The last time you heard from me I was in the midst of the 2nd worst downswing of my career. I had just busted the Borgota $3500 Main Event Flight 1A and was contemplating whether or not to play flight 1B the next day. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and I had to consider the bankroll management aspect of being in a single tourney for $7000. I changed my mind at the last minute and got out of bed 2 hrs late to play flight 1B. On my 3rd hand I got sucked out for 85% of my stack. This was demoralizing with all things considered but I didn’t give up. I played perfect and almost made it to day 3 of the tournament. I didn’t cash… BUT I DIDN’T QUIT. I fought so hard against the odds, did the best I could, and put myself in a position to go deep. I had lost a lot of money but I didn’t care. I was so proud of the way I composed myself, acting and feeling like a true professional. I was down on my luck but still moving forward with a supreme confidence. I had tunnel vision and I was still so hungry for glory. So off to Tunica I went.
I met up w one of my best friends, the great Kurt Jewell, when I got down to Tunica. Kurt won the Hammond Main Event in 2010 for $242k (my home stage—foreshadowing), won another ring in St. Louis in an Omaha8 tourney, the first time he had ever played an Omaha8 tourney (foreshadowing again), then made the Main Event final table here in Tunica last year. He didn’t win this one though, he held the chip lead w over half the chips in play 8 handed and got 8th. He blew a big opportunity here, but would soon get a shot at redemption.
I played very well this trip with 3 cashes; a 23rd place finish in the $355 where I overplayed AK and punted my stack off to some idiot late in the tourney, a 12th place finish in the $565, and an all important cash in the Main Event. In the Main Event I got off to a horrendous start. I got sucked out over and over again and was so miserable. I made my friend Cory Gunz rail me the whole first day so I didn’t just give up and punt my stack away. He encouraged me and I hung in there. I showed a lot of heart and I put myself in a spot to go deep, but I fell just short after losing a big coin flip AK to QQ late to eliminate me. But it wasn’t my tourney to win. Remember that Kurt Jewell guy I mentioned? The guy who gave away the Main Event in Tunica last year? Yeah that’s him…. We stayed and rooted him on. To make a long story short, I spent the next 2 days watching Kurt play the most unbelievable game of poker he had ever put together on his way to winning his 2nd WSOPC Main Event Championship. What is even sicker is the REDEMPTION he achieved; a story that gives other poker players hope and inspiration. There are a lot of other reasons that made this achievement so outstanding but I will not get into them bc this is MY BLOG and should be about ME, not Kurt…
Just Kidding. Riding high from his victory he led us down to West Palm Beach for more WSOPC tourneys.
WEST PALM BEACH… WOW. Man do I love this place. It had perfect weather, terrible players, and more old guys with money than I would ever need to survive off of at the cash game tables. Kurt rented a yellow Camaro that we called the “bumblebee” and I have to say, we had a blast. Neither of us had cashed in any of the first few tourneys so we had lots of time to go out and do stuff. We partied a lot and went everywhere we could. We checked out every hot spot, bar, restaurant, beach etc. Driving around and blasting music like tourists with daddy’s money. Like a couple of rock star idiots. The last tourney before the Main Event was the $1090. I played well in this and finished 12th for about $3000 and earned 10 huge WSOP Circuit points towards the National Championship Tournament. It pushed me into the top 30 on the National leader board with 90pts, positioning me for a spot in the Million Dollar Freeroll in Las Vegas this summer. The next day I played the Main Event. I busted day 1A with 90 seconds left (ugh!) so I had to play day 1B. I made it through to day 2 with a good stack but things didn’t work out the way I wanted them too. I finished 4 spots from the money after losing a coin flip w 88<AK literally minutes from getting paid. Considering that I busted day 1A w 90 secs left and played day 1B, I ended up playing the maximum amount of time while losing the maximum of money… sigh. I did play very well though, and I always hang my hat on that.
After West Palm Beach we were scheduled to come home to play the Chicago Poker Classic. We had planned on playing the $1100 heads up event and the $3125 Main Event. I told Kurt to book our flights for the 29th, the day of the Heads Up tourney, but I mopped it up big time. The heads up was on the 28th not the 29th, and we missed it bc I screwed up the scheduling. So we spend our last night coming home to the hotel drunk and swimming in the ocean. We showered, dropped off the rental car and went to the airport for our 7am flight. We arrived in Chicago at 9:30 and to my apartment around 11am. Kurt wanted to play that day’s CPC Pot Limit Omaha tournament. We had not planned on playing this but I mixed up the days. We didn’t have a ride bc our friend Cory had Kurt’s car and he wasn’t answering his phone. I didn’t care bc I didn’t really want to play, I don’t play PLO anyways and had no intention of ever entering this tournament. So what happens… Cory calls us back and says he’s going to play, Kurt really wants to play, so I say fuck it and decide to play too. The tourney started at noon, so when we showed up at 1:30pm to register we were late, but we weren’t too late, bc registration was open until 2pm. We took our seats at our tables in the Horseshoe Venue and began to play PLO.
Now I hadn’t been home in 2 months and haven’t been to the Horseshoe, my hometown Casino where I grew up playing, since October. I haven’t seen anybody in awhile so I loved the novelty of seeing people for the first time. Everybody was busting my balls about my hair and the fact that I’m playing PLO. 10 different people came up to me to say, “You know you get 4 cards in this game?” Yeah yeah I get it…
Clearly it isn’t my game, I usually only play no limit hold ‘em, but I understand tournament poker and have an extremely high poker IQ so I knew I still had an edge. But this tournament specifically has all the best cash game players and young pros so it was going to be a huge challenge.
