Table tales!

Jul 24, 2006 2:38 AM

I am frequently asked just how difficult it is to win a World Series bracelet.

Simply, it’s probably the hardest tournament on the planet to win.

The magnitude of the effort increases exponentially with the massive number of entries — in some cases, the number of players this year have reached into the thousands!

Couple this with increasing blinds, the no limit format and the multitude of amateur players who raise and call "all in" at the drop of a face card, and you have a treacherous trail to the elusive final table.

Challenges notwithstanding, the World Series is the true test for a poker player. It’s the pinnacle in tournament play.

I’ve already played in a few World Series events this year, and can say the competition is the deepest I’ve ever experienced.

Of course, I’m practically an infant in this realm — I’ve only been playing in the WSOP since 2004.

My best finish so far was in the $5,000 buy-in, no limit hold’em, short-handed (6/table) event, which wrapped up last Saturday.

Out of a starting field of 507 players, I ended up in the money at 14th place. Obviously, I was shooting for the top, but you have to play the cards you’re dealt.

Although I finally had a decent payday, I didn’t play very differently in this event than in the previous events, except I began to receive better hands and the cards started to "cooperate" for a change.

What I mean by this is my kings or queens — or even pocket eights — finally held up for a change!

Of course, you can coax a bad beat story out of virtually every player on the sprawling WSOP floor. And some of these players take the play very seriously and react emotionally.

A case in point is a lovely girl who played at my table, Vanessa Rousso. She is a good poker player, personable and not afraid to mix it up with the guys.

Early on I recall hearing her banter with another player, Rafi Amit: "Quit taking my big blind," she complained.

"Quit picking up bigger hands than me," Rafi replied.

"I’m trying, but I keep getting them," Vanessa shot back.

But Vanessa had a bite to go with her bark. Later in the tournament she knocked out a player (I can’t recall who) when she called his pre-flop all-in with A-Q of clubs versus his 10-5 of hearts. She flopped an ace and the pair was good enough to eliminate her opponent.

Later, she eliminated a top-flight professional and WPT champion Joe Tehan, who pushed all-in after a flop of Ac6s3c. Vanessa called with Kc10c versus Joe’s QcJc. The turn and river drew blanks and Vanessa’s king high was good enough to send Joe to the rail.

But to give you an idea how fortunes can change, just before the end of day one, Vanessa called her opponent’s all-in bet before the flop with pocket aces.

When he revealed his Q-9 of hearts, it looked like the $80,000 pot was easily headed Vanessa’s way. Unfortunately, the board came J-9-2-8-10, giving her opponent a straight on the river.

Vanessa was so distraught, she actually cried.

Of course, by the next day, when we were all off the bubble and into the money, she was back to her charming, spitfire self.

When the dust finally settled, Vanessa finished a respectable eighth, just missing the final table.

Actually, there has been plenty of emotional outbursts on the tournament floor. Some of the contestants play as if their lives depended on the outcome.

I’m fortunate in that I’m a sort-of even-keeled type of person. I’ve even been known to be called "Gentle" Joe Awada.

I like that ... Gentle Joe. But don’t look for beau geste if we’re head-to-head at the final table — pleasantries need not apply!

More from the World Series of Poker next week.