Chicago Poker Club readers, here's Aaron @nevermissmassey Massey's 7th installment in his summer WSOP series. Read to the end to learn how Massey perseverance pays off in a big way. Originally, this post was to be called Dethroning the Kings, but alas, it has a mostly happy ending...
A lot has happened in the last week since coming back to Vegas, after going home for my “Chicago Vacation”. After getting a little taste of success in the Venetian before going back home, I was eager to get back to work and try to make it happen. I arrived in Vegas at 4am last Tuesday after catching the last flight out of Chicago the night before. I was scheduled to play the WSOP $2500 that day at noon and was sooooo happy that I had made it in time. I played that day and every day since in an effort to make that money… Here’s a recap…
WSOP $2500 - This tournament was juicy, first place was over 750k and I came out swinging. I started off with a tough table that included my mentor, Kevin Saul. I started getting my hands on some chips, then, I bluffed 75% of them off to some crazy German idiot who wagged his finger at me after my failed attempt. Then I ran my stack to above average just in time to have pocket Kings cracked (re-occurring theme) by 45… That was that.
WSOP $1500 - I was a top 10 stack in the room on dinner break, I was playing and running well and had a feeling that I was going to go deep. I come back from dinner break and proceed to run AK into AA, AK into KK, QQ into AA, and to add insult to injury, I get my last 9 big blinds in with A10 against AJ. I lost every hand.
Venetian $1100 - I Bluffed off half my stack then got pocket Kings cracked (re-occurring theme) by KQ suited.
Venetian $1600 - I Get down to 28 players and the money bubble. 27 players get paid and we are only 1 person away from cashing. I make an open raise with A5 from the cutoff, the kid on my left who is an aggressive psychopath re-raises me like he has been doing to everyone all day.
I don’t know what I was thinking (probably something like “I’m Aaron Massey, and you are some wiener that I used to pick on in high school. How dare you raise me”), but I decide to come over the top for my whole stack. He snap calls with AK and eliminates me in 28th place. As I walk away disgusted at what I had just done to myself, I hear the announcement of everyone making the money and everyone clapping and cheering. It was a miserable feeling but I deserved it. I let my ego get in the way of me making the correct decision, my number one weakness as a player. I was beyond upset with myself, but knew I needed to respond like a champion… There was another tournament the next day… The WSOP $1000…
I started getting chips from the very first hand. Within the first hour I get moved to a table with 2 top young pros, David “Doc” Sands and Blair Hinkle. The very first hand I raise, Doc 3 bets me and I fold. The next hand I raise, Doc 3 bets me but I do not fold this time. I take a stand and call, we play the hand, and I end up winning a modest pot with top pair. I rake in the chips, stare at him, and say “I am not going to be your whipping boy! I am in no mood for it today.” I am referring to the fact that he has re-raised me on the only 2 hands I attempted to play, which I expected from him as he is a super tough and super aggressive player. I was on a mission. I continued a steady climb the entire first day. To break the monotony of the long grind, Blair Hinkle and I were prop betting the entire day. Every time a player busted out a new player would come to the table. We would alternate; One of us would set an over/under on the age of the next person to sit down (before we see the person obviously) and the other person would get to choose if their age was higher or lower than that number (the line was usually around 29 yrs old). However, if the line setter gets the age exactly right, they are paid double… This game was so much fun, the best part is when people start walking up to the table and you think they are going to sit down but they sit down at the next table and the wait continues until they actually do arrive. Then when they do sit we have to ask them their age and they have no idea why someone starts cheering when they tell us. This is really an amazing game… I recommend it. I ended up as a small winner, sorry Blair. I end day 1 with a big stack and we are very close to the money. I go back to the room and get some rest.
Day 2 was a rollercoaster, a day I will never forget as long as I live, a day that I will always look back on as the day I grew into a world class player. I played perfect; I won pots with no showdowns, I took horrible beats and hit a runner runner flush for my tournament life. I showed little emotion during these hands the entire day thru the good and the bad. I acted like a true professional, like I had been there before. Charlie was on my rail the entire night, discussing hands with me, watching me and sending like 20 people back in Chicago rapid fire text updates as things developed. After taking a horrible beat from this Asian guy who celebrated directly in my ear after getting extremely lucky to beat me, I was down to 11 big blinds. I took it like a champ and kept my composure. I grinded for 2 hours… then my time came…
The cutoff opens for a raise and the button calls. I look down at 23 off suit and go into the tank. You may wonder why I would tank with such a miserable hand and such a short stack, but don’t worry because I’m about to tell you. I had a soul read on the player in cutoff, the player who opened the betting. He had a hat, sunglasses and a stoic poker face, but I had a sick read on him. I knew he was light, I also knew that the player on the button did not call his bet with a monster hand. After about 45 seconds I re-raise all in and both players fold. I take down the pot on a stone cold bluff in the biggest spot of my life. I was so proud of myself, but it is what happened next that was more important than the brilliant play I had just made. As the pot is pushed to me, the players beg to see my hand, and I proceed to…. Muck my cards face down instead of arrogantly showing them how great I play. My closest friends have pleaded with me over the years to stop showing bluffs because it hurts my image. I never listen because I am an ego maniac who loves to brag and show everyone how I bluffed their pants off. I finally started listening to them, I completely removed ego from my game and I was playing at a level that I have never experienced in my life. It was empowering to know that I was overcoming a huge personal obstacle of mine and understood the effect that it was having. I was playing like a real professional, not some kid with a bunch of talent and huge balls.
