Lets jump into Day 2 of the tournament. If you missed my discussion of Day 1 of my recent big win at the LAPC, you can read it here.
LAPC Day 2
I came in to Day 2 of the LAPC with 33 big blinds. I think I was 82nd out of 132 returning players. Again, I had no plan other than to adjust to how the table was playing. If other players are playing too tight and conservative, I will play loose. If they are playing too loose, I will tighten up. There is no ego involved. I will take whatever line I believe will be the most profitable, in a given situation. There is zero fear. If I manage to win first place, my life won’t change. It might make things a little easier for a short time, but there won’t be any lifestyle changes. If I bust immediately for a few thousands dollars, that won’t change anything for me either.
As I went through Day 2, I kept saying “dig deep” to myself. That meant, find the necessary discipline to do what you need to do. If that means folding all day, fold all day. If that means going with your reads, then go with your reads. My goal was simply to be present and to play poker with discipline.
About halfway through the day, without any big confrontations, I had a few big hands go my way. The first hand involved someone shoving 15BBs from the lowjack with 85o. I had
K♣ K♦(which held) and busted him. The next big hand I opened Q♣9♣ from the hijack. The small blind called my raise and open shoved 3x pot into me on a board of T♣6♣2♣. Needless to say I won that hand as well. Toward the end of the day, I jammed Q♥Q♣ for 10.5BBs over an open and he called me with K♦4♦. I held.
The biggest hand of the day came right before the Final Table. I opened T♠8♠ in the cutoff. An older gentleman flatted the button. He had me covered, but I started the hand about 22BBs deep. The flop came T♣5♦T♥ rainbow. I bet small on the flop, he raised, I called. The turn brought a backdoor flush draw as the K♠ came down. We both checked. The river was the last Ten in the deck making quads for me. The board now reads T♣5♦T♥K♠T♦. I decided at this moment that my opponent: A. was tired after a long day, B. viewed me as extremely aggressive and/or C. might make a big mistake in this hand.
I had a choice for bet sizing the river and instead of choosing a small sizing to get called by a wider range, I decided to target the stronger hands in his range and bet all in for slightly more than the pot. He tanked for a while, finally called, and flashed an 8 or a 9 and mucked. I believe that he had 88 or 99 and hero called me on the river.
This left me with just shy of 30BBs going into the Final Table, putting me 4th of 8 remaining.
LAPC Day 3
The first thing I did when leaving the casino was contact my mental game coach, Dan Heskett. I asked him if we could do an emergency session in the morning before my Final Table. He said yes and was excited to be able to be there to support me in any way he could.
Throughout the session we talked about my insecurities, worries, confidence, and how to best approach this Final Table. In the first half of the session, we dispelled my worries. In the second half, we focused on visualizing how the day would go. I don’t know how we are all connected, why we are here, or if any of this woo woo stuff works. But I sit here today telling you that the Final Table played out almost exactly as I visualized it.
The Final Table started off with me busting out a short stack A♠K♠ vs Q♥Q♣. Another player busted shortly after that. A few orbits later, I got in Q♣Q♠ vs my opponents A♦K♠, blind versus blind and won the flip for over 70BBs. This put me in a dominating position going into short handed play with almost 50% of the chips in play. From there, I didn’t do anything fancy. I doubled up “Shooter” (a regular from LA) with my A♠J♣ vs his A♥6♠. Once he doubled up he ended up busting the other 2 players that we were short handed with. Now we were heads up with my 19 Million in chips vs his 20 Million.
Shooter offered to chop with me, giving me an even chop and taking the trophy. I explained that the trophy was worth way more than the money to me for many, many reasons. He was unwilling to compromise, so we decided to play it out. One of the more interesting things to me about this experience was that I was NOT willing to give up the trophy in this tournament. I have always valued money over the trophy, but on that day, despite first place being close to a quarter million dollars, I cared more about closing the tournament out and getting the actual win.
Getting to the Win
The trophy is not just a statue with 300-3,000 dollars of value. It is a visual representation and reminder of what it took to get here, and of the accomplishment of winning that tournament almost 15 years into my tournament poker career. In the end our heads up match only lasted 5 hands. The other player ended up getting in A♠4♥ against my T♥T♣ preflop, and the TT held up.
It was such a huge relief for me to find the win here without chopping, to prove to myself that it is possible to continue to play poker for a living. It may not be as easy as it was 15 years ago, but it’s still achievable. Once the final card was dealt, I hugged my girlfriend, shed a couple of happy tears, and went to have the winner’s photos taken. Years ago, my girlfriend Erika superimposed my head onto someone else’s MAIN EVENT champion photo to help me visualize a live victory. It was amazing to experience that level of victory in real life. It was surreal to go through the motions of something I had seen in my mind so many times before. Like they say, you can’t control when it happens.
The reason this was such an emotional win for me was not just because I cleared my downswing, or pocketed some cash, or captured the trophy. It was because I have spent so much time, energy, and effort studying and playing this game. This win was confirmation and validation of the path that I have been on for so long. It says that the process I have been taking part in, studying and playing and studying and playing, is working.
I have never felt so prepared for and confident during a tournament in my entire life. I played every single stack size in this tournament from 8 big blinds all the way up to 100BBs, and there was not a single hand in which I felt discouraged or out of contention.
In hindsight, whether I was winning or losing a really big pot, there was a serenity within me that allowed me to be cool, calm, and collected, and unattached to any one hand. This serenity allowed me to be unemotional and use my energy to focus, be perceptive, and think logically through each hand.
What Comes Next
After my big win, people were asking me if I was going to play the LAPC 10k or if I was going to xyz casino to play the 3,500. My answer was NO. Now that I have endured the stress of a year-long downswing for the 10th time in my poker career, I actually want to work in a less stressful environment for a while. So I have decided to finish my poker fundamentals course with Bryan Paris and take on more students for coaching. In working toward this win, I have been putting off my personal health and neglecting relationships. Simply put “All work and no play has made Mike a dull boy.” So, between now and the WSOP I will focus on taking care of myself. 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…
Bravo Mike on your win.
I’ve played for 20 years and I’ve had some success but I’ve never taken it to seriously. I just have the drive to sit for hours on end trying to out think players. So I’m happy playing low stakes every now and then and even after 20 years, I still like the buzz.
I have done some Poker training and it’s helped me open up more than the nit I use to be, which still won me my fair share of tournaments. I still have the packages I purchased off Johnathan Little and I like how Lex plays off Pokerstars and I tend to play like him when I do play. But just wanted to say bravo on your dedication and I know it’s a an awful long journey, so Grats on achieving that win and hopefully the start of something amazing in vegas for the WSOP.
Congratulations Mike! Well deserved!