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Finding fun at the WSOP's Colossus

29 May 2015

By Aaron Todd
LAS VEGAS — My World Series of Poker Colossus experience lasted just under three hours, during which I played well for about two hours and 45 minutes and played really, really badly for the last 10 minutes.

Such is the nature of no-limit Hold’em tournaments. All it takes is one or two bad mistakes — or bad beats — and you go from having a comfortable chip stack to being out of the tournament.

I’m not a complete rookie when it comes to tournament poker. I play in one or two tournaments a year, but I’d venture to say that’s way under the average, or perhaps more importantly, lower than the median for the field in the Colossus. (Tournament grinders really skew the average.)

Despite my relative lack of experience, I felt very comfortable in the Pavilion at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. The dealers were engaging, the players were friendly, and in spite of my bad play at the end, I walked away happy with the experience and feel like I learned a lot.

For $565, I got to play in the largest live poker tournament ever held. (The final field size will be determined late on Saturday when the final wave for the fourth and final flight gets underway.) I was dealt 88 hands, did something other than fold preflop in 18 of them, and got to have some laughs along the way. Kudos to the late 20-something player on my right, who got the biggest laugh when I asked how he broke his wrist.

"I hit a guy," he said, completely deadpan. "Actually, it was a child. But he was pretty big for a 12-year-old."

I lasted longer than the first player eliminated at our table, who didn’t even make it to the 10-minute mark. I made some great reads, getting a player to lay down pocket kings holding just pocket fours when an ace landed on the flop. (His 625 bet into a pot that had swelled to 1,800 felt weak, so I bumped it to 1,500 and he mucked, cursing his luck.) I nearly doubled my stack through the first three levels, getting up to as much as 8,900. And I managed to completely mangle two of the last four hands I played, exiting the tournament just before the antes were about to come into effect.

I won’t bore you with the details of the hands, but if you are really interested, visit the @CookieJarPoker Twitter account and read the timeline to get a sense of just how badly I played.

Details aside, what really stands out to me is that I went completely outside of my game. I had been playing pretty tight and it had been working for me. I played just seven of the first 50 hands I was dealt, which gave me the credibility and the ability to follow my read on the 51st hand, getting a player to fold pocket kings as mentioned above. Maybe that hand, as well as a few preflop raises with less than premium holdings (Q-8 suited, J-9 suited) that won without resistance, got me feeling a little cocky.

I’m not the type of poker player who is going to play a $565 tournament every week or every couple of months. Truth be told, if there’s another Colossus next year (and given the popularity of this year’s event, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be) and I’m out here covering it solo, I might not play again. But you better believe I’m going to try like hell to convince the regular players in the Casino City Home Game to come out and play, and if I can get a group of friends out here with me, then there's no doubt I'd jump back in.

If most of the players who came to Las Vegas with $565 to take a shot walk away feeling the same way, this might go down as the most successful poker tournament of all time.
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