As the entire ESPN Inside Deal crew flew into Las Vegas for the 2010 WSOP main event, Andrew Feldman asked me to write a running diary of my tournament. Playing in my sixth WSOP main event, I finished in 410th out of 7,319 entrants for another deep main event run. Enjoy!
Prior to the main event:
Leading up to the 2010 WSOP main event, I am feeling great about my game. After my 21st-place finish in Event 42, $1,500 no-limit hold 'em, I am full of confidence heading into the main event. Also, my recent work with Sam Chauhan has my mentality in a great place. Finally, having spent the past week at home with my family, I am truly ready to play.
Here are my strategic notes that I need to remember each and every hand during Day 1:
• Play tight
• No need to bluff
• Play small ball
• Value bet your good hands
• Take your time with your decisions
• Fold marginal hands
• Make it through the day!
These notes may seem obvious, but they will definitely help keep me grounded and focused. Since my 13th-place finish in the 2005 WSOP main event, I have made it to Day 2 every year except 2006. However, I have not made it any further. This year, let's hope we change this.
After Day 1D:
Of course, based on my pre-game strategy notes, I knew I wasn't going to take many chances on Day 1. With 30,000 in starting chips and two-hour levels, I firmly believe that playing a low-variance game is the best strategy and I stuck to it throughout the day.
Overall, it was a good Day 1. Although I started off slowly, I played two major hands throughout the day that allowed me to build my chip stack:
(1) Level 2 (blinds 100/200): After the player directly to my right raised to 400, I reraised to 1,525 with As-Kd in mid-position. Surprisingly, the player to my immediate left called, as did the original raiser. The flop was a pretty good one: Kh-Kc-Qc. After the original raiser checked, I decided to check as well and the other caller bet 4,500. After the original raiser folded, I made the call. After the dealer turned the 3d, I check-called my opponent's 8,500 bet. When the 8d fell on the river, I thought about value betting here. However, I chose to check because either my opponent could try to triple barrel bluff or he'd only call me if he had me beat. Once he checked, I showed my hand and took down a huge pot (he later told me he was bluffing).
(2) Level 5 (blinds 200/400 with a 50 ante): After the hijack seat raised to 1,125, I looked down at a precarious Kc-Qc from the cutoff. Being in position and having ample chips, I decided to call. With a Qh-4d-2d flop, my opponent fired 1,150 and I called. After the dealer flipped over the 4h, he fired 3,200 and I called once again. The 6h hit the river and I was slightly concerned about the flush, especially when he fired again for 6,050, but I called and when he showed 8-8, I dragged in another nice-sized pot.
Overall, I'm very pleased to have ended with $52,475, above average for the day. As I rest up to prepare for Day 2B, my plan is to again follow my strategy list that I had for Day 1D.
Never putting my chips in jeopardy by playing a big hand, I slowly chipped up throughout the day. I played pretty tight, utilized my image appropriately and was very fortunate that a couple players tried to reraise me when I had the goods.
Based on my research online, I had a good table draw including players who were fairly inexperienced and I was one of the table's big stacks. Unfortunately, I did not get off to a great start, losing three of my first four hands. During the second hour of play, I won five solid hands in a row, including about 18,000 when my A-K took down a three-way pot with a K-8-6-Q-10 board. But just as I got comfortable building my stack to about 90,000, the table broke.
At my new table, I quickly researched my fellow competitors, which included 2008 November Niner Scott Montgomery. With most of them having numerous career cashes, I was not as fortunate as compared to my day's original lineup and I decided to play very solid poker and not get into any difficult situations unnecessarily.
For the rest of the day, I was only involved in two major hands, which both had heavy preflop betting and a subsequent laydown:
(1) Level 7 (blinds 300/600, with a 75 ante): After everyone folded to me in the cutoff, I looked down at A-K and raised to 1,625. After the button and small blind folded, the big blind reraised to 4,800. I decided to put him to the test by four-betting to 12,625. After a moment, he mucked A-Q face-up.
(2) Level 8 (blinds 400/800, with a 100 ante): On the very first hand after dinner break, I was sitting in the big blind. After everyone folded to the button, he min-raised to 1,600. Happily, I looked down at A-A and reraised to 6,100. The button four-bet me to 14,100 and after a moment, I chose to five-bet him to 36,100. After a few looks, he folded his cards, bringing my total up to 118,500 in chips.
I only played 32 hands during the eight hours of play, winning 23 of them. Finishing the night with an above-average stack of 117,200, I am very pleased with today. When we return for Day 3, 2,557 players or about 35 percent of the field will return. I am now off to bed as we are taping ESPN Inside Deal tomorrow -- well, I guess now this morning -- with Joe Hachem.
After looking up my table, I was a little surprised to be only fourth in chips. On the flipside, I was again very pleased with my draw. Five of the eight players had never had a single career cash, while only one of the other three had numerous cashes.
