As I get settled at my new table I took stock of my new opponents.
Again it was a mixed table. There were a few younger internet player guys in logos, as well as a few older nittish tight guys. With the Russian who has a huge amount of chips on my right, I was facing a whole new calibre of opponent. I was fortunate to have direct position on him, but I knew that there would be no more easy progress and I would have to be on the top of my game from now on, even more so. He looked unassuming - about 14 and seemed like he was just about to start shaving, but I knew that appearances were deceptive and he would be a formidable opponent.
Kostritsyn started as he meant to go on by raising a lot of pots and then getting involved post flop with a lot of small bets. I started patiently. I had not played with him before and possibly not played with anyone of that calibre before, so I wanted to try and get more of an idea of his play before I started to get out of line against him.
After about an hour at the table I suffered my first 'cooler' hand of the tournament. I picked up pocket kings and got into a raising war with one of the young players at the table. I'm not sure I have ever folded kings pre-flop and I wasn't going to start now. Maybe against one of the older guys I might consider it, but against someone who looked as if they could play a bit there is no way I'm folding. He had aces of course, I don't suck out and end up sending around 85,000 chips, a little under half my stack, to his side of the table.
In retrospect this was really bad timing as now I was down to about 40 big blinds and restricted. I didn't have nearly enough chips to get involved with the Russian without a good hand. He was playing a lot of pots, so that hampered my own ability to steal.
If there's one person you don't want to see walking towards your table when an incompetent old Chinese man busts out, it is Allen Cunningham. Quite simply one of the best tournament players of all time, I was less than thrilled when he took the empty seat. One consolation was that he was very shortstacked didn't have any chips to work with. As a result of this, a TV camera stationed itself nearby, so it was available to be called to catch his bust out hand.
It was at this point that I decided to review the small print of my contract from Full Tilt. It turns out I would get money for appearing on television, but ONLY if I was wearing a Full Tilt baseball cap backwards. Now I hate wearing a baseball cap, let alone backwards and I'm not proud to say that I chased the corporate dollar and donned the reverse logoed headwear, after all, I might be the one to bust Cunningham.
Meanwhile Kostritsyn continued raising and I continued folding. I managed to find a few good spots to keep my head above water. Shortly after Cunningham's arrival, another of the weak players at the table busted. This time he was replaced by a guy with a ridiculous amount of chips, who actually needed a second person to help him carry them all. It was soon confirmed that this guy was the chipleader in the entire tournament. So now I had Kostritsyn to my right and the tournament chipleader to the right of him. Now would be a great time to pick up a hand!
It turns out that the chipleader was decidedly spewy and wasn't banking on shutting down or keeping it tight. Along with the Russian, he was in a lot of pots and bleeding chips off at all angles but sadly not to me.
I managed to increase my chipstack some, but soon misplayed a couple of hands to knock me right back down.
Firstly I decided to play back at Kostritsyn in a hand that I now regret.
It folded to him on the button and he opened to 2.4x as he had done a lot. I looked down at 76 of spades and decided to three bet. It was the first time I had done this. BB folded and Kostritsyn called. Even though I had not three bet yet, it was very unlikely he would pass up the chance to play a pot in position, so this is the first regret. I should have just folded and not picked the only place on the board where I was out of position to play back at him.
The flop 2-4-8 with one spade, giving me a host of backdoor draws. Of course I c-bet and the Russian quickly and calmly called. The turn was a 9 which now meant I had an up and down straight draw, I decide to fire again and the same as before, the Russian quickly calls. I had now made a large and bloated pot out of position against a very tough player. This was not a very good combination. The river was a 3, leaving me with just a woeful 7 high. I was left with almost exactly a pot sized bet in my stack and my choice was now whether I wanted to three barrel bluff my entire stack in the WSOP Main Event with 7 high?
I pondered, but there was no way I could run a bluff for all of my chips. Perhaps this was a sensible decision or was it a weak decision? Kostritsyn had seemed strong the whole way through and the river was pretty much a blank, changing nothing. I wasn't really sure what I was trying to make him fold and what I could make him fold. I checked and then he himself bet the river. I tanked to save face and folded, furious with myself. The fact that he bet the river rather than taking a showdown, indicates to me that he either had a very strong hand, or was bluffing himself, although his hand was still better than mine. I'm inclined to think the former, perhaps a set, but I have no idea. I'd love to know what he had.
