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Matts 2008 World Series Of Poker Experience

June 6th and 7th, 2008

I back-doored my way into the 2nd of two WSOP slots that our home poker game (the world famous Poway Poker Tour) awarded this year. I did this by winning the Last Chance Tournament and then the "Tournament of Champions" on successive nights.

June 19th

After much procrastinating, I find myself driving all around San Diego County Thursday night getting signatures on our Partnership Agreement (to distribute our poker winnings amongst the PPT members if Rick Wilson or I cash in our events). Of note, Wayne Moeck signs the agreement while he is soaking in his community hot tub and Steffan Bennett meets me at a gas station so I don't have to drive all the way downtown.

June 20th

Mary takes Mandy to a doctor's appt in the morning, so I ride to Vegas with JFo, Nathan, Kaitlyn, Carly, Travis and his friend Bobby. Mary and Mandy drive up later that day and Dave flew in that night.

We check into our hotel (MGM Signature) at 3 p.m. and then I head straight to the Rio to register for the tournament, expecting a long line like Rick and Wayne endured last year. But the wait is minimal and, by 4:30, I'm registered in the 2008 WSOP Event #39 ($1500 Buy-in No-Limit Hold'em). I'll be starting in the Brasilia room, Table 28, Seat 7.

There are a couple of WSOP events going on so I wander around a little and see Freddy Deeb (wow, is he short), Erick Lindgren, Chris Ferguson, Mike Matusow and several other players that I recognize.

June 21st

After a good night's sleep, I get up at 8:00 and decide to combine a hunt for casino chips with some exercise to reduce my stress level. I jog to 4 casinos on The Strip (in which I've played poker before) and buy $1 chips to put in my souvenir chip rack.

I arrive at the Rio a little after 11:00, grab a croissant and coffee at Starbucks, and sit down to play at 12:00. I've got a bag full of bottled water, energy drinks and snack bars. There are 2720 players, playing in at least two very large rooms. I'm actually very relaxed, as if it's just another poker tournament.

We start with $3000 in poker chips and each Level lasts 1 hour, with a 20 minute break after every two Levels and a 90-minute dinner break after the 6th Level. On the very first hand I get AK, raise from middle position, and win the pot before the Flop-a nice start.

Greg Raymer and Kathy Liebert are at the very next table. Raymer arrives about 15 minutes late, and busts out after only about 10 hands. He's visibly upset as he leaves the table. Kathy gets a massage at the table while she's playing; Joe Hachem and some other pros also get massages while they're playing'must be nice. A British guy that looks familiar (a pro?) and seems to be a good friend of Kathy Liebert's, sits down at my table to replace a guy that busts out early.

My table mates are playing conservative, solid poker, and there are very few naked bluffs shown. I'm happy to play my normal tight, aggressive game and build my stack slowly. I get AK another 2 times before the first break and win each time. For the first two Levels, except for the 3 times I had AK, I don't get many playable hands. During one hand I call a Late Position Raise from the Big Blind with A9 offsuit. I end up losing a medium-sized pot when my opponent backs into a Straight on the River and I happened to bluff at the pot. 4 or 5 guys at my table bust out before the first break. At the break (2 hours into the tournament), I have $4325 in chips, just about where I had hoped to be.

In the hallway on the way to the restroom (you ever see 2720 dudes head to the rest room at one time?) I see Mike Caro and get his autograph. He's just as crazy-looking in person as on TV, but seems nice enough.

After we get back from our 20 minute break, they announce that they'll be paying to 270th place, the top 10%.

During Level 3 we have a bit of an altercation at my table. The guy immediately to my left (a very loose/passive "calling station") is heads up with another guy and backs into the "nut" Straight on the River. His opponent checks and he checks behind and turns over the unbeatable hand. I think he didn't realize he had the Straight, was embarrassed about that, and tried to cover it up by saying that he didn't bet because he didn't think his opponent would call. A player not involved in the hand starting loudly claiming that the 2 players in the hand must be involved in collusion because why else would someone check behind with the Nuts on the River. They call the Floor Person over and he confirms that it is against the new rules to check behind with the Nuts on the River, he then gave the guy to my left a warning. I don’t think anyone else at my table (besides the loud guy) suspected collusion…how could you manage to get at the same table as your buddy when the seats at the 272 tables were randomly selected?

For the next two hours I'm card dead, and at the end of Level 4 (four hours into the tournament and our second break) I have $3600 in chips, barely more than I started with.

During Level 5, my stack is so low (M<5) that I'm in the Push All-in or Fold mode. I do win a couple of small pots with AK (I'll end up getting AK 5 times during the nearly 7 hours that I lasted, and won with it every time). Midway through Level 6 they move all of the players at my table together to another table in the main room that you see on TV (Amazon room). I’m watching the tournament clock with one eye wondering if I'll make it to the Dinner Break.

At the Dinner Break I'm back up to $5500 in chips. At this point, the average chip stack among the 591 remaining players is $13,800, so I'll need to get very lucky to make it to the money (270th place).

I meet everyone at the Rio's famous buffet, but I can hardly eat and just sip on a coke. I have to head back while everyone is still eating. They plan to come watch me play when they're done.

Soon after beginning Level 7 they break our table and I'm moved to a table where I'm by far the shortest stack (M = 2.5) and have to get very aggressive. On one of the very first hands, it's folded to me on the Button, I look down at 74 offsuit, and push All-in I'm praying that the Blinds don't call as I would hate to tell everyone that I went out with 74 offsuit. Luckily, they both fold. 10 hands later I'm on the Button again, but this time with a real hand, 88. The Under-The-Gun player calls and everyone else folds to me. I push All-in, the Blinds both fold and the UTG player calls, turning over AQ offsuit. I'm not happy to be called, but at least I got my money in with the better hand (I was a 56% favorite according to my poker odds calculator). Unfortunately, the Flop contains two Queens (as if one wasn't enough) and I am done playing at 9:00 p.m., 40 minutes after the Dinner Break ended.

I finished in exactly 500th place (top 18 %!), 230 places away from the money.

After calling Mary ("no need to come watch me play"), Dave, Rick and Wayne (my cheering section), I buy some WSOP souvenirs and hang out for awhile watching another tournament with some famous players.

3 hours after busting out of the WSOP, I join Mary, Dave and JFo at O'Sheas Casino for (what else) a midnight poker tournament.

The eventual winner of WSOP Event #39 was a 30-year-old pro named David Woo, originally from South Korea, who won $631,550. Woo owned a small coffee shop before becoming a poker pro in 2003. This was the 4th time he had cashed at a WSOP event. Last year he finished 5th in this same event but was so disappointed he hadn’t won that he blew his $160K winnings in 30 minutes at a Black Jack table!

Well-known pros that busted out before me: Carlos Mortensen, Greg Raymer, Men Nguyen, Chris Ferguson, Daniel Negreanu, Ted Lawson, Jeffrey Lisandro, Mike Sexton, Michael Mizrachi, Phil Helmuth, David Pham, Erik Seidel, Kathy Liebert, Antonio Esfandiari, John Juanda, David Williams, and Mike Caro.

Well-known pros that finished ahead of me: Minh Nguyen (24th place), Barry Greenstein (108th), Kenna James (143rd), Humberto Brenes (184th), Erick Lindgren, Scotty Nguyen, and Joe Hachem.

All things considered, this was an awesome experience for me that I will not soon forget. Many thanks to my friends in the Poway Poker Tour for giving me the chance to play in the World Series of Poker.

Matt Shihadeh, 26 June 2008

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