Wild cards!

Jul 31, 2006 2:39 AM

There must be something about the number 14.

For the second straight event at the World Series of Poker, I finished 14th.. Not a bad payday, but not where I’d hoped to be — the final table, of course.

I asked a numerologist about the significance of the number 14, and she uttered something about combining the "1" and "4" to make "5," whose "life force" number suggests the pursuit of freedom, the love of adventure and a propensity to risk-taking.

When I asked her what all that meant, she said I should avoid early coin-flip or race situations, and never go all-in on the strength of a single pair.

I’ll try to keep that in mind during the WSOP championship event this week.

My latest fourteenth place cash-out was in the No Limit Hold’em Event (No. 37), which was set for noon on Tuesday.

Actually, I’d arrived that day to play in the no limit, deuce-to-seven triple lowball event (No. 38), which had a later 4 p.m. start.

But when I saw the long lines of players signing up for the Hold’em event, I decided to switch because of the better value I was getting for my buy-in.

As it turned out, the record number of players (2,803) generated a prize pool of more than $3.8 million, while the lowball event attracted only 81 players who contributed $1.1 million into the pool.

The tourney was a three-day event, and I was off to a good start — I was accumulating chips, winning a few hands and — most important — avoiding being unlucky.

On the second day of the event, it was pretty much a repeat of the first day: mostly smooth sailing and cashing some decent pots. I did get tripped up once, when my A-7 was outdrawn by a lesser hand on the river, but mostly I was comfortable with the play at the tables.

Until later that night.

First, understand that we had played all day in an effort to reduce the field to nine for the final table. There were 22 of us left, most of whom I didn’t recognize. In fact, I was the only one left from Las Vegas.

One player that I did know was Minh Nguyen, a disciple of Men "The Master" Nguyen, from Southern California.

Minh was up against a player, Mohammed Ilyas, whom I noticed had played somewhat amateurishly (this can dangerous, especially for his opponents).

In the critical hand, Mohammed raised $50,000 before the flop and Minh pushed all-in for $102,000. Mohammed didn’t hesitate; he called immediately and revealed a somewhat surprising K-J off-suit.

Minh turned over his A-J off-suit, which put him in the early lead. The flop came 10-9-3, giving Mohammed an inside straight draw, but Minh was still leading with ace high.

A king appeared on the turn, giving Mohammed the lead with a pair and the 7 on the river sent Minh to the rail.

At that point I vowed to avoid confrontations with Mohammed; I didn’t want to make the right move at the wrong time against someone who could prevail by making the wrong move at the right time.

In our hand, I had A-Q with which I raised to $30,000. Mohammed came over the top at $60,000, leaving me with a decision. My thought was that I could have him dominated — perhaps he had another Kx hand, or A-J or A-10.

I also thought that Minh didn’t put enough pressure on Mohammed before the flop. So, perhaps an all-in bet would be enough to slow him down.

So I pushed all-in and he called without hesitation. When he revealed his pocked 9s, he uttered something like, "I put you on A-K."

I thought to myself, if that’s the case, why did you call so quickly?

No matter, the board came 10-7-6-9-6, sending me home for the night.

Looking back, I’m most upset at myself for not taking the time to think the hand through, and to recall my thoughts about linking up with a player who’s so unpredictable.

I think fatigue was a factor, but that’s not an excuse. It just contributed to a poor decision. After all, I had followed my game plan for two straight days, with apparent success, then I allowed one mistake to cost me a shot at the victory.

Patience is always key to winning a tournament, especially a marathon. Many of you will find that there’s a sense of relief, almost a release, when you decide to gamble by going all-in. The pressure is taken off your back and your fate is in the hands of Lady Luck.

That’s always been one of the euphoria’s of gambling, but don’t let it influence your decision. Stay patient and think things through. Next time, I’ll remember as well!