Again I built up my stack again before I got into a confrontation with Lyle Berman's son, Bradley. At this point I had no idea that this guy was the son of a famous poker player. He had a chirpy demeanor and was making jokes with the dealers and other players. This combined with his beard and scruffy dress made me assume (I guess wrongly) that he was some kind of satellite winning hick, out of his depth and enjoying his shot at the big one.
Sadly I can't remember how the hand played out, but I remember that he opened and I three bet from the big blind with AK. I then led out on a raggy low two heart flop, check called a medium card on the turn and then checked a non heart Q on the river. I don't know why, but my solid read on this guy was that he had a flush draw. Something about the speed he took to call the flop and then the slightly shaky reluctant bet on the turn. On the river I planned to call him down with ace high as long as a heart didn't come. He did bet and it was a decent sized bet. I didn't love the queen but I wanted to stick by my read. The board was now something like 3468Q and there were a lot of flush draws that didn't have a pair that it made sense for him to bluff the river. I was pretty confident I was correct and made the call. He flipped over AQ of hearts and with a cheeky grin, took a nice chunk out of my stack. I was pleased my read was technically correct but still wondered if I should have somehow found the fold. In retrospect I don't mind my play that much and it was just a shame that he got there.
So now I was quite short and before and after dinner hovered between 15-22bbs. I managed to stay afloat with a few timely steals and resteals and didn't end up with my tournament life at risk.
In the midst of all this, Allen Cunningham was griding his shortstack. He was all in and called once and the action was halted so the TV cameras could be summoned. This time he was able to double up and with him no longer on deathwatch, the cameras moved off to find another well known player on the verge of busting.
I don't think I played a hand with Cunningham the whole time I was at the table. We were both short and having to be selective about the hands we played.
He has a crazy stare and this insane nose twitch when he is thinking! I don't think it means anything because he did the twitch every single hand he played. He had such an intensity and a presence at the table, I was just thankful he was shortstacked.
Then came the hand which was to be my downfall. I chipped up again a little and was now sitting at a little over 30bbs.
Villain ~100k -
Blinds 1000/2000 with a 200 ante -
It folds to me on the button and I open to 5100 with AsJc. So far, so standard.
In the small blind, a young internet kid in Deuces Cracked patch calls. BB folds. The kid has played quite low key so far and seemed quite tight aggressive and not been out of line too much.
The flop is Jd, 8c, 4c
He checks to me and with top pair top kicker I decided to bet on the large side to give him the perfect stack size to check raise me all in. He looked like he could be the type to do that with a jack, some kind of draw or even a bluff - I bet 9,000 with the intention of never folding.
He does exactly that and check raises me all in - I snap call and he turns over Kh Jh - just a worse jack with no backdoor draws. I am now almost a 9-1 favourite to double up to an above average stack for the last 90 minutes of he day.
Just the three kings to dodge, first time all in and I'm a 9-1 favourite - surely I can hold?
Sadly it was not to be. This time there were no TV cameras, and the dealer, without ceremony, put out a king on the turn to send me all but out of the tournament. I still had three aces to hit to make a two pair, but I barely had time to consider this before an inconsequential river card fell, I was shaking the hand of my opponent and walking off out of the Amazon Room as fast as I could.
I finished about 1150th out of a total field of 7,319. It sounds impressive but I had come all this way and won nothing. I was devastated.
I made the requisite calls to my next of kin informing them of my demise and then went up to my suite, sank into my bed and hardly moved for the next 24 hours.
Busting out of the Main Event must be the worst feeling in poker. To be all in for the first time as such a favourite and to be knocked out, I felt cheated and wronged!
In retrospect I actually had a great chance to accumulate some chips. Two huge stacks were directly to my right and it is said in poker that chips move to the left. I had a great chance to get a big stack, but the nature of the table meant that it was a lot more high variance than previous days.
The KK vs AA hand came exactly at the wrong time and robbed me of a lot of the freedom I had to play pots with the bigstacks. I was then forced to pick precise spots or wait for good hands, sadly I didn't get my card rush this time.
It was a great tournament and I enjoy every minute apart from the last one. I felt I aquitted myself excellently, played some of my best poker and had a great chance to win some money.
I'm not sure if I will ever play the main event again, but I'm glad I took one shot at the glory and don't regret entering one bit.
*Alexander Kostritsin finished 52nd in the main event winning $168,556. I can safely say he is the best player I've ever played against. He played magnificently and controlled my table.
**I'm pretty sure the guy who was the chipleader in the middle of day three didn't even make the money in the tournament. 747 players got paid.
***The final of the Main event took place in November and French Canadian Jonathan Duhamel took down the $8,944,310 first prize.