If you haven’t read the first part of this blog leading up to the WPT final table check that out here.
Coming into the final table I felt great. This was my chance to finally get the big live title that I had narrowly missed out on in the past. I liked my seat draw (on the direct left of the chip leader Michael Rocco) I felt good about the way I was playing and I felt like I had a great read on my opponents. The final table started out really well with me making a few big hands at crucial times and winning a lot of pots without much resistance. With 4 players left I had half the chips in play and could already see the finish line. Of course it’s very rarely smooth sailing all of the way in a poker tournament and I was about to hit one hell of a bump in the road.
Rocco was giving me some trouble with his unconventional style and huge overbets in situations where I had capped my range or shown some weakness. I also misplayed a couple of hands versus him and as a result drifted back into the pack a little bit. I then misread my hand in a big spot versus Glenn Lafaye when I thought I’d made a straight on the river with J3 of hearts on a Q75 hh 46 board where he had check raised the flop and check called the turn. On the river I sized my bet relatively small compared to the pot because I felt like he had a KQ type hand and wouldn’t call a huge bet. He tanked call after around 2 minutes and I proudly went to turn over my J3 hearts for the rivered straight only to look down at J2 hearts and have to muck and pretend I was bluffing. Shortly after that I lost a flip to Patrick Bruel with AK suited v 44 and now I was 4/4 in chips and bang in trouble. In the space of a 60-minute level I had practically destroyed my chances of winning the tournament. I was on tilt and my confidence in my game was at an all time low. Fortunately a break came just at the right time for me and after a chat with my girlfriend and rail to get my frustrations out in the open I was able to find a new lease of life again.
Now that I was 4/4 I felt like I had nothing to lose and the pressure of winning my first major title was completely off. I eliminated Patrick Bruel with AJ v K8 on a J8x flop and was right back in contention. From there we battled in 3-handed play for a while until I had perhaps the biggest sweat of my poker life.
At this point Glenn Lafaye had built a significant chip lead and me and Michael Rocco were very even in chips with me having him slightly covered by a couple of big blinds. Glenn opened the button and Michael shoved all in from the small blind for 20bb. I looked down at tens in the big blind and had a very easy all in shove. In this spot I am well ahead of Rocco’s range and if I could win this pot I would be headsup for the title although Glenn would have close to a 2-1-chip lead over me. To my surprise Glenn snap called all in as well and at this point I thought I was in a world of hurt especially when I saw one of his cards the queen of diamonds. I felt like the speed with which he called I was going to be looking at pocket queens for Glenn and need a miraculous ten to win the pot but to my surprise the other card was only the jack of diamonds! Rocco turned over A9 off and to the flop we went for a huge three way all in three handed on the LAPC final table; this was as big as it gets!
We had to wait for what felt like an eternity for the flop to be dealt. Finally it came down K-Q-J, which kept everyone in the hunt. Glenn would win the tournament if the turn and river bricked out, Michael needed a ten and a brick to cripple me and all but make it to headsup play and I needed an ace or 9 and a brick or a ten and a board pair that wasn’t a queen or jack to make it to heads up play even stacked with Glenn Lafaye. The turn also took an age to deal and all I can remember was a huge brick. About 5 seconds before the dealer dealt the river I felt this strong wave of positivity inside me and I uttered the words to myself “Barry Greenstein” repeatedly and then to my astonishment it came, ace on the river!!! Get in!
I’ve never been one to show emotion at the poker table, really. When you’ve played as much poker as me you try and become as immune as possible to the sick beats and swings you can have in poker. Sure it still hurts when you are 1 card away from winning a big pot only to lose it etc. but I try to keep my emotions in check for the main part. This time however, I lost it a bit. I ran to my friends railing, gave everyone the biggest hug ever and almost jumped into the crowd. I can’t wait to watch it all back on TV when the WPT airs in August because quite frankly it was all a bit of a blur! I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and moments in poker over the years but this topped every single one of them.
