I tend to play better after being on the road. One of the many by-products of covering tournament poker is having the opportunity to watch the world's best players at work. Their fearlessness rubs off on me. I recognize spots where I could be playing more aggressively, inducing bluffs, check-raising lighter than I normally might. I not only see where I might play too tight, but I better understand when that style is not only necessary, but optimal. I also tend to play better right after a win. And during this stint on the road, I finally notched a long-awaited win.
I stare at chips all day when I'm on the road. Not money, just chips. Most of the time I forget that actual money bought them and isn't that really what we're is supposed to do? Playing online, watching that cash balance rise and fall with every hand, every buy-in, every tournament finished out of the money, contemplating all the hoops that require jumping through to replace that balance should it dwindle to zero-- it's that much harder to blur the line. But adding the win to that equation, the soft, inviting cushion of a healthy online balance mixed with the injection of confidence that the win supplies... optimal conditions are created.
Going east to west on a nine-hour time change is far more taxing than its reverse. I've been up before five the last four mornings and have spent many of those darkened hours playing online while I wait for some sort of breakfast-serving facility to open. I haven't had a long stretch of hours to play in quite a while. So I played tournaments, an area I haven't concentrated on in some time. I wondered if I even had a prayer in adapting to the mega-field low-buyin MTT of 2008, seemingly stacked with 17-year old Scandis who three-bet every other hand.
But wait a minute... rewind. What was this "win" anyway?
God bless the motherfuckin' Run Good Challenge. I miraculously took down the Grand Final and the $1,235 first place prize. Ship. It. Holla. It was an excellent way to spend my night off during the WSOP-E Main Event. Pauly also made the final and finished fifth. Poker Listings put on an excellent and entertaining event-- thanks to Matt and Dan and I look forward to defending my crown in the next series.
But seriously. I hadn't won a decent sum like that in poker in a lonnnnng time. I didn't play another hand after that while I was in Europe, leaving Pauly to grind it out at limit hold'em in the morning hours. But in the pale morning light of Los Angeles with a steaming cup of tea next to my laptop, I thought, "why the hell not."
I entered a $22 Turbo MTT on Full Tilt and finished five off the money. Then a $12x180 turbo on Poker Stars where I ended up busting two off the money. Next was the Stars $11 rebuy where I was 169th of 2,774, and would have had a top 10 stack had the internet not chosen the moment someone pushed at my A-A all in pre-flop to crap out. The next day I hit up the 11R again but only outlasted 2/3 of the field, but finished 69/881 in a KO tourney on Full Tilt for another small cash. I played the FTP $2K guaranteed Razz tourney that Otis has won several times and finished seven off the money while simultaneously going deep in the $32K Guaranteed, ending up 110/1539. And then this morning, I played the $30K Guaranteed on Stars and notched my deepest finish yet of the week, 47/3411.
Eight tournaments, four cashes, three near-bubbles, one mid-tourney bust.
I sound like every second-tier live pro bitching to anyone who will listen about how their WSOP is going.
But unlike them, I'm kind of happy with these results. I'm super-rusty. I didn't lose money And I still have some game. And watching 20-year old German kids in hoodies check-raise each other apparently still helps me find my mojo.
* * * * *
As the British Airways 747 flew past Downtown L.A. at 3,000 feet, I actually smiled. The streetlights were coming on. The sun, dipping into the Pacific. The cars, idling on the freeway. My father's, one of them.
However temporary, it was good to be home.