WSOP Diaries: For The Love Of The Game

WSOP Diaries: For The Love Of The Game

I want this last WSOP Diary entry to be a positive one, so I’ll get the weekly bad beat story out of the way first.

The Depressing Return To South Point

My roommates this summer have been patient with me with a number of things, but at the top of the list has been my continuous praise and mentioning of South Point Hotel and Casino. When I first started playing tournament poker in Las Vegas, South Point was my favorite spot, as the stakes were low and although I was no crusher, the skill level of the field provided an edge for a player who studied the game regularly.

Linking up with my fellow WSOP Media Intern (Class Of 2018) Erik, we met up at Bally’s and made our way to South Point for what I assumed would be my triumphant return to glory. In the past, I’ve done quite well at South Point. Despite the continuous run-bad that has been this summer (I busted another tournament at Caesar’s by the way), I assumed that my home away from home would provide me the positive energy I needed to secure that elusive bink.

There Is No Poker God

During the first level of the tournament, I successfully doubled up after getting a player to overvalue their weak-kickered ace, pricing them all-in with A-K. After this hand, I thought the prodigal son had truly returned, but we all know what eventually happened.

Down to 17 big blinds, three players limped preflop when I looked down at pocket kings in the small blind. Looking for value and hoping a bigger stack would try to bully me, I raised 4x instead of ripping. The big blind, who had been giving me the business all night, called with only two big blinds left in his stack. After the remaining players folded, we saw a safe flop of 9-6-2 rainbow. I immediately put the player all-in for his remaining 2 remaining big blinds, he snap-called flipping over A-9 offsuit.

He had top pair, but your favorite blogger had the overpair. The overpair didn’t matter though, as another nine came on the river.

That hand was certainly annoying, but I still had some chips and was fortunate to double up the following hand with pocket queens. Back up to about 18 big blinds, the pocket kings hand no longer mattered, or so I thought.

Rethinking Signing My Las Vegas Lease

Widdled down to 11 big blinds, Jonathan Little’s favorite employee was ready to make a move. Following an early and middle position limp, I looked down at K-Q offsuit on the button and shipped it. Only the early position limper called, revealing A-10 suited. 

I was behind, but not out. My heart skipped a beat as both a king and queen crept across the board on the flop. As I began to whip out my phone, telling Erik the midnight steak special would have to wait, ace on the turn, ace on the river, and it was time for a cheap steak dinner.

Poker Minus The Poker Part

The past few weeks have been a lot of fun, while there has been a major decrease in the amount of time the crew and I have been spending at the tables, we have been having the time of our lives conducting business, and by business, I mean taking part in incredible events hosted by the company.

Getting Some Cash Game Reps In

I usually avoid playing cash games at all costs, but when the company hosts a meet-up cash game at the Aria poker room, you have to make an exception. Arriving with hats and hoodies to give out to fans and members, we dispersed all of the swag quickly so we could find our reserved seats. 

It was quite the stacked table, not only did we play with Jonathan, James Romero, and Jonathan Jaffe, but the boys from Next Gen Poker (Rosie, Frankie, and Jack) came through as well to give us a taste of Texas poker. Despite not being a cash game player, I knew that pocket aces were a good hand to have at the table. Following an early position raise for $10 and a $60 three-bet from Jack in middle position, I mentally totaled how many Denny’s grand slams $70 could get me and moved all-in. 

The early position player folded, but after a bit of tanking, Jack made the call with A-K. My American Airlines held, but Jack would get revenge later in the night when his loose play with J-3 got there on the river against my paired ace.

Jack, Frankie, Jonathan, and Rosey

(Left To Right) Jack, Frankie, Yours Truly, and Rosey. Follow Next Gen Poker on their YouTube Channel

Justin Saliba Makes A WSOP Final Table

Justin Saliba

For those wondering, Justin’s rail was not the one saying Hellmuth was “dressed like a Spice Girl”

The cash game meet-up would be somewhat short-lived, as our very own Justin Saliba had made it to the final table of the WSOP $3,000 Freezeout. Duking it out with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, we knew we had to make our way to Paris/Bally’s ASAP to rail JustGTO.

We exited the Aria, but rolling 13 dudes deep we panicked as we tried to work out who would take what Uber with who and all the other logistics. Noticing an empty party bus nearby, Jonathan sprang into action, providing the driver with enough cash to get our team across the Strip to the WSOP. It was nothing but excitement as we anxiously waited to arrive. The vehicle was rowdy, our eagerness at a peak, until five minutes into the ride we read the update that Justin had been eliminated.

Not going to lie, what had been a true spectacle of festivity quickly became just thirteen dudes in a bus, scrolling Twitter in silence. But hey, the bus was snazzy, and we were among friends.

The After Party Following The $200,000 Cash

Of course, we were all disappointed that Justin came up just short of his 2nd WSOP bracelet, but I have to say in my short time in the poker industry, I haven’t met as many guys as gracious and humble as Mr. Saliba. Despite the finish, Justin was in good spirits, as he reserved us some tables at the Bally’s casino bar to chat and celebrate his $194,525 score. Outside of getting to support Justin, his run also had the benefit of putting us in touch with some more members of team PokerCoaching.

The Crushers Behind Study Sessions

The hosts of one of the two recurring study sessions (special shout out to Louis-Philippe), I had the privilege of finally meeting Shaundle “Crazy Sixes” Pruitt and Jarred “GodsBigToe” Gabin. 