I played very tight and patient. I made a few hands and held, giving me an above average stack and some breathing room. I continued to be very patient. For hours I sat back and folded playing very few hands. I also spent those hours doing something else. Every time I folded I would pay to close attention to rest of the hand. I studied everything I could, I watched the good players and how they were playing. Things I paid attention to were bet sizing, frequency of them potting to them betting a smaller amount, their preflop action, the hands they would showdown, etc. I was playing every hand in my mind without cards and was very attentive. I also had a few friends close by throughout the tournament, led by Kevin Saul (obv), that I would ask a million questions to. I was jumping out of my chair every other hand for the duration of the tournament telling someone my exact 4 cards and what they thought. I needed better players to tell me what the correct play was and I needed them to tell me why. I needed to understand what they understood. I was getting better with every hand and actually started opening up my game a little and playing poker. I took down some hands from position with standard aggression and pulled off a few bluffs when I picked off live tell on players that were weak. If I sensed weakness my cards became irrelevant, I had a tight image and I went for broke betting the pot and taking it down. It was reckless aggression but to be honest, in a game where I am outmatched it is probably in my best interest to take a few more chances. If I bust out what’s the difference, I’m not supposed to be in this tourney anyways. I was still tight for the most part. I got it all in twice with the best hand and held late in day 1 giving me an above average stack.
We ended with 13 players and I was 6th in chips.
On day 2 we quickly got down to 9 players.
At the final table I continued to play pretty tight. There was one concept that I understood more than the other players at the table and it was clear to me. In PLO there are no antes at any point in the tourney. I am used to no limit hold em, where the antes put huge pressure on you as the tournament goes on. I couldn’t believe there weren’t any antes in this game. I just couldn’t believe it. I was sitting back letting everyone get it in and pop the shit out of each other. It was great.. 8,7,6,5. Players would bust each other and I would move up prize money. We get down to 4 handed and 2 of us offer a deal that the chipleader (and clearly the best player left) declines. We get down to 3, me and “TheLandlordd” offer the same guy a deal again which he declines. Then I get it in against the Landlordd w basically the same exact hand, we are supposed to chop the pot but I river a Q giving me a higher 2 pair and a 1 million chip pot. He goes out 2 hands later leaving me heads up for the title.
I have about 1.15 million he has about 975k. I offer him one last deal where we each lock up an additional 5k and play for the rest. I never offer deals in hold ‘em but I knew I was outmatched and I knew anything could happen. He declined, so we were playing heads up for about $15,500 plus a $3125 seat to the Main Event so a total of almost $19,000real money. I said goodluck, and proceed to win the match in less than 10 minutes (probably like 6 minutes).
On the last hand he raised the button and I raised pot w Qh10h10d9d, he called. The flop came out Jd7d2c and I bet the pot. He thought awhile and moved all in for just under 1 million. I thought about it for 7 seconds then called. He flipped over Qs7c3d4d. I jump out of my chair… “I have the best hand? And the best draw?” Indeed I did. The turn was the 6 of diamonds giving us both flushes, mine being higher “I win?” I say, quickly freezing bc I realize I haven’t won, he has picked up the open ended straight flush draw but he can’t hit the 8 of diamonds bc I would have a higher straight flush, so he has 1 out, the 2 of diamonds…. Drumroll plz… black jack. I had won. I jumped up in the air twice hugging, high fiving and getting love from everyone. I had a sick rail of my friends and Horseshoe regulars that I had grown up playing with. A moment of glory I had always dreamed about. Winning a title on THAT STAGE. AT HOME. WITH MY PEOPLE. It was one of the greatest moments of life and I am so grateful and humbled bc it came out of nowhere. I have been putting in so much hard work, playing every day and doing everything I can not to give up an inch to my opponents. I will not be outworked and have not been outworked. I have failed and failed time and time again, and that is why I succeed. I scooped $40,900, the $3125 seat, the trophy, and the legendary tale of the kid who shipped the PLO tourney on his home stage on his first try.
Moving forward I will not be complacent. I busted out of the main event and here I am. After a few days at home I will be back in Atlantic City on Thursday to play the WSOPC at Caesars. From there I’m heading back down to Florida for the series at The ISLE and so on… I am hungrier than ever and want to succeed in the worst way. I take nothing for granted and must keep that mindset if I want to be where I want to be. I cannot be a failure, I have to succeed so I will work as hard tomorrow as I did yesterday. On twitter, I use #stallone hashtag that I came up with. It began as a joke between me and my brother but it actually applies bc he has all the heart in all of his movies and ends up being victorious in some uphill challenge. It applies to me bc I feel that I have more heart than ‘em all, so feel free to jump onboard team Stallone. I appreciate the overwhelming support I have gotten from my friends and followers. It motivates me beyond belief to take the next step. I don’t want to disappoint any of you and don’t want to disappoint myself. I play poker for the money, but I also play for the glory, and when I get the support from you guys it makes me feel like I have achieved my goals. Thank you so much for reading… Hopefully I can give you all something to cheer about very soon.
Love You All,
The following was featured on Horseshoe Hammond's website.