Daniel - Poker Journal
I Have a New Protege!15 Dec 2006
There was supposed to be a video blog up about a week ago but they had technical difficulties with it so we canned it. Basically, it was about giving. I saw some interesting stuff on 20/20 about how much Americans give, and which groups give the most. It was surprising. The working poor give the most, then the rich, followed by the middle class. Conservatives give more than liberals, and church going people give more than those that don't attend church (not including donations to church).
Finally, I said good things about America and the blog didn't work! Wouldn't you know! Anyway, Americans as a whole give more than any other nation.
Why I opened with that when the title of the blog was, "I have a New Protégé," I have no idea, but I'm not about to change it now. It's late.
Anyway, I headed to Bahamas for the final table of the protégé contest and on my flight I noticed Jamie Lynn-Sigler. She was at the airport in Miami headed to Bahamas as well. I'd never met her before and have always felt extremely awkward when it comes to meeting others that are on television. Usually I say nothing and just ignore it altogether.
Thing is, I JUST saw her on an episode of 20/20 talking about her eating disorder, etc. and thought it was very moving. As she walked by where I was sitting I said something like, "That was an excellent piece on 20/20."
She turned to me and replied with a genuine thank you and then walked away. I was pretty tired by that point and then said this, "By the way, we have a mutual friend."
She turned back and said, "Oh really, who?" I then realized the truth, we DON'T have a mutual friend??? When I said it, I thought we did, but then when she asked me the question I stared blankly at her like a complete idiot and said, "Um, never mind."
Huh? What the???? What a complete idiot I am! I can't tell you how stupid I felt. She must have thought I was a complete weirdo. I thought that she played poker or something like that, but I had her mixed up with somebody else I think. I don't even eat eggs, but there was a whole bunch of egg all over my face at the time.
When we got off the plane she was next to me at baggage claim. Would I stick my foot in my mouth again? You betcha! Out of the blue, I said, "I had you mixed up with someone else. I was really tired and got all confused and had a brain fart."
At that point I didn't say anything too goofy and she nodded letting me know that it's fine. But oh no, I then added, "Ever have a brain fart before? I'm sure you've had one eh?"
While I'm speaking I'm thinking to myself, "Shut up! You idiot, what are you saying? Run, run away.... fast!"
Ok, now to the reason for the title of the blog: We started off with 10 players at the final table all with varying degrees of experience. The favorite was probably Sol Bergen, who not only came second to Brian Fidler last year, but also has cashed in the main event at the WSOP two years running. On top of that, he's been crushing the $25-$50 NL games online.
Along with him this year, his brother Robin! Rumor had it that Robin might even be a better tournament player than Sol.
Jean Houle, who was actually on the same flight as me along with his lovely wife (also present for the Jamie-Lynn debacle), was also one of the favorites having come in the top 100 in this years main event. I also got a chance to talk to him prior to the event so I knew that he was totally prepared.
Aki, or "Mini-Gus" was a bit of a wildcard. I wasn't entirely sure how good he was as a player but he did have a lot of confidence which I liked. I call him mini-Gus for obvious reasons, the shaved head being just one small detail.
There were two hard core FCP forum members on hand in Naked Cowboy and GoBears. I didn't get to spend as much time with GoBears (real name Andre) as I would have liked, but in the short time I did spend with him I expected a solid fundamental approach to the final table. I was pretty accurate with that guesstimation.
Naked Cowboy (real name Mike) really impressed me the night before the tournament. Not with his eating prowess (he tried to eat a plate full of meatballs in 90 seconds and came up way short), but with his poker knowledge. He reminded a lot of guys of Justin from the first protégé final.
Another total wild card was Hadi. I knew virtually nothing about him since his bio wasn't available prior to the event. Early on, though, I realized where his biggest strengths lie: he is an excellent table talker. Honestly, he reminded me a lot of myself with his table demeanor. Dude was always having light hearted fun, but when it was time to get serious he put his game face on.
Mike G., who I never actually call Mike, is better known as Peyton around FCP because of his striking resemblance to the Colts QB. Mike has actually attended an FCP Weekend, the first one actually, so I knew a lot about him. In fact, true story, but when Peyton came out to Vegas for the Weekend at my place... he never went home! He stayed in Vegas and tried to make a run at being a pro. I've heard some pretty wild stories about his journey, but I'm happy to share with you that he is still above water toughing it out in Vegas.