After a short break in proceedings for interviews etc. we began heads up play. With only a slight chip deficit now, momentum well and truly on my side and the deep stacks I’m not going to lie, I really fancied my chances. I just had to be careful that I didn’t see that winning line too soon once again.
Heads up play started out great for me I won the first few small pots and then a medium one to take a significant chip lead. I then played a crucial pot where I limped for the first time heads up with A9 off suit. This turned out to be a very interesting pot and although I would normally raise A9 especially heads up I decided to limp for a couple of reasons.
The first of these reasons is because of the history Glenn and I had from 3 handed play. Twice I had limped blind on blind and he had raised both times. Only once had it got to showdown and Glenn had won a medium sized pot with 54 off suit. I was limping 3 handed at this point blind on blind because Glenn and I both had big stacks and Rocco was short, therefore I didn’t want to get into a huge pot where I ended up busting. I was trying to keep the pots small preflop versus Glenn because I was out of position and I didn’t want to put myself in marginal spots with Rocco being short and likely to be all in very soon. I assumed that Glenn would see this limp as weakness and raise it preflop and represent an ace very strongly if I was fortunate to flop one. Another reason why I didn’t want to raise was because he was three betting a decent percentage of the time but my hand wasn’t good enough to play for stacks preflop and I didn’t really want to call a 3 bet in position with it and commit to calling down with ace high on a bunch of boards. Also, 4 bet folding seemed like a bad option for me because I didn’t want to give Glenn the momentum of winning a big pot if he was to go all in.
As expected Glenn raised my 150,000 limp to 600k and I made the call. The flop came down K85 rainbow and he continued for 450k. I called figuring I had the best hand the majority of the time and I would get to see a turn card in position. The turn was the 6h which put two hearts out there and gave me a gutshot to the top end of the straight. Glenn fired again and at this point when he fires on such a good card for my overall range which he rarely expects me to fold on I wasn’t anywhere near as confident that my hand was good. However I had a bunch of outs and I also planned on bluffing some river cards especially if the backdoor flush came in with my nut blocker. The river was a 4 and now any 7 made a straight. Glenn checked and at this point I was sure he had something and was looking to show his hand down cheaply. I put out a large bet of 2.7 million and he went into the tank for 3-4 minutes. Eventually he ended up folding and I won a crucial pot.
After this hand the blinds went up and Glenn was reduced to 20bb and would have to overcome the 3-1 chip lead that I had built up. He managed to double once but I grinded him back down a bit before I found pocket aces. He limped in for 200k and I made it 600k. He called and then Jammed over my flop continuation bet on K78 with 2 clubs. I obviously snap called and was shown 65 for an open ender. I was two cards away from my first big live title and incredibly nervous. I remember saying to myself at least give me a river sweat just don’t put the straight on the turn! The turn was a brick and the river was a 5. For a split second I thought he had binked the river but then I realized it was over and I had finally done it. I felt overcome with emotion and could barely get out of my chair to begin with. Glenn congratulated me and I gave my honest assessment to him that he’d been a really tough opponent throughout the final two days where I had played a lot against him. I then went over to celebrate with my rail that had been phenomenal throughout. Even though none of the Brits could make it out there for the final the American and Euro stand ins (particularly Athanasios and Marvin) had carried me through the day and even done their best to make up hilarious British chants.
Winning a live tournament felt even better than I had ever imagined it would and quite honestly I’ve now got the taste for more. I was very fortunate that I got a second chance this time after I almost self destructed in four handed play. It’s crazy to think that no matter how much experience you have in poker that pressure and tilt still have the potential to affect you so much and bring down your normal level of play to unrecognizable levels. I had so many regrets on hands that I played on the final table compared to the previous 6 days but somehow I found a way to win and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. I’m sure this experience will help me handle a similar situation much better in the future and hopefully my first big live title is only just the beginning.