Ryan Fee doesn’t enter tournaments to try and ladder up.
In December 2014, I made the final table of the WPT Bellagio 5 Diamond Poker Classic Main Event.
It was a 6 Day tournament, a grueling contest…
Everyone played what I thought was somewhat normal for them most of the tournament. Their play might fluctuate based on how many chips they have, who’s at the table, where they are at in relation to the bubble, or just how they are feeling, but rarely would their play change very sharply.
Until the final table…
The Day 5 unofficial final table started with 10 players. The play was slow. The structure for the week long tournaments is pretty good, many players had many chips. Everyone was playing somewhat normally.
Once we lose two players and got down to 8 things got… weird.
This tournament was a $10,000 Buyin, with a $1.2M dollar first prize. The final table was 6 players and was to play on television the next day. That was another night of sleep and rest. Everyone at this stage of the tournament was haggard, weathered, and tired.
Poker players put so much effort into playing, especially the players left in this tournament. I have played sessions of $200/$400, $40,000 buyin online vs Isildur, Wilhasha, Tom Dwan, some of the best players in the world, and not gotten so much as a text message wishing me luck or congratulating me on my success!
I won a 10 person $25,000 high roller “tournament” and got 75 likes on facebook and a ton of text messages congratulating me…
Poker players often go unrecognized for their achievements because people either do not know or understand what is going on in the game.
One thing everyone, no matter who they are, will respond to is having seen you on television. There are some poker players who ability is that of a massive losing player, but are very well known and thus regarded, because they are frequently on television.
All of the sudden, with 8 players left, everyone started tightening up. Everyone was tired. Everyone wanted to make the TV final table. No one wanted to win.
My extroverted nature gives me energy to be around people and interact with them. This plus the fact that it looked like everyone was just giving up sent me into high gear.
I started raising every hand that was folded to me. People just folded their hands and kept letting me take down the blinds. Some players even showed me hands that they were folding, hands I couldn’t believe would make it into the muck Preflop.
I played looser and looser, like a maniac, steamrolling the table. It frustrated the players, but no one had the chops to do anything about it. They all wanted me out of the tournament but no one wanted to be the one that did it.
At one point I finally got reraised Preflop. I called. The flop was Ace High. I had  and checked it down to the river. My opponent checked back the river. I showed my hand and he showed me…
ACE-JACK! For the flop top pair and then check it down maneuver.
I couldn’t believe it. These guys were just giving away money.
At one point I lost a pot and went from 3.8m to chips to ~800k, having a straight vs a backdoor flush.
By the time the final table started I was back up to ~3.5m chips without having gone to a single show down.
Sadly I ended up running my [AA] into [JJ] on a Jack high flop and I was out. Such is the random nature of the game. The tournament was a great spot EV wise for me, but sadly it just wasn’t meant to be.
It is difficult to go so far in a tournament like that and not win, that’s what everyone dreams about. It is important in those moments to appreciate how far you made it and realize that even though you were so close it was still a great, impressive, and improbable run.
Ryan Fee has $3,000,000 in live earnings, which is easily surpassed by his online winnings. Ryan is one of the founders and primary content contributes at Upswing Poker.