Finally, to the two players that I pegged as underdogs coming into the final table, Richard from the Red Hot Poker Tour, and Anthony who won the .net qualifier.
Both players got there by playing in "play money" events, so I figured that it was highly likely that they were outclassed by a legitimately tough final table. Boy was I wrong.
It's tough to spend a lot of quality time with so many people in such a short time, I actually got to know Richard's buddy a lot better than him! Having said that, Richard did the Red Hot Poker tour proud. He played a little sloppy early, but made a valiant comeback time and time again, only to finally bow out with AQ vs. 10-5 when a 5 hit on the river. Ouch.
Then there was little old Anthony Mak. 23 year old kid, who seemed a little shy, but a friendly shy. All I really knew of Anthony before the final table was that he just graduated school. Not beauty school, but a degree in mathematical science. You have to be "wicked smaaart" to earn a degree in that I'm assuming.
When we sat at the table to begin play I noticed that Sol had sunglasses on. When he revealed his eyes, the dude looked ill. The day before, Sol boozed it up a little bit too much on a booze cruise and had to be wheeled to his room in a wheelchair. Apparently, in Saskatchewan they have a term for Sol's state. When you get that drunk, apparently you got "Solled."
Oh, and in other funny news, former FBI agent Joe Navarro was on hand for the festivities as he is good friends with the people who help run FCP events. Well, one of those people, Jeff Goldenberg, made sure it was a trip that Joe would never forget. As Joe was entering a doorway Jeff opened the door at the same time and clocked Joe in the forehead. It was a pretty deep cut, and Joe now has a beauty scar all stitched up. Ladies love scars right?
Joe didn't complain, "This is nothing. I've been shot, I've been stabbed, this is a piece of cake," he said.
Anyway, back to the final table. Early on, I joked that Anthony hadn't played a hand in the first half hour- he didn't. In the mean time, Naked Cowboy was really doing it. He was playing flawlessly, really playing flops and outplaying his opponents after the flop.
At our first break, after two hours of play Naked Cowboy was doing well... but guess who the chip leader was? Anthony Mak! It was the quietest double up I'd ever seen as he got to 200,000 in chips without showing one hand. I could feel the mood at the table, and it was clearly that all of his opponents saw him as a total rock.
On a break I happened to talk to Anthony about that, "That was my strategy," he said, "I wanted to set up a tight image early." Well it worked perfectly.
All of a sudden, this quiet "non-factor" in the tournament had all of the other players totally bewildered. He was playing freakin' awesome! A little boy genius. After about four hours of watching him play it dawned on me that I've seen this kid somewhere before? It's so familiar to me...it's John Juanda!!! The mini-John Juanda. His mannerisms were very similar, he's Asian, quiet and polite, and played a tight-aggressive style, invoking fear into his opponents hearts with a death glare.
Down to the final three players, there was no chink in Mak's armor. He was dominating a tough field and no one seemed to have any answers. Sol was never able to get it going, and Robin passed the torch to Hadi who would take on Mak heads up with about a 700,000 to 300,000 chip disadvantage.
Seriously, that's as close as it would get. Mak won virtually every hand heads up, once again, without even having to show his hand. On the river, just when you think he's going to fold, you hear, "Raise...100,000 more."
I was in awe. Seriously. Not only with Anthony's play, but all of the final table players. These guys were good, legitimately good.
So Mak had the chip lead after the first break, and after an eight hour final table (thanks to a beautiful structure thanks to yours truly), Anthony Mak won himself a pimped out Tag watch, and the chance to win a lot more in the coming months.
Hadi did all he could, but trying to get Anthony to give him any information verbally was akin to beating your head against the wall. I'd say the thing that impressed me most about Anthony's play, was the fact that he seemed to intuitively understand the psychology behind the game. From setting up an image, to showing his opponent a card when his opponents were starting to suspect that he was robbing them blind. Every time he showed his hand, it was exactly the right time. You might be thinking that he showed his cards a lot? How about twice, both times in the perfect situation.
I just couldn't figure out how this kid got so good? He won the free play qualifier and told me that if he plays for money he plays in the .10-.25 games!
I'm really rooting for this kid. Talk about a rags to riches story, "Mini-Juanda" is going to go from playing for pennies to the biggest tournaments in the world! Wow, just awesome.
My job in teaching him feels like it will be a breeze. He already has an innate sense for poker and gets all the mundane stuff. Is he better than protégé 1, Brian Fidler? Well, I wouldn't go that far just yet, but wouldn't it be cool to see them play heads up one day? Hmm... interesting idea :-)
The protégé final table was a huge success in my book and the whole trip was a blast. I hope everyone there had as much fun as I did.
