World Poker Tour Invitational, Day One

If Maxim did a poker issue, it would be this tournament: the room is filled with big celebrities, beautiful models, and virtually every poker pro you could imagine. The atmosphere is more like a party than any other tourney I've ever played, and everyone is having a good time.

At the end of day one, there are 98 players left. I am in 68th, with T17500, which is just about half of the average stack of T32000. BJ has a complete list of the players and their stacks over at PokerPages, and of course Pauly has the best live blog on the Internets, which includes a ton of pictures.

I don't have many exciting tales of my own to tell, because I was severely card dead for most of the tourney. I swear to jeebus, if the object of the game was to get 93o, I would have too many bracelets to count, man.

I don't think I ever lost a hand, which was pretty nice, and the hands that I won paid off nicely. A couple I remember: early on, I was in the BB with Q7o. It was folded to the SB, who completed, so I checked and we saw a flop of AQx. I knew he'd only call a bet with an ace, and I wanted to know if my queen was good. I decided that if he called, I was done with the hand. I bet about 1/2 the pot, and he called, so I was finished . . . until a queen hit the turn. Now I knew I was way ahead. I put him on a medium ace, and figured that he probably did the same. The turn went check check, and he checked the river. I bet just under the size of the pot, with a "I have a weak ace and I hope to scare you away" sort of bet, and he said, "well, I'm going to see if I out-kick you," as he called. "I have a queen," I said, "and the ace is my kicker."

He laughed, and mucked. "Oh man! I didn't see that coming!"

I also limped into a pot from the button with JTo. The flop gave me a OESD with the Qs-9x-Xs and s out. A couple of pre-flop limpers checked to me, so I made a semi-bluff of about 2/3 of the pot, and got called by the Big blind, who was an extremely smart and solid player. The turn was the Ks, and I picked up a whole bunch of outs. In fact, I picked up so many outs, I made a loose call when he bet 1/2 the pot, even though I knew I wasn't getting any more money out of him if I made my hand. I spiked the As on the river to make the A-high flush, and bet the pot.

"Nice catch," he said, flashing me a red king as he folded.

Even though I won the hand, I think it was the only hand I played poorly. I had a ton of outs, but if I'd missed, it would have hurt.

Jason Alexander was moved to my table, which also featured Tom Everett Scott (who finished third in this last year) and Mike Sexton. Jason was so cool, and so funny, and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. About two hands after he sat down, he said to me, "Hey, Wil!"

I should point out that we've never met.

"I almost didn't recognize you," he said. "Stand By Me is one of my favorite movies of all time, man."

The one seat smacked the felt. "That's where I knew you from!"

I should also point out that the one seat was Allen Kessler.

Jason and I mixed it up a few times, and I took a couple of large-ish pots from him. One time, I open-raised from MP with presto, hoping my tightness would let me end the hand right there, but Jason called and we saw a flop of A-5-x. As Vince Van Patten would say, "there are fireworks going off in Wil's head now, Mike! He has to hope that Jason made a hand with that ace."

I checked, hoping to induce a bluff that would allow me to check-raise for the benefit of the entire table, but Jason checked behind me. Damn! The turn was the ten of clubs, which was a little scary if he was playing KQ, so I bet about 2/3 of the pot. Jason thought for a minute, and called.

The river is a queen, so the board is A-5-x-T-Q. Now I have to wonder if Jason has KJ, and I'm fucked. I've seen him play cards like that before, but I've also seen him play KQ and KT. I also know that he has to give me credit for a real hand here. I think for a second, and decide that he doesn't have KJ, because I don't think he calls my bet on the turn with a gutshot and king-high.

"Well, Jason, if you've got me, you've got me." I said, as I pushed the rest of my chips in. I think there was about 2800 or 3000 in the pot, and my stack was only about 8000 or so.

Jason went into the tank for so long, I knew I was ahead. "I don't know if I do, Wil," he said. I put him on KT. He sighed, and mucked his cards. "I think you bluffed me out of that pot," he said.

That is exactly what I wanted you and everyone else at this table to think,
I thought.