Feeling very confident, I was ready to play and what a start I had! On the third hand (blinds 500/1,000 and a 100 ante), I was dealt Ah-6h on the button. The action folded to me and I raised to 2,700. Only the big blind called and the dealer flipped over a dream flop: Kh-Qh-2h. The big blind checked and I lead out for 3,400 which the big blind called. After the As fell on the turn, we both checked and when the dealer revealed the 10c on the river, my opponent fortunately led out for 18,500. After asking for a count of his remaining chips (45,000), I announced I was all-in. My opponent almost jumped out of his chair in excitement and I figured him for a jack. He called, showed J-10 and I had quickly built my stack to almost 200,000 in chips to become my table's chip leader.
After about an hour, our table unfortunately broke. Arriving at my new table, I was clearly the chip leader. Over the next four hours, I methodically chipped up during the next four hours. Winning seven of the 10 hands I played, I built my stack to around 260,000 in chips and my table broke yet again.
This time when I sat down, I immediately noticed that there were a ton of chips and my stack was about in the middle of the pack. About 20 minutes later (blinds 1,000/2,000 with a 300 ante), I played the most pivotal hand of my 2010 main event. A huge stack (who ended the day in the top five in chips) in mid-position raised to 5,500. Sitting directly to his left, I looked down at Ac-Kd. Not wanting to risk my entire tournament on A-K without seeing a flop, I chose to call, as did two other players. The dealer revealed Ks-9s-5s and the huge stack bet 12,000. After I called, the other two players quickly folded. Once the dealer turned the 3c, he bet a healthy 27,000 and after some debate, I decided to call once again. The As on the river influenced a check from my opponent and with top two pair but no spade, I decided to just check and hope he did not have a spade. Unfortunately, he flipped over 10s-6s (that's right, this is not a typo).
In retrospect, I'm not sure if he would have folded on the river with his huge stack. However, I do know that had I attempted to make a move at any other point, I would have been sent packing. Even if I reraised preflop, he still may have called. Therefore, although I did lose the hand, I could definitely have lost a lot more chips, especially if the river was either the Ah or Ad.
Afterward, I was a little shell-shocked and ended up not playing another hand for the last 90 minutes, finishing the night with 186,000 in chips. Although below my highpoint, I was still above the average stack and pleased with surviving the day.
Well, my luck with great table draws quickly came a screeching halt today! My starting table was one of the worst draws of my entire career. Not only did I have the Day 3 chip leader, James Carroll, at my table, but also 2010 WSOP bracelet winner Matt Matros, poker pro Karga Holt and another player directly to my left with almost 500,000. To top it all off, they were being pretty aggressive and would not fold to three bets easily. If I was going to play back at them, I would need a hand.
During the first 90 minutes, I fortunately got some, winning five of six hands, enabling me to slightly increase my stack to 196,400 in chips. As we headed into Level 15 (blinds 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante), however, it was the worst time to go card dead. During the next 90 minutes, I played only two hands (A-J and 5-5), depleting my stack down to a meager 123,000.
At this stage, we were fortunately on the money bubble and with four people left to be eliminated, I had plenty of chips. After the tournament officials sent us to dinner, we returned to play only five hands and the bubble quickly burst. Not too long after, my table broke again and I was sent to another table with only about 105,000 in chips and unfortunately, I did not get another hand to play and ended Day 4 with only 47,000 in chips. It was an extremely tough day, but I was content to accomplish my ultimate goal: make it through the day!
Heading into Day 5, I had only about eight big blinds, but in Event 42, I entered Day 3 with only 48,000 in chips (which was only three big blinds), while also starting in the big blind. After the first four hands that day, I had built my stack to around $350,000 and had an average stack. I still believed and would never say die, especially during the WSOP main event.
Within the first 10 minutes, I pushed all my chips in with 6h-6d and was called by Ah-Qs. I fortunately flopped my first flopped set of the entire 2010 WSOP main event (8-6-2) and with my stack back over 100,000, I got a little breathing room. About 15 minutes later, our table was the first to break.
For the next 30 minutes, I didn't play a single hand until I looked down at Q-Q in middle position. I moved all-in and was called by a player with Q-J. Of course, the flop gave him a gutshot (A-9-8), but he blanked the turn (4) and river (7) and I was back to around 135,000 in chips.
About 90 minutes later, with only 64,000 remaining, I looked down at Ad-4d and decided it was time to push. Unfortunately, three (that's right three) players pushed all-in as well, revealing Jh-Jc, 10d-10c, and As-Kh. After the ESPN cameras came racing over, the dealer flopped Ah-Ac-Jd. The dealer turned the 7s and I still had the three 4's (win) and three 7's (chop) left to survive. Unfortunately, the 8d fell on the river and my 2010 WSOP main event run was over.
I am extremely pleased with my deep run this year, cashing for $31,647. For the first two and half days, I felt unstoppable as it was reminiscent of my 2005 run. However, it was just not meant to be. Nevertheless, I want to thank everyone for all your well wishes and kind words throughout the tournament. It truly meant a lot. Finally, brimming with confidence, I am looking forward to the rest of my 2010 playing schedule and hopefully will have a few more deep runs!
Editor's note: Don't forget to watch the 2010 World Series of Poker main event every Tuesday night on ESPN. Day 1A begins on Tuesday, August 10 at 8 p.m. ET.
Bernard Lee is the official spokesperson of Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Lee is the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal, weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and radio host of "The Bernard Lee Poker Show."