Note from Andrew–I first met Ryan through my buddy Jaymes, who had given Ryan a one-hour coaching lesson. It turned out that Ryan was very well versed at the poker table and was just looking for advice on a couple topics. Ryan and I played a drunken $1/$2NL session the night we met at Excalibur (of all places) in which I coolered and stacked him. I was happy that Ryan decided to not use his muscular physique to exact revenge, but instead was his normal happy-go-lucky self. His demeanor hides a fearlessness at the table that is best summed up by this text message he once sent me: “Dude, even I wouldn’t wanna play at my table. I get these sick thoughts in my mind that we hardly ever act on, but I pull the fuckin trigger every time.”
Have you ever been consumed by your nerves in what you perceive as a pressure-filled situation? In our profession this is an emotion that needs to be subdued to the best of our ability. Although every nerve in our body may tingle with jitters of fear, havoc, or uncontrollable excitement, we need to find a state of inner peace that allows us to accomplish the strategic task at hand. Eventually, playing poker hands at stakes we are comfortable with becomes second nature. The fear subsides, havoc rests at bay, and the excitement is overcome by a higher conscious. For me, these emotions are coming back into play with my introduction into live tournaments.
After an early career in online sit n go’s, I transitioned to 6-max cash and then full ring live cash. Tournaments always had an illustrious appeal, but they seemed to have too much variance and disappointment for my liking. However, my buddy, Dale Beaudoin, had some recent tournament success and showed me the profitability that can be found in many of them. We took a short trip out to L.A. to play the WSOPC at the Bicycle Casino. After a small, cashless run in the $365 NL turbo, I could imagine running up stacks and rolling over my less experienced and less skilled competition. Dale and I drove back to Vegas and both entered the $1,100 Ante-Up Magazine Poker Challenge/Red Rock Main Event.
With an expectation of a huge turnout, we were underwhelmed with the 90 total entrants. On top of that, there were some total sickos in the field including final table fixtures Brent Hanks and Justin Young. However, a $90k prize pool for such a small field of players was still something to be enthused about.
The anger from my opponent flares out of him in disgust as he yells, “C’mon! Are you kidding me!?”
Day 1 for me was brutal. My aces could not hold vs. KhQh in an unavoidable spot early on for a guy’s stack that left me crippled with fewer than 15 big blinds. Grinding the short stack for 6 hours is a torturous but common tournament situation. While I tend to thrive with a big stack, my short stack game involves the necessary patience and capitalizing on favorable situations.
Late into day 1 Cary Katz (a Big One for One Drop participant) 2.5x’s the button and I look down at Kc2c in the bb with around 14 bbs. Since he is opening 100% of his button range I view this as a good spot to shove. I jam and get snapped by AK. Obviously. The flop rolls out K high, and I have a foot out the door as the turn bricks. River… deuce! The anger from my opponent flares out of him in disgust as he yells, “C’mon! Are you kidding me!?”
The clean double does not put me out of the woods yet, but someone once told me that if you win every all in, you win the tournament.
Katz busted a few hands later and with his aggressive style gone from the table I would have room to take over as table captain. After relentlessly raising more than half my range of the final level of day 1 I got my stack up to 66,600 at 6/1200/200a. Great number, I know. Day 2 would prove to be a different venture than most of day 1.
There were 28 players left and 10 spots paid. On my direct right was the best female poker player in the world’s husband and dashingly handsome Marco Traniello; Justin Young was to his right, and Mark Gregorich was on my left. My comfort level was below average but I was prepared to play my game.
I 3-bet Justin Young’s open with my AJo and got two streets of value after betting the ace high flop and checking the turn, which allowed him to bluff fire the river big into me. Then I opened the button with A6o after it was folded to me, and Gregorich moved all in for his last 12 bbs with J10o. Fortunately, I won the flip. Momentum felt like it was on my side. I opened 77 from mp and got two streets against the passive lady in the bb after flopping quads. Can you say run good? Another hand at this table involved Traniello opening the button and me 3-betting from the sb with 66 only to flop a set. When a good, aggressive player is smashing each situation they get into, there is no stopping them.
After busting a couple players from the initial table, we moved to a new table that now put Traniello on my left with Brent Hanks on his left. Hanks and I played some of the bigger hands against each other, but inevitably we controlled the situation until 10 of us were in the money and at the final table, including my friend, Dale.
There are what I like to call “choke points” that happen at various times in a tournament. This is when nobody is busting as a function of stack sizes or places paid out. The table held 10 players’ stacks intact for a good, long 40 minutes. Once the first guy busted, the floodgates opened. The largest momentum shift of the final 9 came with blind levels at 4k/8k/1k, and a passive-playing gentleman limped from early position. I looked down at KK and sitting on 260k to start the hand, made it 20k to go. The chip leader, Hanks, had 370k and was in the bb. When the action folded around to him he shipped it all in, which I promptly snapped off after the limper folded. Hanks rolled over AK and, luckily, the Kings were able to hold. I was now the massive chip leader after the biggest hand of the tournament, by far. I picked up the rest of Hanks’ chips a couple hands later when he got in AJ vs. my 55. Things were looking promising.
Playing five handed showed some crucial situations unfold. Dale was actually second in chips at this point and Justin Young had just gained some momentum. The other two players were much less of a threat. One was on my right and loose-passive. The other was on my left and is a big mix game player at Bellagio, but was lacking the necessary tournament skills to close.
Young was the next player to bust and Dale and I felt close to getting heads up! The Bellagio guy 3.5x’d it utg, and I shoved JJ from the bb for his last eight bbs. Somehow, he found an uncharacteristic fold. Needless to say, he was out within the next few hands. Dale and I were three handed with an inexperienced player sandwiched between us. The amateur had 250k, Dale had around 600k, and I had 1.2 million. Unfortunately for Dale, he had to sit on the sidelines a bit while watching me open 99% of my buttons and play hands against the amateur because of our stack sizes. It was smooth sailing for myself three handed. Dale eventually got into a raising war that led to an all-in with the other guy; Dale’s AK held against the Q9s for 20 bbs a piece. My best friend in poker and I were heads up for the title!
If we had been close in chips maybe we would’ve made an even chop. However, I had a decent chip lead so we made it slightly less than even. With first paying around 26k and second taking 14k, we went the gentlemen’s route of 18.8k each, but left 2k to play for, as well as the Ante-Up Magazine cover for their March issue. Fame was only one all-in away! Well, poker fame…
Just a few hands into heads-up action, I was able to get the chips in with 77 vs. his K3o and felt the win. I practically stood up to shake hands before the board ran out king high. We were almost even when I picked up 10 10 and got it all in before the flop vs. his AK. Apparently, my run of flip winning had come to an end, as an ace found its way to the board. My last few blinds were sent into the middle with my 56 losing to KQ on a king high board, giving Dale the title.
Although I came in second, there is no one else I could be happier losing to heads up.
You feel good about yourself and your ability to make a living by booking solid cash game wins on a regular basis, but the thrill of a deep tournament run is unmatched and I am super pumped to play more of them. Especially the major events this summer. For now, I’ll be putting the new found ammunition to use by starting my $5/10NL grind with a healthy $2/5 and $1/2 mix. Life is good.