unoccupied. I was down to about T8000 and the signs weren’t good as Lennaard started to smoothly lead proceedings. His standard raise of 3 times the big blind and then a continuation bet on the flop was amassing chips at a rate of knots. He maintained a motionless position for quite a while and the only movement and possible indication of hand strength was through his eyes, which seemed to be continuously scanning from side to side.

Double up time. A few rounds later, I was down to about T7000 and in the big blind, Andy Black in second position raised to T600 and Ken Lennaard called, I called with 69 of hearts. The flop came 79T multi-coloured. Andy Black bet T1500 and Lennaard folded. At this point I had no read, but the thoughts that were zooming through my mind included images of the Card player WSOP updates, “Andy Black raises/bets.” I flat called due to his aggressive nature. His posture changed, similar to a deflating ball with a slow puncture, I now knew that I was ahead. The turn brought a friendly 3, Black motioned for me to move my arms which were acting as castle walls to my stack, “How much d’ya have left?” The draw-bridge lowered as I invited him to calculate his bet. “I put ya all-in.” T6000 crossed the line. My head bowed towards my chips as I re-evaluated the situation, were my initial instincts incorrect? Would he make this bet with an over pair or ten? Probably not I concluded. My tournament life was at risk with the ‘probable’ best hand, the overriding factor that cemented the call was that the blinds were due to increase to 200-400 with a T25 ante, the stress of short stacked poker was far from appealing. I slid my humble stack in to the middle, a priceless moment indeed as Black’s face turned ghostly white; I had reduced the Irish man with $1.75 million in the bank in to looking like Ben Stiller with his pants down in Something About Mary. Overly chuffed with what I had done, I didn’t consider and wasn’t concerned if I received a bad beat. A blank on the river and my pair of 9’s held up against Black’s AJ.

Robert Williamson joined the table in seat 9, he was short stacked at around T5000 and didn’t look to happy, the guy appeared to have serious health problems, an attribute which was noticeable in the majority of the older players. Apart from his carnival entrance he was quiet and played super tight. A major hand involving seat 4 and Ken Lennaard went down shortly afterwards. Lennaard flopped trips with Ace Queen against the opponents full house. The flop read AAT, the American in seat 4 held pocket tens. On the turn, the American pushed all-in after being re-raised by Lennaard. The Swede faced a tough decision; he agonized over the call which would account for two thirds of his stack. Somebody called ‘time’ and Lennaard reluctantly called fearing that he was beat. A showdown ensued and the American came out smiling, he had now around T40K in chips.

A few rounds later, I was dealt AT on the button. I made a raise to T600, 3 x the BB, auto-called from Mr. Black. The flop was J53, he checked and I bet T800, a weak bet insinuating strength, I was fully prepared to back it up if checked raised. However, Black plainly called. He then bet into me, T1000 on the turn which came a 4. A peculiar bet, one which I typically make with middle pair or air. I declined the offer to reveal my hand and flat called. Black then employed the Negreanu versus Deeb (A7 bluff versus Ace King, Poker at the Plaza) tiny bet, another T1000; something about his movements suggested he was bluffing. I flat called, which was a mistake as I was barely beating a bluff. Auto-mucked from Black and I gladly show my AT, using the calling station scare tactic.

One hand before a 15 minute break, I found Ace Queen in the small blind. Ken Lennaard raised for the umpteenth time to T600. I flat called and there were no others involved in the hand. The flop came 236 with 2 spades, I checked. Lennaard bet T1000, once more I flat called instead of raising, allowing him another opportunity to hit a card. Another 3 hit on the turn, I checked planning to raise if he bet. The river was the king of spades, a good card for me as Lennaard could not bet because of the flush. Check, check, I quickly tossed over my Ace Queen, confident that they were good. A disgruntled Lennaard stood up and shook his head, perhaps at my calling station antics or his poor play. Only he knows; I know I was just happy to be causing these world class players headaches.

The blinds increased to 200/400 with T25 ante. I had around T18,000, in not to shabby shape considering I was down to T6000 earlier. The atmosphere at the table seemed downbeat, perhaps as players just wanted to survive until day 2. This was my primary goal, if I accumulated a few more chips beforehand that would have been an added bonus. The next hand I was involved in occurred about 2 rounds after the break, Robert Williamson raised on the button to T1200, leaving himself around T5000. I found AJ and decided to put him all-in. The advantage of pushing all-in was that he would fold any steal attempt and perhaps a small pair or at best Ace Queen, I had a tight image so I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t call. I catch a glimpse of the Ace of Spades as he mucks his cards. It’s always nice to take the pot uncontested even if I did have a dominant hand. Apart from this the only over hand I can recall playing was re-raising pre-flop with pocket 3’s on the button. The guy who started in seat 9 eventually found landed in seat 2, he was also playing tight but had a big stack. I made it T4,000 over his initial raise of T1,200. Quickly folded and once more I picked up the pot uncontested.

