Our hero wins the H.O.R.S.E. title
I’ve always wondered what it was like to win a bracelet. This year, I found out. Not just a bracelet either, but the bracelet I wanted the most. The $10,000 Buy-in HORSE Championship. Have you wondered what that is like? Come on, I’ll show ya!
My final table played out in the Thunder Dome, the broadcast area at the WSOP with bleachers around it for a cheering section and cameras and spotlights everywhere. The event was scheduled to be broadcast online, but for some reason the broadcast didn’t happen. We were told that there wasn’t a broadcast team available, but some players speculated that the broadcast was canceled because there weren’t enough big names at the table. Luckily, PokerNews.com provided excellent coverage online.
My final opponent was Randy Ohel, who plays very well and was definitely one of the best players at a final table filled with sharks. The final hand was seven card stud high-low, commonly known as Stud/8, and I was the bring-in with 2d3h 5d. This is a fairly strong Stud/8 hand, and I happily completed after Randy paid the bring-in with the 3s showing. He called and we went to fourth street. My card on fourth street was a deuce, giving me a pair and three cards to a low on fourth street, a reasonably strong hand. I bet, and Randy called again showing a trey and a 10.
My fifth street card was another deuce, giving me trips. This could be it. I had a very strong hand, I was almost certainly ahead, and Randy only had a few big bets left. Could this really be happening? Was I about to win a bracelet? I got nervous for the first time in the tournament when I caught that third deuce.
I bet on fifth street and Randy raised me. He was showing two low cards, two spades, and was obviously ready to put the last of his chips in. There were a lot of hands he could have here, but I had a reasonable chance to scoop the pot against almost all of them. This could be it. My reraise put him all in and he rolled over a pair of aces in the hole. He played those aces in the hole the same way I would have, gambling with a short stack to try to get a double up, but it had backfired when I caught my third deuce.
It looked like I had it locked up, he only had two outs, but sixth street was an ace for him and I felt like I was watching my bracelet swirl down the toilet. I would still have had a big chip lead, but losing after getting so many chips in the pot when I was so far ahead would have been frustrating. Luckily that didn’t happen. I caught a trey for a full house on seventh street and Randy missed his full house.
I went numb and couldn’t think, so it was good for me that I had already planned it. What I would do if it happened. I got up calmly and shook Randy’s hand, telling him that he played great, which was true. Then I tweeted two words.
I was mobbed by about a dozen people from the bleachers who had stuck it out to watch me win at around 2 a.m. Vegas time. I was so elated, and happy, and tired from three long days of the toughest poker I’ve ever played. I couldn’t think much for myself at that point, but the WSOP staff had it set up so I didn’t have to think.
They started by setting up the cards from my winning hand and all of the chips at one end of the table. They put me in a chair behind all of it, handed me the cards and the bracelet, and a photographer was immediately telling me what to do, running me through the series of poses they use for winners’ photos.
First you hold up the cards and smile. Then you wrap the bracelet around your fist and smile. Now with the Blue Sharks on. Now with them off. Now everyone behind him. Cheer! Cheer again! Now hold the bracelet out toward the camera. A little farther … Perfect!
And with that the photo session is done. You get a business card from the photographer that gives you the website where you can buy the digital files and then there is a reporter from PokerNews with a microphone and a camera. It’s all happening so fast and you want to savor the moment but you are riding so high and you can’t imagine anything that won’t be perfect because you are a world champion now and you just want to wear that bracelet and celebrate with friends.
The Poker News reporter asked me some questions on camera, and when I saw the interview later it turned out just fine, but I honestly don’t remember doing most of it. Once the interview was over, I turned around and the chips and cards were gone. I kind of would have liked to buy that deck, but everything was gone, the table was empty, and the lights were being turned off in the Thunder Dome. It was shocking how quick it happened. They have it down cold, like clockwork. I guess when you do it 60 times a year and it’s the end of your day, you figure out how to do it quickly and get home to bed.
When I turned around, even the bracelet was gone. You don’t get the bracelet until the ceremony, which for me was two days later. After that, I was off to payouts to get a little over half a million dollars, so I figured it was going to be alright to wait a few days to get the bracelet.
At the payouts area you fill out some paperwork, then a little more paperwork, and 20 minutes later you are asked to decide how you want the money. Cash, Check, or Rio chips? I’ve written in the past about how it can be a hassle to cash Rio chips, so I definitely didn’t want those. I figured some of my investors would want some cash and I would need some to play with too, but half a million is a lot of money and I took the vast majority of it in a check.
I already had a safe deposit box at The Rio, something I highly recommend for anyone who is spending the whole World Series there. Hotel rooms are not always safe places to keep valuable things. I put the check, and most of the cash in the box and headed to the bar at the Rio sportsbook where my friends were waiting. I told the bartender to get them whatever they needed and I would be back to pay for it. When I got back from the restroom, and a quick chat on the phone with my wife, one of my investors was already signing for the tab. I won over half a million dollars and didn’t even get to buy a round of drinks!
We drank and talked and laughed and I never stopped smiling until 9 a.m. when I couldn’t stay awake any longer. I woke up in the morning to hundreds of congratulatory messages on Facebook, in my email inbox, and on Twitter. The sheer number of people who were happy was one of the best things about the win. The excitement from my friends who had no vested interest but were just happy for me was amazing. I have been very lucky to know such a wonderful group of people in poker.
Of course, I was the toast of the town for a day or two, getting congratulations from people around the Rio and the Twitter and Facebook messages continued to come in for a few days after that, but then things mostly went back to normal.
The bracelet ceremony was fun, and it’s nice to know that I will never have to worry about selling action in a tournament again because it will sell out instantly, but life really isn’t that different. Next year, I’ll be one of the hundreds of bracelet winners walking around The Rio, my diamond card will be expired, and I’ll be back on the same old grind.
It was fun to be the flavor of the week, to get my 15 minutes of fame, and to know that I will always be a world champion, but I want another bracelet now much worse than I wanted the first one. I made it to 16 players left in the next event I played, the $1,500 Stud/8, and have never been so angry after busting a tournament. I want that next one so bad. I have the fever. That is the biggest change since I won. I want a bracelet, another one, so badly now that I can taste it. I’m hooked.