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From The Devil's Den: My Journey

April 11 2010

Written to tassiedevil by TassieDevil

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In the spirit of supporting this great initiative from Queen-Bee and in a desperate attempt to stop Duckworth from winning I thought I’d share my poker journey with the PNW community.

My story starts very similar to many, but my road has been rather unique. Poker is no longer a hobby, or even a profession. Poker is an all-consuming existence...three parts rewarding, one part excruciating.

I can’t remember the exact moment that I first saw poker on TV. It may have been a little of Late Night Poker but it was definitely in the early days of the World Poker Tour that I really got interested. I was hooked and I thought to myself that they must play this game online somewhere. I jumped onto Google and found myself on this interesting forum site known as PokerNetwork. They all seemed to be Aussies talking about this fascinating game, and the banter was more than eye opening. The witty delights from yoyo, pokerbok, MakybeDiva, Bugsy, zero, and danielg, the inspiring tales of success from PokerMike, DamienCarroll, Goldy and BlueBear, the latest and greatest in poker chips from joethenuts, all overseen by the respected master. This place was great!

My first adventures into online poker were on Party Poker. I’d play the 2,000 player freerolls and think I was great for getting 50th. I would also play freerolls on Bugsys and PokerHost where you could win points that you could then turn into a few dollars cash. My records date back to April 2005 which means I’ve been doing this for over five years now. I remember scoring a $250 win in a $5 tournament on Noble Poker in mid-2005 which was my first tournament win, but I remember the money didn’t stay with me long. I kept grinding freerolls over various sites and I even had a schedule written out so that I knew what times the best freerolls were on across the various sites.

Eventually I took a stab at depositing and dropped $50 into Party Poker on the credit card. I think I played $1/$2 limit but the money didn’t last long.

So I’d been lurking on PokerNetwork for a while and eventually decided that I needed help. I posted a vague question, something along the lines of “where do I start?” and I got a response from a guy called yoyo, who many of you would know as Jonny Vincent. He became a great mentor and friend over time. He showed me the ropes, inside out. I decided to get serious about this poker thing and deposited a few hundred. I’ve never re-deposited since. I started out bonus whoring, learning the game playing short-handed limit Holdem. I would break just over even, but with the bonuses, the hourly earn wasn’t bad for someone learning the game. I rarely played tournaments at that time. In fact I rarely played No Limit. The only time I’d venture into NL was to play in the PokerNetwork freerolls or online leagues. I will always remember finishing 2nd in a freeroll for a WSOP package. I ran pocket sevens into pocket eights heads-up, and I’ve never been anywhere near as close to that WSOP opportunity again. I also recall in the early days playing regularly in the PNW online leagues with a strong player called “grunter”.

I eventually had a crack in a live game on a trip to Melbourne and managed to finish 5th in my first tournament at Crown. It was a “Shootout” and I had no idea what that meant, but the top three from each table progressed. I don’t remember any hands but I got lucky enough to get to the final table. I remember at the final table being “smart” enough to fold my way into 5th place as one of the short stacks, watching the others bust around me and jumping up the payouts to pick up about $400. Danny MacDonagh was the TD and the Crown Poker Room was a spec of what it is today.

Somewhere along the way I got drawn out of a hat in a PokerNetwork promotion for a $1,650 seat at the special Mansion Speed Poker event at the Aussie Millions. I played like a nervous nit, and I can no longer remember many hands, but somehow I got deepish. I remember being short approaching the bubble, but being on a freeroll, and not understanding bubble play or the significance of anything particularly well, I unfortunately busted in 38th place when I shoved pocket nines against Arul Thalai’s ace-jack and he made a straight. The top 36 finished in the money and received guaranteed television time in the shootout semi-finals. Sigh.

