I didn’t get involved in another hand until after the blinds were on me again, taking me down to about 27k. The good news was that players were busting out at a rapid clip, and we were under 500 remaining, which boosted my minimum payout to $14,135.
It takes a unique type of skill to play with a short stack. You have to be very patient, picking spots to move in with subpar hands where you won’t get called. Sometimes it is possible to discern when the players behind you are weak and will not call. Having that ability is key. At the same time, you cannot be too patient with a short stack. You must not let your chip count deteriorate to the point where doubling up is pointless. On day three of the WSOP, I believe I played the best short stack poker possible.
The first of my little surgical strikes was in the cutoff with K9 offsuit. Enright, Lederer and Kimono conceded, and I collected the 5.7k. I went to the first break with almost the same stack that I started play with, about 32k.
we in da money, we in da money…
3:40 pm: At the break, I found Kevin (who had increased his stack size and was in very good shape). “Dude, you’re not gonna believe this, but there is a total donkey at my table,” I said, referring to Dannenman. “I have no idea how he got this far.”
When I returned to the TV table, the blinds increased to $1200 and $2400 with a $300 ante. Back to picking spots to move in. It was hard, because the bigger stacks were now raising a lot of hands, and I wasn’t picking up the type of cards to fight back with. I managed to steal one pot with J9 of diamonds and another with AJ. On the second occasion, Kimono, before mucking his cards disgustedly, said “hey mister ‘one-move’ over there, when are you gonna play some poker?” The implication, I think, was that I was a putz that didn’t have the skills to play after the flop. I felt the need to defend myself, saying “well, the size of my stack dictates that I play this way for now. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to play some poker.” Lederer, who probably wasn’t a big Kimono fan either, sort of nodded in agreement with this comment.
Around this time, Donkeman was up to his old tricks again. Lederer had just been muscled out of a big pot by the asian kid. On the next hand he made an early position raise to 10k. Danneman called on the button, and the flop came 5 2 2. Lederer led out for about 15k, and Dannenman thought for a second before moving all in, a massive raise. Lederer instantaneously called. Dannenman showed K5 of hearts, and Lederer showed AA. Lederer took about 50k off of the resident donk as the crowd cheered.
Dannenman’s play was truly awful: to start with, calling preflop with such a weak hand was probably a bad move. Not considering his vulnerability to nine overpairs on the flop was even worse. To top it off, he made a risky, unnecessarily large raise on the flop. This time, some other players were unable to contain their disgust. After Dannenman showed his hole cards, Enright reeled backwards in her seat and then gave me a look of disbelief. Then, in a conversation that ESPN may choose to air in light of Dannenman’s eventual 2nd place finish, she muttered “that’s two horrible plays from this guy” to me under her breath. I concurred, saying “yup, that’s two donations from him.” And, referring to Lederer, I added “and this time he’s donating to the wrong charity.” Enright laughed.
I am very curious to find out how Dannenman ended up finishing second. I heard he finished day 3 with a short stack, and then went on huge rush on day 4, destroying everyone in his path. I also heard that he was knocking back bloody marys throughout his day 4 run, and that he was visibly hammered, lolling around in his chair as he took everyone’s chips. He also apparently managed to piss off the normally affable Greg Raymer at some point. His “just happy to be here” mentality made him a big crowd favorite as the tournament wore on.
There are different categories of bad players. One is the tight/weak player, who a good player will run over at an opportune time. My laydown of KQ to Enright was a tight/weak play. Another type of bad player is the loose/passive player, otherwise known as a calling station. This type of player is unbluffable. Complicated plays against this kind of player are pointless, he is going to call to see what you have. This was Dannenman. If this type of player is actually picking up good hands, he can be hard to deal with. If this type of player becomes aggressive, and plays back when others bet at him, he can dominate. I suspect that’s how Dannenman ended up finishing second. He was certainly playing without fear of going broke, and that must have worked to his advantage at some point later in the tournament.
The next hand I played is the one that is most likely to be aired on ESPN. I had the A of spades and the 10 of clubs, and the action was folded to me in middle position. By now, about 20 hands had gone by since my last action and I was down to around 24k. I moved all in and Enright folded. Lederer checked his cards and then fixed his eyes on me. Uh oh. After maybe five seconds, he called. The other players folded, and resigned to my fate and prepared to get busted by Lederer, I showed my cards. Then he flipped his hand over. Also A10, but suited in diamonds. The dealer moved our hands to the center of the layout. “Some black cards, please, dealer,” I said, referring to Lederer’s possible diamond flush. The flop contained no diamonds, and the Professor and I ended up chopping the blinds. As we restacked our chips, Enright asked me whether I “liked Howard’s call.” “Well, I was pretty desperate, so yeah,” I replied, misconstruing her question. She wanted to know whether I was happy or upset the moment he called. I thought she was asking me to critique his play. Lederer, my confusion notwithstanding, seemed to like my answer.
About 5 hands later I was on the button with AK, and the action was folded to me. The no-brainer play was to move all in and hope for a call. The table had now seen me move all in several times, which made me seem reckless and could entice a call here. But no such luck, Enright and Lederer folded. Apparently something about the way I moved my chips in revealed something to Lederer, and I saw evidence of his legendary ability to read players for the first time. “I wouldn’t have called you with anything less than Ace-Queen there.” “Oh yeh?” I said. “Yup,” he replied, “you seemed less ‘desperate.’ You were strong that time, right?” “Yup, good read.” Damn. 35k.
This latest steal expanded my chip count to the point where I could safely raise only a portion of my stack rather than moving all in. By now, I had moved all in and survived at least six times at the table, and it was a bit of a running joke. So when I picked up A6 offsuit in middle position, I said “let’s try a regular raise” to everyone at the table before making it 9k to go. It was folded around to the nervous looking guy on the button, who had about 50k in front of him, and he called. The flop came A J 4 rainbow, a nice flop for me. But now the nervous guy did something peculiar, he led out for 8k into the 22k pot. What the hell was this puny little bet? I paused for a long time while I considered the options:
a) A little probing attempt to steal the pot, possibly with something like 55;
b) An underbet with a strong hand designed to entice me to come over the top.
If the answer was A, it was time to move all in. If the answer was B, it was time to fold my pair of aces. I was very much torn between these two options, but I had a gut feeling that the answer was B. I mucked the A6, making a laydown that I didn’t know I had in me. Nevermind the fact that it was probably a bad play. 26k.
5:25 pm: Pretty soon after this hand, they broke the ESPN table. For someone with such a low chip count, I was involved in a lot of pots. I was also seated next to the two pros at the table, so I should be on TV, if only for a fleeting glance, in October. In the grand scheme of things, the footage was filmed at a fairly early stage of the tournament, so I’m not expecting much airtime. Perhaps ESPN will be interested in showing what the bubble is like. Who knows.
Meanwhile the rapid-fire eliminations were continuing. We were down under 400 players left, and I was now guaranteed $18,335. I had somehow managed to tread water for about four and a half hours.