2008 WSOP: Derby's Donkament

23 June 2008, Created By: Martin Derbyshire
I woke up Saturday in a bit of a strange mood. Normally during the World Series of Poker, the last place on earth I want to be on one of the rare days off we get here during the grueling 55-event schedule is the Amazon Room.

But something was different Saturday morning. I had heard enough, talked enough and written enough about the weak fields in the $1,500 No-Limit events at the series that it was time to put my money where my mouth had been.

They get up to 3,000 players in what we in the poker journalism industry like to call the donkaments because at $1,500 a chair it's the least expensive buy-in at the series - unless you are old, female or work for a casino.

Not qualifying under any of the above categories, I set my sights on the 2008 WSOP Event 39 No-Limit Hold'em that kicked off at noon Saturday with something to prove.

If these fields are as weak as everyone says, I figured, there'd be tremendous value not just for the seasoned pro, but for a reporter who follows the pros every day as well.

I will be honest with you: although the goal of playing in any poker tournament should always be to win, after I plonked down the $1,500, I took a different tack.

Mike Matusow
Only a donkey would make that call.

With 2,720 players in the tournament there was bound to be a lot of fish and the requisite amount of donkstrikery. So to avoid taking a hit from some luckbox, I felt the best strategy to employ was one of simple survival.

Playing it safe might mean I would forgo some opportunities to make a big stack. But I felt it was also my best chance to survive until the money bubble burst, and once I'd earned the respect of my peers for cashing in my first-ever WSOP event, then I would start taking some chances to chip up.

However, with a starting stack of just $3,000 in chips and ever-escalating blinds, I could not just sit back and cruise from the outset. There was going to have to be some gamble in my game to stay in it, and I came prepared.

What I might not have been prepared for was the speed with which the weaker players in the field wanted to get their money in and go. In fact, at one point throughout the day the tournament director announced we were losing an average of four players every minute.

Of course, that fact made my goal look even more attainable as it became clear in the first four levels that before the night was through we would be whittled down from 2,720 to the 270 who get paid.

Jean-Robert Bellande

Survival means keeping a constant eye on the clock, the blinds and the average stack - which I attempted to hover around throughout the day. What survival does not mean is sitting back all day and waiting on premium hands to play. When you add escalating blinds to the probability of finding top hands, you quickly realize waiting on aces or kings all day could mean a slow death unless you get hit by the deck.

Needless to say, I did not catch cards all day long and build a massive stack on my way to WSOP glory. Instead, I stole the blinds enough with marginal hands to keep myself afloat throughout the early part of the day.

If I raised with suited connectors or the like I would either fold to a massive reraise, call the smaller ones to see flops and find out where I was, or simply pick up the blinds I needed to survive when my turn came around.

Inevitably there were spots where I got short enough that I had to put my tournament life on the line, but I still think I played it safe enough, by picking optimal spots to shove.

Theo Tran
Not playing just to cash.

I got it in once with pocket sevens when it was folded to me in late position and was able to fade the two overs one caller held. The next time I was forced to make a move or perish, I picked pocket fives and was lucky enough to have a player with pocket fours make the call while another claiming eights let his hand go.

By the time the dinner break came I had done enough work to get around the $10k mark and within shouting distance of the average stack of $15k.

Post-dinner I made my best play of the day, goading a player who had raised with sixes into calling my shove with kings. The beauty of live poker is the ability to chat with your opponents, and by acting strong in this hand, he mistakenly sensed weakness and made a bad call.

Now at or near the average stack of $20k, I thought for a moment about making a few plays to build my stack, but that moment was fleeting. I was forced to lay down my own pocket sixes to a big reraise after the flop, then get off K-Q suited when an opponent showed the strength of a big pair by shoving then showing. Thus was I quickly cut back down to size.

As it was already late in the day, I tightened up considerably and with short stacks shoving with marginal hands all around me, it was almost that easy to nit my way into the money.

Daniel Negreanu
Derby cashed, LOL.

Because I had tightened up so noticeably, I was able to get a little respect and once again I could steal the blinds enough to make it to the final 270 at around midnight. Despite seeing more than 2,000 players bow out before me, reaching my initial goal of cashing seemed easier than I had ever imagined.

But unfortunately, I was unable to pick up any hands worthy of calling raises or shoving with before play ended for the night, and I had to limp in to Day 2 with only $8,100 in chips.

With less than five big blinds I sat down at my table for the start of Day 2, looked down at a weak ace in the first hand of the day, let it fly and couldn't find a way to suck out on two players who had woken up with queens and A-Q.

In the end I went out 215th, cashing for just under double the initial $1,500 buy-in, and while many may argue that I didn't give myself the best chance at poker immortality, you can bet there's at least a couple thousand fish in this sea they call the Rio who wish they could trade places with me.



The Poker Reporter Blog

The Poker Reporter Blog

Poker news, gossip, parties, donkstrikery and functioning illiteracy with the PL.com crew!
Latest Posts  
Positively Nerd Street

Positively Nerd Street

Pr0n for the poker nerd. Hardware, software, gadgets, etc; like poker, but from the future.
Latest Posts  
The Guest Blog

The Guest Blog

A menagerie of poker pros, celebrities, poker writers and industry figures.
Latest Posts  
Poker Joker

Poker Joker

PokerListings' daily dose of humor. Dont miss out! Check back Monday to Friday for your daily laugh.
Latest Posts  
Battle of Malta Blog

Battle of Malta Blog

Photo essays, player profiles, travel tips, off-the-cuff interviews and more from Battle of Malta!
Latest Posts