WSOP Diaries: There Is No Tournament Like Your First

WSOP Diaries: There Is No Tournament Like Your First

If I had to pick an airport terminal to transfer four pounds of one of my checked bags to the other to avoid a $70 baggage fee, it would be the terminal at Spokane International Airport (GEG). While I found the exchange of basketball shorts and the one hour layover in Seattle to be an inconvenience, I can’t really complain considering the twelve hour flight my roommates had to make from the United Kingdom. Regardless, we all made it to the Airbnb safe and sound, and have had loads of fun getting situated for the WSOP.

Having worked with the guys for almost a year now, it was wild seeing them in the flesh having only communicated through Slack. Hugs were made and firm hand shakes took place, we even welcomed our fourth roommate Spenser who will be a photographer for PokerNews during the WSOP. Fitting in with his own travel mishaps, Spenser has been settling quite well despite leaving his debit card in Bangkok.

Getting Settled For The WSOP

Our Airbnb reservation had been made months in advance, but even with all the necessary amenities we still had to get properly situated for our time here. Since Kieran and James made the trip across the pond, they had to make sure they could maintain cell service while in the United States. Luckily for us, a Cricket Wireless was within walking distance of the Airbnb, so we will all be able to send poker memes in the group chat this summer.

We had a fun time introducing James and Kieran to American grocery stores. The funny thing about grocery stores in Las Vegas: they occasionally have slot machines by the entrance. Shopping at an Albertsons completely outfitted with it’s own slot machine lobby, it was then the Brits realized they weren’t in Bournemouth anymore. We didn’t partake as we had to buy fruits, vegetables, and multi-vitamins, but I’m sure we will eventually allocate ten bucks or so for some slots on the Strip.

Being a true American, I continue to transfix at each slight difference in behavior between myself and my British roomies. So far we have collectively fascinated over the fact Americans do not add milk to their tea (a borderline crime apparently), and bread in America tasting like birthday cake (that checks out).

The Home Game Circuit Begins

Naturally, the group was excited to play poker regardless of the stakes and location. Despite the fact I had committed to bringing my set of poker chips, in an attempt to teach my mother poker, not only did I leave said chips at her place but I never taught her how to play. While we lacked chips, we had eight decks of cards, and when poker players want to gamble they will usually find a way to.

The Saturday we arrived, we used a simple free-to-play app playing four ways for $3 a pop. We were thankful for a way to play (I won by the way), but eventually wanted to at least touch physical cards even with the lack of chips. With a plethora of decks, James concocted a way for us to use spare cards in place of chips. We may have made it through the whole three-handed game, but not before I mistakenly sorted the decks a few times (Spenser won by the way).

The Poker Tournament Action So Far

Our first scheduled poker tournament wasn’t for a few days, but there was no way home games were going to hold us over until then. With Spenser being relatively new to the game and James & Kieran having never played in Vegas before, I found a cheap daily tournament close by to start the summer off with a fun, low stress tournament.

The $60 tournament we played was anything but fun and low stress.

Kieran and Spenser

Kieran and Spenser enjoy a chuckle while I look for the cocktail waitress.

Other than James having to assist the dealer with side pot implications, the suck outs the team experienced only offered comfort when seen as “getting it out of the way now”. In the second hand of the tournament, Kieran and Spenser got it all-in preflop with A-K offsuit and pocket queens respectively. I figured “hey, hate to see roommate on roommate violence, but at least the chips will stay in-house”. A positive outlook, ruined by an opponent who called with pocket 8’s and then hit a straight on the river. Instead of a roomie doubling, a stranger tripled, causing Kieran and Spenser to rebuy by the third hand of the tournament.

James and I were certainly sad to see our buddies take a beating, our moods not improving when later on James bubbled and I busted with A-Q offsuit to 8-2 offsuit. Regardless of the absolute carnage we experienced at Sahara Hotel & Casino, we had a great time and I was happy we got to play a “fun one” before the more serious poker begins.

First Sweat Of The Summer


Photo courtesy of Spenser Sembrat

For our first “serious” tournament we made the trip to The Orleans to take part in their Summer Open tournament series. Our own James Meadows made a deep run in the event placing 8th out of roughly 250 to take home $1,027. To celebrate, we treated James to the biggest White Claw Albertsons had in stock as we resonated in the first cash of the summer.

Reflecting on the competition of the event, James enjoyed getting to chat with some of the local poker players during their dinner break. As they partook in the $20 steak and lobster special at TGI Friday’s, James found the American players to be far more sociable and friendly than his English brethren.

A crusher in the making, I am personally looking forward to seeing James grind more events at The Orleans and Golden Nugget as he builds on his early final table appearance. Out of the remaining tournaments at The Orleans and Golden Nugget, James is mostly looking forward to the $300 Mystery Bounty at The Golden Nugget this summer.

The Wins And Losses So Far

James: +$967
Kieran: -$260
Paul: -$260

Upcoming WSOP Tournaments

While looking forward to the $200 buy-in event at The Golden Nugget advertising a $250k prizepool, James and I are excited to play in our first ever WSOP event this weekend. A tournament that has likely been circled on many player’s calendars, the first flight of the WSOP Housewarming kicks off this Thursday and is sure to attract a huge field of poker players. While I’m excited to play in the WSOP, something I have fantasized about doing since I was a kid, I am trying to take note of coach Justin Saliba’s advice on focusing on winning and not getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of the World Series Of Poker.

“Understand what your goals are with the WSOP. If you’re just happy to be playing and there for the experience, great – enjoy yourself and don’t worry about the results! But, if you’re there to win, realize that poker is a game where everyone’s goal is to win as much money as possible from you at the table. Don’t just be happy to be there and let the experience pass you by because someone else will want it more and punish you at the table for it. You have to be ready to battle.”

– Justin Saliba

While I am grateful for the opportunity to play multiple WSOP events, it is important to recognize the dangers of being content with just “being there”. Being a winning poker player starts with not being overwhelmed by the game and focusing on playing good, solid, fundamental poker. Certainly my largest stakes to date, I am looking forward to getting after it this weekend and getting the chance to play at the grandest stage of them all.

Until next week, run good and feel good.

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