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My First World Poker Tour Tournament: The WPT Voyage “Sea-HORSE”

It’s wonderful that at 42 years old I still have the privilege of experiencing so many firsts as a poker player. When you play in as few poker tournaments as I do, on average somewhere between 1-3 per year, the rarity on its own adds extra weight to each one. It’s with that level of excitement that I looked forward to registering for my first ever World Poker Tour tournament. As a mixed game guy, when I saw that a $660 HORSE event would be spread as part of the WPT Voyage, I knew immediately that that would be the one that I’d hop into.

Arriving on Scene

With all hands on deck, we set sail with the “shuffle up and deal”. A total of 30 players ended up registering, and as play got underway I’m pretty certain that I recognized a good 30 to 40% of the field, at least by face. Unexpectedly, I also recognized one player… by shirt. I suppose that means we’re doing well with our ongoing Mixed Game Festival initiative! 😊

Boats on Boats

Whatever your skill level, in tournaments there’s always that hope that the cards run out favorably for you. That was indeed the case as, during the first three levels, no matter which of the five poker variants we played, I managed to secure full house after full house. Even in razz, as my A3 in the hole somehow filled up by 5th street, LOL!

Even so, with two split pot games as part of the sea-HORSE mix (Omaha 8 or Better and Stud 8 or Better), even an armada of boats will only net you half the pot most of the time, as low limits and blinds means you can’t chip up by too much.

The Structure Daemons of the Sea

And while you naturally want that rungood to come at all times, in particular it’s always helpful for the poker gods to smile upon you in the early stages of a tournament so that you can build up a healthy stack and play aggressively. That holds doubly true when the tournament structures are fast, and our tournament featured 20-minute levels throughout.

Incidentally, on that note, WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage stopped by and mentioned that he wants to change this to a “Savage Average” structure. I’m pretty sure he’d find near-universal agreement from players on this. #letsmakeithappen

READ MORE: Interview with Matt Savage

HORSE WPT Voyage

Smooth Sailing Aboard the WPT Voyage

Ahh, mixed games, the sirens that sing sweet music to my ears.

Over three hours into the tournament, as we took our second break and while registration closed, I found myself with a pretty healthy stack of 40,000 — up from the starting stack of 30,000 and comfortably above the 33K chip average. I wasn’t making many mistakes, wasn’t playing too spewy, was displaying just the right balance of aggression and patience, wasn’t running below or above EV.

Amidst the sunny calm of silent seas – which, by the way, make for one hell of an incredible view while playing in a poker tournament! – I didn’t realize that a storm was brewing in the distance. Apparently, my sextant (no, NOT Mike Sexton… my sextant!) malfunctioned and this poker-playing sailor had unwittingly entered the Bermuda Triangle.

The Anchor Drops

In most tournaments, there’s usually a pivotal hand or two that at least in part “define” how your tournament went. I returned from the water loo (that’s what you call a bathroom onboard a cruise ship, right?) to my own personal Waterloo, the lovely game of stud 8.

Without getting too deep in the sea-weeds of post-hand live reporting, I was up against Jesse Hollander who had half the pot already locked up with a low by 6th street, and then managed to spike an inside straight on 7th street to relegate my set of sixes to the poop deck. That ended up decimating my stack and cutting it clean in half.

I suppose you know what happened from there on out. Ever so slowly, thanks to rapidly-escalating blinds and limits, we walked the plank. Within one utterly painful level, my lovely pile of chips just disappeared into Davey Jones’ locker, never to be seen again.

The Aftermath

At the very least, my chips went to a good cause. Jesse ended up, uh, shipping the tournament…

Tournament grinders out there know very well that it’s completely reasonable to go for long stretches without recording a cash. I’m pretty sure that if you ask around, you’ll find that blanking 20 tournaments in a row isn’t too uncommon. But when those 20 tournaments come over a 20-year period (no, that’s not a typo), it almost makes you feel like you have no business playing poker in the first place.

How is it even possible to not have recorded a single cash? How is it possible that a lifelong winning player like me (in the cash games) still doesn’t have a HendonMob profile? Why couldn’t I, just this once, have found my sea legs?! I couldn’t have picked a better spot, either… this was the highest buy-in tournament I’ve ever played in for which I had 100% of my own action. Just 29 other players stood between me and that $8,100 top prize, which would have made a MASSIVE difference to my humble bankroll.

So now, I need to give my heart a rest and let my brain retake the helm. What’s taken me two decades to “achieve” – a whopping 0-for-20 record – is nonetheless an infinitesimally small sample size when it comes to tournament poker. Eventually a mermaid will appear on the horizon, and lead me to the treasure I seek.

For now, I must end this entry in the captain’s log. My motley crew of fellow mixed game lovers is calling me back to the cash game tables, and I’ve got a ransom’s worth of doubloons to wrest from those scallywags!

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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