So near yet so far

"I was 12th, but gutted to miss out on the final table"

I was just trying to go as far as possible. The experience was fantastic, although for some reason it felt like I wasn’t really there – it was very surreal

There is a sense of so near yet so far about my 12th place finish at the WSOP main event, but you have to keep in touch with reality. There was a starting field of 8,773, and I managed to last until the penultimate day. It’s the biggest payday of my career, so when you put it like that, you need to get things in perspective, I guess. But I can’t help thinking of what might have been. Anyway, what’s done is done.

My preparation consisted of playing online for around 20 hours a week. I gathered up enough winnings and decided I would have a shot at the main event again this year. In 2005 I qualified through playing online for just $11, but I had to dip into my own pocket this year. Mind you, I suppose you can now say it was money well spent, because I won $1,154,527.

I did play live as the main event loomed, but I didn’t fancy going out there before to play in any of the other side tournaments. I arrived 24 hours before the action got under way and was playing on the opening day. My table was surprisingly nervous and it was a strange atmosphere inside the hall, with the noise of 2,000 players riffling their chips. The Amazon Room is absolutely huge. Unbelievable! I played very solidly to start with, and once I had built up some chips my confidence grew. My aim was to have around 20,000 at the end of the first day so that I would have the stability to start playing poker. I ended the day with 50,275, and was sitting in 81st place. The fact that I had played in the main event last year helped me, and I wasn’t struggling with nerves. It was more about excitement, to be honest. However, I just wasn’t getting any cards.

When I arrived at my table on day two, there was again a sense of nervousness from some of the players. A couple of guys had really low chip counts. This meant that if I made any sort of substantial raise against them, their tournament was on the line, while for me, I would have another life, losing only about six or seven thousand chips. I began to pull off a few pots and was re-raising with what weren’t the strongest of hands. This may sound obvious, but my position in chips was allowing me to play poker. I also hit some cards, which was more than I can say for the first day. My chip count was looking healthy at 124,5000.


The tension was building again on day three, because not only were all the players now under one roof, but we knew the money was not far away. There was some seriously slow play, but the relief when I hit the money was huge, and not just with me – you could feel it surge through the whole of the Amazon Room. At this stage, I had absolutely no target in my mind; I was just trying to go as far as possible. The experience was fantastic, although for some reason it felt like I wasn’t really there – it was very surreal. I took 446,500 chips into day four and I had 636,000 at the end of the day. This rose to 1,955,000 as day five drew to a close.

Hope was now turning to serious aspirations, and with a total of just 45 players starting day six, I began to think about what I could actually achieve. The money at this stage was something like a quarter of a million. That’s when it hit me. At the start of day seven, I felt my count of 3,275,000 was ample, but the big problem for me wasn’t the poker, it was the demands of everything away from the table. There were radio stations and newspapers wanting to do interviews with me, which I really didn’t want any part of. I would be happy to do that after the tournament when I knew what I had achieved, but I didn’t want any pressure on myself. The nice thing was that the support I was getting from home was great, and that meant a lot.

It was a bitter-sweet ending, in that I was sitting in third place in chips, with 12 players left at the start of the third level on day 7. I was gutted to just miss out on the final table, as I think that could really have changed my life. But I’m proud to have achieved so much in poker, and at the same time I really enjoyed myself throughout the whole competition. I can’t wait until next year, and am counting the days already… Every player should try to tackle the WSOP.

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