This report by Ken Adams is part of a series for CBSNews.com chronicling his run at the 2005 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
It's 5:00 a.m. I am flying back to Las Vegas this morning at 8:30 to play in the final event at this year's World Series of Poker, the $10,000 No Limit Hold'Em championship event, generally referred to among players simply as "the big one" or "the main event."
They have capped the player registration at 6,600, a number that would have been impossible to believe the last time I played in the main event just two years ago. At that time, there were 835 players, which was nearly twice the number who played the previous year.
I went to bed early last night to make sure I got a good night's rest before the grueling 7-day event. I set my alarm clock for 6 a.m. in order to make sure I would have plenty of time to get to the airport and through the security lines.
It was a good plan. But life is what happens while we're busy making plans.
I woke up at 3:30 and had trouble falling back to sleep. I replayed in my mind the situation last Tuesday when I was one card away from doubling up in the $2,000 No Limit event.
Had I won that hand I would have had more than 1 percent of all the chips in play -– enough to finish "in the money" and to give me a decent shot at making the final table.
To be in the same position in the main event, I will have to run my chips from a starting stack of $10,000 to more than $100,000 by the end of the second day.
What if I find myself in exactly the same situation toward the end of day one, with pocket queens against ace-king? Will I call again, which is the correct play according to every pro I have consulted in the past week? Or will the fear of busting out prematurely cause me to fold and preserve the rest of my chips, rather than risk elimination?
Every authority on no limit hold'em says the same thing –- in the long run you must play aggressively to have a chance to win. Easy to say, but when everything is on the line it is not always so easy to do what your brain knows is the correct long run thing. The short run is all that seems to matter at those moments.
I spent an hour lying in bed trying all the usual tricks to fool my brain into relaxing and going back to sleep. I give up. I am too jazzed to sleep. I will have to get the rest of my "good night's sleep" on the plane.
My plan is to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel, check in, drop off my luggage and then head over to the Rio to register for tonight's media/celebrity charity tournament. A few hundred celebs and members of the medial will compete for bragging rights plus a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice. I plan to win (as do most of the rest of the players).
That tournament starts at 6 p.m., and will be over by 10 so all the players will be able to attempt a good night's rest before the main event on Thursday morning.
After I register for the media tournament, I will head over to Steve Wynn's new hotel, aptly named Wynn, for a no limit hold'em clinic hosted by the "Hendon Mob," a group of four top players from the United Kingdom who own and operate an internet poker site. They have invited all the media tournament players to a two-hour afternoon clinic in preparation for this evening's competition.
I don't know whether I will learn anything helpful, but it should be a lot of fun and will give me a chance to check out the poker room at the Wynn for the first time. With luck, maybe I can catch a little of the highly publicized challenge match that has been going on for the past few weeks between two of the best players in the world, Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein.
Daniel is the official "host" of the Wynn poker room. Steve Wynn pays him to play all of his non-tournament poker there, and to market the joint. Recently Daniel issued a public challenge, that he would play any challenger at any game for any amount in excess of $100,000.
One of the first takers was Barry Greenstein, also known as "the Robin Hood of tournament poker." Barry is one of the most successful cash game players in the world. After earning millions playing in the highest stakes games for years, he decided to give something back. For the past several years, Barry has committed to donate all his tournament winnings to charity. He had given millions of dollars to charities, mostly supporting children in need throughout the world.
Barry and Daniel are playing eight matches. In each match, the players each put up $500,000 cash. It's winner take all. There is an agreed list of eight games. Barry gets to designate which game will be played next, but either player has the right to demand a rematch of the same game whenever they lose a match. I think they have played four matches so far, with the score at 2-2.
I can't say that I know either player, except from watching them on television and at the World Series. But I am rooting for Daniel. Also known as "Kid Poker," he is a 30-year-old Canadian, respected for always "telling it like it is" and for having a lot of fun playing all the various games of poker he loves.
I just checked out his Web site, and found that he is having the same kind of World Series as me. Here is an excerpt that gives you a feel:
It was a tough week on [the WSOP] front. In the $5000 Pot Limit Hold'Em event I got up to 20,000 and was feeling really good. Then I picked up AA in the blind and lost a monster pot to Gavin Griffin who had AK. That left me short and I was knocked out after the dinner break.
In the $2500 no limit hold'em event I started poorly and was down to 500 early. Yet I was still able to grind it out and get my chips up over 5000. Then I picked up QQ vs. JJ and 77. The player with the 77 had just 1100 left but the JJ had me barely covered.
The flop came 10-7-5 costing me the main pot, and a J on the turn put me in third place in a three horse race.
So on that note, I skipped both yesterday's $2500 pot limit hold'em event as well as today's $5000 pot limit Omaha event with rebuys.
And I thought I had been unlucky. I lost to ace-king with a pair of queen, when I was less than a 1.5 to 1 favorite. Daniel lost to ace-king with a pair of aces, and with a pair of jacks to a pair of sevens, when the odds were even bigger in his favor.
His blog conveys how tough it is to ride out the emotional swings of a job where success is so dependent on how your luck is running. I got a taste of that last week, and my admiration for professionals like Daniel who have survived and thrived in that pressure cooker went way up. I can't imagine living that way all year long.
Anyway, after the Hendon Mob clinic at the Wynn I will head back to the Rio, rendezvous with my buddies from home as we all get ready for the main event, and try to catch a power nap before starting the 6 pm media/celeb event.
The only problem with winning that tournament is that it will make it harder to fall asleep and get a good night's rest. On Thursday at 11 I will be at table 6, seat 10 for the opening shuffle of the main event. (Maybe Daniel will be at my table.)
The starting field of 6,600 is so big they had to break it into three separate "flights". One flight will play on Thursday, one on Friday and one on Saturday. The survivors of each day's play will come together on Sunday for Day Two of the tournament.
In other words, in order to make it to Day Two of this seven-day tournament, I will have to outlast roughly 1,500 of the first 2,200 starting players on Thursday. I have every intention of doing that, but so do all the others.
This poses some interesting dilemmas. How do you pack for a trip that might be over in 24 hours or might last a week? I went with optimism and packed enough socks and underwear for a week.
What about your round trip plane ticket? I went for a return flight on Monday, which assumes I will make it through days 1 and 2. A bit optimistic perhaps, but why jinx myself? You gotta think positive and play with confidence.
Some time on Thursday, probably two or three times, I will find myself in a critical hand where I have to either get lucky to survive, or avoid getting unlucky. Every player who makes it to the final table will have been consistently fortunate in both types of situations for seven days straight.
The other 6,591 will be back home obsessing about what could have been if it had not been for that three-outer their opponent caught on the river.
Time to get dressed and head for the airport. With luck, I will be away for a while.