A short while after that hand I am put to the ultimate test. An aggressive young pro raises from early position, the button goes all in behind him, I am in the small blind and look down at AQ. If I was to go all in here it would be for everything… I had to be right. I thought about it for 3 full minutes then stood up and said “You know what? I have to try and win this tournament… I’m all in too!” Everyone else folds and I flip my hand over as my opponents tells me a made a great call. He flips over J3, nothing. The board runs out and I hold up for my long awaited double up. I am pumped up at this point like I used to get before wrestling matches in High School. The floor man breaks our table and gives me a new seat assignment. As I rack up my chips I look over to see where my seat is. I see my empty seat, I also see the player who is sitting on my direct left… It’s an 11 time bracelet winner. It’s a world champion, a player who refers to himself as the best no limit player in the entire world…. It’s Phil Hellmuth. As soon as I see this I attack my chair like a pit bull. I have been waiting years to play poker against this man, and here he is.
I get to the table and he is in the middle of one of his typical rants that you see so often on TV. I waste no time getting involved in the banter with Phil. Every time I raise he has something to say, every time he folds he has something to say, every time anything happens he has something to say. After he loses a hand to another player he is complaining again, I look at him and say, “How are you complaining right now? Don’t you have a bunch of money and a great life?!? My life is shit!!! What are you possibly complaining about?” As soon as I say that the table erupts in laugher, Phil is grinning too and lets me know that I’m right and that my quote was priceless. We play thru the night, he has a bag of cherries sitting behind him on a chair. Every time he is in a hand I lean over and steal a cherry from his bag, which is making Charlie crack up from the rail, it was pretty funny. Toward the end of the night I get involved in a huge hand. Action folds to the small blind and he raises my big blind as I look down at A10. I call and we see a flop of 10-6-6. He bets, I raise, he min raises me back, I go all in and he calls. He has 10 7 for top pair but I have him outkicked. I win the hand and soar to an above average stack for the first time in 6 hours. We play down to 21 players that night. Hellmuth busted himself right before the night ended after getting it in with a flush draw that didn’t complete. I didn’t bust though, I was 9th in chips headed to day 3 with a shot a half a million.
I show up the next day ready to change my life. I still had a lot of work to do. On the very first hand I look down at KK and raise, the player on the button then shoved all in and I beat him into the pot. He has 1010 and gets eliminated while I jump up to 600k in chips. When we get down to 18 players we redraw for seats. Antonio Esfandiari is still left and has bunch of chips. Antonio is a legend in the poker world and I have always wanted to hang out with him even though I have only seen him on TV. The night before we exchanged glances but never spoke. He is standing next to me and I finally speak to him for the first time. I tap him on the shoulder and say “Antonio, take me with you.” He replies, “Take you where?” I say, “Anywhere, wherever, just let me come with.” He starts laughing because he realizes what I am referring to. Antonio is known for having the best parties. After he’s done laughing he says. “Kid, anyone who can pull off those sunglasses can party with my crew anytime. You fit right in.”
I always dreamed of saying that to him and I got my chance. I always dreamed of playing with Phil Hellmuth and I got my chance. I always dreamed about making a WSOP final table… and I got my chance.
I make the final table, which is being shown live over the internet. I have people texting me and facebooking me by the masses, letting me know that they are watching me live. I was beyond excited. I just keep looking at Charlie with a look of pride. A look of is this real? Is this really happening? We get moved the thunder dome, the massive stage of the WSOP final table with the bright lights, the cameras, the spectators, the whole nine yards. I finally made it. I dreamed of being on this stage and here I am. Aaron Massey, the bad kid from the neighborhood who never had was now a true professional on the World’s biggest stage playing for half a million dollars. On top of that, I’m sitting here with Antonio Esfandiari, talking about booze and women, having him invite me to hang out with him anytime, and having him let me know that he impressed with me as a person and wants to be my friend. My brother Ralph jumped the last second flight and got the last seat on the plane to get to Vegas in time to see my dream unfold. He runs up just in time to watch me play my last 2 hands of the tournament. Well Ralph, at least u got to see me there, even if it was only for a few minutes. My run at the bracelet was about to come to an end.
Over the previous 30 minutes or so I had attempted to steal the blinds twice. Both times Andrew Teng came over the top of me and made me fold. In my final hand it folds to me and I look down at KK. Andrew is in the big blind and has just got done punishing my last 2 raises. Because of this history, I assume that if I raise him again he may put me on a big hand, and if I limp in he may think that I am just trying to see the flop cheaply since my earlier raises didn’t work out. I was trapping him and it worked perfectly… well almost. He announces he is all in and I snap him off. He flips over 66. I am an 80% favorite to have 1 million in chips and be in a position to win my first bracelet. Unfortunately, as most of you already know, the flop was all diamonds and so was the turn. He had the 6 of diamonds in his hands for a flush and I was diamondless and drawing dead. It was over, I was eliminated in 8th place.
I made a sick run and proved a lot of things not only to others, but to myself. I grew leaps and bounds over 3 days and will use this experience as a stepping stone for future accomplishments. I did my best, I played against some of the best players in the world and gave myself a chance to be a champion. I know I am capable of playing no limit hold ‘em with anyone, anywhere. This isn’t the end for me, big things are about to happen. I have 4 more tournaments including the Main Event. I’m hungrier than ever and will deliver… I will make it happen… Destiny is calling me…