I spent the past 16 days in Berlin, Germany chasing World Series of Poker glory. I came into the WSOPE in 2nd place in the WSOP Player of the Year standings. Winning WSOP POY would’ve been a pretty cool achievement, but unfortunately, the WSOPE was not as kind to me as the WSOP and 2nd place was where I would end up (congrats to Mike Gorodinsky, who won – he’s a longtime friend and competitor and a very deserving recipient of the award). I played all 10 WSOPE events, including 3 flights of Event 2 (€550 NLH), 2 flights of Event 7 (€550 PLO), and 2 flights of Event 8 (€1,100 Turbo NLH) – 14 flights total – but was only able to manage one cash, 7th in the €1,100 Turbo for €16,703. There are several explanations for this lack of success:
- Variance – This is the most obvious explanation. 10 tournaments/14 flights is a tiny sample. Anecdotally, I just never got off the ground in a number of events, busting early quite a few times and seeming to have a cold run of cards. The variance was increased further by the structures; each event besides the Main Event and €25k High Roller had 30 or 40 minute levels on Day 1. Nothing about this 10 tournament sample falls outside of a typical distribution of results.
- Lack of focus/rust – I think this played a role also, albeit a smaller one. During the WSOP in Vegas this summer I was hungry, motivated, and playing with a purpose. I can’t say that was entirely the case during WSOPE. While I showed up every day excited to play and compete, I wasn’t entirely focused the whole time. I spent a lot of time on my phone and didn’t engage with my tablemates as much as I had this summer. There are a few reasons for this: I spent a disproportionate amount of my table time playing pre-ante Day 1 full ring NLH tournament poker (which just isn’t the most interesting form of poker to me); I knew fewer of my tablemates than at WSOP (both due to being in Europe and much of my Vegas WSOP play being mixed game events, in which the player pool is smaller and I know more of them); I didn’t run up many stacks (running up a stack would increase my equity in that tournament and allow me to play looser, both factors that would incentivize me to focus more); and my head is just in a different place than it was this summer. I haven’t played much poker since WSOP and won’t be able to put in decent volume anytime soon due to the ongoing legal prohibition of online poker in the U.S. (I can cross the border and play New Jersey sites some, and I’m crossing my fingers that Pennsylvania passes a bill regulating online poker, but these options still pale in comparison to pre-Black Friday online poker). Consequently, I’ve been expending a lot of my mental energy on trying to figure out other career paths to pursue, and not a lot on sharpening my poker game.
- Tougher competition – While the WSOPE attracted some European (and a few other) recreational players, it’s just not the same as the WSOP in Vegas. The fields are tougher on average, both due to a higher ratio of professionals to recreational players and to the European pros being sharper on average due to the availability of online poker in Europe. I think the second effect is actually larger than the first; also, the American pros who did make the trip were generally some of the best, further adding toughness to the fields.
All-in-all, I’m still confident in my edge in the WSOPE tourneys, it just wasn’t as big as in the summertime WSOP events (IMO). I think variance explains most of the drop-off in results, but the other two factors meant the odds weren’t quite as much in my favor to begin with. I definitely got a bit long-winded with my analysis, but it’s worth noting just how much U.S. online poker prohibition affects the entire poker economy. Lack of online poker in the U.S. harms the overall poker economy via something resembling this mechanism:
Personally, I’d like to help to grow the game in ways that work for me, but I have no interest in residing outside of my home country or traveling internationally with any regularity (I enjoy it in doses, but I love my family and friends and home). On a full-time basis, I’m going to continue to try to figure out what can take the place poker had in my life for much of my young adulthood.
As for Berlin itself, I was excited to visit the city, especially due to its history and culture (definitely one of the most diverse cities I’ve been to). Sonya and I got to do some sightseeing, but the combination of shaky weather (45-50 degree (F) highs most days, with lots of rain) and my WSOPE schedule (most events started at 4pm) led to us seeing less than we had hoped. The Currywurst Museum was an unexpected highlight; it had a nice combo of interesting history of the popular German dish (it was developed shortly after World War II to aid morale at a low cost during a tough time of strict post-war food rations) and tasty samples of it. Most days, I just walked to the casino (Spielbank Berlin) through a happening but sort of corporate/touristy area (not Times Square-level but along those lines) called Potsdamer Platz. The pace of restaurant service was just hard to get used to also; it’s extremely slow compared to American standards and certainly not conducive to tournament dinner breaks. In Berlin (and most other places in Europe that I’ve been to), when a group goes out to dinner the restaurant assumes the group wants to spend 2-3 hours there and serves accordingly. It’s not necessarily better or worse, just different.
It was a fun trip but we’re excited to be home. Our new place in Philadelphia still isn’t fully moved into. We are going to see my parents and grandmother in Cape May, NJ today then tomorrow will be a return to normalcy on NFL Sunday – can’t wait!
Tournament area at WSOPE
Mall of Berlin, along my daily walk to casino
at the table playing WSOPE
final table of €1k turbo