Monday, June 20, 2011

My First-Ever WSOP Event: $1,500 H.O.R.S.E.

On Friday, June 10, 2011, I played in my first-ever World Series of Pokertournament, an event at least 15 years in the making. I’ve always wanted to play in a WSOP event, and regretted not doing so in my previous visits. I decided this was the year and decided Event #17: $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. would be it. I’d have gone with a no-limit event, but I figured the limit format of the H.O.R.S.E. would ensure I’d get my money’s worth.

I wasn’t thrilled that the tournament started at Noon, considering I had worked until 3:30 AM that morning, but I was at the Rio and ready to go at the start of the tournament. Interestingly, I was in my seat (Table 53 Seat 5) in the Pavilion waiting for things to start, I got a phone call from the producer of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars TV show. I had submitted some old WSOP photos for consideration and they called me to schedule a time to film. Needless to say, I was super excited and it put me in a great mood for the tournament.

*I’ll be sure to write more on the Pawn Stars experience in a future post.

Now I’ve been working the WSOP for three years, having covered dozens of tournaments, but this was the first time I’d actually paid to be there. Instead of hovering around the tournament floor, bouncing from table to table, I paid $1,500 in cold hard cash. I was no longer a vulture scavenging for the remnants of action; I was a hawk eagerly looking for easy prey.

Things got off to a fast start. During the first round, which was hold’em, I picked up pocket queens and bet every step of the way as the board ran out 2-Q-6-2-7, giving me a full house. Surprisingly, I got paid off by two players. Not bad for the first hand I ever won at the WSOP. A few minutes later, Matt Savage took his seat to my immediate right. I’d never met Savage before, but I knew him as the Tournament Director for the World Poker Tour. Not long after, former WPT champ Tuan Lewas moved two to my left. Needless to say, the table was getting tougher.

I managed to chip up to 5,600, from a starting stack of 4,500, by the end of Level 2.Come Level 5, I was sitting with 6,150, which right around the time 1998 WSOP Main Event Champion Scotty Nguyen sat down at my table in Seat 8. I love me some Scotty, baby, and I knew it was going to be a fun day. Win or lose, at least I’d get to play with a World Champion.

Two things happened right before the dinner break. First, Savage was busted by Le. Second, I took a shot at busting Nguyen in a hand of Omaha Hi/Low. Unfortunately for me, the distinction of the man who knocked Nguyen out of the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. eluded me as he survived to triple up. Had I knocked him out, I had a nickname all picked out. I was going to insist people call me the “H.O.R.S.E. Whisperer,” at least for awhile.

After dinner, I returned to a stack of 9,800, which was above the average of 7,200. Nguyen busted a short time later, which was followed by our table being broke. I was moved to Table 41 where I encountered the second most-famous Chad at the table,Norman Chad. I was looking forward to some good conversation with ESPN’s color commentator, but he was unusually quiet. I chipped up a little at Table 41 before breaking again and being moved to Table 2. Obviously this table wasn’t going to break at all on Day 1, so I was happy to see the most notable players at the table were 2008 Main Event fourth-place finisher Ylon Schwartz and 2008 Ladies Event Champ Svetlana Gromenkova.

Around this time I did an interview for PokerNews which was really cool. Being a part of the PokerNews team is great because everyone is in you corner and pulling for you. Unfortunately, with only two levels to go in the night, the cards went cold. The big blinds and antes began eating away at my stack and before too long I was well below the chip average. With only 6,500 remaining, I made a stand in the Stud Hi/Lo round after making a 6-5-3-2-A low on sixth street. Schwartz bet the entire time and I had a bad feeling he had made a better low; however, with just 1,600 back, I called off on the river. Sure enough, Schwartz rolled over a wheel to scoop the pot. Good game me.

While I didn’t cash, I was happy with my performance. I busted around 200th place (out of 963), meaning I cracked the top 20% of the field. I truly look forward to my next WSOP event, and hopefully my first cash. In my next post, I’ll bring you up to date on my various fantasy poker leagues, and also fill you in on some of the more interesting things that have happened in Las Vegas and at the WSOP. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter @ChadAHolloway.

*Picture courtesy of PokerNews

**This entry appeared on the Unabomber Poker blog, for which I write, on June 21, 2011.