I recently topped a field of more than 1300 entries at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles to win their LAPC Classic Event for just over $241,000. This is now my biggest score in over a decade of playing professionally. When you see big wins like this, you think what it’s like to win that amount of money. The truth is, as many of you may know, when someone wins a big tournament, they might not have all of their own action. They might be on a downswing, or they may have investors who need to be paid before they get their cut. For me it was both. I’d like to take this time to reflect on what got me out of my recent downswing and the events that led me to this big tournament, and how I won big at the LAPC.  

Coming Back from My Recent Downswing

It had been close to 14 months since I was last in the green (profit). Most of my recent losses were from playing online. The rest were from playing 1k-10k buy-ins at the last few WSOP events in Vegas. My last big win happened when I topped a field of over 19k runners. That day I turned my $50 buy-in into over $86k in the GGpoker Global Millions Event a little over a year ago. It’s been a slow, steady decline until a few weeks ago.  

Mike Wasserman LAPC

Throughout every downswing I have always continued to win tournaments and make runs in tournaments. I consistently close out multiple tournaments a month.  The question becomes, “Do my wins cover all of my buy-ins in my other tournaments?”.  The answer to that question is not lately. If I were to pinpoint when things started to turn around, it was not at the bottom of my downswing. It was getting 2nd place in a $80 tournament for 7k, when something clicked for me emotionally and boosted my confidence.  

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I followed that 2nd place win up with another 2nd place in a $215 online tournament for 16k. That boosted my confidence yet again. Then I made a deep run in the Venom on Americas Cardroom, which is a $2,650 buy-in tournament with $1 Million+ up top. That score was for another 17k to create some momentum for me. These few scores had me feeling like I was on the right track and headed in the right direction. That is important because extended downswings can cause the greatest of players to start questioning themselves and their abilities.  

So I made my way to the Commerce to play their 500k Guarantee Main Event.  It was on my calendar a month before the event so that I could be prepared mentally for it.  I didn’t go there with a specific plan.  I just believed I would have a huge edge in this field and was ready to sit down and adjust to the table.  Normally I adjust to each specific player at the table based on what I see in the first few orbits.

LAPC Day 1

I didn’t do anything special on Day 1, outside of calling a big river bet with top pair as a bluff catcher.  I also got in top 2 pair against a draw and my hand held.  After a long day I bagged just over 30 Big Blinds, right around the chip average going into Day 2. I bagged on a Friday so I had Saturday as an off day. Sunday I spent some time playing online, then Monday would be Day 2 of this live event.

I believe something clicked for me Saturday night. It had nothing to do with poker or any kind of work obligation. My girlfriend Erika and I were at a friend’s house on the beach and I went for a walk by myself. I didn’t intend for the walk to be two hours long, but that’s what ended up happening. I listened to a podcast and some music on the first half of my walk. Then I took my earbuds out and listened to the sounds of the beach while enjoying the sunset. This was when the magic happened.  

After a couple of minutes of enjoying real life sounds, sights, and smells and really being present, I started to think about my life as a whole. I thought about where I have been, where I am now, and where I am going. What kind of person I was, what kind of person I am, and what kind of person I want to be. I did a lot of deep philosophical and personal pondering which led me to a very important realization,  “I am a badass.” After quitting my job in 2008, here I am, still doing this. I always laugh when I hear someone say they are a badass. To hear myself say it sounded silly. But that was the moment where I began to respect myself a little bit more. I started loving myself a little more, and appreciating the difficult path that I have chosen occupationally. Also I pondered the not-always-easy road that I have navigated in life that lead me here.

During my walk, my mind was flooded with thoughts about people I have lost and loved, money I have won and lost, and friends I have made and lost. Support that I never had and support that I found.  It’s easy to be hard on yourself.  It’s much harder to love yourself in spite of the mistakes that you’ve made. And to love yourself in spite of the ways that you fall short in your own eyes and in the eyes of others. I think just that little bit of compassion and empathy, love and respect for myself, from myself made a massive difference in how I approached the next couple of days.

To see how this worked out for me, return for Part 2 of this article…

Feel free to reach out for personal coaching if you are interested.  You can follow me on twitter @StrungOut12 or email me at StrungOutCoaching@gmail.com.  

GL at the tables…