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WSOP 2006 Day 3
About 1150 players begin play today, and 873 will win a prize. Obviously no one wants to finish 874th, and so an interesting dynamic will develop: some players, especially those with the fewest chips, will tighten up considerably, passing up even rather favorable opportunities for fear of going home empty-handed. Others, perhaps more knowledgeable or just less in need of the "small" $14,500 prizes to be paid to the first players eliminated inside of the money 'bubble', will prey on the fear of these short stacks. Still others will look for opportunities to 're-steal' from aggressive players whom they perceive to be picking on the ones trying to fold their way into the money. So where does this leave me, with a below average but still comfortable stack of 59,300 chips? I'm just not sure. I came into this tournament telling myself that I would be cavalier about the small prizes, willing to push small edges and risk going home empty-handed in the hopes of accumulating chips and maybe, just maybe, taking home a massive prize. I know that this isn't just greed or recklessness but good tournament strategy. But the truth is that $14,500 is a lot of money to me, and now that we are approaching the bubble, I'm more nervous than I've been all tournament. When push comes to shove, will I really be able to risk it all? I'm going to be playing with some world-class players, people who have won big tournaments like this before. I feel like they will take one look at me and peg me for what I am: a kid who coughed up a couple hundred bucks to take a shot at this tournament and is now within sight of the biggest score of his life. I imagine worst-case scenarios where these pros make some extravagant bluff, and I, suspecting that my hand is good but unwilling to risk it all, am forced to make weak fold after weak fold. But maybe I can use this to my advantage. I've already decided that, with my stack size, I can't afford to lose another medium-sized pot. That means I can't be as loose and aggressive as I've been so far. I need to have a stronger than average hand the next time I get involved, and I need to win some chips early to give myself some breathing room.
I decide the best thing for me to do is to play tight early on, assess the table, and wait for some good cards that will enable me to win a small to medium-sized pot with little risk. Then, having established a reputation as an inexperienced internet player, I'll pick a spot or two to pull off a big bluff, and those pros will never see it coming! With game plan in mind, it's time to address some essentials: I've eaten all the animal crackers that I bought to sustain me between breaks and the only razor blade I brought with me is going dull. I walk next door to the CVS and buy more of both. I hit the hay around 12:30AM, wake at 9AM, shower, and lather up my face. The new razorlades are nowhere to be found. I don't know I managed to lose my CVS bag in a tiny hotel room, but it is gone gone gone and I am going to be late late late if I don't get my act together. I'm tempted to skip shaving altogether, but I think there is a fair chance that I will show up on TV today, since I've drawn a seat next to professional poker player Annie Duke, one of ESPN's favorites. So I bite the bullet and shave with a dull blade, getting close enough that I won't look too scruffy but not so close that I nick myself frequently. I've heard rumors that I'm only contractually obligated to wear one piece of Poker Stars gear, so I decide to test this theory by donning a Boston Debate League T-Shirt. If I do get on TV today, I'd really like for the League to get some exposure, and if someone from Stars says something, I've got a shirt I can put over it. I arrive at the Rio around 10:45 AM and head to the Poker Stars hospitality suite to get some coffee and a muffin. There's not much happening inside, so I wander the halls, taking in the sights and making a few phone calls. I spot Rizen (a top-ranked online pro I mentioned in my last update) and chat with him for a minute about the upcoming day. My confidence is buoyed by the fact that his advice is the same conclusion I've already drawn: just make sure you win the next pot you play, and you'll be fine. And it is REALLY buoyed by the next thing he tells me: "You know as much about poker as Annie Duke does. Just play your game."
Feeling a little more confident, I head into the convention room, flash my player card at the security guard, and look for my table. On the loudspeaker, the tournament director is making some announcements: "If you are at Table 49 or Table 50, you have been re-assigned. Please take your assigned seat at Table 173 or 174. If you are at table 189, you are at the ESPN Feature Table. Please make your way to the front of the room." I freeze. I double-check my seat card. Sure enough, I'm at Table 189. Good thing I shaved. I push through a crowd of spectators and show my card to another security guard who lets me onto a small stage in the front of the room. In the center is a large poker table brightly lit from above. It is surrounded by cameras, and people in headsets are scurrying around. One of them grabs me and starts to put his hand down my pants. "Got to get you mic'ed up," he explains, clipping a battery pack to my waist band, running a wire up the inside of my shirt, and then taping a tiny microphone to my collar. I take my seat, pass my seat card and photo ID to the dealer, and start to stack my chips. The techie stops me. "You're blocking the camera." He points to a small dot on the table. "This is where your camera is. You need to keep this area clear of chips." This table has 9 cameras built around its perimeter that will allow viewers to see the hand of every player at the table. When I look at my cards, I have to be sure to do so in a way that will enable the camera to "see" them as well. Great, I needed one more thing to think about.
The other players arrive, get their microphones on, and take their seats. To my left is a friendly guy named Paul with a stack even shorter than mine. To his left is another short-stack named Shane, then a guy about the same size as me in a Party Poker shirt. To his left is a guy who looks like a New Yorker but turns out to be from Seattle. He's wearing a sports jacket and baseball cap and chewing aggressively on a wad of gum. He looks like he will be annoying, but actually turns out to be pretty nice and a strong player.
To his left is an older guy who is one of the tightest players I have ever played with. It seems like he never enters the pot without a super-strong hand, and everyone picks up on that right away. Next to him is a young kind in designer sunglasses, with Activision and XBox logos emblazoned all over him. He's sitting on a monstrous stack of 250,000 chips. To his left is Mark Vos, who has been described to me as "an aggressive young Australian pro who has already won a WSOP preliminary event." He's wearing a Full Tilt Poker shirt with the top several buttons undone and his hair is toussled. A goofy grin is plastered on his face, and it looks like he will be a lot of fun, though probably a tough opponent.