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Sole Survivor

by Niall Smyth |  Published: Dec 01, 2011


Last month saw our hero enter the $2,500 buy in half Omaha/half stud fixed-limit eight-or-better at the World Series of Poker despite barely ever having played stud before. Here’s how it went…I’m into the tournament three hours and my worst fears are confirmed I still haven’t won one pot of the stud. The kicker is I don’t know if I’m running bad or playing too tight. It was probably playing too tight as that was the plan going in; observe the stud and just play the best of the best starting hands, it was just unfortunate that I wasn’t fully sure what they were. First hand I did win was when I filled up on fifth and beat Barney’s flush. This hand didn’t go to seventh street, Barney [Boatman] folded his flush on fifth when I bet and showed me. This would be a very big fold on fifth especially when I’ve no low showing, my exact thoughts at that time were I’m really playing too tight.

I’d love to go through some hands I played on the day but I can’t remember too much, limit really doesn’t make things stick in my head at least. I did bluff the bracelet winner off a hand and showed, the only reason being was when he mucked he threw his cards towards me instead of towards the muck. There was another bluff I remember against Marcel Luske, I called his raise on the turn with the second nut low draw. A 5 hit the turn completing a straight for the nut low draw. He bet, I raised, and he folded; he told me he had two pair but he knew I had hit the straight. Although I got the feeling he’d tell you the moon was the sun if you’d believe him. He was great fun to play with though as he livened up the whole table with his chat and he’s a great singer as I found out when he serenaded one of the masseurs.

So the day came to an end and I’d made day 2 pretty healthily with 23,200, the stud was coming together a bit better and I was in the top 40 of chips with 201 left; 450 started, result in itself — well my aim out of any tournament is firstly get through level one, then make day 2. Life is nothing without simple goals. I went home for a few drinks so I could sleep and woke early to get back to Cardrunners.

There really isn’t much I want to or can say about day 2, the most surprising was I was winning my only pots in stud-eight — Omaha had deserted me. If there was ever a time bleeding chips means anything it’s in limit poker because you can’t blow up and lose it all in one hand, it’s death by a thousand cuts, you lose a pot here and a pot there. My ratio was about 4-1, I’d lose four, win one. Anyways 23,000 quickly became 7,000 and after waiting and waiting I was down to 3,400, no hands to push; when you’re that short in limit any raise becomes a push. I actually had three-bet Josh Arieh for 3,000 with 400 behind. When he had put chips in the middle, I threw in my last 400 and turned over my cards. Whoops! He had only called my original raise. I don’t know what the ruling would be if someone asked but I don’t think my hand was ever deemed dead. As it turned out I would have been better off, my hand bricked and he scooped the pot. I was out in 125th or so but was bitterly disappointed at how the day went but not really too much at my play, I just didn’t make many hands and none in big pots.

My highlights of the whole thing are playing a WSOP event and making day 2, seeing so many pros in the tournament and playing with them on the same table (I mean if this doesn’t excite you a bit as an amateur poker player, what will?) I also sat with Barry Greenstein at my final table and Kristy Gazes bummed a lighter off me. I’m in poker nerd Nirvana!

Niall Smyth is the 2011 Irish Open champion and Sole Survivor winner. He took down €550,000 for the former and €100,000 for the latter and has taken a year’s leave from his job to concentrate on poker.