Monday, June 29, 2009

Mike Sexton Reviews the 2009 World Series of Poker, by Mike Sexton - Poker News Daily - 25th June 2009

It’s once again time for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) – the 40th edition. For poker players, the WSOP is the ultimate in “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It’s where dreams come true and also where dreams are shattered. Many of us dote about the bracelets, the history, and the tradition that set the WSOP apart from other tournaments, but the beauty is that most players really can win life-changing money.

This year’s kickoff event was a $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament commemorating the 40th annual WSOP. Personally, I think it’s a dumb idea to ever have a bigger buy-in for a No Limit Hold’em tournament than the Main Event, so I wasn’t for it. I didn’t play in it because I missed the first week of the WSOP this year. I took a vacation with my wife Karen and son Ty (nine months old) to Yellowstone National Park – and it was great! It was a vacation for our second anniversary and Ty is the first child for either of us. It’s official - my priorities have changed from poker to parenting!

I do love the WSOP, though. I’m guessing I will play in 10 to 12 events this year. It may be their 40th, but it’s my 25th WSOP, my Silver Anniversary. One thing’s for sure: I will never forget my first-ever WSOP. It was 1984. I lived in North Carolina back then and had been a professional poker player for about six years. I always wanted to go the WSOP and play against the best. I never went, though, because I was an avid Little League coach back then (which, incidentally, was the greatest joy of my life). We started practicing in April and our season started in May – the same time as the WSOP in those days – and, therefore, I couldn’t go.

In 1984, I finally decided to take a week off from Little League and go to my first WSOP. Back then, they only had one tournament every other day. That meant in a week’s time, you could only play in three events. So, I entered three events, made two final tables, and was hooked for life on the WSOP. Because of my success in that first WSOP, I decided to move to Las Vegas a few months later and I’ve lived there ever since. I’ve often wondered where I’d be today if I hadn’t cashed in any of those three tournaments.

Here’s the bad part: 25 years later, I still remember how I was knocked out of those tournaments at my first WSOP – and it still hurts! Why can’t I just let it go? Because it’s my Silver Anniversary WSOP, I’ll relive the pain and tell you what happened (If you don’t like bad beat stories, skip the next couple of paragraphs).

With five players left in the Pot Limit Omaha tournament, I was average in chips and the leader was Tom McEvoy, who happened to be the reigning World Champion of Poker at the time. Noted author David Sklansky was also still there as well as a high-stakes Pot Limit Omaha player named Bill Bennett, the eventual winner.

McEvoy was playing extremely aggressive, too much so for Pot Limit Omaha, in my opinion. Even though he was the World Champion at No Limit Hold’em, I wasn’t convinced he played Pot Limit Omaha that well. Tom was raising nearly every pot and once again raised the max pre-flop. I was on the button and picked up a nice hand, A-K-Q-8 (A-Q of diamonds, K-8 of Clubs). I called, as did the big blind. The flop was Q-8-3 with two hearts and one club. The big blind checked and McEvoy led out and bet the pot. I was contemplating raising and going for it all right there. McEvoy must have sensed it because he blurted out, “If you raise it, I’m going to put you all-in.” After that statement, I decided to go with this hand for sure. So I then said, “Well, I guess you’re going to put me all-in then, because I’m raising it!” I raised, the big blind folded, and true to his word, McEvoy set me all-in. I can still remember how much my heart was pounding when I called him.

I was shocked and thrilled when he turned up his hand. He had a 3-4-5-8 and no heart draw! Yippee!! I had the top two pair and he had the bottom two pair. Then it happened - a seven came on the turn and a six on the river. Wham! Bam! He made a straight and won the pot. Instead of me being the chip leader, I was out. I won’t forget that hand as long as I live. That bracelet could/should have been mine!

Even with all the pain, I love the WSOP. I like that, for the first time ever at the WSOP, there are no rebuys in any tournaments. I’ve always campaigned for that because I think everyone should have an equal chance to win a bracelet. Rebuy tournaments are not equal to everyone; they favor the deep pockets.

Sadly, I must say that I can’t believe the $50,000 HORSE tournament is not being televised this year. In my opinion, this is a poor decision and not good for poker. And even though they’re doing it again, I still think it’s a bad idea to put the Main Event final table four months down the road. Whether or not I like the final table in November, however, you can be sure of this: If I’m breathing, I’ll be playing in the Main Event. Needless to say, it would be a dream come true to get to that final table. If it happens, I hope to meet you there! (Credit: Poker News Daily)

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