I'm not sure any other win will ever top my experience in the 2009 Main Event, but taking down my second World Series of Poker bracelet this summer comes pretty close. I had a second-place finish in 2012 and two fourths last year, and it feels really good to notch another win. It was also exciting to see Team Pro do so well this year. George Danzer won two bracelets, Vanessa Selbst won her third one and Daniel Negreanu got two seconds, one of them in the One Drop. It's esteemed company to say the least.
I got off to a really good start on Day 1 of the $10k six-max. At the end of the day, the average stack was around 70,000 and I bagged up 105,000 or so. Day 2 started out smoothly and I was able to chip up to about 150,000 without playing any big pots. Then I got stuck in neutral for a while. I was seated at a super-aggressive table with the top two chip stacks in the tournament, one of whom was a total maniac. And the maniac was actually picking up good hands! I bled down to around 70,000 and was one of the short stacks on the money bubble when this utterly insane hand unfolded.
The blinds were 2,000/4,000 and the hijack opened for 8,500. A really aggressive player named Wade Townsend made a huge three-bet to 31,000 from the big blind and the action folded back to the initial raiser. He made it 65,000 to go and Townsend five-bet to 140,000. The hijack called and the flop came 8-3-3. Townsend bet out 90,000 and the hijack quickly called. Then the turn came a 7 and Townsend jammed for 180,000. The guy in the hijack tanked for a really long time (it was the stone bubble) and eventually folded. Townsend showed complete air... K-6 offsuit.
Hands like that were par for the course on this table. Every single pot was contested. I can't recall a single hand where someone simply raised and took down the blinds--there was always a reraise. In order to counter this aggressive table I tightened up my opening range, but played back a lot lighter when I got reraised. The strategy worked out and within an hour of the money bubble bursting I was the chip leader.
The final table was as tough as they come. Three of the six of us had made the November Nine before. I was poking fun at J.C. Tran because the last time we played together was during the '09 Main Event and I knocked him out with about 100 players remaining. I needled him a little about it and he joked he was going to start shooting spitballs at my poster! It's definitely different playing a final table with that giant picture of my 21 year-old self hanging in the background.
People keep asking me if I feel like this second bracelet validates me as a player. I don't look at it that way. If I lost one flip I could have busted out of this tournament instead of winning it. Does that make me a worse or better player? I don't think so. I've been playing poker for some time now and while I don't claim to be the best in the world, I'm confident in my abilities and I've been successful for many years. Maybe a second bracelet just puts a little exclamation point on it.
Joe Cada is a member of Team PokerStars Pro