I'm a firm believer in the fact that poker is a psychological game. It's all a matter of how your ability to decipher the proper information from the poker table is affected by everything else that's going on around you. For me, most importantly, it's highly dependent on my level of confidence. All I really wanted out of my WSOP experience was a sense that I belonged, a sense that I could compete. I did not want to show up and immediately think I was in above my head.
For some reason, whenever I walk into the Rio during the WSOP, my confidence in my poker ability just dissolves. I look around at the thousands of players and think to myself, "Well, I'm the fish, these people are all better than I am." Obviously that can't be true; well, it could, but the odds are against it. Still, that is the main reason I played the 5/5 PLO cash game the day and night before Event #20. I wanted to gain some confidence, a feeling that I belonged.
After two separate sessions, both winners, I felt exactly that. PLO is perhaps the game into which I've put the most amount of study. A hundred and fifty thousand online hands, a book here and there, and participation in forum discussions about PLO hands were all things I have not done in a long time with respect to NLHE. And I saw people making what I thought to believe horrendous mistakes. That's all I needed, some form of evidence that I had a shot to do well and capitalize on others' inexperience. Sure there would be better players than myself with more experience as well, but I didn't think I'd be the huge fish at the table. That's all I wanted.
I began the day a bit early and had a filling breakfast, planning for the long haul. I registered without a wait and sat quietly with AlCantHang in the Amazon Room. The tourney was being held in the Pavillion, but I wasn't going to be the noob sitting alone, first at my table. The Amazon room was about as empty as possible and the quiet beforehand was good for my concentration. Finally it was time to get going and I bid my adieu to Al and found my seat.
My intentions were to pay as much attention as possible. The focus required to spot everything for several 2 hour intervals was going to be taxing. But that's what is required to do well. One guy at my table made some bad plays but got lucky, I took note in case I was ever in a hand against him. The $1500 buy-in got you T1500 and 3 red rebuy chips. Many folks took their rebuy's right away, as did I, to start off the tournament with T4500. Of course, I busted a shortie who did not take his rebuy and only won about T1000 in the hand.
There are several arguments about when/why you should take the rebuys. You're forced to take them at the end of level 4 regardless. But prior to that, should you? I chose to take them, based on the argument that you want to maximize your value early against the weaker players. In fact, on one hand I saw a set over set that resulted in only a T1500 double up for a guy who could have got T4500 out of his opponent. Other folks argue that you should never be all in for T4500 at a 25/25 or 25/50 level in the WSOP. That argument is valid, but with a weaker than normal field, some people were playing big pots with suspect holdings early on.
One of the defining hands for me came in the 50/75 level. I started with probably around T4800 and raised pot with AdQdJsJc. I got called behind by one player on the button and the blinds folded. The flop came K72, all diamonds. Having flopped the nuts in hold 'em, a check could be argued for. Not so in Omaha. Either a worse flush is coming along for the ride, or many times a set will too. I bet about 3/4 pot and got smooth called by the button. Don't pair the board, don't pair the board, BAM, 2 of hearts. I sighed (internally obviously) and checked. The button checked behind.
The river was the worst card in the deck for me. A Jack, giving me Jack's full. Now here's where I made my mistake. River action with my hand, in my opinion, should be either bet/raise/fold or bet/call. I don't think a check is in order with my hand. My Jack's full beats 7's full and other odd-ball full houses if my opponent called with a 2 in his hand. So if I bet, I'll get called in those spots. However, if I bet and get raised, I have to be beat and should fold. At least that's how it tends to go down online against competent opponents.
So I bet about 2/3rd's the pot and got raised. Ugh. The action screams Kings full based on the flop call and the turn check. And what did I do? I called. Kings full it was and I was now a short stack. I immediately hated my call and then banished those thoughts from my head. If I kept any negative thoughts flowing around my skull, it was going to lead me into an "aw fuck it" play and I still had chips. I saw people go from near out to well over starting stack in a couple of orbits at my table and there was no way I was going to simply torpedo my remaining chips in a stupid fashion. Granted, this WSOP event was a low buy-in to many folks, but to me, it was my first and only Event for the year. No reason to give up now.
...to be continued...