As the first hand was dealt, I tried to take in the importance of the moment at hand.
I was the chip leader at my first ever WSOP bracelet event final table. I had a flashback to when I was a kid, and I was watching these very events on ESPN.
I kept thinking, “This is what I dreamed of so many years ago, and now it has become reality.”
The sensation of plastic cards sliding under my fingers awoke me from my euphoric sense of accomplishment. I had made it this far, but I had a long road yet to go.
I had final tabled the 2014 $1,000 Turbo No Limit Hold’em event. Not only had I managed to final table it, I had managed to come into it with the chip lead. Additionally, I felt that with the exception of a single player (Tony Gregg), I was by far the best player at the table. I knew that it would be unlikely for me to get as good a chance to win a bracelet as this event, I had to capitalize.
As players were eliminated, my chip lead steadily increased. Then I had a tournament moment that I am sure all tournament players are familiar with. I put my chips in the middle holding [AK] and was called against a player with [JJ].
It was a monster pot, If I won, I would be a massive chip leader with half the chips in play. If I lost, I would lose half of my stack at the final table. It is hard to take in the gravity of the flip at the table. I have had this exact scenario before in cash games, for over six figures in real money. But this was different, this was for the glory.
[Jh Th 3c]
The cold harsh reality of a jack appearing on the flop had suddenly stalled my visions of grandeur. I was dead, both an ace or a king would be no good against my opponents three of a kind. It took me a few moments to realize I had picked up an inside straight draw on a queen to broadway. But this wasn’t looking promising.
Turn – [Jh Th 3c 8h]
I frantically looked at my hand, hoping one of my cards was a heart. No dice, I had [Ac Kc]. I began to count out my chips, planning on how I would rebound after this disaster. I would still have over 700k chips on a table that had 4m chips. It would be tough but I’ve fought back from worse.
River – […. Qc]
I jumped in disbelief. One of only four rivers in the deck gave me the win. I can only imagine the despair being on the other side of this flip, the seemingly guaranteed victory. I was 8% to win going into the river, and I had gotten there. I now had a massive chip lead and would sail to victory.
The next couple of eliminations felt like a blur. I knew that this was going to come down to a heads up confrontation with one of the remaining players. The question was who was it going to be. After what seemed like only a few moments, It was down to a heads up match between myself and Andy Philachack.
I have played several times with Andy. I think in a full ring game he is a strong player. But this was heads up, one on one poker. This was my domain. My strongest aspect was likely going to be his weakest. To make matters worse for him, he had already had two second place WSOP finishes. I was looking to make it three.
I turned up the aggression early and was beginning to win a ton of pots. Having made my way to to the top of internet world in this format was offering me quite the advantage over my opponent. Finally we had a serious collision.
I had raised with [9h 7d] and Andy called. I checked back a [Td 8s 3s] flop for deception with my holding. The turn was a [3d], making the board [Td 8s 3s 3d]. Andy checked, I bet, and he check raised me. I knew that I had to call and hope to hit a straight. If I hit a Jack or a Six, it would all be over.
“All in! Call!”
Unfortunately for Andy, his turned trip 3’s with [5h 3h] were no match for my rivered straight. I had become a WSOP Bracelet winner.
The award ceremony felt amazing. I had won an additional $60,000 in side bets on me winning a bracelet over the summer. I also had my entire group of friends there to support me. The Rio presented me with my new status at the casino that would allow me access to perks that normal players wouldn’t receive.
I will never forget that moment. I was a great poker player before that tournament, and I continue to be a great player afterwards. But no matter how well you play in poker, you need a little bit of good fortune to leave a legacy.