My poker journey began back in the early stages of 2005.
It was my second year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Deakin University in Burwood. I had a wonderful girlfriend, an awesome apartment in Hawthorn and was busy coordinating the Deakin Basketball team while studying and partying hard.
One night I was nestled up on the couch studying and decided to put the books down and watch some TV. I flicked straight on to Channel Ten where they were broadcasting some show I had never seen before; the World Poker Tour. I sat there watching intensely trying to pick up what was going on. What was the small blind? The big blind? What was an ante? What is a full house?
Channel Ten then started showing the WPT after the Saturday night football game, and for the next few weeks I was on the couch watching and trying to learn the game called Texas Holdem Poker.
On a day off I hit Mind Games and bought a real basic Texas Holdem Poker set to use at home, and finally after basketball training one Thursday night I invited five of my mates round to play. We all chucked in $5 and played a mini-tournament that ran like any first-time amateur home game would – six players to the flop, small bets and absolutely no idea what we were doing. This however became a regular occurrence as we all were hooked!
Fast forward six months me and two of the home game regulars decided to that a dull Tuesday night should equate to our first visit to the Crown Poker Room.
We stood in the Las Vegas Room with no idea what we were doing. A future good friend of mind – Frank Bianco – was manning a whiteboard writing and calling names while cracking jokes. We walked up and got a quick run through of what was going on as he pointed us in the direction of a $1-1 NLH game.
Both my mates went broke, but the two hands I played were very memorable. The first saw me holding and I called a bet on the flop hoping to dink a spade. The turn landed a and I called another bet, but when the river landed the I quickly folded to another bet only to be shown the pocket Kings of an opponent. I shook my head and looked and my depleted stack before realising that I just folded a wheel without even realising it! My mates were eager to head back to Hawthorn, so looking down at Jack-Five – the only hand I knew the name of at the time thanks to Mike Sexton and Vince Van Paten – I moved all in and doubled against Ace-King as I quickly made my way out the door with some profit in the pocket.
Fast forward to the start of 2007 and I had just completed an internship at Coles Myer while completing one final unit over Summer before graduating. I picked up a job coaching cricket at Wesley College, and when I wasn’t there or studying, I could be found playing $1-2 NLH at Crown after playing solely weekends in the last few months of the previous year. Although my skills had improved I was still an amateur and was learning all the time and every profitable session was followed by a losing session, but my passion for the game never dwindled.
It was Wednesday the 11th of April and I was completely broke due mainly to poker but also my many expenses. Crown were running freerolls for the WSOP and I decided to get my poker fix by driving in and playing one to kill a few hours before Basketball. However the game would be missed as I finished equal first out of 253 runners with fellow PokerNetwork regular Michael ‘TheSharkBoy’ Palti to win a $550 satellite ticket. Come Sunday the 15th of April I took my seat in the tournament nervous as all hell at the prospect of playing a $550 buy-in tournament with 154 others. After several hours of play in my trusty Deakin Basketball jumper and Bart Simpson-esque lucky red hat I found myself on the final table and five-handed.
With four $17,000 WSOP packages up for grabs and just under $10,000 for fifth I asked the remaining players to do a deal that saw me get the $10,000 plus an additional $1,000 from the remaining players that included Alfred Grech, Aytunc Tezay and Con ‘Tsapy’ Tsapkounis. Aytunc declined and we played the remainder of the tournament out with Con unfortunately bubbling.
I was 21, a relative poker noob, and was on my way to Las Vegas to play in the 2007 WSOP Main Event!
Fast forward to Day 3 of the Main Event and here is an extract from my now obsolete MySpace blog from the time.
“As we’re down to 623 players remaining its folded round to me on the button where I look down at Qh Qs. Now my thoughts coming into the day was that I’m still going to play poker, my range was Jacks and better, but everything else was an instant fold. As I look down at my queens I know I have the best hand against two random blind hands. I really have 4 options here. I can fold, limp in, raise a small amount or push all-in.
Being the donkey I am I decide to push all-in, now as I do that the small blind leans back and goes, “ahhh, ok I call”, and with that comment I think we’re racing (which I’ll take), but right after that the big blind asks how much. With that statement from the young kid I turn to Tony Hachem and just grimace. He finally folds, and the dealer announces “all-in and call on 35” and about 3 camera’s rush over. I slow roll him hoping that he turns first, but I end up tabling my queens and he turns over black aces. I get up pack my stuff as they deal the flop. The flop comes 4, 7, 8 and with that, some of the players on my table calls out 5, 6 chop. The turn and river brick out and I bubble in 623rd spot.”
I attempted to enjoy the rest of my holiday, but effectively losing $23,000 really wasn’t making me feel too happy. With Jonno Pittock in charge of PokerNews at the time, I asked him about working for him back in Australia as a reporter for the upcoming Victorian Poker Champs, and he was more than happy to give me an opportunity.
Returning to Melbourne and working for PokerNews during the Vic Champs, I managed to win a Main Event satellite seat and parlay that into an 11th place finish for a $12,960 score followed by a $4,869 score the week later in the Saturday series.
From then on most of you know my story. Playing at Crown, losing at Crown, working for PokerNews, not working for PokerNews and contributing to PokerNetwork.
Although I could have gone on about my journey down the poker road, I thought that this long spill was . . . frankly . . . long enough already!
However, I have posted in the forum my recently found blogs from my 2007 WSOP campaign for all of you to read and see how a relative poker noob took to the bright lights of Las Vegas!
Hope you enjoyed this blog entry and the ones from a highly exciting 2007!
For additional blogs, interviews, articles and photos from tournaments around the world, head to Tilted Behaviour.