A month of January that started off miserably just took a very welcome turn for the better as I finished 4th at WPT Biloxi last week for $145,000.
Since I last posted I spent 9 days in Nassau, Bahamas for the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure series and then 9 more days in Biloxi. The Bahamas was an altogether miserable experience, if you can believe that. It might sound insane, but there's very little I look forward to about that trip down to the Atlantis resort every January. My friends and I talked about it and they mostly agreed, so I guess I'm not totally crazy. The weather wasn't great and the service from the staff was predictably awful. I also don't like to get caught up in the conversations and ego that goes along with 5000 poker players being in one place. I'll stop complaining though. I played 8 tournaments including the $25,000 buy-in and bricked all but one of them as I finished 9th for peanuts in some $1500 nlhe event. I might've been the happiest man ever to leave that island. I roomed with my boys Jon Little and Adam Geyer and really enjoyed their company though.
I came home for a couple days to relax and then headed down to Biloxi. I stopped off to watch Bama beat then #12 Kentucky in basketball in what was probably the most exciting Bama hoops game I'm ever attended. I got down to Biloxi and quickly bricked 3 prelim events and was down $65,000 in 2011 before I knew what hit me. I told my dad I was going to win the main event though, a prediction I almost never verbally make. I came close.
I started day 1 at what must've been one of the toughest tables in the room at a WPT event that could've been the softest of the 36 I've played in my career. I kind of hung around the starting stack of 30,000 chips until I 3bet Frank Kassella in a pot with AKo. Yuval Brohnstein called cold and Kassella called. Flop KKTr. Check, I bet small, fold, and Kassella checkraised my 1800 to 4800. I actually really hated my life at that point. I decided to call. Turn 6 or something stupid and Kassella moved in for 14000 or something and I called and was shown TT. I just don't think he's ever going to bluff his tournament away there, but he might show me KQs or KJs. I was down to 12000 but quickly rallied back to the starting stack after winning a bunch of small pots. With a few hands left in the night, I opened 75dd upfront and a loose older gentleman predictably defended. Flop 9d4h2h. He led 1200 as he'd done often and I decided to float. Turn 3h. He led 3500 and for no particular reason I decided to raise to 8500. He thought 3 minutes and asked "do you have a flush?" and then called. River Jc. He checked and just when I was about to give up and check behind I instead reached for 13400 in chips and bet. He thought 5 long minutes this time and then said "I give up" and folded. I took 50k to day 2 with average around 43.
On day 2 I danced around to 4 different tables in total. At the third table, I was at around 55000 with average 70k. A kid opened the cutoff and I 3bet QQ on the button to 3800. Chad Brown 3bet to like 9800 from the SB. This really is probably a fold, but I'd been incredibly active and decided to go with it. Chad had two Aces but a magic Queen came right in the window to keep me alive. I really appreciated how Chad handled the beat. He is a complete gentleman and is always a class act. Later I showed up with AK in a pot where I shouldn't have AK on a board of QT8J and busted a kid who had two 9s. I ended the day with 146k and average around 93.
On day 3 I got off to a good start and was quickly up to around 260,000. I slipped a little to around 200 and then ran a big semi-bluff against this character named Shawn Cunix. He opened the HJ to 3500 at 6/12 and I made it 9900 with T8ss on the button. He called. Flop Js9h4d. He checkraised my 12100 to 30000. I pushed for his 145k and he thought 2 minutes before folding what he said was two kings. I got moved to a new table with 54 players left (and 27 paying) and kind of held steady until we got down to 36 and redrew. I found myself at a table with the eventual winner an unknown Russian named Alex Kuzmin who had a lot of chips to my immediate left. The word on the guy around the tournament was that he was a huge bluffbot, so I fully intended on having to make a huge call against him as the bubble loomed. With 35 left I opened red AJo and he 3bet the button. Flop QcJc4x went check-check. Turn 8x. I checked and he bet 25000 into 40k which I called. River 2. I checked and he blasted it for 80,000 of my final 180,000. I had fully intended on calling him down but now I was sick. I made what I think is actually a bad call given the board texture, but I talked myself into the fact that he could bet KJ or JT. I was shown a turned set of 8s. Later, after slipping some more with 30 left I found a double with AK vs Todd Keikoan's 99 all in pre. Later on the exact bubble I found a double to 240k against a guy who was very tired of me moving in over his limps and raises. He limped with SB and I cautiously checked 98dd and we saw Ts4d2d. Check, I bet 5000, and he checkraised to 20000. I called. Turn 5d. He checked and I decided he was so fed up with me saying "all-in" that I should just move it all-in. He quickcalled the 99000 in the pot of 50k but was drawing absolutely dead with two black queens. Once we reached the money, players really started to fall off. I busted 4-time FTOPS winner Yuval Brohnstein in a pretty big pot to finish the night in 3rd of 19 in chips.
