Sometimes it takes a while for incredible experiences to truly sink in. Just over two weeks ago I had the good fortune to play in my second ever bracelet event at the Word Series of Poker.
Back in 2019, I had actively planned to play in my first one — the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice — and I documented the experience leading up to that event here. This year, I had no such plans.
My main focus was hosting the inaugural Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival, plus my wife Miriam would be joining me for the final week of my 3-week sojourn in Las Vegas. Sure, I’d have plenty of time to play poker, but it’s always the cash games that appealed to me. Considering the work I do in the poker media sphere, I’m always concerned about missing potential (business) opportunities due to being “stuck in a tournament”.
Then, a familiar voice rang in my ear; the voice of poker legend Eli Elezra: “So, what tournament are you going to play in this year?” he asked me on Sunday, October 10.
I laughed it off, saying “you know me; I don’t want to miss any opportunities. I also have an interview to conduct on Tuesday morning, and have some work to catch up on, too. I mean, the $1,500 8-game mix starts tomorrow, but it’s a 3-day event and if I make the final table I won’t be able to pick Miriam up from the airport on Wednesday afternoon.”
Ludicrous logic, I know, but it was so important to me that Miriam have the perfect trip in Las Vegas.
Last time my wife was in Vegas with me was 17 years ago. We were 22. Life was very different.
She hasn’t aged! 😍
She arrives tomorrow.
I couldn’t be more excited.
If you see us together, please help Miriam feel welcome. 😃 pic.twitter.com/9wy4DNmGQL
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) October 13, 2021
I have never cashed in the approximately one dozen total tournaments I’ve played since turning 21 (yes, I’m almost 40 years old, and yes, I wish I could play tournaments every week and that just once I could get to play a “full mixed game tournament schedule” during the WSOP… but alas, that’s not my lot in life).
I don’t even have a HendonMob profile page, and yet here I was concerned about how I’d manage logistics when making a final table of a WSOP bracelet event. I play to win, after all, and I do believe with 100% certainty that some day that day will come where I’ll hoist a bracelet… but still, ludicrous logic.
Screw it… lock up a seat!
My most difficult challenge on my visits to Las Vegas is finding the perfect work/play balance. It’s so difficult to know if I’m making the right decision, so sometimes after carefully weighing the options I still just have to go with my gut…
… and the more I thought about Eli’s question, the more my gut was telling me how much of an idiot I’d be if I didn’t “carpe the diem” and take a shot in the 8-game mix.
So, that’s how I incredibly and spontaneously found myself walking to the cage to register for my second bracelet event.
Can’t sleep and can’t function; too nervous
I don’t really sleep much during my trips to Las Vegas; perhaps an average of about four hours per night. In fact, almost every single day of this latest trip, I somehow woke up naturally anywhere from 30-90 minutes before my alarm was set to ring!
There’s just a special vibe to that city, and I guess my body knows that I don’t want to miss a minute. Heck, I don’t even drink coffee! I just develop this (super)natural energy of some sort when I’m there.
Genuinely must be the best value way to get a Platinum Pass for people Stateside and as a bonus you get to see the happiest most sleep deprived man in all of Vegas handing out goody bags https://t.co/KZCQVOlqn4
— Barry Carter (@Barry_Carter) October 4, 2021
But the night of October 10 I couldn’t sleep for an entirely different reason: NERVES!
It was after midnight at the Rio and right after I registered for the tournament, I suddenly developed a lump in my throat and pit in my stomach; I couldn’t explain it.
When I have “moments” like these, I almost automatically turn to Miriam to help me calm down. Her being in New York at the time (she stopped there on the way to Vegas from Israel for a couple days to visit family), however, she was asleep and unavailable. I left her a bunch of messages on WhatsApp.
Somehow, after way too many hours of tossing and turning, I finally drifted off to the land of unconsciousness…
When I woke up a few hours later, she had left a few messages for me… capped off by these, which I later Tweeted out:
Who knew my wife was so smart? 😂
Solid advice for today.
My anxiety is now overcome by excitement.
After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take… So let’s just have fun and make this one count!
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) October 11, 2021
So, I pulled myself together, packed my day bag, and made my way to the Rio. Sitting in the parking lot, with about 1 hour and 15 minutes left until the tournament was set to begin, another wave of inexplicable anxiety washed over me all over again. After a proper phone call to Miriam, at least (most of) the butterflies finally flew away.
It’s tournament time!
Promptly at 3pm, I took my seat along with three other players. The event playing 6-handed notwithstanding, there were just four of us present for the first level. The way I was playing though, there might as well ought to have been three. To be honest, what I mostly remember during that first hour was continuing to be nervous and having the worst possible run of cards. It was one heck of a way to begin the rollercoaster ride.
What follows is — for the most part, along with some intermittent comments — a timestamped recap of my run during the 2021 WSOP $1,500 8-game mix, taken directly from my “notes to self” and WhatsApp communications with Miriam with Eli Elezra.
[4:05 PM] Robbie: Took an hour into the tournament; finally calming down. Feeling competent and in control; not intimidated. Thank Gd. Yalla! Let’s GO!
[4:06 PM] Miriam: Yayyy!!!!
