In a previous column (“The Player of the Year Race,” Vol. 18/No. 2, Jan. 28, 2005), I set the stage for my final attempt at winning Card Player’s Player of the Year honors. I’d led for most of the year, but out of nowhere, David Pham came from behind and passed me with just one event left — the $15,000 buy-in Five-Diamond World Poker Classic championship with 376 entrants. All I needed to do was crack the final nine and I’d regain the lead, as long as David or John Juanda didn’t finish higher.
For the two weeks prior to the event, I was totally useless. I had no focus, no motivation, and just no shot whatsoever. Coming into the main event, though, I felt great. I got all of that sloppy play out of my system and was ready to give it 110 percent in this event. I just love it that athletes always say that — as if 100 percent isn’t good enough. Well, if it were possible to give it 110 percent, that was my plan.
From hand one, I was totally calm. My goal on day one was to get every single chip that I was supposed to get. Many old-school thinkers believe that day one is a day of survival. While I respect them, they are just wrong. Poker’s changed so much in the last five years that surviving on day one should take a backseat to scooping up some dead money.
After all, the worst players in the tournament are likely to go broke on day one — and I want those chips. If I don’t get them, someone else will. If it doesn’t work out and I get knocked out on day one, so be it. More often than not, I’ll receive a Christmas gift here or a birthday present there. You’d be amazed at some of the hands people are willing to put all of their money in with on day one.
In one extreme case, I remember getting it all in with the nut flush on the …