A level or so later, Jason limped from EP, and it was folded to me in the SB. I had pocket eights, so I raised. I'd seen him play a lot of big over cards, and I knew that if I could get heads-up with him, I could probably outplay him. It was folded back to Jason, and he called. The flop came out A-5-5 rainbow. Aw, shit.

In a nano-second, something Heather and I talked about a few weeks ago flashed through my mind: What would I do if this flop hit me? I'd check, of course. So play it that way. If he bets, you know you're beat and you're done. If he checks, you may be able to take it away later in the hand. I checked, and he checked behind me. The turn was another ace, reducing the chances of Jason holding an ace. I looked up at him, and everything about him said that he hated this board. I can't explain what it was, or how I knew, it was just something that Blinked into my mind. I continued to represent the ace I hoped he thought I had, so I checked. He checked behind again. The river was a complete blank, and I bet out about 1/2 the pot, which is exactly what I'd do with an ace there. I figured the only way he was calling was if he had the ace, and I was pretty sure he'd fold any other pair, up to jacks.

"Are you bluffing me again, Wil?" He said.

"Probably," I said. I looked right at the board and imagined stacking his chips.

He sighed. "I don't think you are. Good hand."

He mucked, and I raked in another good-sized pot. I heard my brother's voice in my head: "You're killing Independent George!"

A little bit later, this sweet girl named Marissa moved to our table. I guess she's on the TV show Stacked. She didn't have many chips, and the pros took what little she had by moving against her on the flop, pretty much regardless of their cards. She had never played poker before last night, and though she was in over her head with these guys, she was clearly having fun, and even said that she was just looking for a good hand to bust out on, so she could go out with some dignity.

Allen eventually busted her with 93o vs. her A-little, when he paired his three. She was a really sweet girl, and we were all sad to see her go. Especially when her seat was filled by John Juanda.

Some of you may have read that I busted John. This is true, but it's not as exciting or masterful as you may think. John was crippled when Jason flopped Broadway for the nuts, and John made aces up on the turn. A few hands later, Daniel Negreanu came running over to our table with some guy I didn't recognize, and said to John, "Can you eat ten Saltines in sixty seconds?"

"What?" John said, and everyone else at the table thought.

"Saltine crackers. Can you eat ten of them in sixty seconds?"

John thought for a second while he looked at his cards.

"Yeah, I think I can," he said.

"Okay!" Daniel said, with a little hop. "Juanda is my horse! You get half my action, John."

"Let's do it!" John said, and shoved his last 1000 or so into the pot. It was folded to me, and I figured that the BB and I were calling based strictly on odds and probably checkint it down. That is, until I woke up with pocket aces.

"I have to raise," I said. While I thought about what amount would get the BB to maybe call with something that I could survive, he folded J2o face up.

"Go ahead and play it out," he said. "I'm not playing this."

I flipped up my aces, and John flipped up KQ. I flopped an ace, busted John Juanda, and ended up with about 16K after the whole thing was said and done. John and I shook hands, and the WPT cameras captured the whole thing. Daniel was putting on quite a show for them, calling for cards and stuff, and it was pretty funny, so it stands a good chance of making the broadcast, especially if I make it deep today.

I went back to being card dead, until I found A2h in the BB. It was folded around to Allen Kessler, who completed. Allen had been playing very aggressively, and had stolen a ton of my blinds. My M was pretty low at this level, though, and I wasn't taking this hand to war, so I just checked, hoping to get some help from the flop.

The flop came out Ax-Kx-Qh. I checked, and Allen bet about the size of the pot. I had to stop and think for a minute. Did he have an ace? I guess he would limp with a weak ace, but that seemed very unlikely, based on his aggressive play. Did he have a king? Maybe he had a king, and I could beat that with my weakest of aces. Does he have a jack, and he's on a draw?

"You're thinking about this so long, you have a piece of that flop," he said.

"I do," I said, " and so do you."

