POKER The next dealer | The first player to act is the same kid, who just calls the blinds for 1000

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The Jackal manages to lose a huge pot to Graybeard on his left, which is good for me since the Jackal was a tough player and Graybeard is very predictable. Unfortunately, he's also very tight and has enough money that he's not feeling much pressure and can afford to be patient. It doesn't hurt that he's been dealt Aces at least three times today. Dinner seems only to have exacerbated the truculent European's foul mood, and it reaches a boiling point when a cute young blonde named Demetria takes over dealing for the table. Skeletor has just called Lane's re-raise all in and lost. He has enough chips that he isn't eliminated, but he is in very bad shape. Demetria reaches over to match up Lane's chips with his, and he snaps at her, "Count dem down."

"What?" Demetria asks, sounding a little hurt and confused. "Don't stack dee chips. Count dem down!" Skeletor spits back at her. Looking a little flustered, she releases his chips and counts Lane's, announcing the total to Skeletor, who proceeds to count them himself anyway before passing the requisite amount. Demetria is very popular with the table, so several of us are now getting vocal about our distaste for the ghoulish European and laughing rather blatantly at him, which I'm sure is doing nothing for his mood. The next dealer to take over is a burly man named Oren, and the guy to my right and I wonder whether Skeletor will be as quick to pick on him. Sure enough, Bones is unhappy with where Oren is dealing his cards to, and when he complains, Oren tells him, "Sorry, buddy, that's where I toss 'em." So the next time Skeletor goes to fold, he tosses his cards across the table, far from Oren, and says, "How do you like eet? Eet ees eenconvient, right?" Everyone at the table chuckles in disbelief and Oren rolls his eyes. High stakes kid: Maybe if you had more chips, he could hit them more easily. Skeletor: What? HSK: Nothing. Skeletor: No, what deed you say? HSK: It's nothing, forget it (as the whole table snickers).

Then, what we've all been waiting for. The first player to act is the same kid, who just calls the blinds for 1000. Derek announces he is all in, and Skeletor quickly calls. The kid calls as well, and when the cards are turned over, the kid has 99, Derek has KT, and Skeletor has AA. Even though Skeletor is way ahead, I just don't feel like the universe is going to let him have this won, and sure enough, the kid makes three of a kind 9's to eliminate Skeletor, who storms off while the whole table laughs and claps. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," I quip.

We break again, and I run into Bill looking dejected. He's out of the tournament thanks to what he thinks was a bad risk. We discuss it, and I assure him that even though it didn't turn out well, I think he played it correctly. He takes a little consolation in that, and then I decide to give him some very valuable advice which I don't usually give out. I tell him about an internet forum that has improved my play one hundred fold and make him promise to check him out. I assure him that if he studies it it will make him thousands of dollars. As a rule, I don't tell people about this site, because it isn't really good for me to help anyone else take money out of the online poker economy, but Bill is kind of a special case. He's been very nice to me all day, beginning with offering me his shirt this morning, and I'm really touched by his dedication to his daughter and the way online poker has enabled him to keep up his playing while still being a good father to her. On my way back to my seat, I pass the Frenchman and the Greek from Friday, who are both still in, and wish them luck. Level 5, blinds 600-1200 with a 200 ante- In 18 hours of play, I have grown my starting stack of 10,000 chips to over 90,000, remaining above the average chip count the entire time. Now, in this last hour, I manage to lose 1/3 of my chips and drop below average for the first time all tournament. Not a great end to my day, obviously, but nothing that can't be recovered from.

The situation was this: per the strategy that I'd discussed with Rizen, I had been re-raising people a lot, and had netted probably a few thousands chips as a result (when a steal re-raise goes wrong, it's rather expensive!). However, I'd also started to frustrate the two players to my immediate right, who had taken the brunt of my abuse. Not long ago, high stakes kid had re-re-raised me and I'd had to fold. So now the guy to my immediate right makes a standard raise to 4500 and I look down at a pair of eights. This is a pretty strong hand, and there are a lot of advantages to re-raising rather than calling with it. However, if I re-raise, I'll have to make it fifteen or twenty thousand, and if this guy goes all in for 60,000+, I'll have a really difficult decision. Moreover, I think he's more likely than usual to do that, given my current image, so I just call. A tight Irish player behind me with about 30,000 chips asks for time, and finally decides to call. The blinds fold, and the flop comes 973, a very good flop for me, as it is unlikely that either of them has a 9 or was dealt a pair of Tens or better to begin with. The guy to my right bets 5000 into a pot of more than 15,000, which is pretty weak, so I figure I am ahead and raise him to 15,000 (looking over this now, I probably should have raised more). Now the player behind me goes all in for 28,000, and I've got a very bad feeling. The first guy folds, and it will cost me 13,000 more to call into a pot of 67,000. That means that even though I think I am beat, I only have to win one time out of five to show a profit on a call like this, so I call, and he has 44 for three-of-a-kind 4's. I don't think I really played it poorly,it was just an unfortunate situation for me. There is a concept well-known to all poker players called "Tilt." It takes its name from pinball machines, which players can manipulate by tilting them slightly to the left or right in order to get the ball to go where they want it. However, tilting the machine too hard or too far will cause the machine to realize the player is cheating, at which point the flippers shut down, the game freezes up, and the player can only stare at the letters "TILT!" flashing on the screen as his ball rolls unimpeded past his flippers and out of play.

