The night before the WSOP Main Event, the wildfire west of Vegas set an ominously fantastical image before me. From my balcony in Las Vegas, I pictured myself marching into the Rio as a much better player than last year -- armed with my sword of knowledge from the thousands of tournaments I've played online since last summer. It was my successful summer last year that enabled me to move out of the US to play on PokerStars again, and the thrilling possibility of an even deeper run in the main swirled around me like the smoke encapsulating Vegas.
On Sunday, I stormed the red carpet heading into the Rio, and the same adrenaline that made it impossible for me to choke down any breakfast soared again. I reminded myself of one important non-monetary goal. I was also going to have fun, and it seems that TalonChick agreed with this point!
As it turned out, I ran well in terms of getting a fun table. Nick Decktor, a Seattle-based comedian and poker player certainly helped keep the table laughing. When a conversation of taking "selfies" broke out and I admitted my distaste for them, he took my iPod and snapped a selfie of himself!
My plan going into day one was to take advantage of the only day in the main that there isn't a table draw sheet. I wore a hot pink dress, hoping to be a shark in an anonymous lamb's clothing.
Unfortunately, my table image was shattered when a well-known pro walked over to give me a bunch of rubber-banded $100s for his share of my action. A few moments later, someone made me blush by asking, "So Katie, are you writing your next Anatomy column for PokerStars about today?"
Spoiler alert: I am.
A couple levels in, I was involved in a big pot with a friendly older woman. At 50/100, I raised to 300 UTG with 9-9. UTG+1 flatted, and the woman three-bet from the small blind to 1,800. Considering that we were both more than the starting stack of 30K and that UTG+1 was unlikely to four-bet, I had more than the implied odds to make the call. UTG+1 folded, and the flop was A-9-7 rainbow. She fired about half the pot, and I just called since I had a tight image and didn't want push her off of hands like A-Q or A-J (which I thought were possible hands for this particular opponent to have three-bet with). The turn was a blank, and I called another half-pot bet. The river brought another blank, I raised her river bet, and she called. She showed an ace (most likely A-Q, since people showing one ace are likely to show A-K if they have it).
With that, the day was off to a good start. Last year, I won a large pot on the last hand before the dinner break. This year, I lost a big pot with aces to a rivered gutshot and came back after dinner with about a third of my starting stack. A player raised from the lowjack to 725 at 150/300. He'd been active, and I'd shown down a light three-bet recently. I three-bet in the BB to 1725 with J-J, and he called. The flop was K-5-4, and I checked. He looked relieved and checked back.
At that point, I thought there was almost no chance he had a king or a set, or he would have at least considered betting. The turn paired the king and brought out a flush draw, and I led small to induce action from worse. He three-xed my bet, and I shoved for value, expecting to have almost no fold equity, considering he was getting around 3-to-1 to call. I thought his range was heavily weighted toward 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, T-T, J-J, and some possible flush draws. I was fairly confident that if he had J-J or better or AK, we would have gotten it in pre-flop. That's when the longest tank I've ever had to squirm through began!
About five minutes into my opponent's tank, he started staring me down and saying, "You always have it here," over and over. Eventually, I started to worry that he had queens, and I silently slipped on my heels under the table. In fact, he did call with queens, and my dream of going deeper than last year became as blank as the low river card the dealer peeled off. I was crushed, and sat on the steps outside the Rio staring at the buzzing neon of the Las Vegas Strip, reminding myself that it was just one tournament.
With the mountains receding behind me, I drove out of Vegas with the realization that I'd spent three weeks to play eight tournaments, when I could have played at least 1,500 online.
Fast forward to Sunday the 14th, my first online Sunday grind in almost a month back in Mexico. Instead of feeling nauseous, I woke up pumped to play! I'd decided to play lower than normal as I got back into the grind, so my average buy-in was 1/1000 of the prior week.
Yet, as I started to load tables and sing along to my favorite song of the moment - Riptide by Vance Joy - I realized that I was even more excited about multi-tabling online than I'd been for the WSOP Main Event. I'd planned on 25-tabling to get back into the swing of things and was surprised to learn that I was playing quite a bit more than that at some point, though I never reached the point of feeling overwhelmed.
Playing heads-up is always a rush for me, and my Sunday was going well from winning a couple of MTT SNGs. I also final tabled the $5.50 NL, which had a field size of 1,803. I took an ICM chop three-handed as the shortest stack, and then ended up knocking out the other two remaining players to book a quasi-win! My results certainly looked a lot better than last week, when I bricked one $10K tournament.
Since I'm a social person, most assume that I prefer playing live except for the variance. But as I sat behind my computer in my pajamas, bluffing with one hand and petting my cat with another, it cemented why I prefer playing online to playing live. When I pull off a bluff, I can smile without giving away any info (well, except to my cat). I can play with my hair in a messy bun and without fixing my manicure.
Online poker is a pure game of wagering skill, and this summer made it clear to me that getting to play it for a living is my dream job.