I almost folded, until I recalled something I read on Columbo's blog last week: what's the story of my hand? What's the story I'm telling? In other words, what does he think I have? He can't possibly put me on an ace here, because he knows I'd probably pop him pre-flop if I had one, right? And I think he raises with an ace, which means he paired his king or his queen, and I'm almost certainly ahead in the hand, even with my pathetic kicker.

My M was shitty, and I knew that if I just called he may be able to outplay me later in the hand. I also knew that if I raised, I was committed until the end, so I wanted to put my chips in when I was pretty sure I was ahead. I jammed.

"I'm all-in," I said.

He jumped a little in his seat, like he'd touched a live wire or something. "Well, I guess you're serious," he said. He thought for a minute, and showed a queen as he folded.

"Your king was good there," the player between us (who I later found out owns Bay101 in San Jose) said. I was proud of myself, and grateful to Columbo for the post on his blog, which put what is essentially level 3 thinking (what does he think I have, and what does he think I think he has?) into terms I was able to understand and apply to my game.

Shortly after that hand, our table broke, and Allen and I were moved to a table with Jon Favreau and Barry Greenstein. Jon was all-in, and Barry called as we sat down. John Kelley also called, and they saw a queen-high flop as I stacked my chips and set Darwin on the table. John Kelley pushed, and Barry called. John turned up AQ for TPTK, and Barry turned up AA. Jon Favreau sighed and turned up 44.

"This is sofa king cool," I thought to myself. "I get to watch Barry Greenstein bust two players with aces!"

The turn was a blank, and the river was . . . a four. I don't know who was more shocked, Barry or Jon. I've watched Barry play a lot of poker on TV, and I've never seen him steam, but he looked as close to pissed as I've ever seen. It was a brutal suckout, and the poker gods paid Jon back on the very next hand when all the money went in pre-flop between Jon and one of the hosts of Live at the Bike, (either David or Bart. I can't remember, because it was after midnight at this point. Sorry, David or Bart!). Jon had AKo vs. ATs. The flop came K-high, but a Ten on the turn took away about 1/2 of Jon's stack.

"The river giveth, but the turn taketh away,"
I thought. Then, "Okay, you're getting punchy because you're tired, and this is when you make stupid mistakes. Settle down, tough guy, and stay focused."

I didn't get involved in any hands at that table, which broke quickly, and sent me to Table 19, which was a seriously terrifying table: David Williams, Evelyn Ng, Alan Gohering, and my 2005 WSOP nemesis, Paul Darden, who looked at me like a one-night stand he'd completely forgotten about.

My M was about 6.5, and with only the final six players making the money in this tourney, I decided that I was going to double up or go home, but I'd do it smart, so I folded for about fifteen minutes, until I found AQo in EP. I open-pushed, got no callers, and that was it for the day.

I bagged up my T17500, which I knew was way below average and meant I'd have to play very fast today, but I didn't care about that. Even though I was mostly card-dead, I played very smart poker yesterday. I stayed out of trouble, let the other players beat up on each other, always got my money in ahead, and made the most of the cards I did pick up. I never tried to get cute or too clever, and I can honestly say that I played to the very best of my ability. The fact that I have nearly twice my starting stack, despite the epic string of lousy cards I got, is something I'm very proud of.

I drove home to the sounds of Underworld's AHundredDaysOff, and didn't fall asleep until after 3am.

I go back to Commerce today at 6. Here's my draw, courtesy of PokerWire:

Seat 1: Steve Lipscomb $47,900
Seat 2: Amnon Filippi $34,700
Seat 3: Wil Wheaton $17,500
Seat 4: Scott Fischman $94,600
Seat 5: Tom Lock $34,600
Seat 6: Adriano Zimonyi $47,300
Seat 7: Coley Laffoon $61,300
Seat 8: Judson Swimner $58,600
Seat 9: Blair Rodman $25,900

I actually like this draw a lot. I know what I have to do with my chips, and there are big enough stacks (*cough* Scott Fishman *cough*) to take shots at busting me if I pick up a decent pushing hand. It's also nice to know that I start out the day with just two moves: push or fold.

(Photo Credit: Dr. Pauly)

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