Just as when I played in the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice event two years prior, Eli was my “go-to guy”, and I didn’t really communicate with anyone else while trying to be laser focused during the tournament. I mean, if you’re going to speak with anyone while (ahem) trying to win a bracelet, it might as well be someone who has “been there and done that”. Perhaps someday I’ll manage to be as calm and relaxed as Eli is while playing for WSOP bracelet glory.
[5:06 PM] Robbie: Made it to break 1 🎉😂
[5:07 PM] Eli: Whoooooo! Lol Enjoy my man
[5:08 PM] Eli: If you make it deep I’m going to pick Miriam up from the airport 😎
Yup. Eli actually said that to me. 😂
[5:12 PM] Robbie: Took me 40 minutes before I finally won a pot, was down to 20k from 25k… I’m finally feeling relaxed and comfortable… Very in control and playing well. 25500 now
[5:12 PM] Eli: Nice
[5:12 PM] Robbie: I have a good feeling. Truly. We’ll see what happens. 🤷♂️
As we played on, Miriam reached out before she went to sleep to see if I was OK.
[6:52 PM] Miriam: How’s it going? Are you on a break?
[6:55 PM] Robbie: Next break in 20 min
[6:56 PM] Miriam: Ah. It’s fine. Stay focused
[6:56 PM] Robbie: Trying.
[6:56 PM] Miriam: Good night and good luck
[6:56 PM] Robbie: Very very focused; playing very well, just need the cards to cooperate
[6:57 PM] Robbie: Thanks hun. Sleep well ❤️🩹
After that, it was back to updating Eli for what unfortunately turned out to be the “home stretch”…
[7:19 PM] Robbie: Made it to break 2, 19500
[7:20 PM] Robbie: Lost a 9 smooth pat to a draw one; he hit an 8 😔
[7:22 PM] Robbie: To Mike Noori… He’s pretty aggressive
[7:39 PM] Robbie: Shit … Mike drew two, then pats on the third draw. I draw one to an 8 smooth… and he shows a wheel. How the hell do you draw 2 and get a wheel on 2nd draw?! 🤷♂️😮😔😢
[7:39 PM] Robbie: Down to 14k and now we are playing NLHE
[7:40 PM] Eli: It’s a lot still keep positive 🥰
[7:41 PM] Robbie: Ok. Just very disappointed; thought for SURE that was mine
[7:42 PM] Robbie: Noori just got eliminated 😂
[7:43 PM] Eli: I got here 30 minutes ago I’m at table 513 .. up to 36k 🤑
[7:43 PM] Robbie: Lol, u were right… maybe I should’ve late regged after all
[7:52 PM] Robbie: Well, I just lost with a straight in 7 card stud .. to quads! …the guy had a pair of 3s up and another pair of threes down. What the hell is happening?
[7:52 PM] Robbie: 6700
[7:53 PM] Eli: You still good no worries
[7:57 PM] Robbie: Doesn’t help to have the worst “image” at the table losing to these ridiculous hands.. trying to regroup and think positive
[7:58 PM] Robbie: OK All the crap is done; now time for the good!
[8:17 PM] Eli: 👍🙌
[9:04 PM] Robbie: Still fighting… 5800 though; need some cards to help. Playing O8
[9:04 PM] Robbie: How about u, Eli?
[9:05 PM] Eli: 30
[9:17 PM] Eli: What table are u? I’ll come give you a lucky hug
[9:18 PM] Eli: I’m up to 45
[9:19 PM] Robbie: Table 482
[9:19 PM] Eli: K
[9:19 PM] Robbie: Survived 2 all ins (chop chop, stud 8). I’m at 3800
[9:23 PM] Robbie: What kills me is I mamash didn’t play bad… Tov… Still on life support
[9:24 PM] Eli: I know it’s part of this experience
[9:24 PM] Eli: Most of us will be disappointed
[9:25 PM] Robbie: Right
[9:25 PM] Robbie: Just hurts a lot more when you play maybe one tournament a year 😂😂😂
[9:32 PM] Robbie: I have 3200
[9:33 PM] Robbie: Break starting. We battle till the end. This has been a blessing to give it a shot ☺️
Eli did, in fact, come over on break to give me that lucky hug. Perhaps some of that luck actually rubbed off a bit… for a while at least.
[9:49 PM] Robbie: Double! 7400
[10:00 PM] Eli: Boom!
[10:10 PM] Robbie: Back to 10k!
[10:11 PM] Eli: BOOM BABY!
[10:11 PM] Eli: Lol
[10:11 PM] Robbie: NOW I feel like I’m free rolling…
[10:11 PM] Robbie: Chip and a chair; feeling good again, we have hope!
[10:12 PM] Eli: 💵💵
But the reality of tournament poker, with ever-escalating blinds and non-stop forced action, set in just 15 minutes later…
[10:27 PM] Robbie: And out 😔 87642, lost to 8 smooth in triple draw
[10:27 PM] Eli: Ok my friend no big deal
We’ll get ’em next time
Out with a whimper, but also with a story to tell that perhaps resonates with us all.
Even the winningest poker players get eliminated from tournaments 99% of the time. The fortunate few make it into the money. The super lucky ones, whose skills happen to perfectly align with pure rungood at exactly the right time, get to go home with bracelets.
But in a way we’re all kind of lucky.
We’re lucky we get to play poker.
We’re lucky to have great friends and partners to give us “lucky hugs”, who listen to us when were at our low points.
And we’re lucky to have those same special people in our lives to celebrate the amazing moments, too.