Kara Scott’s WSOP adventure

Kara Scott is more used to reporting on the action than taking part in it. But all that changed at this year’s WSOP main event…


KARA’S STACK: 20,000

I find my seat just in time to hear the famous words, ‘Shuffle up and deal!’ The room erupts into applause as we enjoy the buzz of sitting down in the biggest tournament of our lives. I pick up some big hands on Day 1, but it’s the timing that works in my favour. I wake up with A-A and K-K in a single level, both times after another stack has pushed all-in. And whenever someone thinks I’m being too aggressive and pushes, I either have nothing (and can easily get away) or the nuts, so that I show down big hands.

I’ve built up an image of a rock who’s just been getting lucky, and this is why it’s reported that I’ve had Aces five times in the day. I haven’t, but the rest of the table believes it, and by the end of the day people are giving me walks on my big blind. It all could have been so different though. I get all my chips in with a set against a flush draw, but the poker gods are kind to me and I finish the day with a healthy stack of 111,000. Knowing that I will be entering Day 2 with more than twice the average chips is exhilarating.


KARA’S STACK: 111,000


With a couple of days off before Day 2 I spend time relaxing and talking poker strategy with my friend and mentor, Nick Wealthall. Unfortunately, nature (or Staphylococcus) decides to intervene the evening before Day 2 and I spend much of that evening clutching the loo in my hotel room as my stomach rejects something rancid I’ve eaten at dinner. So it’s with very little sleep and prayers of thanks there are never queues for the ladies’ loos at poker tournaments, that I stack my chips at my new table. It’s here that I learn a valuable lesson – take advantage of good situations when they’re available because there’s no guarantee they’ll last!

My initial table is a good place to pick up pots but I’m not really in a state to capitalise, and before I know it my lovely soft table is broken. If I thought I felt sick before, the sight of PCA champion Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier now sitting directly on my left does nothing to help settle my stomach. I’ve gone from a fairly easy table that I’ve failed to capitalise on, to a difficult and very aggressive table where my attempts to steal or resteal are squashed at every turn. After a couple of levels of this I welcome being moved again… until I see my new table, which includes Dag Martin Mikkelsen and Nik Persaud among five pro players. Counting my blessings that I had a storming first day, I make a conscious decision to sit on my chips and ride out this second day.

Thankfully, the Main Event is one of the few tournaments in the world where you can do this without crippling yourself. As the day comes to an end I count my chips and find I’ve managed to steal and manoeuvre just enough to finish with over 90,000 and the certainty that my table draw for Day 3 will surely be easier. It’s been a very different experience from Day 1 when the deck smashed me in the face.


KARA’S STACK: 90,100


My strategy for Day 3 revolves around the upcoming bubble. The first few levels will be about keeping my eyes open and finding places to accumulate chips before the money gets close, and then hammering people who are worried about busting before the bubble. At least, that’s the theory. My table seems like a good place to make chips. There are a number of short-ish stacks that seem hell-bent on preservation, and also a very large stack that seems happy to be a chip donor.

With the bubble nearing, I’m all set to raise the aggression level, but unfortunately I don’t get the chance as our new dealer tosses out monster hands and cold-deck situations with abandon. With chips flying everywhere, I’m gutted to be sitting on my hands (metaphorically and physically). The wide-eyed panicked looks from Nick whenever I reach for my chips is enough to remind me that I don’t have to be involved in every hand when some of my opponents are clearly running hot. And then we reach the bubble – the most exciting bit of any tournament, right? Erm… no. Playing hand for hand when there are still nearly 700 players left in a tournament takes ages! Each hand takes around 15 minutes to complete, so that when the moment finally comes and the tournament director shouts out, ‘YOU ARE NOW ALL IN THE MONEY!’ an almighty cheer roars around the Amazon Room as we all celebrate being part of poker history with silly dancing, hugs and, in the case of one table, a round of tequila shots.

With the last level left to play, the adrenaline quickly drains out of me and fatigue sets in. As a result my play gets sloppy and right before the end of the day I lose a large pot for about a third of my chips through sheer carelessness. I re-raise from late position against a loose player, but then get called by the big blind who has just lost a very large pot. I neglect to recount his stack and when he shoves over my continuation bet, I realise that I’m now committed to call, only for him to turn over Aces. Ouch! Losing a big pot due to fatigue at the end of each day is starting to become an ugly pattern and I’m furious with myself. It takes one hell of an effort to go to bed and try to let it go…


KARA’S STACK: 171,000


I go into Day 4 already nervous about the size of my stack, only to sit down at another killer table where over half the players have double or triple the amount of chips I have. And the sight of pros Matt Matros and David ‘Raptor’ Benefield isn’t a pleasant one either.

Once again I’m sat at a table where patience is a virtue as limp, raise, re-raise, all-in, seems to be the pattern for most hands. Thankfully, rocking up pays off, and towards the end of the day I get moved. Picking up my little tray of chips, I’m told (in hushed tones) that I’m being moved to the TV table. Gulp. I’ve played on TV before and, hey, my job is on TV, so technically I should have an edge here, right? Wrong. Complete and utter terror floods my body and by the time I’m mic’ed up and ready to join the table, my hands are shaking so hard that I can’t stack my chips.

I’m torn about how to play. I want to make moves and prove that I can play fearlessly but with my awkward-sized stack I’m restricted. Unfortunately, once again in the final hand of the day, I let fatigue get the better of me and make a donkey move that I really hope doesn’t make it onto TV. Not crippled, but definitely bruised, I slink off, glad that my camera time is at an end and my bed is beckoning.


KARA’S STACK: 247,000


Walking into the Amazon Room on Day 5, I’m struck by how empty and quiet the room has become. It’s eerily daunting, but for some reason, playing on the TV table today is a far easier experience than the day before, as I know I’ve only got one move left in my stack before I need to start shipping it in. As tired and fuzzy-headed as I am, I’ve also never felt as focused. I know when to three-bet and when to fold and when to push in over the top.

At the back of my brain a little part of me is observing this bizarre situation in awe. Here I am, two years into my poker career, and I’m sat at the ESPN feature table on the fifth day of the WSOP Main Event. And I’m not just nursing my stack or playing scared – I’m getting respect from players I’ve always admired. I feel exhilarated as I know I’ve stretched my poker game past its limits in order to compete at this level, and know with complete certainty that, whatever happens, my life is changing forever.

When I finally bust and hear the crowd applaud as Mike Matusow comes over to shake my hand, I know there will be very few experiences for the rest of my life that will come close to this. I owe a huge debt to Nick Wealthall for supporting me and experiencing it as viscerally as I did. I finish in 104th for $ 41,816, at the very limit of my physical endurance. I’ve played better poker than I ever could have before, and for the rest of my life I’ll be in the top two percent of the 2008 WSOP Main Event. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to top this next year, but I’ll be giving it a go.

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