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The 2020 #wouldbeWSOP

by Melissa Burr |  Published: Jul 29, 2020

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As the darkness of 2020 loomed over us, it looked as though the COVID-19 pandemic was going to change life as we knew it. Especially in the poker world.

Early in March, poker players stormed the virtual betting field to jump at the chance to lay 20:1 that the World Series of Poker would in fact take place, live, and inside the Rio in Las Vegas as scheduled.

Fast forward to June 29, 2020 here I am tweeting with the hastag ‘wouldbeWSOP’ and many players are cashing in those virtual tickets. The Series will definitely take place, online, and the best outcome most players can hope for, is a rescheduled live series in the fall.

For many players, this would have been their first ever summer series. I thought about my inaugural WSOP and subsequent trips. I had the great privilege to experience the highs and the lows of many grueling summers, which spurred me to write about my inaugural 2014 journey in a series of 280-character tweets, and as a result, #wouldbeWSOP was born.

I don’t know if my followers simply loved watching me win or lose huge amounts of money, virtually sweating my $50,000 Poker Players Championship final table run, or watching my incredibly awkward social interactions with my friends. But many poker fans have tuned in frequently to see how I am doing on my “would be” journey.

So here we go. Follow along on Twitter @burrrrberry.

We have all been here. You see Mr. Fish and Mr. Whale in the game, they are demanding to play $400-$800 straight stud eight-or-better and they want to play short-handed. Mr. Whale is blowing lines and Mr. Fish is stuck from high limit slots. How could you possibly turn down a spot like this?

Answer: Because it’s the third day of the WSOP and you allotted a certain amount of money to go to cash games. Playing this game would put 80 percent of your total money into play. It’s reckless and irresponsible.

That being said, almost all of my best and bravest decisions were made after I threw caution to the wind. It’s okay to laugh and reflect on our impulsive and arguably worse financial decisions of our career. The WSOP makes us all do crazy things.

After a week of eating horribly at 4 am, I would reach the point where I decide to eat healthier. It’s absolutely imperative to be as healthy as possible while you’re making some of the most crucial financial decisions of your life.

At the Rio, that’s tough to do. Playing deep into the night and waking up late for a 2 pm start time results in a breakfast of champions, a $7 banana and a $12 latte.

Every single year I have ever attended the WSOP, I have been infected with what is affectionately known as the “Rio flu.” It entails three days of a 102-degree fever, throbbing headaches, a runny nose, and a sore throat.

I couldn’t ever expect certain results, but I could always count on one guaranteed prize year in and year out, that nasty virus. However, by the sounds of it, I would happily take the “Rio flu” over COVID-19.

I love all my friends, and I love seeing them during this time. However, with all of our hectic schedules, it makes it somewhat difficult to get together. I swear, every year, my friends would find the most inopportune time to try and get together. I would bust out of a tournament early and that’s the day everyone is suddenly free and wants to hang out.

On this day, they would want to go to the pool at 3 pm in the afternoon in Las Vegas. It’s at least 110 degrees and my friend won’t stop recounting his “horrific beat” that sent him packing in the Big 50.

It is just not how I would want to spend the rest of my day. I remind them about how I just got over the Rio Flu and tell them I need a little more rest. Then I would open up Bravo and see what cash games are running on the strip. That last tournament buy in isn’t going to win itself back.

If you play mixed games, then you are familiar with this situation. Through no fault of their own, the dealers at the WSOP struggle with dealing mixed games.

That summer I was playing the dealer’s choice and defended my big blind in 2-7 triple draw with 2-7-X-X-X. There was a raise and four people called. I called from the big blind and pushed three cards out, indicating I would like three new ones please.

Everyone behind me discards as well. The dealer would burn a card, like you normally would, but before I could stop him, he put out a flop. The board read 3-4-5. I stared in disbelief at what should have been my three new cards, my complete “wheel.”

With my previously dealt 2 and 7, the 3-4-5 flop would have given me the best possible hand anyone can have, the unbeatable “nuts.” I had to stay calm because I didn’t want to reveal the contents of my hand, but I swear a small piece of me died while I watched that unfold.

There are three things that are guaranteed in life. Death, taxes, and Allen Kessler complaining about structures. Those complaints are amplified during the biggest poker series of the year.

A WSOP just wouldn’t be complete if Allen Kessler didn’t find at least a few structures to complain about. However, about half the time, I would end up agreeing with him. Like clockwork every year, I would get to a level and think to myself “I just paid $10k and I’m down to nothing without seeing a river. Why are these structures so fast?”

Wait. Maybe I left one thing off that list of things that are guaranteed in life. Along with death, taxes, Kessler complaining, you can bet that it will feel like you’re playing a tournament in January. Outside. In Alaska.

Anyone who has ever played any event at the WSOP knows that the air conditioning is outrageous. Even with thousands of players packed in the amazon room, it is still a sub-arctic temperature. There are few things that remain unchanged at the WSOP but this is one of them. It is a lock that you will feel like it is 28 degrees.

I think we can all agree that the WSOP is a special time in everyone’s poker career. Particularly for the first-timers, that excitement can sometimes manifest itself at some inopportune times. Who doesn’t enjoy a little chip porn? We have all done it, taken selfies with mountains of chips. It’s all very understandable but, let’s all get better about having the flash on while you’re taking these pictures.

For the love of all that is good and holy. To all the no-limit tournament players, please do not wear your headphones at a level that prevents you from following the action. In almost every no-limit hold’em tournament I have played, someone has their headphones on and asks, “How much is the bet?”

This is basic common courtesy and a hill that I am prepared to die on.

Bless the hearts of all our relatives who don’t understand poker. They are forever rooting for us to win with no real understanding of how it all works. Both of my parents have advised me to quit tournaments in level 3 because “that’s a lot of money and you should just take your winnings NOW.”

Maybe one day I will find out the real reason Hash House was never open during the WSOP. David Tuchman and I came to the same conclusion that they must just hate money. There really isn’t any other justified reason why the restaurant, smack dab in the middle of the WSOP, is never open. I think about this every year.

The WSOP is an amazing experience that everyone should have at some point on their poker journey. These are just a few things that I have come to love and love to hate about this event. From sub-arctic temperatures to final tables in the Thunder Dome, the entire experience is unforgettable.

In 2014 I took for granted the things I would dearly miss in 2020. I remember walking down that long-ass hallway feeling the excitement grow as I would hear the chips shuffling louder as I approached. I will always remember taking that cheesy selfie underneath the big World Series of Poker banner right before I would step into the cash game arena.

The reality is, every WSOP that I attended, to me, was a yearly work trip where I was able to see friends from all over the globe. Now in 2020 I realized I was living a dream that so many chase. I had the opportunity to play against the top players in the world for a prize that is coveted by almost every person who has ever touched a deck of cards, a WSOP gold bracelet.

Melissa Burr is a seasoned high-stakes mix game professional. In her spare time she enjoys the occasional 30-minute craps roll, sports betting, and short reasonable walks on the beach. Find more adventures on her twitter @burrrrrberry.