I kept working on the bonus whoring and with Neteller setup I was able to jump around sites pretty comfortably. My game was improving and I read every poker book I could get my hands on as video training was pretty much unheard of at the time. Jonny was also involved in a few other projects with PokerNews and it was at this time that he handballed a few writing opportunities onto me. I have no writing background, and have always been a maths person than someone who enjoyed working with words, but it was an opportunity to make a few extra bucks writing about bonus whoring, online poker reviews, and other bits and pieces. Jonny then started managing the PokerNews Casino website and I wrote most of the content for that site under ghost names, writing about casino sites, bonus offers, casino game rules, tips, strategy, etc. Jonny also showed me casino bonus whoring techniques which was a pretty scary thing. They was always +EV but the variance was brutal and I didn’t enjoy the gamble. Still to this day, I’ve never been more tilted in anything in life, than I have trying to clear casino bonuses playing Blackjack.

Meanwhile I was working out this poker thing and thanks to a switch to no limit cash games, my win rate improved. For a period of three months I barely had a losing session and was grinding 0.50/1NL and 1/2NL pretty comfortably, with occasional shots at 2/4NL.

Then an opportunity came up at PokerNews to work at the 2007 APPT in Sydney. I had no training, no writing background and little tournament experience. I rocked up to StarCity and started on the floor as a tournament reporter. I was completely lost. I knew about only about two of the players in the field, and had no idea what to report. At the end of the eleven-hour day my legs were shot and I was wrecked. Three days later I blogged the entire final table solo and enjoyed a young Aussie named Grant Levy grab a historic win in an amazing atmosphere that I’ll never forget.

From there things snowballed as I became more involved with PokerNetwork and worked events at the Aussie Millions, PokerNews Cup in Austria, EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, APPT events in Manila, Macau and Korea and worked at the grand-daddy of them all, the World Series of Poker. There are too many memorable moments to mention but last year I was honoured to be given the opportunity to blog the prestigious $50k HORSE event (and a marathon twenty-hour final table), and also witness Phil Ivey win his 7th bracelet.

Meanwhile I continued to enjoy to play, but for the most part, playing took a backseat to work. In 2009 I turned my attention to tournaments rather than cash games on the back of a prop bet with Ducky. I wanted an incentive to land a live tournament cash score, and this bet was my motivation. One night on PokerStars I managed to turn a $16 investment into a $240 seat which I then turned into a $2,700 ticket to the ANZPT Melbourne Main Event. This wasn’t my first major live tournament event. I’d managed to satellite into two Aussie Millions Main Events and an APT Manila Main Event at the start of the year, and also played in one WSOP donkament. Most of those tournaments ended in very disappointing fashion, and I was pretty determined to land a decent cash result. The day before the tournament I was chatting to Ducky and we were saying how incredible it would be to get through Day 1 with 100k in chips. I ended up bagging up 210k. Many people don’t realise that on Day 2 I lost KK vs AK in the first level of play for a 150k pot, so I was back in the pack almost immediately. I played ordinary and ran like God on Day 1, but I ran poorly and played really well on Day 2, and snuck through to the final table as one of the short stacks. I played about as good of a final table that I could that day. I got back into it with KK vs TT, I bluffed Jie Gao in a big pot with 52o, and I re-raised Kristian Lunardi with AQ and made him fold AK. I had some luck heads-up but the luck went against me in the final hand as my QQ fell to Chris Levick’s AJ all-in preflop. I still have nightmares about that hand, and wonder if I’ll ever get that opportunity again - 70% favourite for $60k and two trophies.

It’s everyone’s dream to win that big tournament, and I still harbour that dream. However I’m more than satisfied with what I’ve achieved in poker and the opportunities that poker has given me. If there are new people starting out reading this, then I fully encourage people to go down the freeroll chasing, bonus hunting path. While it’s a little harder than it once was, and the games are now tougher, it’s certainly a great way to learn the game, and eventually if you apply yourself then good things can happen. I’m also always more than happy to help in any way I can, so feel free to send me a PM or add me to MSN at anytime. Good luck!

For more stories please visit my personal blog at www.tassiedevilpoker.com

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