Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ode to the WSOP

No matter how much poker has grown or will grow, no matter how saturated the television market becomes with poker programming, the World Series of Poker will continue to be the sun around which the poker universe revolves.

The WSOP, after all, is where the explosion began, from the first freezeout tournament to the colorful characeters like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim and Puggy Pearson that captured the attention of the early poker fans. As history has given way to the present, the uniqueness and quaintness of those early years has metamorphised into this huge event where thousands come to try their skill and their luck. The tournament has moved from Binion's to the Rio, soon to move to Caesar's Palace. Hell, the Horseshoe isn't even the Horseshoe anymore.

Even though the tournament has tossed aside its past and is virtually unrecognizable from what was first deemed the World Series of Poker, it continues to be the one central thing that aspiring poker players dare to reach. Winning the WSOP is climbing the Mt. Everest of poker tournaments, now more so than ever. Win it and you're called the world champion, World Poker Tour be damned.

When I started this run last June and jetsetted off to Vegas, I didn't try that hard to win my way into the main event. For one thing, it's no easy task and my poor start to the trip led me to more conservative use of my bankroll. For another, all good stories deserve a good ending. Hickory High wins the Indiana state basketball championship, Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star, Cinderella finds her prince (or rather he finds her). Winning an WSOP entry and faring well in 2005 would have been rather anticlimatic, don't you think?

Wouldn't the storybook ending be me winning the damn thing this year, as the sun sets on my one-year professional poker tour?

At least I'll get the chance to find out. I won my entry on Sunday.

It was a mere 36-player field on Poker Share, it of the fantastic overlays (which ended Sunday unfortunately), and there were two $13,000 packages up for grabs, as well as $5,000 cash for third. We made a final table deal in which three $10,000 entries would be distributed (and no cash) while fourth would get $1,000.

It was a rather comfortable tournament for me as I don't EVER remember being all in. I built my stack steadily at first and then won a key race with QQ vs. AK. I also got lucky by drawing out on a guy I was trying to bluff and then played smart, aggressive poker when the contenders began to drop from the final table. When we were four handed, I was practically tied for third in chips; by the time I called the all in that ended the tournament, I had 50K and fourth was 15K.

So now I have my lottery ticket, one that could be worth up to $10 million. Win or lose, I can't wait to savor playing on poker's biggest stage.

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