About 20 minutes from the end of the day’s play. Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliottt joined the table, he replaced Robert Williamson who had been knocked out earlier by a bad beat. Devilfish gives Michael Jackson a run for his money when it comes to being ‘wacko’. His accent is a mixture, Hollywood/Hull, his heavily bagged eyes slanted towards his opponents. He came to the table with a decent stack T20,000+ but managed to bluff most of it away, straight away. I didn’t play a hand against him, mainly because I was in early position on his blinds and his chip stack was crippled, disabling him from running over the table. In truth, I wasn’t playing any hands, surviving day 1 was all I was concerned about.

Five minutes remaining in the day, my I pod was blaring out in a vein attempt to stay awake. The French player with ripped cap in seat 6, who had not done anything all day, made a raise to T1500. Folded around to me in the small blind, squeezing my cards together two cowboys emerged. Survival? Not quite. I raised to T4,500, with about 12-13K behind. He flat called, revealing his hand to be either jacks or queens. The flop came ten high with two clubs, a superb flop if my read was correct. Checked to me, I made a weak T4000 bet, instantly he re-raised to T10,000, leaving himself about 2K. My mind clicked its fingers, at that moment my focus became sharp, I re-evaluated my read, dismissed the possibility of pocket tens and pushed all-in. He snorted in anger whilst I chirped that perhaps he had aces (bad manners, but I thought it would have been automatically called), I didn’t consider that he could fold as he was so heavily committed getting 16-1 odds, also he would have minimal chances to survive for long if he did fold. He placed his few remaining chips in to the middle. I turned over pocket kings, a double tap on table from him as he turned over the jacks. I began to stand up when the turn was dealt, Jack. At that precise moment, it felt as if my heart had burst, I turned around in disgust knocking over the chair. I needed to get out of the room before Mr. Hyde came out, I can’t convey in writing how angry I was, all I wanted to do was punch something.

Looking back, I wonder what the hell I was doing. Online, runner one-outers don’t bother me, I guess that the emotion I showed was because of the staggering €1.6 million prize pool, and €450,000 plus for the winner. My actions were inexcusable; in fact I was sternly warned for taking my chips off the table. Lesson learned, I will have to be more composed and control my emotions next time around.

Analyzing the hand, I can’t do much about the bad beat, however there may have been a chance I could have altered my opponent’s perception. In this report I deliberately left out a crucial hand until this point. This happened soon after I had recovered from T6000 to about T16,000. The blinds were 100-200 and Andy Black was first to act, he made a raise of T600 and was called by Lennaard. I was in the small blind with Ace King and re-raised to T2400, Black immediately called and Lennaard folded. The flop came AJ5. I struggled to put Black on a specific hand as he was extremely aggressive pre-flop. He checked and I made a small bet of T2000, instantly Black raised to T7000. I nearly pushed straight away, but managed to pull myself back from the brink of playing without thoroughly thinking over the action. Black was stiff and serious, as he was with his trip 3’s, I sensed that he believed he was winning. Once more I pondered over the possible range of hands he could have held, which were beating Ace King. I ruled out 55, AA and A5, which left only JJ or AJ, however I decided it was unlikely for Black to call the pre-flop raise with AJ. I discounted a bluff due to the read I had made. So, pocket Jacks were the only alternative left. I some how convinced myself that Black held JJ. The clock was called, leaving me with 1 minute to make a vital decision. With about 5 seconds left until my hand would be declared dead, I mucked Ace King face up, believing I would receive some respect for making a huge lay down. Whether I gained any respect was difficult to ascertain in such a short period of play. Showing the cards may have had the inverse effect on the hand where my stack was crippled, with a re-raise pre-flop and weak bet on the flop my opponent either believed he was ahead or could get me to fold the better hand. Therefore the best solution in future is never to show your cards, especially to players of this calibre. Black surprisingly showed, Ace King also.

Overall, my performance in the tournament was disappointing. My flow was completely distorted as I started too loose and became too tight. My play was too passive, by not capitalizing on the weaker players at every opportunity I didn’t build enough of a stack to survive any mishaps. The biggest mistake was my preparation, which was abysmal; playing tired towards the end of the day was shocking considering the older guys were still able to concentrate. The positives, my reading ability maintained a high level of accuracy with the exception of the Ace King hand with Black. The experience was magnificent, purely from a poker point of view. It allowed me to see where I was and what I needed to do to reach where I want to be. Away from the table I met some awesome people, I look forward to meeting them again when I return for the WPT Paris event next year.

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