While I originally pegged Anthony as a long shot, man, did he ever prove me wrong. Not by luck, but by playing an awesome final table. The only obstacle I could see for him was... his mom! His mother was on hand to watch her son play, and I wasn't sure she really wanted him to win.
Before you jump down her throat, you need to understand that while poker is mainstream with a lot of people, not everyone is so quick to see it in the positive light most of us do. She's a mother that cares about her son, and the idea of "gambling" scares her a little bit. Hey, I don't blame her one bit.
I had a long talk with her about everything, though, and I think she's come around to the idea that her son is a talented poker player with an awesome opportunity. Don't worry Moms, I'll take good care of him :-)
My flight home was without a doubt the worst experience I've ever had traveling. I left my room at 6:30am. That didn't bother me much as I was up all night anyway. The flight to Miami was pretty smooth. I didn't make a fool of myself or anything!
We got to Miami and I noticed that it said my flight to Vegas was cancelled? Oh brother. I made it to the desk at American and they informed me that I'd be on the 4:20pm flight to Dallas, then onto Vegas from there. What? So sick.
On top of that, I PAID for a first class ticket and they expected me to just accept the fact that not only was I no longer on a direct flight, but that I'd also receive no rebate despite flying coach? How can they do that?
I ran around the airport as if I was on the Amazing Race looking for alternatives, but had no luck. I was doomed to my fate, so I decided to try and get some rest.
The one bright spot was that they were able to get me into first class and it was a 777 plane complete with beds. I slept the whole way to Dallas. There was a crew of people on the same route as I was that seemed to be traveling together.
Being a people watcher by nature, I was intrigued by what they were doing, and who they were? They looked like they were from Brazil. All, and I mean ALL of the guys had peroxide dyed blonde hair. All seemed to be in good shape too. Dancers? Maybe. Gay? I wasn't sure. I was pretty certain that a couple of the dudes were gay, but don't think they all were.
Did it matter to me either way? Not in the least. Trying to figure out if they were a dancing group coming to Vegas for a show, or in town for a gay convention, it was a story that I wanted answers too! After my Jamie-Lynn debacle, though, I decided that I better just keep my mouth shut. Who knows how I could have put my foot in my mouth this time, "So are you guys all together? I don't mean, like, together, together, but like, what are you guys going to Vegas for? Is it like, a gay thing or a dance thing? Or is it like a gay dance thing?"
I finally arrived home at 9:00pm PST. That's about an 18 day of traveling. Of course, I didn't arrive home with my luggage as it never came out. To top it all of, sometime during the journey, I dropped my wallet and it's gone. I called the Lost and Founds but nothing came up.
The next day, I spent the ENTIRE day playing Kameo on X-BOX 360. This game is sick fun! I was doing fine on my own until I got to a stage called Mountain Rise. There, you are supposed to find three torches, then using your dragon dude, light them so that you can open the door at the top of the mountain.
I found the torches, but there was no way to light them? I spent forever trying to figure it out until finally, I checked online for the answer. Man, what a relief. I'd still be going nuts if it wasn't for the strategy guide I found online.
On that same day, I did take some time out to sign some books. I have two books coming out and one of them is actually out now. The other, bigger, and more in depth book isn't quite finished yet.
The book that is out now is a compilation of 50 poker tips that I've covered in some of my past columns. It's an easy read and is geared more towards the novice player than the advanced player. However, there are still good nuggets of info throughout the book for any player, but if you are looking for in depth information on the secrets to small ball, then you'll find that in the big book.
I also finished a DVD in March. When you'll be able to get it? I have no freakin' idea! It's a solid product too, but unfortunately I'm not in charge of when it gets released, etc. To be honest with you I'm pretty frustrated with the whole thing. I could have finished three DVD's by now.
Now it's time for ME to play poker and I can't wait. Day 1A is in the books already and it looks like CardPlayer has Clonie Gowan and Freddie Deeb a top the leader board with 180,000 in chips. I start tomorrow, and my goal to end the first day is 80,000. If you see me with 80,000 or more after the first day you can EXPECT to see me at the final table. I'm feeling great about my play after Foxwoods and if I can get a hold of some chips tomorrow, well... let's just say, I'm gonna get er' done!
Man this blog turned out long, lol. Over 3000 words, yikes.