On day 4 we set up in a different ballroom and on the very first hand I raised then 4bet ATo from the button for Hoyt's stack from the BB and he thought a long time before folding. Once we got down to 18 we redrew and I got the worst seat in the room with eventual 5th-place finisher and then chipleader Ryan Hughes to my direct left. The guy is a very tough player and is constantly applying pressure. I kind of sat on my hands and decided I was only going to put chips in the pot preflop for value. I opened 6 pots in an hour or so and Hughes called once and 3bet 5 times. The first two times he 3bet I had two kings and 4bet. He folded to both. Later, I opened two black queens from the cutoff and he flatted the button. Flop JhTh5d. I bet 22000, he made it 52000, and I made it 157000 of my 757,000. He thought and called. Turn was an awful 7h, but Hughes had been maniacal that I told myself I was going broke on the hand. He checked though and then checked behind when the 5h came on the end as I'm pretty sure he had an idea that my plan throughout the tournament was to bluffcatch/checkraise rivers against him. I was shown Q8hh and breathed a sigh of relief.
The last hand before break with 12 left, I won a pretty amazing pot to double through Hughes. I opened UTG 6 handed with AdJc to 15k and Hughes made it 40k behind me. I made it 116k and was fully prepared to call off my last 400k if he moved in. He called. Flop QdTs5d. I checked and Hughes quickly bet 160k or something. I fully expected him to call, so I had a big decision as to whether he was on a draw or not. I decided he was, moved in, and he called with J9cc for an open-ended and was dead to a 9 or an 8. It came T then 2 and I doubled to 1.05 million. I climbed to chiplead with 8 players left with about 1.5 million in chips and 6 making the TV table. I then lost a massive pot to double Allen Carter in a 3way 3-bet pot where I had 55 vs his 22 on A42 and missed to slip all the way to 350k. I immediately won a pot off a tough young player named Pat Mahoney with AK vs his AQ on KQ272 to climb back to half a million and rallied to make the TV final table with 665k when we lost Tuscaloosa native, BJ MacBrayer on the TV final table bubble.
Twenty friends and family came down to watch my final table, which is something for which I'm incredibly grateful. I'm very lucky to have so many great people in my life. The final table got off to a good start as I busted Ryan Hughes with JT vs his 74 blind vs blind on a J94 board. I then went up and down after playing a couple pots with Kuzmin. The kid was insane and 3bet me 4 consecutive times from the BB when I opened the button! Once I called with two sixes and sadly he checkfolded after a K96 flop. I then ran a pretty huge bluff against him that will make TV. On the 4th time he 3bet my button open from the BB I decided to call with K2ss because we were so deep. I was certain he would jam if I 4bet. Flop JJT. He bet 70k into like 190 and I decided to make it 170k. He called. Turn 7x. He checked and I bet 225k leaving myself around half a million. He thought 20 seconds and folded and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was 2nd of 4 in chips when a big pot came up. I opened KdKc from the cutoff and Carter flatted the button and Kuzmin called from the BB. Flop T94 all hearts. I bet 62000 and Carter called and Kuzmin folded. Turn 2d or something. I bet 145k and he called. River gross Ac. I checked and Carter bet full pot, half a million. It's such a good spot for Carter to bluff with something like QhJc, and I was almost certain from my history with him and the way he put chips in the pot that he did not flop a flush. I had him polarized to AT or a bluff, and I made what is probably a pretty awful call still. I was shown AT. Carter rudely asked me something like "I guess I got there on the river huh?" immediately following the hand. I ignore the question and then ignored Mahoney when he followed by asking me an equally rude "Big pair, Shannon?" I don't think I'm being over-sensitive here, and let this hopefully be a lesson to people who play poker. When you beat a man out of a pot just collect the chips and don't make any comments.
I nitted it up for a long time because the stacks were awkward, but then I doubled through Carter with 99 vs 88 and Leif Force with AQ vs A9 in a 15 minute span to climb back to 2nd of 4 in chips.
Shortly after a break, I came back and played a huge pot with Kuzmin. He opened to 50k at 10/20 from the button and I decided to defend with A6dd from the BB. Flop JdTd5c. The line is simple here given the stacks, bet/3bet all-in, and that's just what I did when he raised my 77k to 250k. He quickcalled with red kings, a hand I was fine with seeing as I had about 43% equity in the pot. Sadly, I missed though and was down to a few hundred thousand. I moved in a few times successfully before shoving J7o into Carter's QJo bvb and missing to finish 4th for $145,000.
Tournament poker is a very funny business, as the ups and downs are pretty insane, especially when playing mostly big buy-in live tournaments. $145,000 isn't a life-changing score by any means especially when I was quickly stuck $65,000 on the year. It is what it is though, although it hurts to have left $450,000 on the table with first place getting .6 million. I'm proud of myself for battling though, as its easy to really lose confidence after losing a lot of money in tournaments consecutively (albeit a very small sample size). I'm very grateful to be in the business as I really enjoy what I do. As it stands, I plan on playing a ton of live tournaments through the end of the 2011 WSOP in July. For the most part, I have a net-worth figure that I want to reach, and I'm kinda gonna work hard to get there before taking a break. I continually wrestle with whether I want to spend my time traveling to poker tournaments as opposed to doing other things and hobbies that I would probably enjoy. I'm in a very unique situation at 25 in that I don't really have to work often and could really do some amazing things, but I also want to try to make a lot of money while the business is still good. I'll try to decide that as I move forward this year.