Although I have had some success since entering the world of online MTT’s, the abilities demonstrated by Shaundle and Jarred on the virtual felt are something I aspire to every day. Not only are these two online crushers, but they are incredibly kind people, working tirelessly every day to help the community improve their poker abilities. 

It was a privilege getting to chat with them both at Paris/Bally’s and our top golf event, and I look forward to studying with them regularly in preparation for WSOP 2023.

Crushers behind study sessions

(Left To Right) Shaundle “Crazy Sixes” Pruitt, Their Most Obnoxious Student, and Jarred “GodsBigToe” Gabin Study Session Schedule

Louis-Philippe and The Sharks: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 7 AM PST

Poker Coaching Study Sessions With CrazySizes and GodsBigToe: Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 AM PST

To take part in Study Sessions, be sure to join our Discord.

Meeting The Littles

Although I have had the pleasure of speaking with Jonathan on multiple occasions, the virtual dynamic of our company had yet to bring us face to face until this year’s WSOP. Upon our first in-person introduction, JL made me and the guys feel right at home, ushering us immediately to our own private table to take part in the cash game meet-up. Along with the incredible company outings at Top Golf and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, the boss didn’t hold back at all when it came to treating not just us, but the entire company to some phenomenal meals on the Strip. From a guy whose favorite culinary establishments are Denny’s and The Cheesecake Factory, it was quite the experience, although I’m okay never having caviar again.

Brad Garrett and Jonathan Little

Brad Garrett shouted out Jonathan during his act, it was pretty sick. Member’s Breakfast

One of the highlights from the past few weeks was attending the yearly Member’s Breakfast. Not only did I get to interact with our incredible members, but I also got to meet some special people who have been with and Jonathan since the very beginning.

Member's breakfast.

For those wondering, the pup is named Toby Keith

“Sweetie, you need to sit down and eat.”

As I stressfully moved boxes and sorted hoodies and hats by size, I heard the kindest voice behind me insist I take a moment for myself. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that Jonathan’s Mom and Dad are incredibly nice people. Inviting me to join them at their table, I had the pleasure of not just getting to know them, but heard stories about how they supported Jonathan early on in his poker career. By far my favorite was listening to them recount helping JL move to Las Vegas in his early years, as well as hearing his Aunt share crime stories from her time as a police officer in Florida.

If you’ve never seen it, highly recommend viewing Jonathan’s episode of Pokerography by PokerGO:

This video comes from Jonathan Little’s YouTube Channel. If you would like to stay up to date with more video content such as this, including hand breakdowns from Hellmuth vs Dwan, Garrett Adelstein, Rampage Poker and more, be sure to check out the channel.

For The Love Of The Game

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, this summer has been an absolute ass-kicker on the felt. Whether it’s been the WSOP, The Golden Nugget Grand Poker Series, or the personal hell found at the Caesar’s Palace daily’s (I’m going again tonight), I have been getting owned up and down the Strip by every pro or local reg I try to three-bet. If you would have told me seven weeks ago what my poker performance was going to be this summer, I probably would have skipped my flight out of the Spokane Airport. But today, I’m happy to say, I don’t feel that way.

The World Series Of Poker brings thousands of players from all over the world to one place every year. While every player attending has aspirations of life-changing fiscal gain, the financial rewards can easily mask the other opportunities that come with the WSOP. This year’s trip to Las Vegas has allowed me to meet so many phenomenal people from all walks of life. One of the aspects of poker I love the most is how it attracts truly every type of person. Regardless of nationality, gender, race, or orientation, for two months in the summer we journey to the craziest city in the world to play a game that connects us all.

England, Japan, Switzerland, and France are just a few of the countries whose players I have had the privilege of meeting and competing with at the table. The numerous hours at the table have produced countless stories, jokes, and memories, but while I’m thankful for the hundreds of players I’ve gotten to interact with this summer, I have to highlight the three guys that made this trip one to remember.

Team Broker Coaching

Kieran, James, and Spenser, I know I’m usually hunkered away in my room I refer to as my “cave”, but that’s only because I would have gotten absolutely no work done this summer due to the amazing jokes and laughs constantly coming from you three. When I was originally planning my journey to Las Vegas, I was anticipating a lonely room in an AirBNB somewhere by McCarren Airport, but I’m truly thankful I didn’t have to experience my first WSOP alone.

We’ve celebrated losses, we’ve celebrated victories, and after either one we usually came back to the house for a home game. James would hit us with his phenomenal table talk, which included laps around the kitchen, Kieran would highlight for the hundredth time how I’m a tight-nit, and Spenser would do his best to complete the game before his shift for PokerNews. Whether we were shooting the breeze at home, enjoying fine American cuisine, or making our way to Westgate for the 7 PM daily, I could not have asked for three better guys to experience everything with.

Move-in day.

Move-in day, the cleanest that kitchen ever was.

You guys aren’t just incredible poker players, you are incredible people. Your patience, wisdom, and love for the game have taught me so much, and you motivate me every single day to become a better poker player. I have never been more driven in my life, and it all comes back to being equals with guys I couldn’t appreciate and respect more. 

Thank you guys so much for letting me write about our experience this summer, I’m already counting down the days till we are back in Vegas, drinking dollar cocktails as we play any game we can afford. I wouldn’t trade this summer for anything and never forget: Daddy loves you.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park, Utah. You guys can do Angel’s Landing (without me) next year

Scroll to Top