Well, i suppose i'll start from the start. I first played no limit hold em, online for play money on Party Poker in March '07 after a pal had introduced me to the game in Sydneys Star City casino the previous January. My parents had become unwell and i had returned home from Dublin to help with the homestead and take on the role of a full time carer.
Poker came at the perfect time for me; In my late twenties, stuck in a position where i was unable to commit to a 9-5 job and limited to our Sligo home, throwing myself into online poker satisfied the hunger for a challenge, for some form of career purpose to my life whilst also being able to set my own hours and do my bit around the home.
Learning the basics with play money i soon graduated to grinding the $3rebuys to their big sunday game. With help from Harringtons books, i was able to grind out a profit and enough confidence to hit the local casino, The Adelaide in Sligo town, which was at the time the only business situated on Ted Nealon Rd, so named after my father!!
The Adelaide was a great place to learn live play, having a great mix of the older characters who had moved over from the draw/dealers choice pub games and younger savvy online players, both the table banter and the action was great.
Around this time i joined the now defunct stoxpoker and learned the power of optimum sng strategy; push/calling ranges, icm and other such theories which both solved and also in my opionion destroyed the sng game. This revelation greatly increased profits online and caused great bemusment locally when id shove my 10bb sb for the umpteenth time, eventually getting called and putting my tournament life on the line with whatever garbage happened to be in my hand at time.
Viva Las Vegas
In the summer of '08, i took a trip to the States, the climax of which was driving down the west coast from San Fran to hit Vegas and playing a $1,500 wsop event. I remember approaching Andy Black at the dinner break, asking him for some advice for a fellow Irish man in the same tournament, i had only 8k at this stage and he had over 30k. He gave me some good advice and told me to play my cards and position and wished me luck.
After dinner i cracked an Aussie guys AAs with my 88s and pushed on from there to survive the bubble at the days end. Myself and the Aussie were on the same table the whole day and after i gave him a lift back to his hotel in my rental car, Theos was his name,a former chess player and alround decent guy, well he did take the beat fairly well anyways!
The next time i saw Andy was on day2, long after the bubble had burst, i came to his table with a monster stax and position on him, he laughed and said "remember everything i told you yesterday....well forget it, i was only messing with ya!"
I ended up going out in 65th losing a race for the chiplead. After experienceing this buzz of the wsop; the adrenalin rush of playing live for such life changing sums of money i decided to devote even more time to studying the game and fixing my leaks. I cut down on the formulaic sngs and focussed on the quest for the big score in mtts.
I joined PokerXfactor (where i learned the true power of the 3bet) and Cardrunners, lurked on the poker forums and kept expanding my poker book library. In early '09 i shipped the stars 5rebuy twice in a month for 10k scores, played my first Ept in Deauville, disastorusly blew a big stax pre bubble in the Lapt grand final in Argentina and binked two wsop main events packages in 4 days the week b4 the big one was due to start in July. And so, a year later i found myself back in Vegas with a ticket for the big one, the main event.
The Return to Vegas
Once again, in the full tilt poker lounge i bumped into Andy Black, i asked him which day1 would be best to play and in his Gandalf like manner, he told me to play whenever i felt ready, the morning i woke up and felt on form.
Aside from meeting Andy, another good omen was bumping into Theos again, having done the usual and swapped emails but never used them, it was genuinly great to bump into him, he was busy grinding the sng rooms in the rio but when the main event started he literally railed me right throughout my run, acting as he described it as a 2nd in chess. He was brilliant on the mental side of staying focussed and in the game, it was like having a top sports psychologist in my corner.
I also had a pal at home who was doing C.I.A like research on my table draws, waking in the morning i'd pop open my lappy to get detailed analyisis of each seat, he'd have photos pasted in, records of any cashes and if he couldnt find this even get their facebook page up. Along with the legendary Shauny Craig these were great guys to have in your corner.
Taking Andys advice i waited as long as possible to get over the jetlag and played the last of the day1s, a day where many of the higher rolled pros eventually decide to sit down. I had the high stakes sng pro the Keith the Camel Hawkins directly to my right, Derek8 Lerner, a Stars mtt grinder to his right and most worringly of all an empty seat to my left for a full hour.
Any man that strolls into a 10k buyin an hour late is a man i felt i didnt want having direct position on me. David Oppenheim,a Full Tilt pro and a highly respected stakes cash game player sits himself down, gets a two hour long massage and devours the table of mttrs, being so ridiculously deep stacked we were firmly on his turf and drowning.
In one particular pot, i limped in from the button after 3 to 4 limpers with 88s, he completes the small, and flop comes all low cards to my 88s. Its checked round to me and i fired a cbet, he instantly repops me. It gets folded round and not feeling good about things at all, i look at him and say “i tell you if you tell me”. He stares right back into me with these big blue scarily intense pupils and says in his Californian drawl “You dont have to tell me....you had pocket 88s”. Ok.... Shit.
Man up Kid
Eventually i knew i'd have to man up to David, if i was to get anywhere in this tournament. So after inflating a pot pre with 89s, i shoved the whole frickin pile in on a board of j9x rainbow and watched in shock horror, sweat dripping, “what the fuck am i after doing” adrenalin. My 10k buyin out in the middle of the table waiting to be gobbled up by the superhero soulreader with the Full Tilt badge....He folded, thanks be to God, he folded, i was up to 50k, the fear was gone, the rush was great, now i was playing poker.
I finished day1 on 90k, doubled up first level of day2 with a hand thats affectionatly known round my parts as the donegal nuts, the 47s. Mid way through the day i was up over 200k and in one disastor of a hand dropped to 40k, within 20 minutes i was back up to over 300k!!! Despite playing real seat of the pants poker, i somehow managed to bag a mountain of chips and finish the day in the top 10.
Day 3, saw a gradual steady increase to my stack with Blair Hinkle and myself having a great battle for role of table captain. The bubble burst early on day4 and i found myself on a great table to exploit this, with the knowledge from my investigative spreadsheets, i knew over half the table didnt have any significant cashes to their name. One particular guy had even posted “omg im sooo close to cashing the main event” as his facebook status, this same guy folded qqs in an unopened pot in late positon pre!
I doubled my stack during this time to get up over 700k, which wouldve been right up there near the chipleaders and well above average at the time. Then this happened....Soon after the bubble burst, i looked down at AKs on the button, the c/o raised, i repopped, he flatted. Flop came aa9 two tone, he checks, i bet, he reraises and next thing i know my 700k is in the middle covering his 550k. He turns over 99s and holds.
I somehow managed to grind my measly 150k stack back up to 330k by days end but went out early day5, gifting half my stack to eventual final tablist Antoin Saout and donking off the rest with a needless 3bet reshove. I Finished in 380th for 27k.
The dream was over and i was absolutley drained, shattered right through and about 1/100th of the man that sat down on day1. Still when the dust settled and i regained some form of clear thought, it sunk in that I had cashed in the W.S.O.P main event and had a hell of a time doing it.
I gained massive confidence in my game from my run in the big one and had a great year of it pokerwise some highlights being a 3rd in the ecoop for 45k, a 2nd in the ipoker montly million for 110k and the holy grail of all Irish poker players, the crystal vase from Celtic Poker Tour Longford!
Its kinda daft that its taken me nearly a full year to write this down, so starting this blog before i head back again to the promised land makes alot of sense. Ill try to update it after every event i play. Im going out with enough to play 5/6 1.5k side events, starting with event#42 on the 23rd.
Am flying out Monday and having followed the reports online for past few weeks am itching to get back out and have another shot at the big one, hopefully going 379 better this time.
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