It's a pretty apt analogy for what can happen even to a very good poker player who makes a mistake or has some bad luck. Something snaps inside of his head, his frustration overwhelms his judgment, and he starts making bad decisions. He might make a bad bluff or a bad call in a desperate attempt to win back lost money and "undo" a mistake. All players have to struggle with 'tilt control', because while mistakes and bad luck happen to everyone, it is important not to let one bad decision spiral into many more. There is no way to get back money lost to poor play or just plain bad luck, so all you can do is shake it off and move on. I wish I could say I have such a zen-like mindset, and when I'm at my best I do, but I find it very frustrating that after a grueling day of poker, during which I felt I had played quite well, I am back to where I started at the beginning of the day thanks to one close (not necessarily bad) decision on my part and some bad luck. I feel the frustration welling up, I feel myself tilting, and I am just not confident that I can tamp it down and move on. So I decide the best thing to do would be to back off, avoid close decisions, marginal situations, and bluffs for a little while, and just wait out the last half hour of the day rather than risk compounding my mistakes by playing a lot of hands with a bad mindset.

So I finish the day at 59,300 chips, exactly 2000 chips ahead of where I started, and now substantially below the average stack, which is around 75,000. I'm kind of disappointed, but it all gets put into perspective when I run into Paul, who has made his way up to 55,000 chips after starting the day with less than half that. He is thrilled with his performance, and I find it interesting that we finished the day in pretty much the same situation, but feel so differently about it. The truth is that no matter how we got to the point where we are now, whether we went up and then down (like I did) or down and then up (like he did), we just have to play the situation we are in now.

So I head over to my new table to drop off my chips and scope out the competition. To my immediate right is a world-class professional named Annie Duke, considered the best female player in the world and one of the best players of any gender. I am happy to see I have her covered, though barely, as she has only 57,000 chips. The other stacks at the table range from 5500 to 291,000, with most having somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000. In addition to Duke, there is at least one more player with a WSOP bracelet (he won one of the no limit hold 'em events earlier this year) and a few players who made the top 150 at last year's tournament. I'm not expecting the table to be easy, but frankly I was expecting to run into some pretty solid players if I made this far in the WSOP anyway. In fact, while there are obvious disadvantages to sitting with a great player like Duke, if I never got to play with a big name pro, I would have left Vegas feeling like I had missed out on something. I hope that I'll be able to learn a few things from playing with her for a while, and especially since we are starting in very similar seats at the table and with very similar chip counts, I'll be curious to see how her strategy differs from mine. I'm really not sure how to approach Day 3. 1159 players will begin play on Friday, and the person finishing 874th will win nothing (actually, I heard a rumor that he will win entry into next year's main event and a year's supply of Milwaukee's Best Light, if you consider that part of the prize and not a cruel joke, so maybe it is more accurate to say that 875th will win nothing) and 873rd will win $14,500. So there will be an interesting dynamic as we approach the "bubble": some players will play very tight and try to fold their way into the money, others will try to bully the tight ones, and still others will try to re-bully the bullies. I think I'm going to have to observe my table and try to get a sense of who's who and how well each individual understands this dynamic before I try to make any moves. My stack is still large enough to give me some breathing room, but if I lose one more medium-sized pot, I'll be in the danger zone, so I'd like to wait for a pretty good spot before sticking my neck out for the first time.

Paul is heading back to the MGM, which is right across the street from the Monte Carlo, so we split a cab. He tells me he is thinking of flying home to spend a night or two at home with his wife and young daughter before competing again on Friday. He's a little concerned about flying in Friday morning (he lives in California) in case he gets delayed or something, but I tell him it is probably worth it even if he comes back Thursday night. I've definitely found it stressful to be in a strange city and hotel room for so long, away from my girlfriend and my own bed, and I envy him the opportunity. Even if it costs him a couple hundred dollars, given the amount of money that is on the line right now, it is probably worth it even from a purely financial standpoint. I get into the elevator at the Monte Carlo and hold the door for two rather drunk young women who look like maybe they are not the brightest crayons in the box even when sober. Lance Burton regales us with his amazing card trick, and the first girl says, "I want to see that. We should see that," to which the other responds, "I know, how does he do that? I choose a different card each time, and every time, he guesses it."



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